Michael Cox



Yutaka Take takes on first smartphone, threatens to take on Panthalassa

The mind games have begun before Sunday's Hong Kong Cup as Jack D’Or’s jockey Yutaka Take – who now owns a smartphone – suggests Panthalassa may not get his own way in front.

We all have that one technologically averse friend who just refuses to upgrade from their 1990s flip phone but who would have thought that Japanese legend Yutaka Take was ‘that guy’.

The near 50-strong traveling Japanese press pack descended on Sha Tin on Wednesday and had plenty to report on; eight of the 13 entrants for Sunday’s Hong Kong International Races completed serious gallops and Panthalassa’s star trainer Yoshita Yahagi graced the media with his presence. 

Despite all of that action, the news that had the visiting journalists buzzing was that Take, winner of an all-time record 4,390 races and collector of enough prizemoney to buy just about anything, did not own a smartphone. 

“I don’t know how to install the app,” the 53-year-old told Hochi Sport, a quote that was about the most middle-aged thing anybody has ever said, after he had finally given in to 21st century communication devices. 


Yutaka Take is no stranger to success on International Day. (Photo by Vince Caliguiri/Getty Images)

The app Take was referring to is the LeaveHomeSafe app, the mass surveillance and digital tracing app that has been an omnipresent part of Hong Kong life for nearly two years. 

Of course, Take also talked horse racing too, and most of it centred around his Hong Kong Cup ride Jack d’Or, who will be one of the four other Japanese entrants chasing Yahagi’s tearaway leader Panthalassa. 

“I don’t know what the other horses might do tactically,” Take said through an interpreter after he had ridden Jack d’Or in work, the four-year-old finishing his last 400m in 23.8s.

Perhaps Take was playing coy, but if he was being serious, he now has a smartphone he can catch some replays on, as long as somebody is around to help him download YouTube and search “2022 Tenno Sho.” . 

What he will see is Panthalassa’s catch-me-if-you-can tactics last start; not that you’d need a smartphone to notice, Panthalassa opened a lead wide enough that it could be seen from space, before being caught on the line by Equinox. 

Jack D’Or was fourth, but a start before he was able to get the better of the Dubai Turf co-winner when Yusuke Fujioka surged forward before the turn in the Sapporo Kinen to sit at the leader’s shoulder. 

The tactic worked that day, on a right-hand turning smaller track too, and the close presence seemed to rattle Panthalassa out of his rhythm. Perhaps Take was hinting at something similar when he said he would “let Jack D’Or run and show his natural talent.”

“He is a front runner too, he usually takes the lead so I thought he could show that,” he said.  

Jack D’Or’s trainer Kenichi Fujioka said tactics would be left entirely to Take, who has ridden at least one Group 1 win in five different decades. 

Yutaka Take with Jack D’Or’s trainer Kenichi Fujioka at Sha Tin. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Yoshito Yahagi's Hong Kong Cup contender Panthalassa. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

“I trust ‘The Legend’, he will know what to do, he has been here in this situation many times before,” Fujioka said via an interpreter. “I don’t need to give any instructions.” 

He may not know how to download an app, but Take certainly can rate a pacesetter and knows how hard it can be to catch a top class front-runner over the 2000-metre course at Sha Tin. He won the 2015 Hong Kong Cup aboard the temperamental tearaway A Shin Hikari and a year earlier broke out a big lead on the same horse before fading late. 

Since then Hong Kong’s front-running Time Warp won three G1s over the same course and distance and that horse’s full brother Glorious Forever made-all in the 2018 Cup.

For what it was worth, Yahagi wasn’t into any mind games before the big race: Panthalassa will lead, regardless of barrier draw. 

“Of course, everybody knows he will go to the front,” he said after his horse completed a solid workout, flattening out to clock 22.4s for his final 400m at the end of a solid piece of work. “I want to see those same tactics and I think he is better than he was in the Tenno Sho. This is his best distance, 2000 metres, on a flat track. This is where we see him at his best.” 



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