Masa Tanaka landed his biggest Korean win to date as he rode Sand Hi to a comfortable victory in the class 1 feature race at Busan this afternoon.
It’s been a good year for foreign jockeys at Busan with the remarkable Joe Fujii notching his 100th winner last month and Darryll Holland also regularly scoring.
However, while less heralded, the 29-year-old Tanaka has performed well too and has ridden a steady stream of winners since debuting in June this year.
The Japanese jockey learned how to ride in his homeland but with few opportunities for young riders there, moved to New Zealand in 2005 and ended up staying for 7 years, riding several big winners including the Group 1 Thorndon Mile in 2011 on 16/1 shot Booming.
Not knowing a word of English when he arrived in New Zealand, Tanaka now speaks with a broad Kiwi accent and eager to settle in here, has set about learning some Korean in Busan.
From his 135 rides in Korea to date, Tanaka has 24 winners and 22 2nd places. Despite only being present for half the season, he lies in 11th place in the Busan Championship and earned trips to Seoul to ride in the Minister’s and President’s Cups.
Today, after breaking from the widest of 12 gates, Tanaka kept Sand Hi (Stormy Atlantic) close before going away in the final furlongs to win from 4 lengths. It won’t go down as one of the jockey’s toughest winners and, if he keeps going the way he is, it certainly won’t be his last.
Tanaka and fellow foreign riders Fujii and Jerome Lermyte (Holland is suspended) are back in action at Busan tomorrow in a bumper 13-race card.