Yuichi Fukunaga, one of Japan’s premier jockeys, will be making a final farewell from the saddle when he competes at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday.
The 46-year-old had his final rides on the JRA circuits at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 19 after a long career following in the footsteps of his father Yoichi, regarded as a genius of a rider.
Beginning in 1996, Yuichi would be crowned best newcomer jockey and claim wins in the likes of the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) a few years later before finally landing the Japanese Derby on Wagnerian in 2018.
On Saudi Cup Day, Fukunaga has been booked to ride 4-year-old colt Remake (JPN) in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Sports Boulevard and Ecoro Ares (USA) in the Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group.
The veteran jockey will turn his attention to being a trainer next month.
“I have found other things I really want to do as my job,” he explained. “I never felt I did not like being a jockey. The attraction of becoming a trainer outweighed the motivation to continue my riding career because I have had enough as a jockey. As a trainer, I can be more deeply involved with horses.”
Fukunaga will retire with a spectacular list of achievements. As an established rider, he has collected 45 Grade 1 wins, which include 34 at JRA, six at the National Association of Racing level and five overseas.
Those were the American Oaks on Cesario in 2005, three times in Hong Kong on Eishin Preston and the Dubai Duty Free on Just A Way in 2014. In 2022, he won the Grade 1 February Stakes on Cafe Pharoah and Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) on Geoglyph, having helped Contrail land the Japanese Triple Crown a year ago.
“I’d like to thank all the racing fans for supporting and cheering the horse racing in Japan. I never thought I wanted to quit as a jockey in these 27 years,” he said.
“I am very grateful to all the people involved in my jockey life. I will go to the next stage as a trainer, and I do hope I can train horses that many people want to cheer.
“I want to express my gratitude to the connections for the chances to ride in Saudi Arabia for my final rides. Hopefully I can show their best runs and bring the best results to all the fans in Japan.”