When I’m 64: Japan’s dancing jockey Fumio Matoba breaks record for oldest winning rider

Horse Racing Fumio Matoba jockey
Fumio Matoba after becoming the oldest winning rider in NAR history. Photo: Tokyo City Keiba

By Nicholas Godfrey

Japan: Fumio Matoba, the ‘Emperor of Ohi’, achieved another significant landmark victory in Tokyo on Wednesday [July 14] when he became the oldest jockey ever to ride a winner on the National Association of Racing circuit – at the age of 64.

With a career total of 7,351, Matoba is the winningmost rider in the history of Japanese racing. He was 64 years, ten months and seven days old when he partnered Noteworthy to win the 12th race at the Tokyo City Keiba ‘Twinkle’ meeting – thereby eclipsing by seven days the mark set by Hiroshi Morishita. Matoba is also the oldest jockey ever to ride on the second-tier local government NAR circuit.

A three-year-old colt trained by Teronobu Fujita, the 7-1 shot won the 1,800-metre dirt event, the final race at one of the hugely popular ‘Twinkle’ evening meetings under floodlights at the NAR’s premier venue.

Matoba, who had his first ride on October 16, 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. The leading rider of all-time on the more prestigious Japan Racing Association circuit is Yutaka Take with 4,279 victories.

Matoba stands at number nine on the world list, which is led by Brazilian legend Jorge Ricardo with 13,105 victories. His career total of 7,351 features a handful of winners under the aegis of the JRA – plus one in Korea.

• Learn more about Japanese racing at the JRA website

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