Corey Nakatani Did His Best

November 27, 2019

Photo: Trevor Miles

George Halas once said “Nobody who ever gave his best ever regretted it.”

On the heels of his retirement announcement Corey Nakatani is not in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame. He did his best and he deserves to be in with the greats. Corey was never average by any means. The kid from Covina, California became a staple in an extremely talented jockey colony. Corey not only did his best, he was one of the best.

In a career that spanned 30 years of riding versus the best of the best, Nakatani rode 23,740 horses amassing over $234 million in career earnings. Corey currently sits 12th on the all time earnings list about $3 million shy of the great Laffit Pincay Jr.

Corey never did win the Kentucky Derby however he did get a placing with Nehro the year Animal Kingdom won. He rode in several Kentucky Derbies which should attest to how his talents were viewed upon.

Corey’s accomplishments predominate the fact that he never did win the Derby. Nakatani has won an impressive 10 Breeders Cup races and the list of his placings in other BC events is a mile long. Corey’s first win came aboard Blue King at Agua Caliente Mexico in 1988 for Jose Hernandez Sr. in a dead heat. In 1989 it was as if someone flipped the light switch on and this kid went from $8900 in earnings the year prior to over 2.3 million becoming the leading apprentice jockey. This was a mere preview of what was yet to come.

Ten riding titles on the Southern California circuit, 2 Hollywood Gold Cups, 3 Santa Anita Handicaps, 2 Kentucky Oaks, a Pacific Classic, Molson Million, Dubai Golden Shaheen and countless other graded stakes wins.

Corey has ridden the likes of Colonel John, Lite Light, Indian Blessing, Sandpit, Jackson Bend, Lit de Justice, Sarafan, My Miss Aurellia, Thor’s Echo and who can forget Lava Man to name a few.

Corey decided to call it a career due to injuries sustained from a fall in the last race on August 4th 2018 where he fractured T9 and T10 vertebrae, herniated discs in C5,6, and 7 along with a spinal compression. Nakatani was intent on returning and had 3 vertebrae fused in his neck and underwent 15 months of therapy. With the risk of further and catastrophic injury should he fall or re injure his back again, he decided to walk away.

In the end you have an athlete and a man who gave everything he had to the sport of horse racing, risking life and limb. Corey Nakatani accomplished a lot in his career. He accomplished enough to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Everyone above him on the list of career earnings is in the Hall Of Fame and several below him are as well. It’s time for the racing God’s to bless Nakatani and place him where he belongs among racing’s elite jockeys. Corey Nakatani exceeded most peoples best, he was among the elite.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. C-Nak decided to become an elite jockey. Past The Wire would like to congratulate Corey on a marvelous career and best wishes in retirement.

Contributing Authors

Nick D’Agostino

Nick grew up In upstate New York near Saratoga. This afforded him the benefit of being able to embrace the ambiance  of the premier summertime...

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@PastTheWire take that story & others you have and write a book. I would buy it. Any good ones out there that are pure stories?

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