Fujioka is no slouch, at 34 he has ridden 768 winners over 17 seasons – averaging more than 50 wis per year over the last decade – and is 13th in the JRA jockey rankings with 56 victories this year.
But his opportunities in Group 1s are rare: his only G1 win was in the 2009 G1 NHK Mile aboard 39-1 shot Jo Capuccino.
The winning ride
Would it be a stretch to call this ‘Ryan Moore-like’? Maybe Ryan Moore-lite might be more apt given the relative status of the two jockeys. Punters were not confident in the jockey change and Namur eased in betting to start 17-1 fifth favourite, but this was the type of cool, calm and collected backmarker ride that Moore has made a trademark.
From gate 16 of 16, Fujioka got Namur to jump with them but soon noted the hard tempo building inside him (200m splits of 10.5/11.3s from 1400-1200m) and eased to the rear.
Namur was still last with 600m to go but given the pace up front, which had built in the run to the straight, Fujioka would have felt confident.
Rather than go widest, Fujioka pushed his way through a gap and saved what could have been the winning margin of a neck.
Mile Championship 2023 race replay
With his nemesis Songline stateside, this was meant to be Schnell Meister’s time to shine.
There were no excuses for Schnell Meister, Christophe Lemaire had the 2.5 favourite settled next to the winner and although he ran home late he failed to threaten in seventh.
Maybe Schnell Meister had run his race in the prelims; he was fractious in the gates, holding up the start, and then was seemingly reluctant ti get moving early.
The forgive file
Granted, he jumped from barrier 11, but Yuga Kawada would wish he had his time again on second-favourite Serifos, which overraced then tracked widest the whole way before finishing eighth.
Elton Barrows was the new kid on the Group 1 block, riding a four race win streak and he wasn’t disgraced. Caught in the mad early scramble, he settled just off the pace and did well to finish fourth in a race dominated by the backmarkers.
A Group 1 win to savour for Kota Fujioka. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)
Joao Moreira’s JRA Group 1 drought continued with another second, this time on Soul Rush. For all of the Magic Man’s success in Japan (he has ridden 38 winners at 26.6 this year), Moreira hasn’t got the G1 record to match.
Moreira’s only Group 1 win in the JRA was aboard Lys Gracieux in the 2018 Queen Elizabeth II Cup.