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Keiba Diary: Joe Fujii keeps fighting

Adrian Webber caught up with Joe Fujii for this week’s Keiba Diary as the popular jockey continues to readjust to home life with his wife and children after suffering severe spinal injuries in a race fall last year.

It has been just over a year since Kanichiro ‘Joe’ Fujii sustained a spinal injury in a horrible race fall at Fukushima. It has been a long, hard year at that for the jockey who spent the first six months after the April 2022 fall in a hospital in Hokkaido. 

“The first year of a spinal injury is very important when it comes to rehabilitation, and there was a very strict routine at the hospital, with three-hour sessions of therapy seven days a week,” the rider told Asian Racing Report.

After his time at the hospital in Hokkaido, Fujii switched to another hospital in Saitama where a more daily lifestyle routine was practised for two months. He then finally made it back to his birthplace in the Kansai area, where he returned to spend time with his mother and father, who live in Nara. 


Jockey Joe Fujii and his family. (Photo supplied)

Fujii was finally able to go back to his home in Shiga Prefecture in April this year, and live once again with his wife and three children.

“I was so happy to be back with my family again, and it just overwhelmed me to see the kids running around once more,” he said.

Joe now pays regular visits to the Ritto Training Centre where he enjoys being around everybody involved in racing.

“It’s great to go there, and just the other day I could have a chat with Yutaka Take. I appreciate so much the help I’ve received from so many people in horse racing,” he said.

Fujii has ridden in six different countries, including Australia and Singapore, but he says his best time came when he rode in Korea, winning on horses like Chrysolite and Moanin for Japan at Seoul’s international fixture.

Joe Fujii celebrates Chrysolite's Korea Cup win. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Joe Fujii wins the 2016 Korea Cup on Japanese runner Chrysolite at Seoul Racecourse. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

“I was fortunate to win some big races in Korea with Japanese horses and that got me connected with Japanese owners and trainers. It’s a big reason for my career in Japan,” he reminisced.

Despite still having to be in a wheelchair, the ‘Fujii Challenge’ is Joe’s positive take on everything and his ‘never give up’ attitude certainly prevails over everything else. Just last week he drove into Osaka to visit one of Christophe Lemaire’s pop-up store events and was able to meet up with a lot of people he knows.

He added that he is grateful for everybody’s support, and, as one of racing’s most likeable and genuine characters, surely he deserves that support for a long time into the future. 

Golden Derby dreams

The Golden Week holiday in Japan came and went, and it’s amazing what efforts people put in when it comes to travelling somewhere for a few days and then turning round again to return to the original point of departure.

Perhaps there is no turning back for a couple of horses that enhanced their Derby claims last weekend though, namely Pax Ottomanica and Satono Glanz, winners of the Listed Principal Stakes and the G2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai respectively. Whether either of them is realistically good enough to have Sol Oriens shaking in his skin is another matter.

Other news on the Derby is that Damian Lane will now ride Tastiera, the colt by Satono Crown, that is trained by Noriyuki Hori and finished second in the G1 Satsuki Sho.

Tastiera takes out the G2 Deep Impact Kinen. (Photo by @de57802028)

Champagne flows at Tokyo

There was something of a surprise winner in last Sunday’s G1 NHK Mile Cup when Champagne Color gave owner Yoichi Aoyama just his second top-tier victory (he won the Oka Sho with Jeweler in 2016) and it was good to see Hiroyuki Uchida (52) use all his strength to get the colt by Duramente across the line by a head to score a memorable win.

The jockey won the race 16 years ago on Pink Cameo when he was still an NAR rider. Takeshi Yokoyama rode a great race too on Umbrail to take second after the jockey took a fall when coming out onto the track on W Snatch in race seven.

This coming Sunday will see Sodashi grace the racetrack once more when she takes on the G1 Victoria Mile at Tokyo in a bid to become the third horse in history to win the race in two consecutive years. Her legion of fans will be willing her on against last year’s Best Three-Year-Old Filly Stars on Earth, to be ridden by Christophe Lemaire after his return from America in a gallant effort to win last weekend’s Kentucky Derby.

Don't give me a call

There was a communication breakdown, it seems, resulting in six young jockeys receiving suspensions of 30 days for using smartphones on race days in the jockeys’ room or overnight quarters. 

Five of them are female riders, including last year’s apprentice sensation Seina Imamura, and there seems to have been some misunderstanding about the strict rule (as well as the monitoring of it) that is in place to prohibit smartphone use on the day of a race. The suspensions begin on May 13 and run through to June 11.




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