2022 JRA Award
HORSE OF THE YEARBEST THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT
BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT
Dolce More (JPN)
BEST TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY
Liberty Island (JPN)
BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY
Stars on Earth (JPN)
BEST THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT
BEST OLDER FILLY OR MARE
BEST SPRINTER OR MILER
BEST DIRT HORSE
Cafe Pharoah (USA)
BEST STEEPLECHASE HORSE
Oju Chosan (JPN)
TRAINERS & JOCKEYS
BEST TRAINER (RACES WON) & (MONEY EARNED)
BEST TRAINER (WINNING AVERAGE)
BEST TRAINER (TRAINING TECHNIQUE)
GRAND PRIZE—BEST JOCKEY (RACES WON) & (WINNING AVERAGE) & (MONEY EARNED)
MOST VALUABLE JOCKEY
BEST STEEPLECHASE JOCKEY
BEST JOCKEY (NEWCOMER)
JRA EQUINE CULTURE AWARD
Winner: “Kiso Uma to Ikiru; Kaze Wataru Sato, Kaida Kogen” (Living with Kiso Horses; the Windy Village of Kaida Highland)
Recipient: Asahi Broadcasting Nagano Co., Ltd.
JRA EQUINE CULTURE AWARD SPECIAL AWARD
Winner: “Happy People Make Happy Horses; Kazuo Fujisawa’s Last 400 Days as Trainer”
Recipient: NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
Recipient: Express Sports Co. Ltd.
Recipient: NHK Global Media Services, Inc.
Equinox Overwhelms Voting for JRA’s 2022 Horse of the Year Title
The Japan Racing Association will present its 2022 Horse of the Year title to three-year-old colt Equinox, who secured 282 out of 288 votes for an outstanding year during which he dominated two prestigious G1 events – the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) – and achieved runner-up performances in both spring classics. The star colt was also selected Best Three-Year-Old Colt with 285 votes. The annual JRA Awards, which recognize horses, trainers, jockeys and other individuals and organizations for their outstanding performances or achievements during the thoroughbred racing season, will be presented on January 30 (attendees limited to winning connections due to Covid).
Liberty Island was the unanimous choice for Best Two-Year-Old Filly and more than 95% of the votes were earned each by Best Two-Year-Old Colt Dolce More, Best Three-Year-Old Filly Stars on Earth and Best Older Colt or Horse Titleholder. Best Older Filly or Mare Geraldina, Best Dirt Horse Cafe Pharoah and Best Sprinter or Miler Serifos received 83%, 64% and 54% of the maximum votes, respectively. Oju Chosan earned his fifth Best Steeplechase Horse title in outdueling Nakayama Daishogai winner Nishino Daisy by just one vote.
In Best Trainer Awards based on accomplishments in JRA races and designated NAR and overseas races, Yoshito Yahagi again dominated the same two categories he has won many times before, earning his fifth Best Trainer title for Races Won and fourth straight for Money Earned. Mitsumasa Nakauchida defended his Winning Average title, his fourth total, and Tetsuya Kimura earned his second title for Training Technique.
In Best Jockey Awards based on accomplishments in JRA races alone, Yuga Kawada swept the flat-racing titles for Races Won, Winning Average and Money Earned to become the fourth Grand Prize winner, following Christophe Lemaire in 2018. Shinichi Ishigami captured his third Best Steeplechase Jockey title and Seina Imamura was named Best Jockey (Newcomer) with 51 JRA wins in her debut year, becoming the first female jockey to claim this JRA Award. Keita Tosaki won his fourth Most Valuable Jockey title, which is based on combined points for wins, earnings, winning average and rides in JRA races and designated races held by NAR or overseas.
The Equine Culture Award was presented to Asahi Broadcasting Nagano Co., Ltd. for its television series about Kiso horse culture in Japan’s Kaida Kogen region, “Kiso Uma to Ikiru; Kaze Wataru Sato, Kaida Kogen.” The Equine Culture Award Special Award was presented jointly to NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), Express Sports Co. Ltd. and NHK Global Media Services, Inc. for their television program, “Happy People Make Happy Horses; Kazuo Fujisawa’s Last 400 Days as Trainer.”
All information, including ages and race performances, are as of December 31, 2022 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.
Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) (G1 - English)
Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1 - English)
Equinox was voted Horse of the Year and also was selected as Best Three-Year-Old Colt for his two outstanding G1 victories – the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) – as well as runner-up efforts in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). The colt is currently registered to run in either the Dubai Turf (G1, 1,800m) or the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1, 2,410m) on March 25.
The son of Kitasan Black debuted in August of his two-year-old season with an overwhelming six-length win and then claimed the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes (G2, 1,800m) by a comfortable 2-1/2 lengths. In the Satsuki Sho, his third career start and also the first of his three-year-old season, Equinox sat three-wide around seventh from the widest stall, gradually made headway to enter the stretch in third and fought his way to the lead around the 200-meter pole, but then was pinned by the eventual winner before the wire to finish second. In the Tokyo Yushun, the brown colt also broke from the outermost draw and, after unhurriedly traveling third from the rear, launched his bid at the 400-meter pole just behind the winner, but despite being the fastest over the last three furlongs, was a neck short of the winner at the wire.
A well-rested Equinox began his fall campaign with the Tenno Sho (Autumn), where he was sent off race favorite. The colt ran patiently in 10th, so when the pacesetter expanded his huge lead to 15 lengths by the third corner, Equinox was still near the rear of the field coming out of the last turn. It was from there that the favorite unleashed a spectacular drive down the straight, picking off rivals one by one and finally swooping past the tiring pacesetter in the final strides to notch a one-length victory.
As the race favorite in the yearend Arima Kinen, Equinox eased back to around ninth and traveled wide in good striking position to make headway turning the final corners. Once taking the lead entering the lane, he responded willingly to the jockey’s urging with a strong burst of speed that timed the second fastest closing speed, easily holding off the rest of the field to win by a 2-1/2-length margin and become the Arima Kinen titleholder with the fewest career starts ever.
Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (G1 - English)
Dolce More was chosen Best Two-Year-Old Colt based on his perfect record of three wins in as many starts, including the G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes. The Rulership colt amassed 279 votes to beat Hopeful Stakes-winner Dura Erede, who collected seven votes.
Foaled out of 2013 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) victor Ayusan, the bay colt promptly broke his maiden with a wire-to-wire win in his debut race in August. As the second pick in the following G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup, he chased the distant leader in second up to the straight and then launched an incredible late drive to the wire, overtaking the worn-out pacesetter in the final strides to mark a 1-1/4-length victory.
In the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, his last start as a two-year-old, Dolce More was gunning for the lead before easing back to third. Shifting a few paths away from the rails for more room once in the stretch, he edged clear to assume command after the 200-meter marker and held off a strong bid from the runner-up to prevail by a neck.
Hanshin Juvenile Fillies(G1 - English)
Liberty Island secured the title for 2022 Best Two-Year-Old Filly with her G1 victory in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. The Duramente filly, who concluded her two-year-old season with two wins out of three starts, will commence her three-year-old campaign in the 2023 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, 1,600m) on April 9.
Debuting in July at Niigata over 1,600 meters, the filly won by an overwhelming three lengths after racing in seventh position before turning in the fastest late speed. In the following Artemis Stakes in the end of October, Liberty Island sat around sixth between horses and struggled to find a clear path until 300 meters out, but after moving outside to launch a late drive she responded well to pass all frontrunners except the winner, earning a neck second.
Liberty Island was posted as favorite in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, six weeks after missing a chance for her first graded title. She broke smoothly, sat between horses in mid-field and gradually made headway along the outside towards the final corner. At that point, the filly showed her superior class by accelerating effortlessly and pinning the leader soon after the 200-meter pole, after which she continued to pull away to win comfortably by 2-1/2 lengths.
Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1 - English)Video
Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1 - English)Video
Stars on Earth was named Best Three-Year-Old Filly for her triumphs in the two spring classics – the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks).
The Duramente filly’s career began with a runner-up effort in the summer of her two-year-old season and was followed by her first win in October, when she displayed the fastest late speed from a mid-pack position for a two-length victory. After capping off her two-year-old campaign with a third-place finish, she was a neck-second in both of her first two starts of the 2022 season, the Fairy Stakes and the Queen Cup.
Sent to post as the seventh choice in the first gem of the fillies’ Triple Crown, the Oka Sho, Stars on Earth traveled two-wide in mid-pack, slipped through a gap for running room in the early stretch and then showcased an astounding closing kick to snatch a photo-finish win from the eventual runner-up. In the following Yushun Himba, she rated in midfield around ninth position and switched slightly to the outside turning the final corner, where she made her bid along the center lane, closing the gap on the leaders with every stride to grab the lead 100 meters out for her second jewel by 1-1/4 lengths.
Unfortunately, Stars on Earth was then found to have sustained chip fractures in both forelegs and was forced to rest until the Shuka Sho in the autumn to aim for a clean sweep of the fillies’ Triple Crown. As the race favorite, the filly missed a beat coming out of the gate, was pinched back and had to race near the rear up to the final corner and, despite splitting horses with the fastest finishing speed, could not catch the top two finishers and finished third. She was then given the rest of the season off due to suspensory desmitis in her left foreleg.
Takarazuka Kinen (G1-English)
Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1-English)
Titleholder collected 280 votes out of 288 to pull away from rivals for the Best Older Colt or Horse title in 2022, a year during which he claimed three graded titles including two G1s – the Tenno Sho (Spring) and the Takarazuka Kinen.
The son of Duramente broke his maiden in his debut start (1,800m) as a two-year-old and then marked a second in the following Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes before capping off the season with a fourth in the Hopeful Stakes (G1, 2,000m). In his first outing of his three-year-old campaign – the Yayoi Sho Deep Impact Kinen (G2, 2,000m) – Titleholder claimed his first graded title, after which he notched a runner-up effort in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). Although finishing sixth in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) and 13th in the kickoff start of his fall campaign, he still managed to capture his first G1 title in claiming a wire-to-wire victory by a comfortable five lengths in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, 3,000m). He capped off the 2021 season with a fifth in the Arima Kinen.
The bay colt launched his four-year-old season in the Nikkei Sho, where he made all for a neck victory. In the Tenno Sho (Spring), Titleholder quickly assumed command and widened his gap over the rest of the field, but then slowed the pace in the backstretch to muster enough energy to exert his powerful late kick in the homestretch for an overwhelming seven-length victory. In the following Takarazuka Kinen, the colt rallied with Panthalassa for the lead but eventually settled in second behind a record-breaking pace for the backstretch, but then he closed in, drew even with the leader entering the lane and finally pulled away with powerful strides for a record-breaking victory.
The four-year-old Titleholder flew to France to test his speed and stamina in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, his first overseas endeavor. Despite leading the field until 300 meters out, he ran out of steam due to the soft, rain-soaked ground to finish 11th. Returning to Japan, he set the pace as usual in the yearend Arima Kinen but failed to find another gear in the early stretch and faded to 11th after surrendering the lead.
Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1-English)
Geraldina was named Best Older Filly or Mare of 2022, including for besting the field of top fillies and mares in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup to capture her first G1 title and for marking a third in the “All-Star” Arima Kinen. The late developer will begin her five-year-old season in the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m) on April 2.
Foaled out of seven-time G1 winner Gentildonna, who swept the fillies’ Triple Crown in 2012, the bay broke her maiden in her third start as a two-year-old and, though unable to run in the Classics in her three-year-old spring campaign, marked three consecutive wins from July before capping off the 2021 season with a fourth in the Challenge Cup (G3, 2,000m).
Coming into her four-year-old campaign, Geraldina was consistent in her first four graded events, displaying the fastest late kick in three and the second fastest in one, and finally scored her first grade-race title in the All Comers in September. Entered as fifth choice, the Maurice filly sat around fifth, more forwardly than usual, and launched the fastest late kick on the rails to take over the lead from the pacesetter less than 100 meters out for a 1-1/2-length victory.
Posted fourth favorite in the following Queen Elizabeth II Cup, her second G1 challenge, Geraldina traveled wide towards the rear after breaking out from the outermost stall and advanced rounding the last corners the widest. Displaying the fastest late drive in the field, the filly caught up with the frontrunner after passing the 200-meter pole, dueled briefly with subsequent Hong Kong Vase victor Win Marilyn 100 meters out, and then pulled away in the last 50 meters for a 1-3/4-length win. She capped off her 2022 season with the yearend Arima Kinen, where the bay sat third from the rear after a poor break, was driven to launch a late kick after the third corner and then closed in on the leaders, but with too much ground to make up she finished third.
Mile Championship (G1 - English)
Serifos, the first three-year-old to be awarded the JRA Award Best Sprinter or Miler title, dominated the contention with 156 votes against the next nearest candidate’s 36. The Mile Championship victor, sired by Daiwa Major, back-to-back winner of the same award in 2006 and 2007, will possibly head to the Dubai Turf before the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1,600m) on June 4.
After claiming his career debut, the two-year-old colt scored another two wins, the Niigata Nisai Stakes (G3, 1,600m) and the Daily Hai Nisai Stakes (G2, 1,600m). He came into the following G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes as race favorite but was beaten by subsequent Derby winner Do Deuce in an intense stretch duel, finishing second by a 1/2 length.
In his first outing of the 2022 season, the NHK Mile Cup in May, Serifos was rated near the pace in around fifth and managed to inherit the lead from the tired frontrunners with a furlong to go, but he did not have enough left to sustain his lead and ended fourth. He then headed to the Yasuda Kinen to challenge older foes for the first time and showed good effort in finishing a respectable fourth after chasing the eventual winner to the wire with the fastest closing speed.
The chestnut colt kicked off his autumn campaign in the Fuji Stakes, where he launched the fastest late drive from near the rear to pin down the leaders right before the wire for a neck victory. In the following Mile Championship, he was posted sixth choice and traveled fourth from the rear before steadily shifting out wide into the lane, still well behind. But with intimidating speed timed the fastest in the last three furlongs, Serifos stormed down the stretch and grabbed the lead 50 meters out to win by a growing 1-1/4-lengths.
February Stakes (G1 - English)
Cafe Pharoah defended his February Stakes title to become the second horse after Copano Rickey (2014-2015) to win the race twice, helping him to secure the Best Dirt Horse title with 184 votes, nearly doubling the 94 votes garnered by Champions Cup winner Jun Light Bolt. The six-year-old will make his first overseas endeavor in the Saudi Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m) on February 25.
The U.S.-bred Cafe Pharoah won his only start as a two-year-old and then scored back-to-back wins to start the next season, including his first graded title, the Unicorn Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,600m). In the following Japan Dirt Derby (dirt, 2,000m) that summer, however, he was beaten to seventh. But he immediately bounced back to add another grade-race victory in the Sirius Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,900m), and then capped off his three-year-old campaign with a sixth in the Champions Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m). The bay colt scored his first G1 title in his first 2021 start, the February Stakes, unleashing a powerful stretch drive after racing in third position and then stealing the lead by the furlong marker to land a 3/4-length victory. Winless in his following three starts, the colt wrapped up the season with an 11th in his second Champions Cup endeavor.
The son of American Pharoah came into his five-year-old season prepared to defend his title in the February Stakes, partnered with jockey Yuichi Fukunaga for the first time. As second choice, Cafe Pharoah made headway from the third corner to hit the straight in third, inherited the lead from the pacesetter right after the furlong marker and romped to a 2-1/2-length victory. His second challenge over turf in the Yasuda Kinen however, resulted in a disappointing 17th.
Following a four-month break, Cafe Pharoah began his fall campaign in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai at NAR’s Morioka Racecourse, where the five-year-old chased the pace in third and closed in strongly to duel with the leader in the stretch, finally tagging him at the wire for a nose victory. Unfortunately, he was then diagnosed with a fracture in his left hindleg and had to be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1)
Oju Chosan extended his record by landing his fifth JRA Award for Best Steeplechase Horse in 2022, in addition to 2016-2018 and 2021. His sixth triumph in the Nakayama Grand Jump last year renewed the son of Stay Gold’s own record for most career J-G1 wins to nine, along with his three Nakayama Daishogai victories, and extended his career grade-race wins over obstacles to 15, also a record. With most career earnings in jump racing, the legendary jumper retired from racing at the end of 2022 season to stand stud at Yogibo Versailles Resort Farm from 2023.
Winless in two starts on the flat as a two-year-old, Oju Chosan was given a yearlong break to restart his racing career over obstacles and soon excelled. In his 12th career start, the 2016 Nakayama Grand Jump, he claimed his first of five consecutive J-G1 victories as well as 13 straight graded wins. He finally was defeated to third in the J-G3 Kyoto Jump Stakes in November of 2020 and was sidelined thereafter with a minor leg problem. He came back in the 2021 Nakayama Grand Jump but was a distant fifth to 2020 Best Steeplechase Horse Meisho Dassai. Given another six months to regain his form, he finished third in his comeback start in the Tokyo High-Jump and then claimed his eighth J-G1 title in the yearend Nakayama Daishogai, which earned him the Best Steeplechase Horse of 2021 award.
The eleven-year-old commenced the 2022 season with a third in the Hanshin Spring Jump before aiming for a sixth consecutive triumph in the Nakayama Grand Jump. Posted as favorite, Oju Chosan broke smoothly and quickly to secure his usual position among the front group, then cruised along, looking extremely comfortable over the jumps while shifting right to left and right again to save ground. He gradually moved up from fifth position to around third and then advanced rapidly while turning towards the last obstacle. Landing the last fence in tandem with the eventual runner-up, who had assumed command soon after the previous jump, Oju Chosan climbed the uphill stretch with impressive power to pull away to a 1-1/4-length victory.
Oju Chosan kicked off his autumn campaign with the Tokyo High-Jump but faded to ninth at the stretch after racing around fifth position. Aiming for his tenth J-G1 title in his final start, the Nakayama Daishogai, he settled between fifth and seventh position but was unable to pick up enough speed to close in on the leaders, finishing sixth to close out his career.
Yoshito Yahagi turned in yet another successful season to score his third consecutive and fifth overall Best Trainer awards for Races Won. He also claimed his fourth successive title for Money Earned – tied with Hall of Famer Kazuo Fujisawa, who achieved the same feat both in 1995-1998 and 2001-2004. While his best accomplishment at the JRA-G1 level in 2022 was a runner-up effort in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), Yahagi continued to enjoy overseas successes by notching four group-race victories – the Dubai Turf with Panthalassa, the Red Sea Turf Handicap and Dubai Gold Cup with Stay Foolish, and the Godolphin Mile with Bathrat Leon.
The son of Kazuto Yahagi, a former trainer at NAR’s Oi Racecourse, Yoshito Yahagi has always been around horses. His father initially did not approve of him becoming a horse trainer, but finally agreed on the condition that he would strive to become a JRA trainer and would first learn the art of training outside Japan. As a result, he learned training basics 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 returning to Japan, he introduced interval training to help his father’s yard and then enrolled in the stable employee course at the JRA Horse Racing School.
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 has remained in the top 10 since 2012. His titles include JRA Awards for Best Trainer (Races Won) in 2014, 2016, 2020, 2021 and 2022, Best Trainer (Money Earned) from 2019 to 2022, and Best Trainer (Training Technique) in 2020 and 2021.
Mitsumasa Nakauchida claimed his fourth title for Best Trainer (Winning Average) – following 2017, 2019 and 2021 – this time with a strike rate of 19.5%. He reached his milestone 300th career win in February 2022 – the fastest among active JRA trainers and accumulated 47 seasonal wins to place third on JRA’s leaderboard (JRA races only). His four graded titles in 2022 included two G1s – the Mile Championship with Serifos and the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies with Liberty Island.
Raised on a yearling farm run by his father near Ritto Training Center, Nakauchida started horseback riding in his early teens before leaving Japan to study abroad while still a high-school student. After first studying in Ireland, he moved to England to study equine business at West Oxfordshire College while also gaining on-the-job training by 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 and then acquired his training license in 2012, after which he worked as an apprentice for Hideaki Fujiwara. He finally opened his own yard in 2014 and scored seven wins. The next year he more than tripled his wins to 23. He landed his first grade-race title with Vous Etes Jolie in the Niigata Nisai Stakes in 2016, when his win total rose to 31, putting him 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.
Tetsuya Kimura took the Best Trainer (Training Technique) title for a second time with 34 JRA wins, including his first classics victory in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) with Geoglyph, as well as two G1 titles, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and Arima Kinen, both with 2022 Horse of the Year Equinox. Although ranked 19th in wins on the national leaderboard, he finished first in earnings and second in winning average (JRA alone), which led to his Training Technique title. He also celebrated his first overseas graded win with Authority in Saudi Arabia’s Neom Turf Cup in February.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture and raised in an environment alien to racing, Kimura went to Hokkaido to work on a farm after graduating from college and then traveled to Ireland to increase his knowledge of the trade. Returning to Japan and graduating from JRA’s Horse Racing School, Kimura became an assistant trainer to Yutaka Takahashi (2001-04), Kazuhiro Seishi (2004-07) and Tadashige Nakagawa (2007-11). He finally opened his own yard in 2011, notched his first win that August, and then added another five victories by the end of the season.
After collecting 9, 16 and 14 wins respectively in the next three years, he nearly doubled his personal best to 31 in 2015, including his first graded victory in the Flower Cup (G3) with Albiano. He ranked ninth with 37 wins in 2016 but then dropped to 17th with 33 the following year. But in 2018 Kimura immediately bounced back to seventh with 48 wins, adding his first G1 title in the Mile Championship with Stelvio, to win his first two JRA Awards for Best Trainer (Winning Average) and (Training Technique). His next three seasons saw him finish 15th (36 wins) in 2019, 16th (34 wins) in 2020 and 34th (28 wins) in 2021. For his career, Kimura has 20 JRA-graded titles as of the end of the 2022 season.
Yuga Kawada claimed his fourth consecutive and sixth overall Best Jockey for Winning Average award as well as his first Races Won and Money Earned titles to become the fourth Grand Prize winner in JRA history after Yukio Okabe (1987, 1991), Yutaka Take (1997-2000, 2002-2006) and Christophe Lemaire (2018). In addition to reaching his 1,800th career victory (JRA only) on September 19, his 143 wins in the 2022 season included eight grade-race titles, three of which were at the G1 level – the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) with Stars on Earth, the NHK Mile Cup with Danon Scorpion and the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies with Liberty Island.
Born into a racing family – his father is a jockey-turned-trainer and his grandfather was a trainer at Saga Racecourse (NAR) – Kawada 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. In the following years, he gradually accumulated more wins and landed 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) before concluding the season with 73 wins, including six grade-race victories. He rose to ninth on the leaderboard with 83 wins in 2010 and then claimed triple-digit wins for the first time the following year, placing third with 109 victories. He has ranked consistently in the top seven since then, reaching second four times: 2013, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
His other classic titles include the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) with Big Week in 2010, the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) with Gentildonna in 2012, the Oka Sho with Harp Star in 2014 and the Tokyo Yushun with Makahiki in 2016, making Kawada only the eighth jockey in history to claim all five classic races for three-year-old colts and fillies. He has also claimed the Yasuda Kinen three times, including the 2015 edition with the Horse of the Year Maurice, as well as the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen twice, all part of his career total of 21 JRA-G1 titles. Apart from JRA races, Kawada won two overseas G1s with Loves Only You in 2021, one of which made him the first Japanese jockey to claim a Breeders’ Cup title (Filly & Mare Turf).
Keita Tosaki won his fourth Most Valuable Jockey, following a stretch in 2014-2016 when he was also named Best Jockey for Races Won. He reached his milestone 1,300th victory in JRA on October 29, one of his 136 seasonal wins, which made him the leader in the Eastern division and second in the national standings. Based on combined points for wins, earnings, winning average and rides in JRA races and designated races held by NAR or overseas, Tosaki earned more points in rides than the national leading jockey, Yuga Kawada, to be awarded the Most Valuable Jockey title.
Tosaki’s career began in 1998 at Oi Racecourse as a stable jockey for trainer Kazutaka Katori. He rode his first winner in April that year, scored his 100th win in 2002 and landed his first major title in the Twinkle Lady Sho with Koei Sophia in 2005. In the following year, he nearly doubled his wins to 123, then rose to third in the NAR’s national jockey rankings with 212 wins in 2007, the year when he scored his first JRA win at Hanshin Racecourse. This began a remarkable string of success as the four-time NAR leader in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Given opportunities on JRA mounts, Tosaki scored his first JRA grade-race win in 2010 in the Musashino Stakes (G3) with Glorious Noah. He followed this with his first JRA-G1 victory in the 2011 Yasuda Kinen with Real Impact. After transferring to JRA racing in 2013, Tosaki quickly placed himself among the top five jockeys nationally with 113 wins, including a G1 title with Red Reveur in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. His success continued in 2014, when he led the national standings with 10 wins more than the runner-up and capped his remarkable second season with a victory in the yearend Arima Kinen aboard Gentildonna.
He defended his champion jockey title with 130 wins in 2015 and marked a personal-best 187 wins in 2016. Tosaki has ranked in the top six ever since, except for 2020, when he was absent from racing for five months due to injury. His G1 titles include the 2015 and 2016 Victoria Mile and 2015 Sprinters Stakes with Straight Girl, his first classic victory in the 2018 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) with Epoca d’Oro, the 2020 Champions Cup with Chuwa Wizard and the 2021 Shuka Sho with Akaitorino Musume.
Shinichi Ishigami led all jump-race jockeys with 15 wins in 2022, earning his third Best Steeplechase Jockey title in addition to 2016 and 2017. He registered three jump graded titles in 2022, including the Nakayama Grand Jump with legendary jumper Oju Chosan, which earned Ishigami his 10th J-G1 title in just his 1,000th career mount over obstacles. He claimed his 22nd jump grade-race victory in the Kyoto High-Jump in May, renewing the JRA record for most graded titles in steeplechase history, then accomplished another feat in August when claiming the Kokura Summer Jump, making him the first jockey to win all graded titles (10) over jumps held by the JRA. He also became the 29th jockey to reach 100 career wins over jumps on August 13, 2022.
Ishigami began his career as a flat race jockey in 2001 and he landed his first win aboard Raidenno Hana on March 31. He made steady progress with more than ten wins in each of his first four seasons and scored an impressive runner-up effort in the 2004 Copa Republica Argentina (G2) with Tenjin Musashi. But then his career soured in 2005 and 2006 due to a prolonged suspension and injuries that he sustained in a fall.
Seeking to broaden his riding opportunities, Ishigami started riding jumpers from 2007 and scored his first win in the following year, but he had to wait until 2013 for his first graded win aboard Assatis Boy in the Niigata Jump Stakes (J-G3). Eventually, he began riding over jumps more than on the flat. Though his win totals remained in the modest single-digit range, his riding skill over jumps became well appreciated due to his sound rate of finishing within the money, placing his name among the prominent jump jockeys in JRA racing.
His big break came in 2016 when he shot all the way up to the top of the national leaderboard (jump races only) with 15 wins, including five grade-race victories to tie the JRA record set by Tadashi Kosaka in 2006. He rose to stardom that year by dominating both J-G1 titles with Oju Chosan to claim the season’s JRA Award for Best Steeplechase Jockey. He then repeated the feat in 2017, also with Oju Chosan, with whom Ishigami registered six Nakayama Grand Jump and three Nakayama Daishogai victories. He also won the Nakayama Daishogai with Nihonpiro Baron in 2018.
Seina Imamura rewrote several JRA records in a remarkable debut season to become the first female jockey to receive the JRA Award for Best Jockey (Newcomer). Her 51-win debut year was the fourth highest in JRA Award history, following past Best Jockey (Newcomer) winners Kosei Miura (91 wins, 2008), Yutaka Take (69 wins, 1987) and Yuichi Fukunaga (53 wins, 1996).
Born and raised in Shiga Prefecture, Imamura followed the footsteps of her father and former JRA jockey Yasunari, who won the J-G1 Nakayama Daishogai in 2001. She enrolled in the JRA Horse Racing School in 2019 and graduated three years later to begin riding for trainer Ryo Terashima. She scored her first win in her 17th career start on March 13 at Hanshin Racecourse and then notched her tenth win in May to set a new record for annual wins by a female JRA jockey in her rookie season.
In July, Imamura claimed her first graded title with T M Spada in the CBC Sho, becoming the fourth newcomer jockey in JRA history to win their graded-race debut. She went on to clear the 30-win minimum required to qualify for Best Jockey (Newcomer) in late August and then set a record with 44 wins, the most in a single season by a female jockey, in October. She marked another milestone by becoming the first rookie female to ride in a G1 event, the yearend Hopeful Stakes, in which she finished 18th with 15th pick Ska Paradise.
Yoshitomi Shibata became the first active jockey to receive the Medal of Honor with Yellow Ribbon last year, awarded by the Japanese government for his diligence as a JRA jockey and contributions to the development and promotion of the horse racing industry. The veteran jockey, who had been struggling with an aggravated cervical disc herniation, renewed the JRA record, previously held by Yukio Okabe, as the oldest jockey to claim a JRA win at the age 56 years 3 months and 7 days on November 5, 2022.
A member of the inaugural class of JRA’s Horse Racing School established in 1982, Shibata rode his first winner a month after his debut in March 1985 and scored his first grade-race victory in the 1988 Nakayama Himba Stakes (G3, Soshin Hoju). His first G1 title was in the Yasuda Kinen with Yamanin Zephyr in 1993. He maintained his position within the top 10 jockeys for 12 years between 1993 and 2006 (excluding 2000), during which time he was ranked second from 2001-2004, reaching a personal-best 145 wins in 2004.
Shibata's nine JRA-G1 titles include the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (1993 Yamanin Zephyr, 1998 Offside Trap), the NHK Mile Cup (1996 Taiki Fortune), the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (2000 King Halo, 2006 Orewa Matteruze), the Takarazuka Kinen (2010 Nakayama Festa), the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (2012 Rainbow Dahlia) and the Yasuda Kinen (2014 Just a Way). His major wins in NAR races include the 1994 Teio Sho, the 2003 JBC Sprint and the 2004 Japan Dirt Derby.
After a surgery to overcome a lumbar disc herniation in 2009, the veteran jockey has continued to earn the respect of horsemen and fellow jockeys with his professionalism and fair play, which led to his being elected chairman of JRA’s jockeys association from 2005-2010. Shibata, who reached his milestone 1,000th JRA win in 2001 and 2,000th win in 2011, became only the sixth jockey in JRA history to attain 2,300 wins in March 2021. Five months after this historic feat, he became the oldest jockey at 55 to win a graded title in the Leopard Stakes with Meisho Murakumo, marking his 96th career win in JRA grade races.
The JRA Equine Culture Award recognizes noteworthy achievements and contributions to Japanese equine culture. Nominations for the 2022 award included horse-related cultural events and publications held or published between November 2021 and October 2022.
This documentary series follows Kiso horses living in Kaida Kogen, Nagano Prefecture. While introducing the area’s history and the beautiful backdrop of its local nature, the series follows, over a span of one year, the horses and lives of people working to preserve Japan’s indigenous Kiso horse. The documentary won acclaim for raising the viewers’ awareness of the native horses not only through heartwarming scenes of people living with Kiso horses as if they
were family members but also through thought-provoking scenes depicting the harshness of life in the area.
Asahi Broadcasting Nagano Co., Ltd.
TV Asahi-affiliated broadcaster serving Nagano Prefecture.
This program focuses on Kazuo Fujisawa, a famous trainer, now retired, who left his mark on the world of horse racing in Japan. The program conveys not only Fujisawa’s horse-oriented approach to training based on his own ideas, but also his gentle and humane way of treating horses. The work, in addition to conveying the charm of Fujisawa, was highly praised for its detailed story about how, after spending time overseas, he applied British methods for working
closely with horses, and how he achieved results with his own training methods based on personal convictions, refusing to be swayed by others, to eventually gain wide recognition within the industry.
NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
Japanese broadcaster. Statutory corporation responsible for public broadcasting.
Express Sports Co. Ltd.
Production company specializing in the broadcast and distribution of sports-related programs.
NHK Global Media Services, Inc.
NHK-affiliate involved in producing mainly news and international programs.