The star among All-Stars, Yutaka Take’s mastery spans decades

A wild World All-Star Jockeys series win in Sapporo was a reminder that ‘the Legend’ Yutaka Take is more than just a veteran trading off past achievements.

Yutaka Take and champion galloper Kitasan Black win the 2017 Japan Cup. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit/Getty Images).

Michael Cox



During an interview with the Report earlier this year, the feisty Italian Mirco Demuro let slip what at first sounded like a slight against ‘the Legend’ Yutaka Take: “He was so lucky to be born in the age he was born.” 

Surely the ever-grateful Italian jockey wasn’t taking a potshot at the seemingly untouchable Take? Was Demuro daring to suggest that the greatest of all time was overrated? Take dominated in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, and the next decade and then some for that matter, but was Demuro suggesting the standard is higher now? … that Take has just been trading on reputation since? This reporter imagined an explosive headline: ‘The Legend, now a myth’, and wondered what the fallout for Demuro might be. 

“No, no, no, not at all,” Demuro assured when asked to clarify. “Yutaka Take is a champion, a genius. A great rider. He has great style and balance. He just came along at a time when everybody would just go too fast.”


Stay Gold and Yutaka Take outgun Ekraar and Frankie Dettori to win the 2001 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. (Photo by Getty Images)

Yutaka Take brings Agnes World (red cap) with a late run to land the July Cup. Julian Herbert/ALLSPORT

Yutaka Take and White Muzzle ahead of a second-place finish in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot in 1994. (Photo by Getty Images)

Demuro explained that when he first arrived in Japan in 1999 – the midst of Take’s prime – instructions from trainers were simple – “just go” –  and as rivals rode their horses into the ground, Take’s balance, patience and poise had winning races at a record rate. 

Regardless of the primitive tactics of those formative years, Demuro continued, and even if Take had taken advantage of substandard opposition back then, that doesn’t explain away more than three decades of sublime achievements. 

Take sat, waited and swooped to the tune of 18 champion jockey titles in 20 years, he was leading prizemoney earner 16 times and had the highest strike rate on 11 occasions. In nine seasons he topped all three of those categories. Take has had at least one stakes winner per year for the last 35 years, 349 in total. He has won Group 1 races in five straight decades – the 1980s through to the 2020s – 79 of them in all. 

On Saturday at Sapporo, Take was still sitting, waiting and swooping when Meisho Tsutsuji stormed home after others kicked too early in the second leg of the World All-Star Jockeys series. 

Take and Meisho Tsutsuji power to the line at Sapporo on Saturday. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

That dramatic win – a record extending 4,371st of his career – and his second placing in the fourth and final leg, was enough for Take to overcome the late scratching of his third ride and clinch the series. 

Even if the 2022 World All-Star Jockeys series trophy won’t find a place on the top shelf of his cabinet, it is only because it is such a crowded one. This year’s Tokyo Yushun was his sixth to go with eight wins in the Tenno Sho (Spring), four Japan Cups, three Arima Kinen wins among those top level victories, plus G1s in France, Hong Kong and Dubai. 

It’s the longevity that really astounds: Take is 53. He won the precursor to the WASJ, the Super Jockey Series, 30 years ago. If that number doesn’t mean much, what about the names Take was competing against that year: Tony Cruz, Lance O’Sullivan and the late Pat Eddery. Take finished second in the second ever series, in 1988, riding against Eddery, Freddy Head and Bill Shoemaker. 

At 45 years of age, Craig Williams looks to Take as inspiration and draws parallels with two other ageless stars; 51-year-old Frankie Dettori – whose fearless ride aboard Trawlerman in the recent Ebor Handicap was all class – and Gerald Mosse, who at 55 is still riding at a Group 1 level. 

Craig Williams, pictured winning at Sapporo in 2015, has enjoyed a long association with the JRA. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit / Getty Images).

“Yutaka, Frankie and Gerald, first of all you are talking about all-time great riders,” Williams said. “But I draw a lot of inspiration from their longevity. I started to see it when I was a young rider and I went to Europe, the mentality was that you weren’t considered to be a great rider until you were a bit older, and again in Hong Kong, the leading riders there were in their 30s and 40s.

“Yutaka, Frankie and Gerald are great examples that you can keep riding: if you still have the passion and are still healthy, then there are no boundaries anymore.”

Williams said that what older jockeys lose in athleticism they make up for in other areas. “I think you have more belief, and you know what it takes to win those big races,” he said,

There is a special type of applause you hear from Japanese race fans that is reserved for Take; it is more like a reverential reception set aside for the arrival of royalty. 

Even rival jockeys get caught up in the aura. As the Legend was announced to the crowd at the ceremony, visiting jockeys Vincent Ho and James Graham noted the different vibe. 

“I was talking to James when Yutaka came out, and you notice the way the crowd reacts, and we were like “Oh the Japanese Godfather!”,“ Ho said. “Everybody respects him a lot.” 

Japan’s current leading rider Yuga Kawada usually maintains an alpha male, peacock-like strut but when he was standing on the second-placed podium at the World All-Star Jockeys series, Take towering above him – not just in height but stature – Kawada turned fanboy. “The Legend was, as always, very hard to beat,” said Kawada. “I thought I had the win, but ‘the wall of Take’ was just too high to climb.”

Take acknowledges the reception at Sapporo on Sunday. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Take takes the major prize at Sapporo. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Like all true legends, Williams had already ‘heard of the aura of Take’ before he had experienced it in person.

“The first time I rode against him and he was a bit like a pop star then in terms of fame, he had Japanese fans following him around everywhere,” Williams said. “He has been a great ambassador for Japanese and world racing. As a jockey I always admired him, he rode on a really long rein, which is a sign of confidence, and I love that style. The most important thing is that horses respond to him. And then the mentality: could see his coolness in a race in the way he rode this weekend.” 

Take may not hit as hard as he once did, or push through daring inside runs, but anybody who thinks the veteran is simply riding on reputation should consider the support, or lack thereof, that he has received from the all-powerful Yoshidas in recent years. 

While fringe jockeys at times struggle for opportunities because of the Yoshida family’s big-race dominance, particularly that of Northern Farm’s various race clubs, Take rarely rides in the Northern Farm silks of Sunday, Silk or Carrot Racing. He hasn’t ridden a Group 1 winner for a Yoshida or their raceclubs since the 2010 Japan Cup on Rose Kingdom.

Take’s chance to end Japan’s losing streak in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October aboard his Derby winner Do Deuce looms large. Many think he is on the right horse, a backmarker that will benefit from a strong tempo, just like the Derby. If that is the case, the tactics will be familiar: sit, wait and swoop. 



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