2008 JRA Awards


VODKA CLINCHES 2008 HORSE OF THE YEAR TITLE

2008 JRA Award
■RACEHORSES ■TRAINERS & JOCKEYS ■JRA EQUINE CULTURAL AWARD

Vodka, after her history-making three-year-old season in 2007, continued with a highly successful 2008 campaign befitting JRA's highest honor. With two G1 titles against top runners of all ages and both genders, the Tanino Gimlet filly attracted 180 of 300 total votes for the Horse of the Year title, and also collected 196 votes for the Older Filly or Mare Award. Vodka is the first filly/mare to claim the JRA Horse of the Year title in eleven years, and third overall, after Tomei (1971) and Air Groove (1997).

Her great performance in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) was no doubt the highlight of her outstanding four-year-old season. The race, which featured a lineup of quality G1 runners at their best, was run at a considerable pace that saw the four top finishers all broke the race record by at least 0.8 second and the next five horses cross the wire within 0.5 second of the winner. But Vodka won the competition for Horse of the Year by a comfortable margin; Daiwa Scarlet (JPN), who was just 2cm behind in the Tenno Sho and the subsequent winner of the Arima Kinen, collected 79 votes, and Deep Sky (JPN), the season's derby winner who finished third to Vodka in the Tenno Sho but beat the filly to second in the following Japan Cup (G1), took 37 votes. Vodka concluded her 2008 season with a third-place finish in the Japan Cup, but her connections are already getting her ready for another overseas challenge in Dubai in March during her five-year-old campaign.

Six out of 10 awards presented to horses this year were won by vote totals exceeding 200, among which Deep Sky was unanimously voted Best Three-Year-Old Colt and Kane Hekili made a spectacular comeback to reclaim his first Best Dirt Horse title since 2005.

Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee reached the top of the leader board to claim his first JRA trainer's award for races won, adding to the winning average award he earned in 2006. Hideaki Fujiwara took his second consecutive winning average award and Katsuhiko Sumii won his second title for money earned, the first coming in 2005.

Superstar jockey Yutaka Take maintained his position as the leading jockey in races won and winning average, while Yasunari Iwata concluded the season with the largest total for purses. Makoto Nishitani reached the milestone of 100 wins over obstacles to claim his third consecutive steeplechase jockey title.

Jockey Kosei Miura broke Take's longstanding record of 69 wins in a debut season in March 2008, and then went on to smash the old mark by more than 20 with 91 total victories.

The Equine Culture Award, which recognizes noteworthy achievements and contributions to Japanese equine culture, was presented to "It's Another Day in the Life of Racing: a travel column for race lovers," a book in which Takeshi Kamewada details his travels to nationwide and overseas racetracks, big and small, as well as the towns and people he experienced along the way

Note: All information, including ages and race performances, are as of December 31, 2007, unless otherwise indicated.



HORSE OF THE YEAR and BEST OLDER FILLY OR MARE:

VODKA (JPN)

VODKA (JPN)

4-year-old, filly, bay

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Tanino Gimlet / Tanino Sister (Rousillon)
Owner: Yuzo Tanimizu
Breeder: Country Bokujo
Trainer: Katsuhiko Sumii
2008 Wins / Starts: 2 / 7 (including one race overseas)
Career Wins / Starts: 7 / 18
2008 Earnings: ¥394,578,000 (¥28,010,000 overseas)
Career Earnings: ¥821,588,000
Principal Wins in 2008: Tenno Sho Autumn (G1), Yasuda Kinen (G1)

Vodka was among the JRA Award winners for a third consecutive season, this time claiming the very top honor, Horse of the Year, as well as Best Older Filly or Mare.

Video (VODKA):
Tenno Sho Autumn (G1 - English) HIGH LOW
Yasuda Kinen (G1 - English) HIGH LOW

Her two G1 victories in 2008 were both of exceptionally high quality. In the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1,600m), running against international class milers such as Good Ba Ba (USA), Armada (NZ), Bullish Luck (USA) from Hong Kong, and Super Hornet (JPN) and Suzuka Phoenix (JPN) from the home field, Vodka landed her third grade-one title. The win, which came a little over a year since her history-making derby victory, demonstrated her full recovery of form to best the field by 3-1/2 lengths.

Her win in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1, 2,000m) was contested by top classic and G1 winners and three derby champions, including Vodka herself. It was an exceptionally impressive win and shall forever be remembered for the mighty filly's power, which she willed to catch her archrival Daiwa Scarlet (JPN) in the final strides and cross the wire two centimeters ahead in 1:57.2, renewing the record by 0.8 seconds. Still a four-year-old filly, Vodka has already proved herself to be the top miler and middle-distance runner among all ages and both genders.

In her last start, the Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m), although affected by the extraordinarily slow pace like many other top G1 winners, she finished third, and then concluded the 2008 season to refresh herself for next season, during which time she remains in training.

Vodka was named Best Two-Year-Old Filly in 2006 after claiming her first grade-one title in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (1,600m), and she also was given the JRA Special Award in 2007 for the historic feat of becoming the first female winner in 64 years to claim the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, 2,400m).

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BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT:

SEIUN WONDER (JPN)

SEIUN WONDER (JPN)

2-year-old, colt, black

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Grass Wonder / Seiun Kunoichi (Sunday Silence)
Owner: Takao Otani
Breeder: Yukifumi Tsutsui
Trainer: Masazo Ryoke
2008 Wins / Starts: 3 / 4
Career Wins / Starts: 3 / 4
2008 Earnings: ¥104,550,000
Career Earnings: ¥104,550,000
Principal Win in 2008: Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, Niigata Nisai Stakes

Seiun Wonder won three out of four starts, including the 2008 two-year-old championship race, the Asahi Futurity Stakes (1,600m), to earn the JRA Award for Best Two-Year-Old Colt of 2008.

Video (SEIUN WONDER):
Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes
(Japanese)
HIGH LOW
Niigata Nisai Stakes (Japanese) HIGH LOW

Bid at the Hidaka Selection Sale for 8.4 million yen to train at JRA's yearling training facility, and then resold to his current owner at JRA's "Breeze Up Sale" in April, Seiun Wonder began training under Masazo Ryoke and quickly reached the starting gate for his debut in June. The Grass Wonder colt broke his maiden in his second start with an overwhelming six-length margin and followed up with his first grade-race victory in the Niigata Nisai Stakes (1,600m) in September.

He missed one start in November due to an infection in his foot before being sent to post favorite for a grade-one attempt in the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes. Despite appearing overexcited in both the paddock and the post parade prior to his first start in three and a half months, Seiun Wonder took a ground-saving route from stall three. From racing well off the pace, jockey Yasunari Iwata steered him off the rails between the third and last corner and then split horses for the final stretch, from where the big colt of more than 500 kilos burst into gear to outrun the leaders and then held off the late chargers for a head-margin victory.

Trainer Ryoke expressed his hopes for the powerful colt's upcoming three-year-old campaign, saying that he is more than capable of handling the extra distance required to win a classic.

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BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY:

BUENA VISTA (JPN)

BUENA VISTA (JPN)

2-year-old, filly, dark bay or brown

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Special Week / Biwa Heidi (Caerleon)
Owner: Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.
Breeder: Northern Farm
Trainer: Hiroyoshi Matsuda
2008 Wins / Starts: 2 / 3
Career Wins / Starts: 2 / 3
2008 Earnings: ¥68,088,000
Career Earnings: ¥68,088,000
Principal Win in 2008: Hanshin Juvenile Fillies

Buena Vista lived up to expectations and superb pedigree in 2008, claiming the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in dominating fashion to come just one vote short, 299, of being unanimously selected the Best Two-Year-Old Filly of 2008.

Video (BUENA VISTA):
Hanshin Juvenile Fillies
(Japanese)
HIGH LOW

Sired by multiple grade-one winner Special Week, and out of Biwa Heidi, who won three grade-race titles including the two-year-old championship race, Buena Vista was sent to post favorite in her debut in October, but despite clocking the fastest last three furlongs at 33.5 seconds, she finished third. Though quickly proving her potential with a three-length victory three weeks later, she was obliged to win out a draw between "one-time-winners" to earn her ticket to run in the Juvenile Fillies. Sent to post favorite again in a contest that included Germinal (JPN), who had come off a win against her male counterparts, and other potential fillies who had already won more than twice in their debut seasons, Buena Vista gave a classy performance that clearly separated her from the rest of the field. Traveling well off the pace and then breezing past her rivals along an outside path at the straight, she eventually opened the gap to a 2-1/2 length victory, after which her jockey commented that the filly had hit the front a little early and was not even running seriously in the final strides.

In the December ratings, handicappers rated her two pounds higher than Vodka at the same age in 2006, raising hopes even higher for the dark bay filly's three-year-old campaign.

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BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT:

DEEP SKY (JPN)

DEEP SKY (JPN)

3-year-old, colt, chestnut

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Agnes Tachyon / Abi (Chief's Crown)
Owner: Toshio Fukami
Breeder: Kasamatsu Bokujo
Trainer: Mitsugu Kon
2008 Wins / Starts: 5 / 10
Career Wins / Starts: 5 / 14
Earnings in 2008: ¥534,263,000
Career Earnings: ¥541,363,000
Principal Wins in 2008: NHK Mile Cup, Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), Kobe Shimbun Hai, Mainichi Hai

The Agnes Tachyon colt proved himself to be a top-class three-year-old of the 2008 season, claiming two grade-one events including the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, 2,400m) and finishing a close third in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1, 2,000m), which was regarded as one of the toughest competitions in JRA history due to a lineup of high-standard multiple G1 winners. Deep Sky also followed this strong effort with an impressive runner-up in the Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m).

Video (DEEP SKY):
NHK Mile Cup (Japanese) HIGH LOW
Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby)
(English)
HIGH LOW
Kobe Shimbun Hai (Japanese) HIGH LOW
Mainichi Hai (Japanese) HIGH LOW

Deep Sky's talent didn't emerge until March 2008, when he landed his first grade-race victory and second win overall in the Mainichi Hai (1,800m). Winless in his four starts as a two-year-old, he broke his maiden in his sixth career start and then partnered with six different riders before teaming up with Hirofumi Shii in the Mainichi Hai. The pair continued their success by winning the NHK Mile Cup-Japanese Derby double, a feat accomplished only once before by King Kamehameha (JPN, by Kingmambo) in 2004. Both races were won by comfortable margins exceeding 1-1/2 lengths by making use of the colt's magnificent turn of speed from behind in the last three furlongs, including 33.9 seconds in the NHK Mile Cup and 34.2 seconds in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, 2,400m). The able colt also proved handy in mid-division in his next win, the Kobe Shimbun Hai (2,400m).

Instead of pushing the distance in the third leg of the Triple Crown, his connections decided to face him against the top older horses in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1, 2,000m). Racing in mid-field behind Daiwa Scarlet who set a considerably fast pace by covering the first 1,000 meters in 58.7 seconds, Deep Sky, although unable to outrun the exceptional two fillies that have repeatedly proven themselves equal to their G1 counterparts of the opposite gender, bested the rest of the high-class runners in a fierce rally that saw the first five finishers cross the wire within 0.1 second behind the winner's record 1:57.2 over 2,000 meters.

Although victimized by the extremely slow-paced Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m), he bested the late chargers to close in on the winner with a tremendous turn of speed that covered the last three furlongs in 33.8 seconds, finishing 1/2-length short of the winner to conclude his season with 5-2-2 out of ten starts.

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BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY:

LITTLE AMAPOLA (JPN)

LITTLE AMAPOLA (JPN)

3-year-old, filly, dark bay or brown

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Agnes Tachyon / Little Harmony (Commander in Chief)
Owner: Shadai Race H.
Breeder: Shiraoi Farm
Trainer: Hiroyuki Nagayama
2008 Wins / Starts: 2 / 6
Career Wins / Starts: 4 / 8
2008 Earnings: ¥147,436,000
Career Earnings: ¥161,436,000
Principal Wins in 2008: Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (G1), Queen Cup

Little Amapola earned more than 200 votes for Best Three-Year-Old of 2008 thanks to a strong season that included her victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (G1, 2,200m).

Video (LITTLE AMAPOLA):
Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup
(G1 - English)
HIGH LOW
Queen Cup (Japanese) HIGH LOW

Already recognized for her explosive turn of speed when she scored her second win out of as many starts as a two-year-old, Little Amapola kicked off the 2008 season with a fourth-place finish against male opponents in her first grade-race attempt, and then landed her first grade-race title in the Queen Cup in her next start.

However, she was unable to perform well in her next three grade-one starts, affected by disadvantages while finishing fifth, seventh and sixth in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the Shuka Sho, respectively. But her true ability surfaced in her final and biggest G1 challenge against older mares of grade-one level in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (G1). Under French jockey Christophe Lemaire, the Agnes Tachyon filly stayed well within the pace throughout and made a head start over her rivals from mid-stretch, holding off race-favorite and 2006 Oaks winner Kawakami Princess, who came storming from the outside, to win by 1-1/2 lengths for her first G1 title.

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BEST OLDER COLT OR HORSE:

SCREEN HERO (JPN)

SCREEN HERO (JPN)

4-year-old, colt, chestnut

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Grass Wonder / Running Heroine (Sunday Silence)
Owner: Teruya Yoshida
Breeder: Shadai Farm
Trainer: Yuichi Shikato
2008 Wins / Starts: 3 / 6
Career Wins / Starts: 5 / 18
2008 Earnings: ¥363,127,000
Career Earnings: ¥426,311,000
Principal Wins in 2008: Japan Cup (G1), Copa Republica Argentina

Screen Hero claimed the year's Best Older Colt or Horse title with 167 votes by making a magnificent comeback from a leg injury with three wins and two seconds out of six starts, including his first G1 victory in the Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m) against a field that included three derby winners and three grade-race winners from abroad.

Video (SCREEN HERO):
Japan Cup (G1 - English) HIGH LOW
Copa Republica Argentina (Japanese) HIGH LOW

Bred and owned by Teruya Yoshida of the Shadai Group, the Grass Wonder colt was winless in his two starts as a two-year-old but broke his maiden in his kick-off race of his three-year-old campaign and added another win two starts later before making his first grade-race attempt in the Spring Stakes (1,800m) in which he finished fifth to Flying Apple (USA). Winless but steadily progressing through his 2007 season, Screen Hero earned a ticket to the Kikuka Sho but was found to have fractured his left foreleg and was turned out for the remaining season as well as the first half of 2008.

Resuming his racing in August after an 11-month break, the Grass Wonder colt was conditioned by first-season trainer Yuichi Shikato, who took over after Susumu Yano's retirement, and won his 2008 season debut, then followed up with two runner-up efforts before scoring his first grade race victory in the Copa Republica Argentina (2,500m).

Qualifying for the Japan Cup and partnered with Mirco Demuro, Screen Hero was sent to post ninth favorite in his first G1 attempt against a quality field of G1 winners and managed to hold off a powerful charge from race-favorite Deep Sky to win by a 1/2 length.

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BEST SPRINTER OR MILER:

SLEEPLESS NIGHT (JPN)

SLEEPLESS NIGHT (JPN)

4-year-old, filly, bay

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Kurofune / What Katy Did (Nureyev)
Owner: Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.
Breeder: Northern Farm
Trainer: Kojiro Hashiguchi
2008 Wins / Starts: 5 / 6
Career Wins / Starts: 9 / 16
2008 Earnings: ¥242,400,000
Career Earnings: ¥309,693,000
Principal Wins in 2008: Sprinters Stakes (G1), Kitakyushu Kinen, CBC Sho (G3)

Sleepless Night emerged as another outstanding four-year-old filly, along with Vodka and Daiwa Scarlet, having captured the Sprinters Stakes (G1) title against a mixed field of grade-race winners.

Video (SLEEPLESS NIGHT):
Sprinters Stakes (G1 - English) HIGH LOW
Kitakyushu Kinen (Japanese) HIGH LOW
CBC Sho (Japanese) HIGH LOW

A late developer who was unraced as a two-year-old, Sleepless Night was winless in her first two starts on turf and broke her maiden when tested over dirt in her third start. Making use of her powerful speed inherited from her sire Kurofune, who was outstanding both on turf and on dirt, she scored three more wins on dirt and continued to succeed in her four-year-old campaign with another two wins before her connections decided that it was a good time to try the powerful filly on turf again. The decision was justified as the bay filly did not disappoint in three grade-race attempts, capped off with a G1 victory in the Sprinters Stakes, which convinced 233 voters that she deserved to be crowned the Best Sprinter or Miler title.

Her first target for the 2009 season is the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) in March.

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BEST DIRT HORSE:

KANE HEKILI (JPN)

KANE HEKILI (JPN)

6-year-old, horse, chestnut

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Fuji Kiseki / Life Out There (Deputy Minister)
Owner: Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co., Ltd
Breeder: Northern Farm
Trainer: Katsuhiko Sumii
Wins / Starts in 2008: 2 / 3 (including one NAR start)
Career Wins / Starts: 10 / 17 (including three NAR wins)
Earnings in 2008: ¥213,570,000 (including one NAR win)
Career Earnings: ¥691,624,700 (including one race overseas and four NAR races)
Principal Wins in 2008: Japan Cup Dirt (G1), Tokyo Daishoten

Kane Hekili made a miraculous comeback from two tendon injuries to capture two G1 victories, beating 2007 champion dirt horse Vermilion on both occasions, to lay claim to his second JRA Award for Best Dirt Horse.

Video (KANE HEKILI):
Japan Cup Dirt (G1 - English) HIGH LOW

The son of Fuji Kiseki, who won all four career starts, was hailed the "King of Dirt" with seven wins and a second out of eight starts, including three grade-one titles in 2005, Kane Hekili was seemingly on his way to another successful season after landing his fourth G1 victory in the February Stakes (G1, 1,600m, dirt). However, he was diagnosed with a bowed tendon in mid season, which ruled him out of racing for the rest of the year. Then, after returning to training in September 2007 towards his fall campaign, he was hindered by another relapse of the tendon lesion, which put him out of racing for two years and four months.

Finishing ninth in his comeback start in the Musashino Stakes (G3, 1,600m, dirt) in November, he was sent to post fourth favorite for the Japan Cup Dirt (G1, 1,800m, dirt), which included Vermilion, the uncontested winner in Japan for two years and on his way to his second Japan Cup Dirt title. But the chestnut lived up to the expectations of his stable staff and supporters, who had believed in him during his long absence under the skillful hands of Christophe Lemaire, and exhibited his powerful turn of foot to hold off Vermilion's late charge and become the first horse to capture two Japan Cup Dirt titles.

Four weeks later, he repeated the feat by winning out a fierce duel to beat Vermilion again in the Tokyo Daishoten (2,000m, dirt), concluding his short season with two wins out of three starts.

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BEST STEEPLECHASE HORSE:

KING JOY (JPN)

KING JOY (JPN)

6-year-old, horse, bay

Sire / Dam (Sire of Dam): Marvelous Sunday / Princess Able (Jade Robbery)
Owner: Takao Matsuoka
Breeder: Kawakami Bokujo
Trainer: Yutaka Masumoto
2008 Wins / Starts: 2 / 3 (all jump races)
Career Wins / Starts: 4 / 32 (4 / 14 jump races)
2008 Earnings: ¥151,252,000
Career Earnings: ¥277,293,000 (¥273,043,000 in jump races)
Principal Wins in 2008: Nakayama Daishogai, Kyoto High Jump

King Joy earned his way to becoming the season's Best Steeplechase Horse by winning the Nakayama Daishogai (4,100m) against proven G1 champions such as Maruka Rascal and Merci A Time, as well as another grade race victory in the Kyoto High Jump (3,930m), giving him two wins and a second out of three starts during 2008.

Video (KING JOY):
Nakayama Daishogai (Japanese) HIGH LOW
Kyoto High Jump (Japanese) HIGH LOW

Winless in 18 starts in flat racing during 2004 and 2005, the son of Marvelous Sunday was tested over obstacles for the first time in May 2006 at Kyoto and finished ninth, but he broke his maiden in his second start. The bay progressed well and was extremely consistent during 2007 after marking his first grade-race victory in the Kyoto Jump Stakes (3,170m). He was 1-2-1 out of six starts and was close to claiming his first G1 victory in his first attempt in the 2007 Nakayama Daishogai, finishing second to Merci A Time by a close margin.

Vowing to avenge the defeat, jockey Jun Takada and his mount kicked off the 2008 season with a second in the Tokyo High Jump (3,300m) in June. Coming into their second G1 attempt after a victory in the Kyoto High Jump, they were sent to post second favorite. The pair came into the stretch from a good rhythm to pass the race favorite Maruka Rascal, who had used up his energy after losing much ground on the way, and they beat Merci A Time this time by a 1/2-length for their first G1 victory.

King Joy is out of Marvelous Sunday (JPN, by Sunday Silence), who had a record of 10-2-1 out of fifteen career starts and a G1 winner.

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BEST TRAINER (RACES WON) and BEST TRAINER (TRAINING TECHNIQUE):

YASUTOSHI IKEE


YASUTOSHI IKEE

Age: 39 (January 13, 1969)
Trainer's license: 2003
First race: March 20, 2004
First win: March 20, 2004 (Sonic Surpass)
Principal Win in 2008: Asahi Challenge Cup (G3, Dream Journey)
Wins / Starts in 2008 (winning average): 51 / 291 (.175)*
Career Wins / Starts: 149 / 929**
Earnings in 2008: ¥872,724,000**

In only his fifth season as a trainer, Yasutoshi Ikee rose to the top of the trainers' national standings with 51 wins, holding off 14-time JRA award winner Kazuo Fujisawa by a margin of 5 wins to capture the 2008 JRA award for races won. He also earned the award for training technique, the youngest trainer ever to be so honored. Celebrating a milestone of 100 wins on January 26th, his achievements during 2008 included three grade-race wins-two with Dream Journey, with whom he captured his first grade-one title in the 2006 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes and another with Air Pascal-and was second to Hideaki Fujiwara in winning average.

The son of Yasuo Ikee, who saddled Deep Impact to a glorious career, Yasutoshi grew up in Ritto, where many Japanese horsemen and their families reside. Being the same grade in school as Yutaka Take, the two have been close friends for over 20 years. While Take followed the footsteps of his jockey father, Yasutoshi Ikee chose to become a trainer. After graduating a six-month training course in stable management at the JRA's jockey school, he began as a groom and later assistant trainer for Kuniichi Asami's yard. He then worked under his father's stable before learning the art of training in England and the USA under top trainers Sir Michael Stoute and Neil Drysdale, respectively. With his experience abroad, he played a major role as assistant trainer in his father's overseas endeavors with To the Victory (JPN), who finished second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE, G1), and Stay Gold (JPN), who won the Hong Kong Vase (HKG, G1) and the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE, G2) in 2001.

Although he opened his own yard in 2003, he supported his father when Deep Impact traveled to France, and he took his own Picaresque Coat (JPN) along to run in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein (FRA, G2), finishing second. He saddled his own grade-one winner in 2006 with that year's JRA Best Two-Year-Old, Dream Journey (JPN), whose sire Stay Gold was a favorite ride during his assistant trainer days. He also earned his first JRA Award for best winning average in 2006.

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BEST TRAINER (WINNING AVERAGE):

HIDEAKI FUJIWARA


HIDEAKI FUJIWARA

Age: 43 (June 29, 1965)
Trainer's License: 2000
First Race: March 3, 2001
First Win: March 3, 2001 (Invisible Touch)
Principal Wins in 2008: Kyoto Daishoten (G2), Hanshin Himba Stakes (G2), Chukyo Kinen, (G3), Victoria Mile
Wins / Starts in 2008 (winning average): 44 / 221 (.200)*
Career Wins / Starts: 216 / 1,571**
Earnings in 2008: ¥1,103,844,000**

Hideaki Fujiwara won the 2008 JRA Award for Best Trainer (winning average) for his second year running with an outstanding 20 percent strike rate, which bested his closest rival by a comfortable margin. His 44 wins during 2008 include six grade-race titles won with Tascata Sorte (JPN), Asian Winds (JPN), Toho Alan (JPN) and Air Zipangu (JPN).

Debuting in 2001 after 12 years as assistant to Kaoru Hoshikawa in Ritto, Fujiwara won his first race at Hanshin with Invisible Touch, landed his first two grade-race victories with Tenzan Seiza in the Keihan Hai (G3) and the Kyoto Shimbun Hai (G2), and then concluded his rookie season with 15 wins out of 149 starts. He doubled his wins in 2006, during which he captured five grade-race titles with Toho Alan, Daring Heart (JPN) and Macky Max (JPN), finishing 18th in the national rankings.

Armed with a string of quality two-year-olds and three-year-olds, his winning average jumped to a leading 18.3% in 2007, which earned him his first JRA Award, and his number of wins also improved to 44, which ranked him third on the national trainers' rankings of 2008.


BEST TRAINER (MONEY EARNED):

KATSUHIKO SUMII


KATSUHIKO SUMII

Age: 44 (March 28, 1964)
Trainer's license: 2000
First race: March 11, 2001
First win: March 24, 2001 (Sky Andrew)
Principal Wins in 2008: Japan Cup Dirt (G1), Tenno Sho Autumn (G1), Yasuda Kinen (G1),Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks)
Wins / Starts in 2008 (winning average): 44 / 259 (.170)*
Career Wins / Starts: 226 / 1,805**
Earnings in 2008: ¥1,336,934,000**

Sumii won four of the most desired G1 titles during the 2008 season, proving again his outstanding ability in bringing the best out of his horses in the most wanted stages in racing. While his super filly Vodka continued to excel even among the best male runners in the Yasuda Kinen (G1) and the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1), Sumii succeeded in bringing back Kane Hekili from an injury that was thought fatal to his racing career to win the pinnacle of the dirt G1, the Japan Cup Dirt (G1), and to reclaim JRA's Best Dirt Horse title, which he also took in 2005. Also, Tall Poppy (JPN) gave him his second Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) title, after Cesario (2005).

Sumii worked for three years on a breeding farm in Hokkaido before becoming an assistant trainer for Kentaro Nakao's yard in 1986, then he later worked for Kunihide Matsuda, trainer of 2008 Arima Kinen (Grand Prix) champion filly, Daiwa Scarlet. Sumii set up a training stable after acquiring his training license in 2000.

He saddled his first grade-race winner in 2002 in the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes (Blue Eleven), and then Delta Blues gave him his first G1 and classic titles in the 2004 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger). Finishing a good third behind Zenno Rob Roy in the 2004 Japan Cup brought the trainer into the spotlight as an up-and-coming horseman.

Sumii's number of career grade-race titles soared from three to 14 by the end of 2005, including two G1 wins overseas and three GI victories during 2005. His name quickly spread internationally as he became the first Japanese trainer to saddle a Japanese bred/trained G1 winner in the U.S. with Cesario (2005 American Oaks, USA, G1), and then captured the 2005 Hong Kong Mile (HKG, G1) with Hat Trick (JPN) and the first two placings in the 2006 Melbourne Cup (AUS, G1) with Delta Blues and Pop Rock, respectively.

His best horses include Delta Blues (Kikuka Sho, Melbourne Cup), Cesario (Yushun Himba, American Oaks), Hat Trick (2005 Mile Championship, Hong Kong Mile), Kane Hekili (2005 & 2008 Japan Cup Dirt) and Tall Poppy (2008 Yushun Himba) and Vodka (2006 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, 2007 Tokyo Yushun [Japanese Derby], 2008 Yasuda Kinen, 2008 Tenno Sho Autumn).

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BEST JOCKEY (RACES WON) and BEST JOCKEY (WINNING AVERAGE):

YUTAKA TAKE


YUTAKA TAKE

Age: 39 (March 15, 1969)
Jockey's License: 1987
First Race: March 1, 1987 (Agnes Dictor; 2nd)
First Win: March 7, 1987 (Dyna Bishop)
Principal Wins in 2008: Tenno Sho Autumn (G1), February Stakes (G1)
2008 Wins / Starts (winning average): 151 / 688 (.2195)**
Career Wins / Starts: 3,293 / 15,628**
2008 Earnings: ¥2,794,274,000**

Although a mishap sidelined champion jockey Yutaka Take with a fractured arm during November and most of December, this didn't prevent him from claiming two of JRA's jockey titles for 2008. He has stood on top of the national jockey rankings for seven consecutive seasons and 18 overall. Among his glorious list of awards are nine JRA Grand Prizes, which are given to jockeys that win all three categories during the season, and he was also given a Special Award in 2007 for achieving the unprecedented milestone of 3,000 career victories.

Although his fall in early November kept him out of some of the major fall G1 events, such as the Mile Championship, Japan Cup and the Japan Cup Dirt, Take added two G1 titles with Vodka and Vermilion in the Tenno Sho Autumn and the February Stakes, respectively, to raise his total JRA G1 victories to 62, in addition to seven G1 titles overseas captured in France, England, Hong Kong and Dubai.

The third son of jockey-turned-trainer Kunihiko Take, Yutaka started riding at 10 and has been a star from the very beginning, winning three graded races in his first season and capturing his first G1 and classic title with Super Creek in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) in 1988. Since collecting 69 wins in his debut season, he has continued to win year after year in Japan. He scored at least 200 wins in three consecutive years, from 2003 to 2005, and holds the record of 212 wins in a single season, which he set in 2005.

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BEST JOCKEY (MONEY EARNED):

YASUNARI IWATA


YASUNARI IWATA

Age: 34 (March 12, 1974)
Jockey's License: 2006
First Race: November 7, 1999 (Ishiyaku Monde, 5th)***
First Win: September 16, 2000 (Bamboo Utahime)***
Principal Wins in 2008: Yasuda Kinen (G1), Tenno Sho Spring (G1), Kinko Sho (G2), Hanshin Daishoten (G2), Negishi Stakes (G3), Kyoto Kimpai (G3) 2008 Wins / Starts (winning average): 131 / 910 (.213)**
Career Wins / Starts: 553 / 3,942**
2008 Earnings: ¥3,160,046,000**
*** raced in JRA races under NAR jockey license

Already an accomplished star jockey in NAR regional public racing before debuting under a JRA license in 2006, it wasn't long before Yasunari Iwata elevated his status in the JRA. Attracting increasing offers from big owners for major G1s, he responded with impressive results and boosted his purses. Among his 13 grade-race wins during 2008 were four G1 titles, which he won with Admire Jupiter (Tenno Sho Spring, G1), Vodka (Yasuda Kinen, G1), Black Emblem (Shuka Sho) and Seiun Wonder (Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes).

Yasunari Iwata made his jockey debut in NAR regional public racing in 1991, based in Sonoda Racecourse. Showing great potential, he consistently registered over 200 wins every year from 1996, when he became the winning jockey of Hyogo's Triple Crown at age 22. He reached the milestone of 3,000 wins in just over 14 years. He also took on JRA races while still affiliated with the NAR, scoring his first grade-race win in the 2002 Centaur Stakes (G2) with Believe, and then the 2004 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) with congenial mount Delta Blues-a historic achievement for a regional NAR jockey to win a JRA classic race. He claimed the World Super Jockey Series title in 2005 and decided to register his name as a JRA jockey in the following year.

Iwata's first season in the JRA was astounding, scoring three grade-race victories among 126 wins and pursing well over 2 billion yen to rank third in both categories. Moreover, he achieved great success in his first overseas endeavor with Delta Blues by dominating the Melbourne Cup (AUS, G1). In 2007 he claimed two G1 titles, the Takarazuka Kinen and the Japan Cup, both on multiple G1 winner Admire Moon, on his way to runner-up to Take with 145 wins and purses almost reaching 3 billion yen. He finally rose to the top in earnings in his third season.

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BEST STEEPLECHASE JOCKEY:

MAKOTO NISHITANI


MAKOTO NISHITANI

Age: 32 (October 15, 1976)
Jockey's License: 1995
First Race: March 4, 1995 (Top Leader; 5th)
First Win: March 5, 1995 (Radish Power)
Principal Wins in 2008: Nakayama Grand Jump, Hanshin Spring Jump
2008 Wins / Starts: 13 /67 (steeplechase only)*
Career Wins / Starts: 128 / 1,121 (steeplechase only)**
2008 Earnings: ¥381,079,000 (steeplechase only)**

Makoto Nishitani won his third consecutive JRA Award for Best Steeplechase Jockey by concluding the 2008 season with 13 wins, including his third career G1 title in the Nakayama Grand Jump (4,100m) with Maruka Rascal.

Nishitani debuted as stable jockey for Tsutomu Setoguchi in 1995 and scored more than 10 wins in about 200 mounts in his first two seasons on the flat. However, he increasingly began to concentrate on obstacle racing-perhaps due to his relatively tall frame exceeding 170cm. His ability in jumping, already well noted in his debut year, shined in 1998 and 1999 when he partnered with Godspeed for his first major victory in the Hanshin Shogai Stakes Spring and then the 1999 Nakayama Daishogai (4,100m), the latter earning Godspeed the JRA award for Best Steeplechase Horse of 1999.

His other top horses have included Onward Meteor (2002 Tokyo High Jump), T M Dragon, (2005 Kyoto High Jump), Merci A Time (2007 Tokyo High Jump), Eishin Nisan (2008 Hanshin Spring Jump) and Maruka Rascal, who captured both the Nakayama Daishogai (2006) and the Nakayama Grand Jump (2008).

After marking his 100th win, jump and flat combined in January, 2007, the steeplechase specialist reached the milestone of 100 wins in obstacle races by winning the Illumination Jump Stakes with Maruka Rascal, matching the career record which his father-also a former steeplechase jockey-accomplished over jumps.

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BEST JOCKEY (NEWCOMER):

KOSEI MIURA


KOSEI MIURA

Age: 19 (December 19, 1989)
Jockey's License: 2008
First Race: March 1, 2008 (Moere Long Run, 6th)
First Win: March 1, 2008 (Phoenicorn)
Principal Win in 2008: Hakodate Nisai Stakes
2008 Wins / Starts: 91 / 783*
Career Wins / Starts: 91 / 790**
2008 Earnings: ¥1,200,909,000**

Kosei Miura overhauled the longstanding record for debut wins set by Yutaka Take in 1987 and concluded his debut season with 91wins-22 wins more than the previous record-to earn a well-deserved JRA Award for best newcomer of 2008.

Although none of his family members were involved in racing, the future star jockey fell in love with the sport when taken for a pony ride at a local track as a five-year-old and his ambition never wavered since. Immersing himself in anything considered useful in building ideal muscle for riding, Miura was involved in gymnastics, trampoline, swimming and a number of other sports, as well as horse riding from age 11.

Already showing talent as a good horse rider and a finalist in the national equestrian junior dressage event in 2003, Miura was accepted into JRA's jockey school and began his training in April 2005.

Debuting on March 1, 2008, Miura landed his first career victory in his third start of the day. Quickly recognized as a talented young rider, he was given a ride on all 12 races at Fukushima on April 20, and all 24 races during the weekend of May 24 and 25 at Niigata-the most rides per day and meet for a first-year JRA jockey graduate in his rookie season, since its establishment in 1982.

As the season rolled on, Miura rewrote almost any record that came his way as a newcomer, reaching his 20th and 30th wins in record time and qualifying to ride in a grade-one race after reaching his 31st win on July 6. In less than five months since his debut, Miura landed his first grade-race victory with Fifth Petal (JPN) in the Hakodate Nisai Stakes, and then extended his winning total to 50 in August and 59 in September, positioning him only next to Take as the winningest rookie at that stage.

By the October 11, he had already reached 555 rides-one more than Take's debut total?and scored four consecutive wins in a single day while matching Take's newcomer record of 69 wins with still two months to go. Though winless in his next 24 starts, Miura finally broke the record on October 25 and concluded his glorious debut season with 91 wins, which earned him numerous awards from organizations in the media, sports and other field.

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JRA Equine Cultural Award

Nominees for the 2008 JRA Equine Cultural Award included publications, cultural events and art exhibitions that were either published or held between November 2007 and October 2008. A committee of journalists and other distinguished people from academic and artistic fields chose four finalists for further screening. In the end, they awarded the JRA Equine Cultural Award to a publication entitled "It's Another Day in the Life of Racing: a travel column for race lovers" which tells about author's Takeshi Kamewada's real-life experiences during a nine-year journey around the country visiting JRA, local and overseas racetracks. Kamewada's encounters with people whose lives center on their love of racing provide an endearing look at themes that all people can relate to in everyday life, revealing a new approach to the enjoyment of horse racing.

"It's Another Day in the Life of Racing: a travel column for race lovers" by Takeshi Kamewada (Hon no Zasshi sha)

A travel guide for horserace lovers based on the author's experiences traveling to a variety of race venues to experience their unique attractions. His travels, presented in 54 episodes, also extended to racecourses overseas, for which he provides vivid descriptions of each track and its particular atmosphere, as well the surrounding town and even the back roads traveled to reach these venues.

Takeshi Kamewada

Birth: Tochigi Prefecture, 1949
Position: olumnist, former comic magazine editor, debuted as science fiction novelist with "An Angel Still on the Ground"
Education: BA in Literature, Seikei University

Note:All information, including ages and race performances, as of December 31, 2008, unless otherwise indicated.

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Results of the 2008 JRA Awards (Total Votes: 300)

Horse of the Year
Place Horse Votes
1 Vodka (JPN) 180
2 Daiwa Scarlet (JPN) 79
3 Deep Sky (JPN) 37
4 Kane Hekili (JPN) 1
4 Sleepless Night (JPN) 1
  None Eligible 2
Total   300


Best Two-Year-Old Colt
Place Horse Votes
1 Seiun Wonder (JPN) 263
2 Logi Universe (JPN) 31
2 Suni (USA) 6
Total   300


Best Two-Year-Old Filly
Place Horse Votes
1 Buena Vista (JPN) 299
  None Eligible 1
Total   300


Best Three-Year-Old Colt
Place Horse Votes
1 Deep Sky (JPN) 300
Total   300


Best Three-Year-Old Filly
Place Horse Votes
1 Little Amapola (JPN) 201
2 Reginetta (JPN) 31
3 Tall Poppy (JPN) 24
4 Black Emblem (JPN) 21
  None Eligible 23
Total   300


Best Older Colt / Horse
Place Horse Votes
1 Screen Hero (JPN) 167
2 Eishin Deputy (JPN) 29
2 Kane Hekili (JPN) 29
4 Admire Jupiter (JPN) 27
5 Vermilion (JPN) 9
  None Eligible 39
Total   300
Best Older Filly / Mare
Place Horse Votes
1 Vodka (JPN) 196
2 Daiwa Scarlet (JPN) 104
Total   300


Best Sprinter or Miler
Place Horse Votes
1 Sleepless Night (JPN) 233
2 Vodka (JPN) 53
3 Fine Grain (JPN) 6
4 Blumenblatt (JPN) 4
  None Eligible 2
Total   300


Best Dirt Horse
Place Horse Votes
1 Kane Hekili (JPN) 268
2 Vermilion (JPN) 31
3 Casino Drive (USA) 1
Total   300


Best Steeplechase Horse
Place Horse Votes
1 King Joy (JPN) 218
2 Maruka Rascal (JPN) 77
3 Merci A Time (JPN) 1
  None Eligible 4
Total   300

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Results of the 2008 JRA Awards (2)

Best Trainer (races won)
Place Name Wins
1 Yasutoshi Ikee 51
2 Kazuo Fujisawa 46


Best Trainer (winning percentage)
Place Name %
1 Hideaki Fujiwara 20.00
2 Yasutoshi Ikee 17.29


Best Trainer (money earned)
Place Name Purses/yen
1 Katsuhiko Sumii 1,336,934,000
2 Hidetaka Otonashi 1,212,203,000


Best Trainer (training techniques)
  Yasutoshi Ikee judged by points based on winning frequency,
purses and starts per stall
Best Jockey (races won)
Place Name Wins
1 Yutaka Take 151
2 Hiroyuki Uchida 137


Best Jockey (winning percentage)
Place Name %
1 Yutaka Take 21.95
2 Katsumi Ando 21.29


Best Jockey (money earned)
Place Name Purses/yen
1 Yasunari Iwata 3,209,326,000
2 Yutaka Take 2,804,820,000


Best Steeplechase Jockey
Place Name Wins
1 Makoto Nishitani 13
2 Yoshiyuki Yokoyam 12


Best Jockey (newcomer)
  Kosei Miura

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