David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Lemaire puts family first with Shergar Cup part of longer European break

The Frenchman’s European holiday to see family means he can compete in this weekend’s Shergar Cup but it also comes with an accepted cost.

Christophe Lemaire knows it is improbable he will be Japan’s champion jockey for a sixth time in a row when the title is handed out at the season’s end, but the French ace is fine with that, if only for this year.

Lemaire will ride at Ascot’s Shergar Cup on Saturday as he takes an extended summer break in Europe. His absence from Japan has seen him drop from second in the JRA standings to fifth, 29 wins behind the pace-setting Yuga Kawada, but it is a sacrifice he is willing to make to reconnect with family he had not seen for three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I told my agent in January that if I had the opportunity to travel freely to Europe this summer, I would have a one-month break. Whatever position I had in the jockey ranking, I would go to France for one month,” he told The Report.

“Before Covid, I would usually take a holiday in July to go back to France, because at that time the level of the racing in Japan is a bit less and the better horses do not start to come out again until later in August. This time, going abroad, I wanted a longer break, to visit family and get some rest to freshen my mind, which I really needed.

“I have been visiting my sisters and my parents but they are all around France in different places and I cannot spend only one day and then say bye-bye: after three years, I have to settle a little bit and spend time with them. Because of Coronavirus we missed our family, especially living abroad, it was very difficult to travel and we couldn’t see them for a long time.”


Christophe Lemaire is taking a longer than usual trip back to Europe. (Photo: Asian Racing Report).

Lemaire last rode in Japan on June 26 and has been in France since mid-July. He has not exactly given up on the championship this year but said that when he does return to Japan after his Shergar Cup engagement he will focus his renewed energy on picking up as many high-class mounts as he can.

“I’ve been champion jockey five times in a row, and while the championship is important, of course, all my career the most important thing was to win big races,” he said.

While the championship is important, of course, all my career the most important thing was to win big races.

“I’ve always preferred the quality to the quantity, so even if I miss the championship this year, I will not be disappointed because I have been able to visit family, have some rest; I was able to go to Dubai and America and Saudi Arabia to compete in big races, so I won’t be frustrated if I lose the championship this year.”

Lemaire will captain the Rest of the World team at the Shergar Cup, a four-team jockeys’ challenge that he last competed in a decade ago and said he is ‘proud’ to have been selected.

His team includes Australian-based pair Kerrin McEvoy and Jason Collett, as well as a young rider he knows well, Takeshi Yokoyama, who won the G1 Kikuka Sho on Titleholder last year, and partnered Horse of the Year Efforia to victories in the G1 Satsuki Sho, G1 Tenno Sho Autumn and G1 Arima Kinen.

Jockey Takeshi Yokoyama riding Gambler at Sapporo in 2019. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)

“He’s a very good kid, very clever,” Lemaire said of Yokoyama, whose brother Kazuo is Titleholder’s regular jockey. “He listens to the advice you give him and he’s a naturally talented jockey. His father (Norihiro) is a jockey, his grandfather (Tomio) was a jockey, he was born to be on a horse.

“He’s typical of the new generation of jockeys in that he’s a bit tall but thin, but he looks very good on a horse and he’s very strong in the finish. I think he was inspired by jockeys like Ryan Moore and Oisin Murphy, so he’s got a bit of an English style to his riding.

“He has proved in Japan that he has the mentality to ride big races, and he’s already one of the top riders, he’s second in the rankings now, behind Kawada. He will be one of the top riders in the coming years.”

Meanwhile, Kawada is marching towards what would be his first JRA champion jockey title. He has ridden eight winners from his last 15 rides and leads the championship by 13 after riding a total of five winners on the final weekend of July at Niigata.



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