Even being brought down to the earth with a thud in the final race didn’t dampen a memorable day at Ellerslie on Saturday for the Japanese-born apprentice Taiki Yanagida.
Apprenticed to Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott, Yanagida couldn’t have wished for a better start to the day, winning the first two events on Vee Cee and Rusavy for the Cambridge stables of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman and Chris Wood.
Two rides later he was again in the winner’s stall after guiding Vee Cee’s stablemate Ignored to victory, then having to withstand an unsuccessful protest from the connections of the runner-up, Jip Jip Rock.
Yanagida had two further chances to make it four wins for the day and he gave it his best shot in the last event on William Tell, having him right in the thick of it over the final stages, but in a bumping duel he came off second-best after finishing sixth, being dislodged just after the winning post.
“I’m just a bit sore, but I’m all right,’’ Yanagida said. ‘’It was a good day. I knew I had some good rides and I’m very happy to get three winners.’’
Yanagida’s treble has taken him a few steps closer to achieving his goal for the season.
“I want to win the apprentice premiership,’’ he said. ‘’I’ve got 35 wins now and I’m second to Ryan (Elliot on 37). I’ve been getting on some good horses and I’ll just keep doing my best.’’
Yanagida is already realising a dream, one that started in his homeland and took him to Australia in pursuit of becoming a jockey.
‘’I worked on a pre-training farm in Japan for eight months then through a friend I went to Australia and worked with show jumpers,’’ Yanagida said. ‘’That’s when I made my mind up that I wanted to be a jockey.’’
Stints with Wyong trainer Tracey Bartley and Peter and Paul Snowden’s Randwick stable followed, and during his three and a half years in Australia Yanagida obtained a student visa and studied English, but all the time fuelled his desire to be a jockey, regularly riding trackwork and working in the stables.
‘’I couldn’t get a visa in Australia to become an apprentice and that’s when someone suggested I try New Zealand, so I came over in June 2017,’’ Yanagida said. ‘’I worked for Jacob McKay for six months then signed up with Lance O’Sullivan.’’
Once his apprentice jockey’s licence came through Yanagida wasted no time kicking home his first winner, Jewel Of Patch, at Matamata in mid-January last year for O’Sullivan and Scott, and picked up a further four wins last season with that figure now swelling to 40.
Not only has Yanagida been guided by two of New Zealand’s best former jockeys, his boss Lance O’Sullivan and National Riding Mentor Noel Harris, his career has gone from strength to strength this season by taking on Stuart Laing as his agent. Laing, a long-time student of race form, was instrumental in much of the success of O’Sullivan when agent during the former champion jockey’s exceptional career in the saddle.
Three wins aboard stable representatives Divine Duke and Tweedlee helped lift Yanagida’s profile last year and since then he has attracted the attention of several trainers, including some of New Zealand’s leading stables.
He has struck up a good strike rate with Baker and Forsman with six wins and three placings from 15 rides and he has kicked home five winners for Stephen Marsh. He has also developed an affinity with the Baker-Forsman runner Artiste, with three wins and a third from four rides on the Mastercraftsman mare, including the recent Bay Of Plenty Cup at Tauranga.