Invited to take part in the second edition of the Asian Young Guns Challenge are two apprentice jockeys from Japan – JRA jockey Kohei Matsuyama and NAR rider Gaku Banno.
The international event is being hosted this year by the Singapore Turf Club and will be held at Singapore Racecourse at Kranji on Sunday, July 18. Apprentices from five different countries will be riding. In addition to Japan's representatives are William Egan and Jordan Mallyon from Australia, Derek Leung and Keith Yeung from Hong Kong, Harmeet Singh Gill and Salleh Mutaza from Malaysia and Mark Ewe and Koh Teck Huat representing Singapore.
The series was initiated last year by Australia's Victoria Racing Club and was held at Flemington Racetrack in Melbourne, Australia. The objective of the Asian Young Guns Challenge is to give leading apprentices from the Australasian region exposure to different racing scenes in order to further their general education and development as senior jockeys.
The inaugural event brought together apprentices from Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia and was won by Japan's Kota Fujioka, who accumulated a top-ranking 35 points over the three races.
This year, the series consists of three races all held on July 18 at Kranji. The first leg is a 1,200 turf race. The second leg is a 1,400 turf race. The third leg is over 1,700 meters on the artificial Polytrack surface. The first leg, the sixth race on the Sunday card at Kranji is set to start at 3:35 p.m. Singapore time. The second leg is the day’s eighth race, with a 4:35 post time. The final race, the 10th of the day, is slated for a 5:35 p.m. start.
Rides were allocated by ballot on July 14. Banno drew mounts on the 3-year-old gelding Darwin in the first leg of the challenge, the 5-year-old gelding Happy Lido in the second leg and Bowie Knife, a 4-year-old colt in the third leg. Matsuyama's horses in the three legs, respectively, are the 3-year-old filly Mary's Success, the 4-year-old gelding Arowana Charm and another gelding, the 4-year-old French Irish.
In an auspicious sign for the Japanese riders, tipsters at the Singapore Turf Club have given nods of expectation to win or place to Bowie Knife, Mary's Success and French Irish. Happy Lido has also received a vote of support to show.
Points are allotted by order of finish up to 10th place. Twenty-five points are awarded the winner, with 15, 10, 7, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1 and 1 point awarded the next nine positions, respectively. Seven points are awarded if a horse is withdrawn.
Nagoya-native Banno is based at the Nagoya racetrack on Japan's National Association of Racing circuit. Banno, 22, debuted at Nagoya in April 2008. He has a career record of 78 wins in 1,487 races.
The 20-year-old Matsuyama, born in Hyogo Prefecture, is indentured to JRA trainer Kaneo Ikezoe, based at the western Japan Ritto Training Center. Matsuyama debuted in March 2009 and notched his first win the same day. He has captured 54 of his 909 races ridden.
"It is an honor to have been invited to represent Japan in the Asian Young Guns Challenge," commented Banno. "I am very much looking forward to riding with other young jockeys from Asia. In the three races scheduled I will do my best and above all aim for top place!"
Two Japan-bred horses will be running in the event – Bowie Knife and One Dot Red. Bowie Knife, which is paired with Banno in the third leg, is a Symboli Kris S 4-year-old. One Dot Red, which will be ridden in the second leg by Malaysia's Mutaza, is by Sterling Rose.
The challenge will be hosted every other year by the Victoria Racing Club, with other participating nations serving as host on the alternate years. This year, the participating apprentices also take part in a variety of non-raceday activities, including trackwork at Kranji and events to experience other aspects of Singaporean culture.
* Please visit the following websites for more information.
Asian Young Guns Challenge: http://www.turfclub.com.sg/portals/0/AYG/index.htm
Singapore Turf Club: http://www.turfclub.com.sg/
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