On June 11, Seina Imamura tied the record for female jockey wins in six consecutive weeks. As a rookie, her speed of victory so far is truly of the level of Yutaka Takemura.
The summer horse racing season started on June 11 at Hakodate Racecourse.
While legendary jockey Yutaka Take, who became the first Derby jockey in his 50s, is winning with his experienced and steady performance on the reins, rookie jockey Seina Imamura is also attracting a lot of attention.
“On the day of this year’s Oaks (May 22), at Niigata Racecourse, which is held behind the Oaks, rookie Seina Imamura was the first jockey to win the Oaks, ahead of Yukiko Masuzawa (Makihara), a former jockey in 1996, and Rena Nishihara, a former jockey in 2000. She broke the record for the most wins by a JRA (Japan Racing Association) rookie female jockey in 22 years (9 wins).
This feat was achieved less than three months after her debut on March 5. If she continues to win at local races in the summer, she could become the first woman to win the JRA award for the most victories by a new jockey (30 or more wins),” said a sports newspaper reporter.
Imamura, the fourth active female jockey in JRA, marked her 14th win on the 11th. This victory also ties her with Lisa Cropp (New Zealand), who came to Japan on a short-term license, for the most consecutive six-week wins by a female jockey in the JRA since 1994. She also has the most wins as a new jockey for both men and women combined.
“There were 10 rookies in 2022. Taiga Tsunoda is trailing with eight wins, but Imamura’s momentum seems unstoppable. She has now won six weeks in a row, breaking the record for new female jockeys.”
Speaking of female jockeys in JRA, Nanako Fujita, who debuted in 2018, created “Nanako fever” and became a topic of conversation.
“However, comparing the two rookies’ performances makes me feel sorry for Nanako. It is because of her success that the environment for female jockeys has improved and improved in many ways.
For example, the curriculum at JRA’s horse racing schools has been revised, and the biggest change is the 4 kg reduction for female apprentice jockeys (50 wins or less) which began in March 2007. Until then, the weight for new jockeys in regular races was uniformly reduced by 3 kilograms (30 wins or less). The aim was to expand opportunities for female jockeys to ride.”
When Imamura herself tied the record for most wins by a new female JRA jockey in a single year with her ninth win, she said in front of the press:
“Thanks to my seniors, I have lost four kilograms, and I am able to jockey in a better environment than in the past. I will always have a sense of respect for them.”
She was grateful.
However, the reason for Imamura’s success is not only the four-kilogram advantage.
“In Niigata in May, the variety of riding patterns caught the eye. One race, she let a horse that was trying to take the lead go and broke away from the lead, while in another race, she stayed inside the pack, switched whips and was able to break through from the inside or the outside.
That is why she rode in the main race, where the 4-kilo reduction does not apply, and played a leading contender. In terms of results, she lost to Junya Nishimura (8 wins, 8 second-place finishes) by a margin of 2 (Imamura had 6), but even the image of female jockeys up to now seems to have changed I wouldn’t be surprised if she reaches the 50-win mark in terms of wins for a rookie jockey in a year,” said a reporter from a horse racing newspaper.
Of the past winners of the JRA Award for Most Winning Rookie Rider (30 or more wins), only Yutaka Take (69 wins), Yuichi Fukunaga (53 wins), and Kosei Miura (91 wins) have won more than 50 races. They are truly the “Yutaka Take class” of rookie jockeys.
“Imamura’s strength lies in the fact that, like Take and Fukunaga, she has been familiar with the horse racing circle since she was a child. Her father Yasunari, a former jockey, is the winner of the JG1 Nakayama Obstacle and is still a good advisor as he works as an assistant trainer at Ritto Training Center.
Also, in front of the press, even before her debut, she was asked, ‘Is she a girl?’ Even in the midst of a rush of record-breaking female jockeys, she answered smilingly, “I hope I can provide more good stories.”
It should not be overlooked that she has a contract with the same “talented agent” (intermediary for ride requests) as her father and son, Fukunaga, Iwata Kosei, and Iwata Mochirai.
“In this summer’s horse races, Fukunaga is likely to ride in Niigata, while Iwata and his son are likely to ride mainly in Hakodate and Sapporo. As her agent has already approached trainers in Miho about riding horses, it is likely that she will attract a lot of leading horses.
The 3-year-old non-winning races until September 4 are especially noteworthy. Since there are already less than 300 races to go, many trainers are thinking, “With a 4 kg weight loss, she could use a little more push. Even Imamura, herself is a jockey once said, “If I can pass the record, I want to overwhelm my juniors so that they won’t be able to pass it,” and she showed a bullish side, so I am looking forward to it.”