Japan’s dancing jockey: new landmark for 63-year-old legend Fumio Matoba

Horse Racing Fumio Matoba jockey
The Emperor of Ohi: Japan’s winningmost rider Fumio Matoba. Photo: Masakazu Takahashi

By Nicholas Godfrey

Japan: Fumio Matoba, the ‘Emperor of Ohi’, has reached a career milestone with his 7,300th winner on the National Association of Racing (NAR) circuit – at the age of 63.

The winningmost rider in the history of Japanese racing reached the milestone with his 2½-length victory on Close To Me in an 1,800-metre (1m1f) dirt contest at Ohi, the hugely popular city-centre track in Tokyo on the second-tier NAR local-government arena.

Matoba, who started riding in October 1973, is a legendary figure in Japanese racing, where he is famed for the ‘Matoba dance’, his idiosyncratic way of riding a finish which looks ungainly to western eyes as the jockey bounces high out of the saddle during his drive.

Matoba hit the 7,000-mark in May 2017 before eclipsing the 7,153-winner total of the ‘Iron Man’ Tatemi Sasaki to become Japan’s leader in career victories. 

Jockeys’ all-time top ten in career wins

1 Jorge Ricardo 12,992
Russell Baze 12,844
Pablo Falero 9,580
Laffit Pincay 9,530
Bill Shoemaker 8,833
Pat Day 8,803
David Gall 7,396
8 Edgar Prado 7,358
9 Fumio Matoba 7,305
10 Takemi Sasaki 7,153
As at May 21, 2020

The leading rider of all-time on the more prestigious Japan Racing Association circuit is Yutaka Take with 4,176 victories.

Matoba stands at number nine on the world list, which is led by Buenos Aires-based Brazilian Jorge Ricardo with 12,992 victories.

His career total features a handful of winners under the aegis of the JRA – plus one in South Korea.

Learn more about Japanese racing at the JRA website

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