Japanese Superstar Fukunaga To Hang Up The Saddle At Saudi Cup

Yuichi Fukunaga, one of the most decorated jockeys in Japanese racing history, paid an emotional tribute to his fans ahead of his retirement rides at the Saudi Cup.

The 46-year-old had his final rides on the Japan Racing Association (JRA) circuit at Tokyo Racecourse earlier this month but will close the chapter on his storied career when he partners Remake (Jpn) (Lani) in the G3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Sports Boulevard and Ecoro Ares (Unified) in the G3 Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group on Saturday.

The veteran rider will concentrate fully on his training career upon his retirement from the saddle and told fans of how that new ambition outweighed his desire to continue riding.

“I have found other things I really want to do as my job,” he said. “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/Group 1 wins which include 34 on the JRA circuit, six at the National Association of Racing (NAR) level and five overseas.

Those were the American Oaks on Cesario (Jpn) (Special Week {Jpn}) in 2005, three times in Hong Kong on Eishin Preston (Green Dancer) and the Dubai Duty Free on Just A Way (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}) in 2014. In 2022, he won the G1 February S. on Saturday’s G1 Saudi Cup entrants Cafe Pharoah (Jpn) (American Pharoah) and Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) on Geoglyph (Jpn) (Drefong), having helped Contrail (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) land the Japanese Triple Crown in 2020.

He continued, “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. 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.”

Fukunaga added, “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.”

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