I’ve done it!
After the race, rookie jockey Sena Imamura (18) called her father, Yasunari, an assistant trainer, who replied with a mixture of surprise and joy.
Imamura “did it” in the GIII “58th CBC Award” held at Kokura Racecourse (Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture) on July 3. Imamura, in his first major race as a rookie, won the race in a JRA record time of 1:05.8 (1:05.8 on turf 1:200m). Imamura won the race in 1:05.8, a JRA record (1:200 m on turf). This was the first time a female jockey had ridden in a major prize race, an accomplishment that no other jockey had ever achieved.
It’s not a dream, is it?
Imamura said these words three times to the press after her interview with the winner, and her joy was palpable.
Falling from a horse in his first race
About two weeks after the historic race, Imamura gave an interview. In an interview, Imamura showed a surprisingly calm reaction (comments below).
I am happy to have won, but I can’t stay immersed in the joy forever. This is not the goal. There is always the next round.
Imamura found himself near a horse. Accompanied by his father, Yasunari, who was originally a jockey, he watched training sessions and races until he was tanned black. From an early age, he participated in pony and other horse races.
I didn’t have a moment when I was drawn to horses or when I wanted to become a jockey,” he said. It was natural for me to be with horses. They are like family.”
He has an unforgettable memory from when he was in the sixth grade of elementary school. For the first time in my life, I participated in a grass-horse race. He fell off his horse and fell hard.
I couldn’t control the horse very well. I couldn’t turn the corner and went off the track and fell off the horse. I didn’t feel any pain or fear at all. I was so frustrated and disappointed that I couldn’t finish. I immediately asked my father to let me ride again.
Imamura hates to lose, even to the point of being competitive. He was always second in the standings at the horse-racing school, although he did achieve good results. He once asked his instructor, “Why am I not in first place? He once asked his instructor, “Why aren’t I in first place?
Among his classmates, the one who always came in first was a jockey named Tsunoda Taiga. He was always calm and never spared no effort. I was convinced that he was the top rider, but at the same time, I kept it in my mind that I would definitely overtake him someday.
After graduating from horse racing school, Imamura made his debut in March of this year. He was confident he could win his first race. However, the result was eighth place. Imamura asks himself, “Why?” Imamura asked himself.
At that time, I was saved by what Kakuta said to me. He said, “It’s no use being in a hurry. It’s the horse that runs. Don’t worry about it. Kakuta never panics, no matter what the situation. His calm words and actions made me think. On the other hand, I had been impatient and had no time to spare. A rider’s impatience is felt by the horse, making it nervous and slowing it down. I began to remind myself not to rush, so as not to put unnecessary pressure on the horse. I told myself, ‘There is nothing I can’t do. There is nothing I can’t do. There is nothing I can’t do. I will definitely keep my cool.
Once he started to relax, Imamura found his rhythm, and before the tournament in Niigata in May, he declared to those around him: “I’m going to go on a rampage in Niigata.
Before the tournament in Niigata in May, he declared to those around him, “I’m going to go on a rampage in Niigata. I’m going to make a breakthrough.
True to his word, on May 14, he won eight races in Niigata alone, including first place in two races on the same day for the first time. He was riding the wave perfectly.
He said, “Once I stopped being in a hurry, I was able to calmly visualize how I would run a race in accordance with the character of the horse I was riding. I can now calmly imagine how the race will go depending on the character of the horse I am riding. Horses have their own characteristics, and you can’t just fit them into a mold. While riding, I communicate with the horse, saying, “Okay, here I go! I communicate with the horse. All I can think about at all times is horse racing. Even when I am sleeping, scenes from races appear in my dreams. Sometimes they don’t turn out as well as they did in reality, and other times they go well in my dreams.
In just over four months since her debut, Imamura has won 21 races (as of July 24), breaking the record for the most wins in a year by a new female jockey (9). When asked about her future goals, she replied …….
I won’t say. If I announce it to the media, it will be covered extensively, and I will become the sole target of criticism. If I’m cocky, I’ll be accused of being a jerk. But I want to run a race that gives fans dreams and hopes.
The 18-year-old is an out-of-this-world athlete in terms of both his riding and his words and deeds. An interesting new talent has emerged in the world of horse racing.
From the August 12, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
Image: Kei Kato, Kyodo News (2)： Kei Kato, Kyodo News (second image)