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Making the right moves: JRA invites St Leger-winning Egan back

The young British-based rider could opt to further enhance his international profile with another visit to Japan at this year’s end.

Japan is beckoning David Egan again. Just two weeks after he debuted there at Sapporo in the World All-Star Jockeys Series, Britain’s newest classic-winning rider holds a JRA (Japan Racing Association) invitation for a two-meeting late-December stint.   

Egan is one of eight international jockeys the JRA has invited to ride during its autumn-winter season. Long-time visitors Christophe Soumillon, Ryan Moore and Cristian Demuro are the big names on the list, along with Mickael Barzalona, Europe’s top female rider Hollie Doyle and her husband Tom Marquand, and Germany’s champion Bauyrzhan Murzabayev.

And then there is France’s Mikaele Michele, preparing to take the JRA test in an attempt to earn a full-time licence à la Christophe Lemaire and Mirco Demuro.

Egan and Murzabayev appear to have been offered the shortest licences as the least established among the invited octet. Under the JRA’s rules, only five overseas jockeys can be active on part-season licences at any given time, which means some juggling of time slots should they all accept their offers.

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David Egan's partnership with Mishriff has led to broader opportunities. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

“I applied for a short-term licence and I’ve been offered a space of time there in December,” said Egan. “It’s great to be offered anything in the first place; Japanese racing has had a tremendous stranglehold on international races in the past 18 months and it is exciting just to have been invited to get involved.  

“I’ve seen Ryan Moore and all these great international jockeys spend time in Japan over the years, so I was very lucky to take part in the All-Star Jockeys Series, which was a tremendous experience and a great event to be a part of. After going there, to Sapporo, I’ve only got great things to say about Japan.”

His recent visit to Hokkaido failed to yield up anything higher than a fourth placing in a three-year-old maiden – along with a bunch of down-the-field finishes – but Egan is taking that experience as another notch to his learning, knowing that, at age 23, the decisions he makes in the next four or five years will shape how successful of a career he has.  

“At this stage of my career the world’s my oyster,” he said. “I feel very lucky and privileged to be in such a great position. My connection with Mishriff put me on that world stage and that was a tremendous journey.”

The Mishriff partnership brought wins in the Saudi Cup, Dubai Sheema Classic and Juddmonte International last year for the John Gosden stable. His St Leger victory last weekend on Eldar Eldarov, for his old boss and long-time supporter Roger Varian, emphasised the growing status he has built up via year-on-year success at home and winter stints abroad.  

“Thankfully, I’m in a great position riding lots of high-class horses in the UK during the summer and it gives me the opportunity to travel during the winter months,” he said.

Egan, whose father is the veteran Group 1-winning rider John Egan, joined the Varian stable as an apprentice and at age 16 he travelled to Perth, Western Australia to spend six weeks riding work for trainers Gavin Slater and David Harrison. Since then, he has ridden winter spells in the US, India and Bahrain, and had his first experience of east Asian racing when third in the 2019 Korea Cup.

“I’ve had a small taste of what the world has to offer and down the line you never know what opportunities may arise, and all these trips and experiences will only help me towards that,” he continued.  

With a British Classic win under his belt and the continuing support of the Varian stable, he is in a healthy position on the domestic circuit. But his father spent time riding in Hong Kong and the JRA’s interest in Egan indicates that a longer stint in Asia could be in the offing at some point in the future should his career continue to bloom.

“I haven’t had the opportunity or that kind of offer yet but I’m in a great spot at the moment here in the UK connected with Roger Varian’s stable and I’ve got a lot of support from a lot of other people as well,” he noted.

“As a jockey, making career moves and making decisions are one thing but then getting on the horses are a whole different factor, so I’ve got to use my head to get in the right situations to get on the right horses and results will follow.”

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