Horse Racing in Japan


2011 News

November 19, 2011

Lineup announced for 2011 World Super Jockeys Series


2010 World Super Jockeys Series

Participants were announced Thursday for the 25th World Super Jockeys Series, which is to be held this Hanshin Racecourse on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, the day of the Japan Cup Dirt.

Fifteen riders from eight countries, including Japanese riders from both the JRA and NAR circuits, will compete in the two-day series. From overseas are: two U.S.-based riders, Ramon Dominguez and John Velazquez; John Murtagh representing Ireland; Paul Hanagan riding for England; Ioritz Mendizabal for France; Eduardo Pedroza Germany; Brett Prebble representing Hong Kong, and Luke Nolen as the rider for Australia.

Japan's team will consist of Masayoshi Ebina and Norihiro Yokoyama from the eastern training center of Miho. Four riders based at Ritto in the West are Yuichi Fukunaga, who has also been invited to Hong Kong (Int'l Jockeys' Championship) to represent Japan later in the week, Kenichi Ikezoe, Yasunari Iwata and Yuga Kawada. From the NAR circuit is Hiroto Yoshihara, a rider based at Kanazawa Racetrack in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Dominguez, a native of Venezuela, moved to the United States in 1995 and began riding the following year at the Hialeah Park racecourse in Florida. He topped North American riders in 2001 and 2003 and, in 2005, rode Better Talk Now in the Japan Cup to finish 12th. He rode Gio Ponti in 2009 to four successive wins, guiding the seven-time G1 champion to six of his top-level wins. Dominguez topped North American riders again in 2010 for earnings and was recognized with an Eclipse award. He is again the current leading money earner among riders in North America and in line for his second Eclipse in a row. "It's a great honor," Dominguez said of his participation in the series. "Of course, it would be great if I could win. But regardless of the results, I think it will be a good experience for me. Not only the races, but eating Japanese food and experiencing the culture of Japan is something I'm really looking forward to."

Velazquez entered jockey school in Puerto Rico in 1988 and began his riding career in 1990. The same year, he moved to New York, where he has been based since. He has been awarded Eclipse awards as leading money earner two years in a row from 2004 and captured the Dubai World Cup in 2005 aboard Roses in May, and the Belmont Stakes in 2007. This year, he bagged the Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom. His first trip to Japan was in 1995 for the Japan Cup, but his mount, Turk Passer, had to be withdrawn before the race. Velazquez rode the following year in the Young Jockeys World Championship. "It'll be my first time back in Japan in 15 years and I'm really excited. Of course, I'm not just going to take part, I aim to win," Velazquez said with the confidence of a winner.

Murtagh, a native of Ireland, debuted in 1987 and has enjoyed status as leading jockey for a number of years since. His list of victories in major races worldwide is impressive and includes three wins of the English Derby, wins of the Prix de I'Arc de Triomphe, the Breeders Cup Turf, and Breeders Cup Mile, among others.

This year, after leaving the stable of Aidan O'Brien, Murtagh has been able to claim three G1 wins, including the English Oaks. Murtagh, who also rode in Japan on a short-term license in 1999, will be appearing in the jockey series for his sixth time. Murtagh commented on his being chosen to compete this year again, saying, "I've been a participant five times before and last year was finally able to make the podium (in third place.) This year will be the one to win and I plan on doing my best."

Paul Hanagan, 31, has been riding horses since he was 10 years old but began his career as a jockey in 1998. Last year he tallied 205 wins and, after a close battle with Richard Hughes, won the jockey championship. Team captain in the English jockey series this year, he won the Silver Saddle award as individual high scorer. He now is in line for leading jockey once again, with a current 173 wins. "It's a real honor to appear in the World Super Jockeys Series," Hanagan said upon learning of his invitation to Japan. "And, also, it'll be the first time for me to visit Japan so I'm really looking forward to it."

Ioritz Mendizabal, a native of the Basque region of Spain, was born in 1974 and debuted in France 1990. He reached the top of the jockey ranks in 2004, was third the following year, then once again took No. 1 for the next three years in a row (2008-2010). He is currently No. 3 in France. This will be his fifth time to appear in the jockeys series, his first time since 2009. Mendizabal, who recently rode Rose Kingdom in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) said, "I was injured this year and, unfortunately, wasn't able to enjoy the results in France that I wanted to. I very much appreciate being able to participate in this year's World Super Jockey Series, a very high-level event. I feel that the level of, not only the Japanese horses, but Japan's riders as well, is very high. I've taken part four times before but haven't been able to win. I'll try my best to get that first win," He jokingly added, "Fellow jockeys, please go easy on me."

Pedroza, 37, is a native of Panama. His brother was a jockey and, from childhood, Pedroza would visit the track with his father to cheer him on. In 1991, after learning the ropes from his brother, he made his debut as jockey. In 1994, he moved to Germany, where his father's friend was employed, and began his career in the vicinity of Bremen. He reached the status of No. 1 jockey in German in 2007 and held the spot for four years. He has 70 wins so far this year and is tied with two other riders for the top slot. It will be his first time to ride in Japan. "It's a real honor for me to participate in the World Super Jockey Series. I am just dying to meet the Japanese racing fans."

Prebble, a native of Australia, will appear in the series for his third time and is also a familiar name in Japan for his many appearances in G1 events, especially aboard horses from Hong Kong, where Prebble has been based since 2004. He aced the Yasuda Kinen in 2006 aboard Bullish Luck and rode Lucky Nine to a second in the Centaur Stakes this year. Prebble and Douglas Whyte battled neck and neck for the leading jockey spot last year with Whyte ending on top. This year, Prebble has ridden to 78 wins and is Hong Kong's No. 2 rider. "It's an honor to take part," the 34-year-old said, "I'm really excited to be riding with top jockeys from the world around and Japan. I hope to be able to get some good results up against such a great bunch of riders. I will try my best but mostly I hope to enjoy myself. It's hard to say who would be my biggest rivals. Iwata is tough and John Murtagh. In any case, all the participants will be sure to be turning in one great ride after another."

Nolen, the current leading jockey for Melbourne, will be riding in Japan for his first time. The 31-year-old Nolen, who debuted in Victoria in 1998, suffered a horrendous fall and multiple fractures in 2008. He battled to come back and did so the following year, miraculously making leading rider on the Melbourne circuit for two years straight. Last season, he won eight G1s, five of them aboard Australia's Horse of the Year Black Caviar, considered by many to be the world's top sprinter. It will be Nolen's first time to ride in Japan. "It's a real honor to be representing Australia in the series," he said. "Japan racing is one of the best in the world and I'm very much looking forward to the experience."

From Japan:

Ebina, 42, currently rates tops in the East with 86 wins of JRA races. His big race this year was a win aboard Apapane in the Victoria Mile. Yokoyama is currently No. 2 in the East with 80 wins. The 43-year-old rider has enjoyed a number of graded races wins this year, including the Meguro Kinen and Hakodate Kinen aboard King Top Gun, as well as a win of the Keisei Hai Autumn Handicap partnered with Fifth Petal.

Iwata currently tops the riders for all of Japan, having notched 116 firsts, including his recent winning run aboard Aventura in the Shuka Sho. Fukunaga is No. 2 in the West but ties Iwata for JRA wins. Though he has yet to win a G1 this year, he has made the winner's circle in nine graded races, including his most recent run in the Mainichi Okan aboard Dark Shadow.

Third among Ritto riders at present is Kawada, 26, with three graded races victories, two of them partnered with Dasher Go Go. Ikezoe, though No. 11 in the West with only 52 wins of JRA races, is having a heady year having claimed Japan's Triple Crown aboard Orfevre, the seventh horse in JRA racing history to win the series. Ikezoe, 32, also has nine other graded race wins, including the G1 Sprinters Stakes aboard Curren Chan, who is next aimed for Hong Kong.

The 28-year-old Yoshihara has amassed over 1,300 wins in more than 6,500 rides since receiving his license in 2001. That very first year, he enjoyed a dizzying rise to reach No. 3 jockey at Kanazawa as well as win his debut race on the JRA circuit. Since 2006 he boasts successive years as the track's leading rider.

Ramon Dominguez John Velazquez John Murtagh Paul Hanagan

Ioritz Mendizabal Eduardo Pedroza Luke Nolen Brett Prebble

Masayoshi Ebina Norihiro Yokoyama Yasunari Iwata

Yuichi Fukunaga Yuga Kawada Kenichi Ikezoe Hiroto Yoshihara
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