By Jon Lees
Japan: The hugely popular Nanako Fujita reached a significant landmark in her riding career by partnering her 100th winner on Saturday.
Fujita, 22, the only female jockey licensed to ride on the top-tier Japan Racing Association circuit, reached the milestone on Silver Jack in the first race at Fukushima.
She missed several weeks of the season after breaking her shoulder earlier in the year but put herself on the cusp of her century by hitting 99 last weekend. Silver Jack, her 2150th ride, was her tenth winner of the campaign.
Racing in Japan continues to be staged behind closed doors due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Fujita said: “I want to say thank you to be able to do the horse racing in this severe situation. I want to say thank you to the fans cheering me in front of the TV staying at home.
“I am very sad there are no spectators on the racecourse, though when I won first time here at Fukushima it was among the many many fans. I hope the time will come again soon when you can be at the racecourses to see the races.”
Fujita is from Moriya, Ibaraki Prefecture, in eastern Japan. She enrolled in jockey school in 2013, aged 15, and was granted a JRA licence three years later, making her the first woman to debut on the circuit for 16 years.
She claimed her first victory on Ascii Code at Urawa on March 24, 2016 and the following year broke the record for most wins in a season by a JRA female jockey, ending the campaign with 14 winners, eclipsing the previous best of 11 set by Yukiko Masuwaza in 1997.
She has since set a new best tally by a female when riding 43 winners last year when she also became the first female JRA jockey to compete in a G1 race, finishing fifth on Copano Kicking in the February Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse.
Last summer she won the third edition of the Women Jockeys’ World Cup at Bro Park, Sweden, winning two of the five races, and also competed in Britain for the first time at the Shergar Cup at Ascot.