The Jockey Yutaka Take Reflects on His Career

Yutaka Take, the jockey in the twilight of a groundbreaking riding career, is viewed as a living legend in Japan. Take, 50, became the first Japanese jockey to win a Group 1 race in Europe when he captured the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in 1994. He swept the Japanese Triple Crown with Deep Impact in 2005 and is a four-time winner of the Japan Cup.

In October 2018, he became the first jockey to reach 4,000 victories on the Japan Racing Association circuit. With Mitsuoki Numamoto acting as interpreter, Take reflected on his life and career. The following conversation has been edited and condensed.

How did it impact you that your father, Kunihiko, was a jockey?

Because he was a jockey, I could dream to be a jockey. In a sense, he was the best influence on my life.

What are your memories of Deep Impact and the Triple Crown?

He was the best in history, and I am so proud that I could ride him in all of his races.

What made him special?

From the beginning, his ability was exceptional. From the beginning, he was a great horse.

What was your greatest victory?

All of the Triple Crown races were so memorable. When I achieved the Triple Crown with him, that was the most memorable.

What did it mean to become the first jockey to reach 4,000 victories on the Japan Racing Association circuit?

My very first mount, I didn’t imagine I could accomplish 4,000 wins. At the beginning, I was not thinking anything. But since I debuted on the racing scene, it’s been 31 years and that made me win 4,000.

How important is it to you that you became the first Japanese jockey to win a Group 1 in Europe?

From the beginning of my career, I really wanted to ride in any race, not only in Japan but all over the world. When I became the first to win a Group 1, I could not really tell you the meaning, but it was so pleasant for me.

In 2017, you were the first jockey to win the Longines and International Federation of Horseracing Authority Award of Merit for lifelong contributions to racing. What did that mean to you?

Of course, it was the greatest honor to receive it. I was thinking and feeling that I received it as a representative of Japan racing and the racing world. In that sense, it was a great honor for Japanese racing.

Is it difficult to balance your personal and professional life?

I have really been enjoying being a husband and jockey. I don’t really feel any struggles between my private life and work.

What are your interests outside of racing?

I don’t have hobbies or anything. I like to watch sports, all kinds of sports.

Do you have a favorite team or sport?

There are so many Japanese athletes who are actually playing in baseball. But, of course, my most favorite one is New York Yankees. [Masahiro] Tanaka, he is my friend.

How do you explain your longevity?

My first thing is just enjoyment, enjoy my career being a jockey. I am so fortunate that I don’t have to struggle with the weight or anything. Those are two things. The third one would be less stress. I try not to have stress from a relationship or whatever it might be.

Do you work out regularly?

Almost every day, I do training, conditioning. Whenever I have no races, I go to the gym.

How long does one workout last?

Including a massage, it would be two hours.

Any disappointments in your career? Anything you still want to accomplish?

I really want to win a Grade 1 in the United States.

Is it hard for you to be viewed as a living legend?

I feel no pressure to be called a legend. I am so thankful for the many opportunities I am given. It really is the greatest honor to be in such a good position.

Can you still improve at this stage of your career?

I have a determination to always improve, always be in best condition. I don’t know what’s going to happen next but, of course, I really look forward to seeing what’s going to happen to me and in racing every day.

How much longer do you want to ride? Any idea when you might want to retire?

No idea. Nothing at all. Day by day.

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