2019 JRA Award
HORSE OF THE YEARBEST OLDER FILLY OR MARE
Lys Gracieux (JPN)
BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT
BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY
BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT
BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY
BEST OLDER COLT OR HORSE
BEST SPRINTER OR MILER
BEST DIRT HORSE
BEST STEEPLECHASE HORSE
Shingun Michael (JPN)
TRAINERS & JOCKEYS
BEST TRAINER (RACES WON)
BEST TRAINER (WINNING AVERAGE) & (TRAINING TECHNIQUE)
BEST TRAINER (MONEY EARNED)
BEST JOCKEY (RACES WON) & (MONEY EARNED) & MOST VALUABLE JOCKEY
BEST JOCKEY (WINNING AVERAGE)
BEST JOCKEY (NEWCOMER)
BEST STEEPLECHASE JOCKEY
JRA EQUINE CULTURE AWARD
Winner: The Royal Family
Recipient: Kazumasa Hayami
Lys Gracieux Dominates 2019 Horse of the Year Voting
The Japan Racing Association will present its 2019 Horse of the Year title to Lys Gracieux, who secured 271 out of 274 votes for her outstanding accomplishment in dominating three prestigious G1 events in Japan and Australia—the Takarazuka Kinen, the Arima Kinen and the Cox Plate. The star mare was also named Best Older Filly or Mare for the second year in succession. The annual JRA Awards, which will be presented this evening in a ceremony at Prince Park Tower Tokyo, recognize horses, trainers, jockeys, and other individuals and organizations for their outstanding performances or achievements during the thoroughbred racing season.
Resistencia was the unanimous choice for Best Two-Year-Old Filly, securing all 274 votes, while Chrysoberyl was victorious in the Best Dirt Horse category, receiving all but four of the votes cast. Best Sprinter or Miler Indy Champ, Best Two-Year-Old Colt Contrail and Best Steeplechase Horse Shingun Michael received 77%, 72% and 64% of the maximum votes, respectively. In contrast, other contests were very tight, with Gran Alegria eventually emerging as winner in the Best Three-Year-Old Filly category by a margin of just 22 votes, and Win Bright and Saturnalia winning the Best Older Colt or Horse and Best Three-Year-Old Colt categories by only 18 and 17 votes, respectively.
JRA Best Trainer Awards were presented in the categories of Races Won, Winning Average, Money Earned and Training Technique based on accomplishments in JRA races and designated NAR and overseas races. The Award for Races Won went to Takayuki Yasuda, who won the JRA Award for the first time. Yoshito Yahagi collected his first Money Earned title after claiming Races Won titles in 2014 and 2016, while Mitsumasa Nakauchida earned his second title for Winning Average since 2017 and his first in Training Technique.
Best Jockey Awards were presented for Races Won, Winning Average, Money Earned, Steeplechase and Newcomer based on accomplishments in JRA races alone. Christophe Lemaire was presented with two awarded, Races Won and Money Earned, for the third and fourth consecutive years respectively. He also won his fourth successive Most Valuable Jockey title, which is determined by points earned for wins, earnings, winning average and rides in a combination of JRA, designated-NAR and overseas races. Yuga Kawada claimed his third Winning Average title following success in 2013 and 2014. Kazuma Mori celebrated his first Best Steeplechase Jockey title, and Arata Saito was named Best Jockey (Newcomer).
The Equine Culture Award was presented to Kazumasa Hayami for his novel “The Royal Family”.
Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) (G1 - English)
Lys Gracieux accomplished the feat of claiming the Takarazuka Kinen in the spring and the Arima Kinen in the autumn, becoming the 14th horse and the very first mare to dominate both Grand Prix races in the same year. She also became the first Japanese contender to prevail in Australia’s prestigious Cox Plate, which helped to raise her career earnings to ¥ 1,217,200,100 (approx. US$ 11 million), fourth behind legends Gentildonna, Buena Vista and Vodka on the combined list of mares and fillies. She will now begin her new career as a broodmare serviced at Northern Farm, where she herself was bred.
As of the autumn of her four-year-old season, Lys Gracieux had scored two G3 mile-race wins—the 2016 Artemis Stakes and the 2018 Tokyo Shimbun Hai—along with four G1 runner-up efforts—the 2016 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (1,600m), the 2017 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, 1,600m), the Shuka Sho (2,000m) and the 2018 Victoria Mile (1,600m). Her major breakthrough came in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, where she produced a tremendous burst of speed from mid-pack to pin the leader 100 meters out and dig in gamely for her first G1 victory by a neck. She capped off the 2018 season with a runner-up effort in the Hong Kong Vase (G1, 2,400m), her first overseas challenge, helping her to be named the season’s Best Older Filly or Mare.
In 2019, following a second trip to Hong Kong to finish third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, a new partnership with jockey Damian Lane resulted in three highly convincing G1 triumphs. In the Takarazuka Kinen, Lys Gracieux settled unusually toward the front to press the pace and then easily pulled away for a clean, unthreatened three-length victory. In her Cox Plate victory, the mare traveled in 10th or 11th before making headway and entering the lane in good striking position, after which she overtook the leader 100 meters out and took home the title by 1-1/2 lengths. Sent off second choice in her final start, the Arima Kinen, she was steered to the outside after sitting in 10th on the rails, responded willingly when urged at the top of the stretch and then surged from the furlong marker for an incredible five-length triumph.
Hopeful Stakes (G1 - English)
Contrail was named the 2019 Best Two-Year-Old Colt with 197 votes—far ahead of the 77 votes garnered by Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes winner Salios—based on his perfect three wins out of as many starts. One of these wins came in the Hopeful Stakes, which was upgraded to G1 status in 2017 to become the third G1 race for two-year-olds. Contrail is the first Stakes winner to be elected Best Two-Year-Old Colt, which normally has been presented to the winner of the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, the only G1 race for two-year-old colts until 2017. The middle-distance G1 champion will kick off his three-year-old campaign with the first leg of the three-year-olds Triple Crown, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m), on April 19.
The Deep Impact colt scored a comfortable 2-1/2-length victory in his September debut after racing at pace in around third position before taking command in the last furlong and pulling away.
In his second start, the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes in November, he set a new course record while notching his first grade-race win by an overwhelming 5-lengths margin.
Contrail remained undefeated in his third career win in the Hopeful Stakes. The race favorite broke sharply from an inside draw and was immediately eased two wide in fourth position behind the pacesetter, who set a brisk pace over the 2,000-meter course. The Deep Impact colt gradually moved up through the last two corners and reached the heels of the leader 400 meters out, then extended his strides effortlessly to take command near the furlong pole and pulled away for a 1-1/2-length victory.
Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1 - English)
Resistencia became Best Two-Year-Old Filly of 2019 with a perfect three wins out of three starts, including a G1 victory in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, which was also the first G1 win for her trainer, Takeshi Matsushita. The Daiwa Major filly will begin her three-year-old campaign with the Tulip Sho (G2, 1,600m) on March 7 and then head for the first leg of the fillies’ Triple Crown, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m), on April 12.
Resistencia won her debut start in October, breaking sharply from an outside draw, racing near the pace in third position and pulling away after taking command 200 meters out to score a 1-1/4-length victory. Next, she was sent to post sixth favorite in the Fantasy Stakes, where she pressed the pace in second and held off challengers after taking the lead early in the stretch to earn a one-length margin at the wire for her first grade-race title.
Fourth favorite in her G1 challenge, the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, the powerful bay filly was the quickest out of the gate from a good draw to secure the lead, dictated a solid pace and still had enough to steadily draw away to a five-length victory. She covered the mile distance in 1:32.7, renewing the course record set by Vodka in 2006, by 0.4 second.
Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1 - English)Video
Cesario (Special Week)
Saturnalia was voted the Best Three-Year-Old Colt this season with 124 votes, beating Hong Kong Mile victor and 2018 Best Two-Year-Old Colt Admire Mars by a close margin. The Lord Kanaloa colt claimed the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) as an overwhelming race favorite and, though unable to capture another G1 title, proved to be a top three-year-old by coming in second to Horse of the Year Lys Gracieux in the G1 Arima Kinen.
Saturnalia was unbeaten in three starts during his two-year-old season, which included his first G1 title in the year-end Hopeful Stakes, where he settled in good striking position behind the pacesetter in second, shifted to high gear at the furlong pole and easily drew away for a 1-1/2-length victory.
He landed another G1 title in his first start as a three-year-old in the Satsuki Sho, where he settled wide around seventh, closed in on the frontrunners on the last two corners and surged ahead after entering the lane with an impressive late kick to win a fierce three-horse rally by a head margin. In the following Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), the dark bay, who seemed nervous before the race, missed his break and was forced to settle around 11th before he unleashed a powerful late charge—timed the fastest over the last three furlongs—to close in on the front two runners before weakening in the last 100 meters to finish fourth.
Saturnalia kicked off his fall season with a comfortable three-length win in the G2 Kobe Shimbun Hai for three-year-olds. He was sixth in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) after demonstrating restlessness before the race in his first start against older contenders. More composed in the year-end Arima Kinen, he traveled wide toward the rear and improved position while taking a wide trip through the last corners, making a strong late kick behind Lys Gracieux in the last 200 meters. Although unable to keep up with the powerful speed of the winner, he bested the rest of the all-star field by a neck.
Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1 - English)
Gran Alegria was chosen Best Three-Year-Old Filly with 22 votes more than her nearest rival. Her achievements during the season included a G1 victory in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and another graded win in the Hanshin Cup, her only start in the fall, where she showcased outstanding ability against older male rivals with an overwhelming victory that created a deep impression worthy of her JRA award.
Gran Alegria won her two-year-old debut at a mile in June 2018, beating subsequent Best Two-Year-Old Filly Danon Fantasy by two lengths. She continued with a 3-1/2-victory against male opponents in the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3, 1,600m) in October. Thereafter, with regular rider Christophe Lemaire away in Hong Kong, she passed on her intended Hanshin Juvenile Fillies to face the top two-year-old colts in the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (G1, 1,600m), where she was defeated for the first time and finished third, 2-1/2 lengths behind subsequent Hong Kong Mile winner Admire Mars.
Sent to post second choice in her three-year-old debut, the Oka Sho, Gran Alegria settled into an easy pace in fourth in the first half of the mile. Christophe Lemaire then let the powerful filly unleash her exceptional speed to take command before the 600-meter pole, after which she continued to pull away to an uncontested 2-1/2-length victory, renewing the race record. She was fourth in the following NHK Mile Cup, but was demoted to fifth for interference.
Although targeted towards the Sprinters Stakes for her fall kick-off, Gran Alegria was withdrawn due to a hoof abscess found in her left foreleg during training. Rescheduled to run in the year-end Hanshin Cup, she saved ground in eighth, took command passing the furlong pole and easily pulled away for a 5-length victory.
Nakayama Kinen (G2)
Win Bright won a close contest against another G1 winner to be named Best Older Colt or Horse. The Stay Gold horse claimed the Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup and the Hong Kong Cup in the same season, an accomplishment last made by Designs On Rome in 2014. He is scheduled to kick off his six-year-old campaign on March 1 with hopes of capturing his third consecutive G2 Nakayama Kinen title.
After breaking his maiden as a two-year-old, Win Bright went on to notch three wins out of six starts the following season, including the G2 Spring Stakes (1,800m) and the G3 Fukushima Kinen (2,000m). Between these two wins, however, he was beaten to eighth in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) and then was 15th in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m). In 2018, he scored another graded win in the Nakayama Kinen, but his two G1 attempts in the Osaka Hai (2,000m) and the Mile Championship (1,600m) resulted in a disappointing 12th and ninth, respectively.
Win Bright kicked off the 2019 season nicely, sweeping the Nakayama Kimpai and the Nakayama Kinen. Challenging the Hong Kong Queen Elizabeth II Cup in April, the lightly favored five-year-old hugged the rails around sixth, switched to the outside 300 meters out and took command in the last half-furlong, holding off the late chargers by a 3/4 length for his much-awaited first G1 title while also renewing the track record. The triumph was followed by a lengthy rest and two low-key starts in the autumn, but he regained his form in December to prevail once again on Hong Kong soil. Now a local fan favorite, Win Bright spurted well from the widest stall to track the leaders in third, unleashed a powerful late kick to steal the lead with less than a furlong to go and withstood hard-charging Irish contender Magic Wand by a short head for the victory.
Mile Championship (G1 - English)
Indy Champ won both the Yasuda Kinen and the Mile Championship, the JRA’s two mile G1 events, thereby becoming the first horse since Maurice in 2015 and seventh overall to win both titles in the same year, securing his claim to the title of Best Sprinter or Miler in 2019. The son of Stay Gold concluded the season with three wins out of six starts, although unsuccessful in his overseas challenge in Hong Kong in December.
Indy Champ won his only start as a two-year-old and kicked off his three-year-old campaign with another win before finishing third in the Mainichi Hai (G3, 1,800m) to Blast Onepiece, the subsequent Arima Kinen winner. Stepping down to a mile in the G3 Arlington Cup, he finished a close fourth and found the mile to his liking, thereafter scoring two wins over the same distance before stepping up in class towards the 2019 season.
The improving bay immediately claimed his first grade-race title in his four-year-old debut, the Tokyo Shimbun Hai, and came off a fourth in the Milers Cup for his first G1 challenge in the Yasuda Kinen. Indy Champ saved ground behind the leaders in fifth and despite meeting traffic in the early stretch, he wove his way into the clear and displayed a strong gallop uphill to overtake a stubborn leader in the final strides for a neck victory.
Third in his fall comeback, the Mainichi Okan, Indy Champ was sent to post third favorite in the Mile Championship. Hugging the rails in fifth inside 2017 Best Two-Year-Old Colt and race favorite Danon Premium in the early stages, Indy Champ came off the rails between the last two corners to follow and then overtake Danon Premium as well as the pacesetter. He then drew away strongly down the center lane to win by a comfortable 1-1/2 lengths, securing his second G1 victory.
Champions Cup (G1 - English)
Chrysoberyl, the Best Dirt Horse in 2019, concluded his three-year-old campaign with a perfect five wins out of five starts, including a G1 victory in the Champions Cup, to extend his career winning streak to six. Not only is he the fifth three-year-old to claim the dirt G1 title, he is also the first in JRA history to win the title undefeated. In addition, he renewed the race record by covering the 1,800-meter distance in 1:48.5.
Full-brother to Japan Dirt Derby victor Chrysolite and half-brother to two-time turf G1 winner Marialite, Chrysoberyl broke his maiden in his debut start in September as a two-year-old, but then was sidelined for six months with a hock injury. The Gold Allure colt won his comeback start in March 2019 and then claimed three major NAR races: the Hyogo Championship, the Japan Dirt Derby and the Nippon TV Hai.
Chrysoberyl was sent to post second choice in his first G1 challenge against his seniors after winning his five previous starts by overwhelming margins of at least three lengths, or 26 lengths in total. Breaking sharply in the Champions Cup from a good draw, he tracked pacesetter Inti in third while saving ground along the rails up to the last turn and then out-dueled race favorite and 2017 Best Dirt Horse Gold Dream in the last strides for a neck victory, benefitting from Inti being pinned 100 meters out by two sons of Gold Allure.
Nakayama Daishogai (J-G1)
Shingun Michael swept three major titles in a row, the third being the J-G1 Nakayama Daishogai (4,100m) at the end of the season to earn the Best Steeplechase Horse of 2019. The talented jumper’s 2020 campaign will commence in the Hanshin Spring Jump (J-G2, 3,900m) on March 14, where he is likely to face 2016-18 Best Steeplechase Horse Oju Chosan prior to the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) on April 18.
The Shingun Opera horse debuted at the age of three but was winless in his first eight career starts in flat races, after which he was gelded and switched to steeplechase racing at the end of his first season. The bay broke his maiden in his third start over fences, scored another win toward the end of the 2018 season and has not finished out of the money since.
After a win, a second and a third in his first three 2019 starts, Shingun Michael notched his inaugural grade-race win in his first challenge at the graded level, the Tokyo Jump Stakes, where the bay gelding gradually improved position from fifth, stole the lead at the second-to-last jump and held off the runner-up by a one-half length. In the Tokyo High-Jump, he moved up to second by the first corner, took the lead at the last turn, and then ran well to fend off a strong challenge by the runner-up to clear the wire by a neck.
His first G1 challenge was in the yearend Nakayama Daishogai with Mitsuki Kaneko, his regular rider in every jump race except the Tokyo Jump Stakes. In the race, Shingun Michael broke well, was reserved in sixth or seventh, and then made headway coming out of the next-to-last dip to ascend to second immediately after the 10th jump. Clearing the final fence, the gelding shook off his challengers and maintained a good two-length margin from the top of the stretch for his first J-G1 triumph.
Takayuki Yasuda climbed to the top of the national standings for the first time, landing the 2019 Best Trainer for Races Won after his annual wins soared from his personal best of 49 set in 2018 to 64. In his 26th year as a trainer, Yasuda saddled winners of four grade-race events—Diatonic in the Swan Stakes (G2), Trois Etoiles in the Keisei Hai Autumn Handicap (G3) and Danon Smash in the Keeneland Cup (G3) and the Silk Road Stakes (G3)—as well as major NAR titles; the Sparking Lady Cup with Fashionista, and the Hyogo Gold Trophy with Due Process. Although winless at the G1 level, he registered a second-place finish with Cadence Call in the NHK Mile Cup.
A Kyoto native with no racing-related background, Yasuda first pursued a career as a jockey, debuting in 1972, and claimed his first major victory three years later. He reached the top ten in the national rankings for the first time in 1990, when he was placed sixth, before capturing his first major G1 title in the 1991 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) aboard Tokai Teio, which was followed by another major triumph, the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) with the same colt.
Yasuda opened his yard in 1995 after obtaining his trainer’s license the previous year and won his first graded race with Silver Cockpit in the 2000 Kisaragi Sho (G3). After ascending to seventh in the standings with 39 wins (JRA only) in 2009, he captured his first G1 victory in the 2010 Japan Cup Dirt with the exceptional mount Transcend. Together, they notched up victory in the February Stakes and another Japan Cup Dirt title the following year. In between the two G1 wins, the horse finished second to Victoire Pisa in the 2011 Dubai World Cup, with many astonished by the one-two Japanese finish.
By the end of 2019, the seasoned trainer had pocketed 38 grade-race wins in which 11 were at the highest level. Other major winners included 2011 Sprinters Stakes and 2012 Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner Curren Chan, and 2013 February Stakes champion Grape Brandy; however, the most extraordinary and lucrative star from his stables until now was 2013 Horse of the Year Lord Kanaloa. The King Kamehameha horse claimed two consecutive Sprinter Stakes (2012, 2013), the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (2013), the Yasuda Kinen (2013) and not only became the first Japanese runner to claim the Hong Kong Sprint in 2012 but succeeded in defending the title the following year.
Mitsumasa Nakauchida claimed two of JRA’s annual awards for trainers; his second title for Best Trainer (Winning Average) with a strike rate of 22.5% and his first award for Best Trainer (Training Technique) which is judged based on points acquired by number of annual starts, winners and purses. He also concluded the season finishing fourth on the national leaderboard, reaching a personal best of 48 wins, including eight grade-race titles, and was close to winning a G1 title three times, finishing second in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) with Velox, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Mile Championship with Danon Premium.
Raised on a yearling farm run by his father near Ritto Training Center, Nakauchida started horseback riding in his early teens and left Japan to study abroad when still a high-school student. Beginning his overseas school days in Ireland, he moved to England to study Equine Business at West Oxfordshire College while gaining on-the-job training, exercising for top trainers such as Richard Hannon Sr. and Christiane Head-Maarek. He won two races as an amateur rider in England before graduating from college and moving to the U.S.A. to work under Hall of Famer Robert Frankel. He deepened his knowledge as a horseman at major training farms such as Darley and Coolmore, where he learned the art of breaking in and laying the groundwork with young horses.
Returning to Japan and graduating from JRA’s Horse Racing School, Nakauchida became assistant trainer to Mitsuru Hashida in 2007, acquired his training license in 2012, worked as apprentice for Hideaki Fujiwara and then opened his own yard in 2014, scoring seven wins. He tripled his score to 23 in 2015 and landed his first grade-race title with Vous Etes Jolie in the Niigata Nisai Stakes in 2016, when his win total rose to 31, 20th on JRA’s national leaderboard. He reached his 100th career win on October 15, 2017, making him the fastest trainer in JRA history to reach this milestone, and won his first JRA Award for Best Trainer (Winning Average) that year after concluding the season with 46 wins, eighth on the national leaderboard, which included his first G1 victory with Danon Premium in the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes and marking a win rate of 21.4%.
Yoshito Yahagi won his first JRA Award for Best Trainer (Money Earned) title with 2,214,248,900 yen earned during 2019 while concluding the season with 58 wins and placed second on the national leaderboard. The two-time champion trainer enjoyed success both in Japan and abroad, dominating JRA’s two Grand Prix G1 titles, the Takarazuka Kinen and the Arima Kinen, as well as the prestigious Cox Plate in Australia with Lys Gracieux. Also with talented three-year-old Loves Only You and two-year-old Contrail, winners of the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the Hopeful Stakes respectively, Yahagi is well equipped to aim for further success in the current 2020 season.
The son of Kazuto Yahagi, a former trainer at NAR’s Oi Racecourse, Yoshito has always been around horses. At first, his father did not approve of him becoming a horse trainer, but he finally agreed on the condition that Yahagi would strive to become a JRA trainer and that he would first learn the art of training outside Japan. His father’s advice helped him to acquire important training basics while spending time in Australia, where he worked at Randwick in New South Wales and at Flemington, Victoria and Toowoomba in Queensland, after which he trained in Britain. Upon his return to Japan, he introduced the interval training method while helping at his father’s yard, then enrolled in the stable employee course at JRA Horse Racing School.
After working as a stable lad, Yahagi became an assistant trainer for a number of JRA trainers, including Sadataka Sugaya, from whom he learned the business side of running a successful training yard. Although it took him more than 10 years to obtain his license, it was not long before his unique training philosophy and staff management proved effective. He made the top 10 in the national rankings in his fourth season as a trainer, achieved the runner-up position in the following year and maintained his position within the top10 over the past eight seasons, during which he was champion trainer in 2014 and 2016 and presented with the JRA Award for Best Trainer (Races Won) title.
Yahagi’s other notable horses include 2010 Best Two-Year-Old Colt Grand Prix Boss, 2012 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Deep Brillante, 2016 Dubai Turf victor Real Steel and 2018 Yasuda Kinen champion Mozu Ascot.
Christophe Lemaire continued to dominate the JRA racing scene during 2019, claiming his third consecutive Best Jockey title for Races Won by a comfortable 12-win margin and his fourth title for Money Earned, while missing by a slim margin Winning Average, which denied him a second consecutive title for the Grand Prize. The season was highlighted by his successes with 2018 Horse of the Year Almond Eye in the Dubai Turf and the Tenno Sho (Autumn), which attracted much attention both within and outside Japan, while he also demonstrated his outstanding riding skills in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, Gran Alegria), the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, Saturnalia), the Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1, Fierement) and the Sprinters Stakes (G1, Tower of London). He also claimed NAR’s top graded title, the Kashiwa Kinen, with Gold Dream.
Since debuting as a regular JRA jockey in 2015, the French native has already become Japan national leader three times and collected 72 grade-race titles, 22 of which were at the highest level, and has partnered with multiple-G1 winners such as Major Emblem, Satono Diamond, Soul Stirring, Rey de Oro, Almond Eye and Fierement. He renewed a number of JRA records in 2018, during which he exceeded long-reigning Yutaka Take in annual wins (215), annual G1 titles (eight) and annual earnings (4,660,235,000 yen). His JRA Award Best Jockey titles so far include three each for Races Won (2017-19) and Winning Average (2015, 2016, 2018), four for Money Earned (2016-19) and one for Grand Prize (2018), as well as three for Most Valuable Jockey (2017-19).
Born in Chantilly, the son of Patrice Lemaire, a leading jump jockey in the ‘80s, Lemaire began as an amateur rider in 1996 at the age of 16 and started riding professionally after acquiring his license in 1999. He landed his first G1 title in France in the 2003 Prix Jean Prat and was soon among the top jockeys at home as well as a rising star internationally with G1 titles in France, England, the UAE, Australia, Hong Kong and the United States. Lemaire began racing in Japan from 2002 under short-term licenses, during which he scored five G1 victories in the Arima Kinen (2005 Heart’s Cry) followed by the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (2008 Little Amapola), the Japan Cup Dirt (2008 Kane Hekili, 2013 Belshazzar) and the Japan Cup (2009 Vodka).
Yuga Kawada claimed his third JRA Award for Best Jockey (Winning Average) following his victories in 2013 and 2014. He concluded his 2019 season with a career-high 15 JRA graded wins, which included his G1 Champions Cup title with Chrysoberyl. He also turned in five runner-up efforts and four thirds in G1 events, which brought him to a close second in Money Earned. He was also second in Races Won by scoring a personal-best 152 wins. He captured his first champion title in the World All-Star Jockeys Series held in August and also made overseas expeditions, leading the Rest of the World team to victory as captain of the Shergar Cup in Great Britain and coming in fifth in his first International Jockeys’ Championship in Hong Kong.
Born into a racing family—his father and uncle are jockeys-turned-trainers and his grandfather was a trainer at Saga Racecourse (NAR)—Yuga started learning to ride at an early age and made his debut in March 2004. He registered his first win two weeks later at Hanshin Racecourse and concluded his debut year with 16 wins, gradually accumulating more wins in the following years while landing his first graded title in the Kokura Daishoten (G3) in 2006.
His big break came in 2008 when he won his first G1 and classic title with Captain Thule in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), marking 73 wins that included six grade-race victories. His ranking was boosted to ninth in 2010, with 83 wins, and his annual wins reached three-digit figures for the first time the following year, which placed him third on the leaderboard with 109 wins. He has been consistently ranked within the top seven since then, his highest ranking being a second in 2013 and 2019.
Arata Saito achieved a personal goal by claiming the JRA Award title for Best Jockey (Newcomer) with 42 wins in his first season as a JRA jockey.
The son of two-time G1 winning trainer Makoto Saito, Arata grew up in Ibaraki Prefecture riding horses. He won the JRA’s national pony racing championship “Jockey Babies” in 2013 and enrolled in the Horseracing School three years later. Upon graduation last February, Arata was presented with a special award by the Irish Ambassador given to individuals excelling in riding techniques.
Instead of heading straight to his father’s yard at the Miho Training Center, Arata decided to undergo an apprenticeship with trainer Takayuki Yasuda at Ritto Training Center, making his debut on March 2nd, 2019. In his tenth career start the next day, he marked his first win which was followed by another on the same race card, this time on a runner trained by his father. Steadily accumulating wins, he cleared the minimum 30-win mark required to qualify for the JRA Award for Best Jockey (Newcomer) on October 6. His first and only graded ride was in July in the G3 Hakodate Kinen where he rode 13th-pick Black Bago to a 14th-place finish.
In his ninth year as a jockey, Kazuma Mori claimed his first JRA Award for Best Steeplechase Jockey, capturing the champion title in jump racing with 15 wins. His competent performances at the graded level during the season include winning the Kokura Summer Jump (J-G3) with Meisho Dassai, marking three runner-up efforts in the Tokyo High-Jump (J-G2), the Tokyo Jump Stakes (J-G3) and the Niigata Jump Stakes (J-G3), and coming in third in two G1 events, the Nakayama Daishogai and the Nakayama Grand Jump.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Mori entered the JRA Horseracing School in 2008, began his career as a flat race jockey from the Masahiro Matsunaga stable at Ritto Training Center in 2011 and landed his first win in his ninth start. Concluding his debut season with four wins, he started riding steeplechases from the following year and finished fifth in his first graded start, the Kokura Summer Jump, with Nobori Duke.
Mori accumulated more wins over the years and started to distinguish himself as a steeplechase jockey, claiming the 2015 Kyoto Jump Stakes (J-G3) with Dantsu Mutant and coming in fourth in the J-G1 Nakayama Daishogai with the same horse, despite being posted only ninth favorite. He captured his second graded title in the Niigata Jump Stakes (J-G3) with Good Sky in 2017 and was among the top jockeys in J-G1 jump events, finishing third in the 2016 Nakayama Grand Jump with seventh-pick Meisho Arawashi and in the 2018 Nakayama Daishogai with sixth-choice Meiner Prompt.
While steeplechase races started to account for the majority of his rides from 2018, he continued to compete in flat races. Though without any graded wins, he has accumulated 29 career wins in flat racing and was runner-up in three graded events, the 2013 Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2), the 2014 Niigata Daishoten (G3) and the 2015 Sekiya Kinen (G3). He has also ridden in G1 flat races, taking part in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) with Rhein Spirit for three consecutive years from 2017, with 10th in 2019 his best result. He was invited to take part in the Prix Longines Future Racing Stars for young jockeys in June 2014, which took place at Chantilly Racecourse in France, and rode Usbeke to sixth place.
The JRA Equine Culture Award recognizes noteworthy achievements and contributions to Japanese equine culture. Nominations for the 2019 award included horse-related cultural events and publications that were respectively held or published between November 2018 and October 2019.
The Equine Culture Award for 2019 was presented to Kazumasa Hayami for his novel “The Royal Family”, published by Shinchosha. The book allows readers to look into the little-known world of horse owners and the inheritance of bloodlines. The novel, highly acclaimed for its storyline and filled with realistic descriptions of horse lovers and dynamic racing scenes based on thorough interviews and researches, is attractive not only for racegoers but also those with no knowledge of horseracing.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1977, Kazumasa Hayami joined a baseball team at Toin Gakuen High School and took part in the 1995 National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament. He made his writing debut in 2008 with “Hyakuhachi” (“108”), his bestselling novel about a high school baseball team, which was later adapted into a movie and comics. He won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award with his novel “Innocent Days” in 2015. While he has released a broad range of works from mysteries to comedies, this is his first novel about horseracing.
2019 JRA Trainer Ranking
2019 JRA Jockey Ranking