It’s always nice to see various alumni of Korean racing around the world doing well and this week began with the news that Kanichiro (Joe) Fujii, who rode full-time at Busan from 2012 to 2014 and has been a frequent return visitor since, has achieved his long-standing ambition of passing the JRA Jockey’s License exams and as a result, can now enter the elite tier of Japanese racing.
Fujii had attempted the brutally difficult selection process five times previously, however, there was a big sign that it was going to be different on this occasion when it emerged last November that he had been the only candidate to have passed the fiendish written examination – the stage that ended for now the JRA hopes of Joao Moreira. Having successfully completed the rest of the tests, Fujii will be able to start riding full time in the JRA in March.
Fujii was born in Nara, Japan, but went to Australia at the age of 15 to try to become a jockey. He debuted in 2001 and spent the next five years riding mainly in New South Wales, finishing 2nd in the State’s Apprentice Jockey race in 2006. In 2007, he spent nine months riding in Singapore before embarking on a tour of Europe and the United States, during which he rode work at Chantilly and Belmont Park before returning to Australia.
He made the switch to Korea in 2012 and quickly became successful, winning that year’s Grand Prix Stakes on Gamdonguibada before completing a Derby/Oaks double on filly Speedy First in 2013. With almost 150 Korean winners to his name, he bowed out of Busan in late 2014 riding on the local NAR circuit in Japan as well as back in Australia again.
Fujii has, however, become something of a go-to jockey for Japanese trainers sending horses to Korea for the international races. He returned to Seoul in 2015 to partner Esmeraldina to victory in the Ttukseom Cup and then Chrysolite in the inaugural Korea Cup the following year. While those two were by far and away the best horses in their respective races, Fujii’s local knowledge came into play in 2018 when he produced an aggressive ride to win the Korea Sprint on Moanin. Now a fully-fledged JRA jockey, it would be no surprise were Japanese connections to opt for his services once more on international weekend in Seoul this September.