JRA's Tanabe to ride in Malaysia Jockeys Championship
(c) Selangor Turf Club
(c) Selangor Turf Club
Early summer sees the start of many a jockey championship around the world. First up this year is Japan's Asian neighbor Malaysia with the second version of its fledgling International Jockeys Championship, hosted by the Selangor Turf Club and sponsored by the Australasian Bloodstock Agency.
Invited from Japan is JRA jockey Hironobu Tanabe, selected as one of 14 riders to participate in five designated races the weekend of June 16 and 17. The championship is part of the 9th International Racing Carnival at the Sungai Besi Racecourse, located some 20 km from central Kuala Lumpur.
Last year's series was won by Noel Callow of Australia and Callow will be back this year to defend his title, along with fellow countryman Daniel Nikolic. Other jockeys confirmed to take part in the championship are Erwin Dubravka from Austria, Brazil's Jose de Souza, Tomas Lukasek from Czech Republic, Frenchman Gerald Avranche, Wayne Smith and Mark Gallagher from Ireland, Cho Kyungho and the event's only female rider Kim Hyesun from Korea, Saimee Jumaat from Singapore, and I Azhar and Jackson Low representing Malaysia.
Mounts are assigned through a balloting process and the races are either run as handicaps or set weights over the left-handed Sungai Besi course. For each of the five races, 12 points are awarded to the winning jockey; 7 points to the second placing, 4 points to the third and 1 point to the fourth. The top three jockeys accumulating the highest points will be awarded prizes and trophies sponsored by Australasian Bloodstock Agency.
Tanabe, a 28-year-old native of Fukushima Prefecture, is based at the Miho Training Center in eastern Japan as the stable rider for trainer Kazuo Konishi. Unlike many of Japan's riders, who hail from racing backgrounds, Tanabe has his roots in a more typical family and came to racing largely due to his father, a JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) employee and avid racing fan. After graduating from the JRA Horseracing School in 2002, Tanabe soon drew the spotlight with his ability to bring lesser-favored runners up the field and into the winner's circle. In 2004, he got his first ride in a graded race, on his home turf in the Fukushima Himba Stakes. It wasn't until 2010, however, that Tanabe caught the approving eye of veteran trainer and ex-jockey Hiroyoshi Matsuda with a win in the Adatara Stakes. The ride led to continued support from Matsuda and other leading trainers from Ritto and helped spur the young rider to continued success the following year.
In 2011, Tanabe's efforts blossomed with victory in three graded races – the G3 Antares Stakes aboard Gold Blitz, the G2 Centaur Stakes with A Shin Virgo, and the G3 Fuji Stakes partnered with Eishin Apollon. Tanabe ended 2011 with a personal best 88 wins and the No. 7 jockey spot overall, No. 3 in eastern Japan. He also was recognized with the JRA Hope Prize.
Tanabe, with 23 wins for the year so far, currently holds the No. 21 spot among all of Japan's riders. He is No. 9 among those riders based at Miho.
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