Macau held its 13th Macau Apprentice Jockeys Invitation Races were this year on Sunday, Nov. 7 at Taipa Racecourse. Kyosuke Kokubun was invited from Japan to join 14 other jockey apprentices from around the world in the two-race event.
Kokubun was the only Japanese rider among the all-male group, which included apprentices from 13 nations in addition to the host Macau – Australia, Bahrain, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey.
Of those invited, Australian rider Michael Hellyer topped the list for most rides in his career. At the tender age of 22, Hellyer has already ridden in almost 2,500 races, with almost 150 wins to his name. South Africa's Aldo Domeyer was next-most experienced with almost 2,000 races under his belt. Domeyer topped the list for wins at 186. Ibaraki native Kokubun, who will turn 20 in December, received his JRA license last year and has now competed in some 1,269 races and won 71. Kokubun rides for the Ritto-based trainer Tadao Igarashi, 57 (58 on Nov. 9). Kokubun notched his first win of a graded race ever this year when he rode his stable's 4-year-old filly T. M. Aurora to victory in the (G3) Fuchu Himba Stakes on Oct. 17.
The Invitation Races are made up of two turf races -- The Cup and The Bowl races. Horses rated from 50 to 70 compete in The Cup, which is run over 1,500 meters and carries a prize money of $295,000. In the $240,000 Bowl, horses rated from 40 to 60 compete over 1,200 meters.
The Cup was won Sunday by Great Tiger, a 4-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding by Riviera. Kamal Yazid of Malaysia was the winning apprentice for trainer Stephen Chow.
The Bowl went to Forever Friendship, an Irish-bred 3-year-old gelding by Namid. Forever Friendship , trained by Hoi Kuok Cheung, was ridden by apprentice Keith Yeung of Hong Kong.
Yazid, 25, has 30 career wins in 300 rides, while Yeung has 40 wins in 670 mounts.
Kokubun, who was riding Euler, a 7-year-old gelding, finished 13 of 14 horses in the Cup, then, paired with Chinese Forever, a 5-year-old gelding, finished 11th out of 14 in the Bowl.
Kokubun also had rides in three other races on Sunday. His best was a fifth-place finish aboard Forest, a 5-year-old gelding in a 14-strong field in a 1,200-meter turf event, the second race on the Sunday card.
Kokubun, though disappointed with his results, appreciated the experience. "It was kind of tough not being able to get better results riding together with other young jockeys. I want to study more, learn more skills and be able to have better rides," he said. Kokubun says it was his first overseas experience, "It was a great learning experience to be able to communicate with others and learn how others live in other countries. If I have the chance, I would like to be able to ride abroad again," he said, adding humbly, "I am most grateful for any and all opportunities I am given."
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