Japan: French star Mickaelle Michel sets new record with 30th victory

Horse Racing Mickaelle Michel jockey
Mickaelle Michel has ridden 30 winners in Japan. Photo: Saudi Cup

By Jon Lees

Japan: She’s been a shooting star on the Japanese scene and now she’s a record breaker as well.

France’s Mickaelle Michel on Tuesday ended her prolific spell on Japan’s NAR circuit by setting a new mark for the most wins recorded by a foreign jockey on a short-term licence.

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On the final day of a two-month stint during which she has become a hugely popular figure with the Japanese racing public, 24-year-old Michel’s victory on Emmys Romance at Funabashi racecourse became her 30th winner from 267 rides.

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The success took her past the previous best by a jockey on a three-month licence on Japan’s second-tier circuit, the local authority-run National Association of Racing [NAR].

Going into the meeting, where Michel had seven rides, she was in a joint-share of the record with Alan Munro, who rode 29 winners in 2011, and Ryan Curatolo (2017). She had already beaten the record by a two-month licence holder of 25 set by Cristian Demuro.

“I’m very happy to be able to break the record,” Michel told local media. “I didn’t think I could do so when I came to Japan. I would like to thank everyone.”

It is not the first time Michel, from Hyeres in south-eastern France, has set a record. In 2018 she rode the most wins in a year by a woman when her 72 victories helped her secure France’s apprentice title.

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She first rode in Japan in August last year when, at the invitation of the Japan Racing Association, she took part in the World All Star Jockeys series, in which she rode her first winner in the country and finished joint third overall in the competition.

Having experienced a small flavour of racing in Japan, she returned there in January this year with the long-term aim of getting a licence for the lucrative JRA circuit.

Through her success on the NAR she has built up a huge following among Japan’s fanatical race fans.

However, this wasn’t enough to persuade the authority to grant an extension to her licence and due to the COVID-19 pandemic there is no opportunity for her to ride elsewhere.

Michel, who is learning to speak Japanese, is now expected to remain in Japan for the time being and sit the demanding JRA licence test in the autumn before resuming on the NAR circuit in November.

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