56-year-old Jockey Wins Japanese Derby

May 28, 2024

Norihiro Yokoyama rides Danon Decile to victory in the 91st Tokyo Yushun. (JRA Photo)

By Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Danon Decile won the 91st Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday morning, giving his rider Norihiro Yokoyama a third succes in the race since 2009.

The Japanese-bred son of Epiphaneia was a two-length winner over the mile and a half distance on Tokyo’s left handed track.

The Shogo Yasuda-trained victor opened his season with a victory in the Grade 3 Keisei Hai over 2,000m in January. He was denied participation in the Japansese 2000 Guineas (Satsuki Sho) when found lame in his right fore-leg prior to the race.

This success was a 10th graded-race victory and a first JRA Grade 1 win for Yasuda, who began training in 2018. 

For the successful rider, Norihiro Yokoyama, who previously won the contest with Logi Universe (2009) and One And Only (2014), it was a 28th Japanese Racing Association Grade 1 win, as at 56 years old, he became the country’s oldest Grade 1-winning rider.

Danon Decile, who ended his juvenile season with a fourth-placed finish in the Grade 3 Kyoto Nisai Stakes, broke well from stall five under Yokoyama in the Derby, and took the early advantage. He was soon eased back by his rider to take a position in third or fourth behind the new race leader Ecoro Walz.

With only a steady pace being set at the front of the Derby field, the Shogo Yasuda-handled runner stayed on the rail as he saved as much ground as possible during the mile and a half classic, while keeping the race favourite, Justin Milano, on his outside in view throughout. 

Under a smart Yokoyama ride, the eventual winner found an opening on the inside of the field before he moved clear of the pack to record a two-length victory. 

Commenting after his third victory in the Japanese Derby since 2009, the successful jockey Norihiro Yokoyama said:

“I thought that the pace would be normal or slow since there were no horses that wanted to set the pace, but as Ecoro Walz took the front, we were able to wait in good position until the straight, and the horse responded strongly from there.

“I’m happy to have won the Derby but I’m also glad that my decision to not race him in the Satsuki Sho [Japanese 2000 Guineas] was not wrong. Danon Decile is a horse with great potential, and we knew that he would be a great horse if we took good care of him. I’m really grateful to the horse,” the elderly jockey added.

Despite his slow break from the stalls at the start of the race, the classic’s favourite, Justin Milano, quickly recovered to claim a position in the second rank of the field. He found traffic problems on entering the home stretch, and the son of Kizuna was then moved outside of the field to find space. 

He soon moved clear of his Derby opponents and despite breaking from the remainder of the field at the one-furlong pole, he was unable to match Danon Decile’s late speed, failing to claim the premier classic by two lengths at the wire.

The French-bred son of Siyouni, Shin Emperor, who travelled mid-division for most of the race, showed impressive speed in the home stretch, before coming home to take third place, another one and a quarter lengths behind the runner-up.

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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@pastthewire As always brilliantly written and perfectly toned observations written by @jonathanstettin everyone in the industry needs to read this and view it as a call to action.

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