2020 JRA Award
HORSE OF THE YEARBEST OLDER FILLY OR MARE
Almond Eye (JPN)
BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT
Danon the Kid (JPN)
BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY
BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT
BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY
Daring Tact (JPN)
BEST OLDER COLT OR HORSE
BEST SPRINTER OR MILER
Gran Alegria (JPN)
BEST DIRT HORSE
Chuwa Wizard (JPN)
BEST STEEPLECHASE HORSE
Meisho Dassai (JPN)
Chrono Genesis (JPN)
TRAINERS & JOCKEYS
BEST TRAINER (RACES WON) & (MONEY EARNED) & (TRAINING TECHNIQUE)
BEST TRAINER (WINNING AVERAGE)
BEST JOCKEY (RACES WON) & (MONEY EARNED) & MOST VALUABLE JOCKEY
BEST JOCKEY (WINNING AVERAGE)
BEST STEEPLECHASE JOCKEY
JRA EQUINE CULTURE AWARD
Winner: Japanese Horses—Living Alongside People
Recipient: Misao Takakusa
Almond Eye Honored with Second Horse of the Year Title
The Japan Racing Association will present its 2020 Horse of the Year title for a second time to star mare Almond Eye, who polled 236 out of 283 votes after another year of outstanding performances to become the tenth horse to earn this title twice, the first one coming in 2018. Almond Eye was also named Best Older Filly or Mare, missing a unanimous selection by just two votes. The Lord Kanaloa mare became the first JRA horse ever to capture eight G1 titles over turf when she won the Tenno Sho (Autumn), and then she quickly renewed her record with a ninth G1 triumph in the Japan Cup, where she beat two 2020 Triple Crown champions to close out a spectacular career. The annual JRA Awards ceremony to recognize Almond Eye and other horses, trainers, jockeys, and individuals for outstanding performances or achievements during the thoroughbred racing season was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sodashi, Contrail and Daring Tact were unanimous choices for Best Two-Year-Old Filly, Best Three-Year-Old Colt and Best Three-Year-Old Filly, respectively, while Best Sprinter or Miler Gran Alegria was just one vote short of unanimous selection. Best Two-Year-Old Colt Danon the Kid, Best Older Colt or Horse Fierement, Best Steeplechase Horse Meisho Dassai and Best Dirt Horse Chuwa Wizard received 93%, 85%, 70% and 66% of total 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. Yoshito Yahagi dominated three categories, winning his third Best Trainer title for Races Won, second for Money Earned and first for Training Technique. Yasuo Tomomichi took home his first Best Trainer title for Winning Average, adding to his 2018 Money Earned title.
Best Jockey Awards were presented in the categories of Races Won, Winning Average, Money Earned and Steeplechase based on accomplishments in JRA races alone. Christophe Lemaire received two awards, Races Won and Money Earned, for the fourth and fifth consecutive years, respectively. He also won his fifth successive Most Valuable Jockey title based on points for wins, earnings, winning average and rides combining JRA, designated-NAR and overseas races. Yuga Kawada claimed his fourth Winning Average title, which he also won in 2013, 2014 and 2019. Kazuma Mori won a second consecutive Best Steeplechase Jockey title. No one qualified for Best Jockey (Newcomer) as no jockey debuting in 2020 scored the required minimum of 30 wins.
Special Awards were presented to Chrono Genesis for claiming both Grand Prix races and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa for his 1,500th career win, the second trainer in JRA history to reach this milestone.
The Equine Culture Award was presented to Misao Takakusa for her book “Japanese Horses—Living Alongside People.”
All information, including ages and race performances, are as of December 31, 2020 unless indicated otherwise. Wins and earnings include JRA races, JRA-designated local public races operated under the National Association of Racing (NAR; local public racing) and overseas starts, except for jockeys. “Season Performances” charts show positions in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and final corners, from left to right. “L3F” indicates the time run over the last three furlongs (600m) and “[Horse]” shows the horse’s weight.
Japan Cup (G1 – English)
Almond Eye made history last year in becoming the first JRA horse to capture eight G1 titles over turf when she claimed the Tenno Sho (Autumn). She then quickly renewed the record by winning the Japan Cup, extending her G1 win total to nine and boosting her career earnings to JPY 1,915 million, another JRA record. Now retired, the two-time Horse of the Year winner will soon begin her new career at Northern Farm, where she is scheduled to be covered by Epiphaneia.
When still a three-year-old, the Lord Kanaloa filly already proved to be at the top of her game, claiming the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1), the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1) and the Shuka Sho (G1) to become JRA’s fifth winner of the fillies’ Triple Crown. She then proceeded to conquer her seniors at the highest level in the Japan Cup in a record-breaking time of 2:20.6, resulting in her unanimous pick as the season’s Horse of the Year. As a four-year-old, although she claimed her first overseas G1 title in the Dubai Turf and added another G1 victory in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), she also experienced her first heavy defeat in the Arima Kinen (ninth), her only finish ever out of the money.
During the 2020 season, following her return to Japan after the Dubai Turf was cancelled, Almond Eye claimed the Victoria Mile by four lengths, racing in fourth position before easily overtaking the front horses near the 200-meter pole. In the Yasuda Kinen three weeks later, however, she was beaten by 2-1/2 lengths when she missed her break and traveled in fourth to fifth from the rear, which left her with too much ground to make up despite displaying her trademark turn of foot.
In the Tenno Sho (Autumn), she had no trouble finding her stride from a handy position in fourth to fifth, steadily accelerating into the lead after passing the furlong pole and then pulling away while holding off a strong challenge by Fierement to win by half a length. Her back-to-back victory in this race was the first since Symboli Kris S in 2002 and 2003. In the Japan Cup, her final run before retirement, Almond Eye broke smoothly from an inside draw and traveled in fourth to fifth along the rails in the backstretch. With Kiseki setting a strong pace to outdistance the rest of the field by a good 20 lengths, the others drifted out rounding the final turn, which gave the star mare a clear path to launch a bid from third. Under the confident handling of Christophe Lemaire, the powerful mare displayed her signature turn of foot one last time, taking command 150 meters out and drawing away to triumph by 1-1/4 lengths.
Hopeful Stakes (G1 - English)
Danon the Kid was named Best Two-Year-Old Colt of 2020, following the footsteps of the 2019 award winner Contrail by capping off his debut campaign undefeated in all three starts. Just like the 2020 Triple Crown champion Contrail, his accomplishments included two significant victories, the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes and the Hopeful Stakes, the latter of which gave his sire Just a Way his first G1 title. He will begin his three-year-old season with the Yayoi Sho Deep Impact Kinen (G2, 2,000m) on March 7 or the Wakaba Stakes (Listed, 2,000m) on March 20, prior to the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m), in April.
The bay colt began his career claiming his debut start over 1,800 meters in June by an overwhelming three length margin, having traveled wide in fifth and despite drifting inside at the top of the stretch was able to effortlessly exert the race’s fastest late kick. Racing in the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes after a five-month break, the son of Just a Way turned in the fastest late drive once again after racing in third to easily capture his first graded title by a comfortable 1-1/4 lengths.
Sent off favorite in the Hopeful Stakes, Danon the Kid advanced to third making a wide bid rounding the third corner and inherited the lead when the pacesetter swerved off course and tossed his rider at the final turn. Leading the field into the lane, the colt found an extra gear in the last 100 meters and secured another 1-1/4-length victory.
Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1 - English)
Sodashi went down in history as the first white horse to capture a JRA-G1 victory by claiming the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, earning her the Best Two-Year-Old Filly of 2020 title. Undefeated in all of her four starts in 2020, she will attempt to extend the winning streak in her three-year-old campaign, heading directly for the first leg of the fillies’ Triple Crown, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m) on April 11.
Foaled out of white Buchiko whose dam Shirayukihime is also white, the Kurofune filly immediately broke her maiden in July by taking the lead in the early stretch after racing in second to register a 2-1/2-length win. Posted as second pick in the following Sapporo Nisai Stakes, she captured her first graded title against males while renewing the track record at 1:48.2. With consecutive wins under her belt, the white filly started in the Artemis Stakes as favorite, sat behind the pacesetter after a sharp break and took command 400 meters out for a comfortable 1-3/4-length victory.
In the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, Sodashi was a bit reluctant to enter the gate, but then made a clear break to settle in fourth to fifth and two-wide behind the moderate pace of the leader five to six lengths in front. After chasing the frontrunners into the stretch, the white filly secured a good path 300 meters out and powered home, picking off the pacesetter laboring along the rails. She had to repel a determined challenge by Satono Reinas, who loomed up in the last 50 meters to make it a duel to the wire, but Sodashi prevailed by a whisker to claim her first G1 title.
Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1 - English)Video
Rhodochrosite (Unbridled’s Song)
Contrail fixed his name in JRA history by becoming the third undefeated Triple Crown winner last year. In the Japan Cup, his first challenge against senior G1 rivals, his winning streak was stopped at seven by the now legendary Almond Eye, but the Deep Impact colt was strong in defeat, recording the fastest speed over the last three furlongs to finish runner-up. The Best Three-Year-Old Colt of 2020 will kick off his four-year-old campaign with the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m) on April 4.
Contrail won all three starts in 2019, including the G1 Hopeful Stakes, to claim an overwhelming number of votes as the season’s Best Two-Year-Old Colt. Starting his three-year-old campaign in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), the brown colt took advantage of an inside draw to run along the rails in mid-field behind a brisk pace, then shifted out to make headway and circle wide into the stretch to duel with an unrelenting Salios, the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes champion, but eventually prevailed by half a length. Made race favorite once again in his following race, the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), Contrail did not disappoint, exploding into gear from a good position and pulling away easily to a three-length victory.
Following an easy win in his fall debut, the Kobe Shimbun Hai, Contrail broke smoothly in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) and settled nicely between horses in mid-field while being pressured by a rival on his outside. Although he appeared keen to go along the backstretch, jockey Yuichi Fukunaga managed to keep the situation in hand and gradually the son of Deep Impact made headway through the last two corners. Despite taking command in the stretch and attempting to pull away from the field, the colt was stalked by the runner-up throughout the trip, so the undefeated three-year-old Contrail was required to demonstrate terrific tenacity before prevailing by a neck at the wire for an historic Triple Crown victory. In the Japan Cup, the Triple Crown colt ran in mid-field a couple of lengths behind rival Daring Tact, staying on her heels into the final turn. He then unleashed an explosive kick down the middle of the straight to pin Glory Vase and Curren Bouquetd’or in the final strides while also holding off Daring Tact’s strong challenge to finish second 1-1/4 lengths behind the great Almond Eye.
Shuka Sho (G1 - English)
Daring Tact marked an unprecedented milestone in JRA history last year, becoming the first undefeated three-year-old filly to make a clean sweep of the Triple Crown for fillies. The 2020 Best Three-Year-Old Filly capped off her three-year-old campaign with a respectable third in the Japan Cup, the only blemish in her record so far, and is now scheduled to commence her 2021 season in the Kinko Sho (G2, 2,000m) on March 14.
After winning her only start as a two-year-old, the Epiphaneia filly kicked off her three-year-old season in the listed Elfin Stakes where she sat towards the rear in around 10th, circled wide into the straight and produced an impressive burst of speed to land an overwhelming four-length victory. Sent off second favorite in the first gem of the Crown, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), Daring Tact settled in a rearward position before making rapid headway in a wide sweeping move at the final corner and powered past her rivals in the straight, catching 2019 Best Two-Year-Old Filly Resistencia a few strides before the finish line for the title.
In the following Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), the race favorite settled on the rails sixth from the rear, struggled to find a clear path rounding the last turn but finally exploded with the fastest closing speed after finding a narrow opening 300 meters out to overtake the runner-up in the last 50 meters for a half-length victory. Well rested after a summer break, the brown filly lived up to expectations in the Shuka Sho, the final leg of the fillies’ Triple, where she gradually made headway in the backstretch from a wide and rearward position, swung into gear once in the straight and exerted her powerful late charge to steal the front 200 meters out and win by a comfortable 1-1/4 lengths.
In the Japan Cup, her first challenge against older foes, Daring Tact was settled in mid-field up to the last corner and was bumped by Contrail 300 meters out, which forced her to alter her path and squeeze between rivals, but she powerfully accelerated to tag Glory Vase in the final strides while nosing out Curren Bouquetd’or at the wire, finishing a neck behind the runner-up in third.
Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1-English)
Fierement showcased his outstanding stayer talent last year when winning the Tenno Sho (Spring) for the second time, becoming the first horse since Kitasan Black and the fifth in JRA history to claim the title consecutively. The five-year-old was consistent in middle distances as well, registering a second and a third in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Arima Kinen, respectively, to be chosen Best Older Colt or Horse of 2020. Unfortunately the bay was diagnosed with ligamentitis after showing lameness in his left foreleg at the end of the 2020 season, so he was retired from racing and now stands at stud at the Breeders Stallion Station.
The son of Deep Impact broke his maiden in his debut start in January 2018, marked another win in April and registered a runner-up effort in his first grade-race challenge that summer in the Radio Nikkei Sho (G3). Well rested after a four-month break, Fierement won a fierce duel in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) to land a photo-finish win, becoming the champion with the least career starts. He outdueled subsequent Hong Kong Vase winner Glory Vase in the Tenno Sho (Spring) the following season and claimed his second G1 title by a neck margin.
Commencing his 2020 campaign in the Tenno Sho (Spring) as the defending champion, he settled in the middle of the field and after heading into the lane still in seventh, unleashed a spectacular last three-furlong drive, digging in well to pin the runner-up at the wire in another dramatic photo-finish.
In his second outing of the season, the Tenno Sho (Autumn), he traveled in around 10th behind Chrono Genesis and switched to the outside after struggling to find a clear path at the top of the stretch. Accelerating impressively with the fastest last three furlongs, Fierement, although unable to tag Almond Eye, dug in gamely to cross the finish line a neck in front of Chrono Genesis for second place.
In the Arima Kinen two months later, Fierement pressed the pace in second, turned the final corners in good striking position and was first to enter the straight, but this time could not repel determined challenges by Chrono Genesis and the fast-closing runner-up to finish third, being caught right before the wire.
Mile Championship (G1 - English)
Gran Alegria became the eighth horse in JRA history to claim both mile G1 titles—the Yasuda Kinen and the Mile Championship—in the same year. She also became just the third horse to win the Sprinters Stakes-Mile Championship double in the same year. The Best Sprinter or Miler will now commence her five-year-old season in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1, 1,200m) on March 28 or the Osaka Hai on April 4.
In three starts as a two-year-old, the Deep Impact filly scored two wins, including the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3). In a G1 challenge against males, the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (G1), she finished third 2-1/2 lengths behind Admire Mars, the subsequent Hong Kong Mile winner. The following year, the speedy filly claimed the first leg of the three-year-old fillies’ Triple, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1), in record time, but then was sidelined due to a hoof abscess in her left foreleg after finishing fifth in the following NHK Mile Cup. She resumed racing in the yearend Hanshin Cup (G2), where she demonstrated her extraordinary speed in an overwhelming five-length victory against her seniors to earn selection as JRA’s Best Three-Year-Old Filly of 2019.
burst of speed after traveling fifth or sixth from the rear to cross the wire in third, but later was promoted to second due to interference in a critical stage. As one of 10 proven G1 winners in a very challenging Yasuda Kinen, she bounced back from her previous unlucky start to settle well in hand in mid-field before making made an early move to the front and then exerting the fastest late drive to hold off Almond Eye by 2-1/2 lengths for her second G1 victory.
In her fall comeback, the Sprinters Stakes, Gran Alegria was off slow and raced second from the rear, hardly looking like a threat as she turned for home. But as soon as Christophe Lemaire shifted his mount to the outside and gave her a little slap on the behind, she mowed down the entire field and took command still 50 meters out to pull away and leave runner-up and subsequent Hong Kong Sprint winner Danon Smash two lengths behind. In the Mile Championship, the bay filly broke sharply and traveled just off the rails behind the pace in around fifth, but when attempting to angle out before the final turn she was boxed in and then was caught behind the dueling leaders 200 meters out. By shifting further out for a clear run, however, Gran Alegria was able to unleash her powerful speed and storm past the two leaders to cross the wire for a 3/4-length victory, her third consecutive G1 title in both the sprint and mile categories.
Champions Cup (G1 - English)
Chuwa Wizard registered his first JRA-G1 victory in last year’s Champions Cup, which earned him the Best Dirt Horse title with 186 votes—far ahead of the 85 votes garnered by previous Best Dirt Horse, Chrysoberyl. He is a consistent runner with a 10-3-4 record out of 18 starts, his only unplaced start being a fourth in the 2019 Champions Cup. He is scheduled to begin his six-year-old season with either the Kawasaki Kinen on January 27, the February Stakes (G1, dirt, 1,600m) on February 21 or the Saudi Cup (dirt, 1,800m) on February 20, which would be his first overseas challenge.
A dirt specialist who has only been raced on dirt since his debut in February of his three-year-old season, the son of King Kamehameha captured the 2019 Heian Stakes (G3) in JRA as well as the 2018 Nagoya Grand Prix, the 2019 Diolite Kinen and the 2019 JBC Classic in NAR (local public racing).
Chuwa Wizard kicked off his 2020 season with a win in the Kawasaki Kinen, where he inherited the lead at the final corner after traveling wide around third and then pulled away to an overwhelming six-length victory. But in the following Teio Sho and then the JBC Classic, he finished third behind Chrysoberyl and Omega Perfume in both races.
In his fourth and last start of the season, the Champions Cup, Chuwa Wizard was sent off fourth pick. Breaking sharply and traveling in mid-division while eying Chrysoberyl in front, the brown unleashed a powerful charge in the lane, tied for the fastest closing speed, overtook his rivals one by one, grabbed the lead 100 meters out and easily pulled away to a 2-1/2-length victory.
Nakayama Daishogai (J-G1)
Meisho Dassai was awarded Best Steeplechase Horse after capturing his first J-G1 title in the yearend Nakayama Daishogai. Although finishing second behind Oju Chosan in the Nakayama Grand Jump, he obtained 199 votes, beating the legendary jumper by more than 100 votes, to earn the highest honor for steeplechase runners. The Best Steeplechase Horse of 2020 will commence his eight-year-old season with one of the step races prior to facing Oju Chosan again in the Nakayama Grand Jump on April 17.
Debuting in September of his two-year-old season, the son of Suzuka Mambo marked one win out of 19 starts in flat races before being switched to steeplechase racing in his five-year-old season. Showing an aptitude for steeplechasing, he marked his first win in his third start and has finished within the top three in all his races since. He captured his first graded win in the Kokura Summer Jump (J-G3) in 2019 and registered a well-deserved third in the Nakayama Daishogai, his first start at the J-G1 level, that year.
Meisho Dassai won his first start of the 2020 season in the Pegasus Jump Stakes, where he easily pulled away to an overwhelming seven-length victory after racing in third. In the following Nakayama Grand Jump, the dark bay stalked Oju Chosan in third through most of the race and closed in on the eventual winner after clearing the final jump in second but was unable to accelerate in the last 100 meters and crossed the wire still in second.
Well rested after a six-month break, he scored his second graded title in the Tokyo High-Jump where he took command at the last jump after chasing the pace in third and accelerated to a 1-3/4-length win. Sent off odds-on-favorite in the Nakayama Daishogai in a field of 16 runners, but without Oju Chosan due to a minor leg injury, Meisho Dassai traveled wide around 10th from the front and continued to race in a contained way while gradually improving his position. After entering the final stretch in second, the dark bay exerted a powerful kick and overtook the front in the last strides for a 1-3/4-length victory.
Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) (G1 - English)
Chrono Genesis earned the Special Award of 2020 after becoming the 15th horse and second filly/mare to dominate both Grand Prix races, the Takarazuka Kinen and the Arima Kinen, an accomplishment exemplified just a year earlier by 2019 Horse of the Year Lys Gracieux. Her current season could begin with her first overseas challenge in the Dubai World Cup Day meeting on March 27 or the Hong Kong Champions Day on April 25.
At age two, the Bago filly won her first two career starts and marked a close runner-up effort in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1). After notching her first graded title in the Queen Cup (G3) in the first outing of her three-year-old season, she was consistent in the first two legs of the fillies’ Triple Crown, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1) and the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1), finishing third in both. She claimed her much-awaited first G1 title in the Shuka Sho before capping off the season with a fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1), her first challenge against older foes.
Following her Kyoto Kinen victory in her 2020 seasonal debut, Chrono Genesis was beaten by a neck for second in the Osaka Hai, having to cover more ground than the winner who made a strong bid from the inside. In her next start, the Takarazuka Kinen, she took a wide route around the last two corners to enter the lane in second and then assumed command 300 meters out with a powerful kick despite somewhat soft going to dominate with a six-length margin of victory, a race record.
In her Tenno Sho (Autumn) challenge, despite being disadvantaged right after the break the filly fought well to finish third just a neck back of Fierement, who was only a 1/2 length behind victor Almond Eye. In the season-ending Arima Kinen, where runners are selected by fans, she was made first pick with a record 214,742 ballots. In the race, Chrono Genesis camped around fifth from the rear, made an early move gradually making headway in the middle of the backstretch and then hit the top of the straight in third. After immediately picking off the tired pacesetter, the favorite caught Fierement 100 meters out and battled stride for stride until she finally wore him down to prevail by a neck while also holding off the strong-closing runner-up.
Yoshito Yahagi won his third Best Trainer (Races Won) title with 60 victories, back-to-back Best Trainer (Money Earned) title with 2,261,460,000 yen earned during 2020, and first Best Trainer (Training Technique) title. The three-time champion trainer captured the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) and the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) with Contrail and the February Stakes (G1) with Mozu Ascot, thereby becoming the first trainer to claim four G1 titles for two consecutive seasons. In addition to registering eight graded titles in JRA racing, he claimed five major titles in NAR racing, including the Japan Dirt Derby with Danon Pharaoh.
The son of Kazuto Yahagi, a former trainer at NAR’s Oi Racecourse, Yoshito Yahagi 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 and 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 in each of the past nine seasons, earning the JRA Award for Best Trainer (Races Won) in both 2014 and 2016.
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 2019 Horse of the Year Lys Gracieux.
Yasuo Tomomichi was named 2020 Best Trainer (Winning Average), his second JRA Award after being named 2018 Best Trainer (Money Earned). A regular on the trainer’s national leaderboard in recent years, he registered his personal best with 50 wins in 2020 and was tops in winning percentage at 18.8%. The Ritto-based trainer claimed three grade-race titles in Japan and two thirds in G1 events with Admire Mars— the Mile Championship and the Hong Kong Mile. In total, Tomomichi has 45 grade-race titles (as of 2020) and soon is likely to celebrate another milestone with just 23 wins to go before reaching the 600 mark (JRA only).
Born in Hyogo Prefecture, Tomomichi studied veterinary medicine at Osaka Prefecture University and started riding horses as a member of the university equestrian team. After enrolling in JRA’s Horse Racing School, he began his career as an assistant trainer under Kuniichi Asami at Ritto Training Center in 1989, then transferred to Kunihide Matsuda’s yard in 1996 and acquired his training license in 2001. He opened his own yard in 2002 and claimed his first grade-race title with One More Chatter in the Asahi Challenge Cup in 2005.
In 2008, he saddled Admire Jupiter as his first G1 winner in the Tenno Sho (Spring) and then became a classics winner in the 2009 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) with Unrivaled. Verxina brought Tomomichi consecutive G1 titles in the 2013 and 2014 Victoria Mile and thereafter he claimed at least one JRA-G1 title every season until 2020: the 2015 NHK Mile Cup with Clarity Sky, the 2016 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) with Makahiki, the 2016 Shuka Sho with Vivlos, the 2017 Japan Cup with Cheval Grand, the 2018 Tokyo Yushun with Wagnerian, the 2018 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes and the 2019 NHK Mile Cup with Admire Mars and the 2019 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) with World Premiere. He has also enjoyed successes overseas with Makahiki (2016 Prix Niel), Vivlos (2017 Dubai Turf) and Admire Mars (2019 Hong Kong Mile).
Kazuo Fujisawa became only the second trainer to reach the milestone of 1,500 JRA wins on June 13, 2020, following Tokichi Ogata (active 1911-1981), which earned him a Special Award. The highly decorated living legend has scored 32 JRA-G1 victories, three of which came in 2020 with Gran Alegria, which is tops among all active trainers. Fujisawa seems sure to stay in the limelight during 2021, his final full season before his announced retirement in February 2022.
Recognized as one of the pioneers in the internationalization of Japanese horse racing, Fujisawa learned the techniques of thoroughbred training under Prichard Gordon at Newmarket, England. He acquired his training license in Japan and quickly claimed his first JRA award for Winning Average in 1991. His first grade-race winner was Shinko Lovely, who brought him six titles, including his first G1 victory in the 1993 Mile Championship. Since then he has accumulated over 120 grade-race titles in and outside Japan, including with Taiki Shuttle in the 1998 Prix Jacques le Marois (G1, 1,600m), his biggest international success.
A regular among nationally ranked leaders and JRA’s all-time most awarded trainer, Fujisawa has collected titles 12 times for Races Won (1993, 1995-2000, 2002-2004, 2007, 2009), nine times for Winning Average (1991, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2014), eight times for Money Earned (1995-1998, 2001-2004) and nine times for Training Technique (1993, 1995-2000, 2002, 2005).
His numerous JRA award winners includes Shinko Lovely (1993 Best Older Filly or Mare), Bubble Gum Fellow (1995 Best Two-Year-Old Colt), Taiki Shuttle (1997 Best Sprinter or Miler, 1998 Horse of the Year, Best Older Colt or Horse and Best Sprinter or Miler), Stinger (1998 Best Two-Year-Old Filly), Symboli Kris S (2002-2003 Horse of the Year, 2002 Best Three-Year-Old Colt and 2003 Best Older Colt or Horse), Zenno Rob Roy (2004 Horse of the Year and Best Older Colt or Horse), Dance in the Mood (2004 Best Three-Year-Old Filly and 2006 Best Older Filly or Mare), Satono Ares (2016 Best Two-Year-Old Colt), Soul Stirring (2016 Best Two-Year-Old Filly and 2017 Best Three-Year-Old Filly), Rey de Oro (2017 Best Three-Year-Old Colt and 2018 Best Older Colt or Horse) and Gran Alegria (2019 Best Three-Year-Old Filly and 2020 Best Sprinter or Miler).
Christophe Lemaire continued to dominate the JRA racing scene in 2020, claiming his fourth consecutive Best Jockey title for Races Won by an overwhelming 37-win margin and his fifth title for Money Earned. He also tied his own JRA record of most G1 wins in a single season with eight, which he also accomplished in 2018, three of which came with Horse of the Year Almond Eye, two with the Best Sprinter or Miler Gran Alegria and one each with Mozu Ascot, Fierement and Lucky Lilac. In addition, he scored his fifth consecutive Tenno Sho victory (Spring and Autumn combined), first accomplished in the 1998 Tenno Sho (Autumn), a record which he hopes to extend this coming spring. He also tied his own record of four consecutive G1 wins between the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Japan Cup, which he first did in 2018.
Since debuting as a regular JRA jockey in 2015, the French native has already led all jockeys in Japan four times, in total collecting 89 grade-race titles including 30 G1 victories. He has partnered with multiple-G1 winners such as Major Emblem, Satono Diamond, Soul Stirring, Rey de Oro, Almond Eye, Fierement and Gran Alegria. He renewed a number of JRA records in 2018, including surpassing Yutaka Take’s long-standing records with 215 annual wins, 8 annual G1 titles and annual earnings of 4.66 billion yen. His JRA Award Best Jockey titles include four for Races Won (2017-20), three for Winning Average (2015, 2016, 2018), five for Money Earned (2016-20), four for Most Valuable Jockey (2017-20) and one Grand Prize (2018).
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: the Arima Kinen (2005 Heart’s Cry), 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 fourth JRA Award for Best Jockey (Winning Average), the others coming in 2013, 2014 and 2019. He reached the milestone of 1,500 career wins (JRA races only) in September and concluded his 2020 season with a career-high 167 wins, which included two G1s—the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes with Grenadier Guards and the Hopeful Stakes with Danon the Kid—as well as eight other grade-race titles. He also turned in a runner-up effort in the G1 Sprinters Stakes with Danon Smash and a third in the G1 Mile Championship with Admire Mars. His major NAR titles included the Kawasaki Kinen with Chuwa Wizard and both the Teio Sho and the JBC Classic with Chrysoberyl.
Born into a racing family—his father and uncle are jockeys-turned-trainers and his grandfather was a trainer at Saga Racecourse (NAR)—Yuga learned 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. He gradually accumulated 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), part of his 73 wins including six grade-race victories. He rose to ninth with 83 wins in 2010 and then reached triple digits for the first time the following year, placing third on the leaderboard with 109 wins. He has ranked consistently in the top seven since then, reaching as high as second in 2013, 2019 and 2020.
His other G1 wins include the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) with Big Week in 2010; the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) with Gentildonna in 2012; the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) with Harp Star and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Lachesis in 2014; the Yasuda Kinen with Maurice and the Takarazuka Kinen with Lovely Day in 2015; the Tokyo Yushun with Makahiki in 2016, when he became only the eighth jockey in history to claim all five classic races for three-year-old colts and fillies; the Yasuda Kinen with Satono Aladdin and the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes with Danon Premium in 2017; the Takamatsunomiya Kinen and the Sprinters Stakes with Fine Needle in 2018; and the Champions Cup with Chrysoberyl in 2019.
Kazuma Mori defended his JRA Award for Best Steeplechase Jockey title with 14 wins in jump racing. He captured his much-awaited J-G1 title with Meisho Dassai in the Nakayama Daishogai, his 10th attempt at the level, and added three other grade-race titles in the J-G2 Tokyo High-Jump (Meisho Dassai), the J-G3 Kokura Summer Jump (Springboks) and the J-G3 Niigata Jump Stakes (Feuerwerk).
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Mori entered the JRA Horseracing School in 2008 and began his career as a flat race jockey from the Masahiro Matsunaga stable at Ritto Training Center in 2011. He landed his first win in just 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. In 2019, his ninth year as a jockey, he claimed his first JRA Award for Best Steeplechase Jockey, capturing the champion title in jump racing with 15 wins, including the Kokura Summer Jump (J-G3) with Meisho Dassai.
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 31 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 being his best result. He was invited to take part in the Prix Longines Future Racing Stars for young jockeys at France’s Chantilly Racecourse in June 2014, coming in sixth place aboard Usbeke.
The JRA Equine Culture Award recognizes noteworthy achievements and contributions to Japanese equine culture. Nominations for the 2020 award included horse-related cultural events and publications held or published between November 2019 and October 2020.
The Equine Culture Award for 2020 was presented to Misao Takakusa for her book “Japanese Horses—Living Alongside People” published by Ribun Shuppan. The author traveled to regions where traditional Japanese horse breeds still exist to study and photograph the deep connections between local people and their horses. The book, which is filled with photos, introduces native* Japanese horses and their relationships with people going back to ancient times, helping to preserve the memory of these animals for future generations.
Misao Takakusa traveled around Japan to visit places that are deeply connected with horses to report on not just relationships between people and horses but also the associated local cultures. The book has been highly acclaimed for the author’s diligent work and her affectionate and lively way of reporting on equine culture in Japan.
*Brought from Mongolia to Japan in around the 5th century and not crossbred with other foreign breeds since then
Freelance photographer Misao Takakusa, a native of Tokyo and graduate of Aoyama Gakuin University, has devoted much time to photographing Japanese horse breeds and the regions where these animals have been bred since ancient times, including the Tono area of Iwate Prefecture. In addition to submiting photos and articles to magazines, she is the editor and publisher of “Tonouma Tsushin,” a magazine dedicated to the Tono breed of horses. She was awarded the First Tono City Equine Culture Award in 2014.
2020 JRA Trainer Ranking
2020 JRA Jockey Ranking
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