Wonderful track photographer Bill Denver of Equi-Photo sent several people this photo (above) of Japanese jockey Hiroki Goto after a victory earlier this month. Hiroki is spending the summer at Monmouth park, and is one of the leading riders in Japan with over 1,300 career wins.
This particular photo shows Hiroki saluting the crowd after winning the 4th race on Sammzilla Monday July 25, 2011.
Since I have many friends who live or have lived in Japan and am always interested in culture, especially foreign racing these days--I wanted to learn more about who Hiroki Goto is.
One place I turned for more information was a racing fan I have come to be acquainted with via Twitter named Kuniyasu Arai (@uk_maniax).
Kuniyasu explained that Hiroki Goto debuted as a jockey in 1992 winning his first grade 1 race by five degrees (lengths). In 2000, Hiroki had a career high 100 wins, approached the title of top jockey, and was improving with age. The title of leading jockey was achieved in 2007 and Hiroki clenched his first Classic victory with the Japanese Oaks (Yushun Himba, Jpn-I) on Erin Court.
Caption: Erin Court and Hiroki Goto - Photo: Kate Hunter - Order This Photo
Kuniyasu included a list of wins that Hiroki has had:
2000 Nanbu hai:Gold Tiara(Seeking the Gold-Blight Tiara,by Chief's Crown) (non JRA Grade 1 Race)
2002 Yasuda Kinen:Admire Cozzene(Cozzene-Admire Makadi,by Northern Taste)
2004 Asahihai Futurity Stakes:Meiner Recolte(Chief Bearhart-Miyagi Minoru,by Tai Tehm)
2006 Japan Cup Dirt:Alondite(El Condor Pasa-Catherine Parr,by Riverman)
2010 Yasuda Kinen:Showa Modern(Air Jihad-Yumeshibai,by Toni Bin)
2011 Yushun Hinba(Oaks):Erin Court(Durandal-Erin Bird,by Bluebird)
Above all, Kuniyasu emphasized that Hiroki Goto thinks about the fans first.
That is what stood out to me in Bill Denver's photo: Hiroki was engaging the fans after the race and had celebration written all over his face with a massive smile.
I needed to learn more, so I delved deeper into his past. Here is what else I discovered...
It seems his racing in the U.S. is nothing new with starts going back to
1996. He's ridden 158 races here, mostly at Calder, with at least 7 wins.
Monmouth Park explains that Hiroki is going to be around for the next 60 days, as of July 15, 2011. He will be riding at Woodbine for Wesley Ward and a few races at Arlington Park aside from Monmouth.
“'I learned a new style of riding, a different style and I enjoyed it," Goto said. "I always knew I wanted to come back. I met Wesley when he came to Japan several years ago. When I wanted to reacquaint myself with American racing, Wesley gave me the chance.'”
The 37-year-old raced at Philadelphia and Delaware 15 years ago. “'There’s big money in Japan, but in the U.S., there are big dreams.' Hiroki said."
A BloodHorse.com recap revealed that Goto had a lot of emotion invested with the final leg of the Asian Mile Challenge (Yasuda Kinen, Jpn-I), last year: "Goto, 36, won his second Yasuda Kinen with Showa Modern, a son of Air Jihad who had shown his best form on soft ground."
"The weather may have been too good but his last race was great so I had a lot of confidence," Goto said in reference to Showa Modern's win in the Lord Derby Challenge Trophy (Jpn-III). "Everything went as I imagined it would. It all went just perfectly.”
Photo: Kate Hunter
Caption: Showa Modern captured the the Yasuda Kinen in a race-record time at Tokyo Racecourse.
A week earlier, Goto finished second in the Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun, Jpn-I) riding the very talented Rose Kingom.
“I still had bad memories of last week and remembering just how long the homestretch had been," Goto said. "Even though everything felt good today, I kept thinking, ‘I have to keep pushing, I have to keep pushing. I can’t give up.”
I have also found this gem of a recap about Hiroki Goto's ride on Alondite's win in the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) in 2006. Hiroki gave a "ground-saving ride…to a 1 1/4 length victory" which was a record fifth consecutive victory for Alondite.
In closing, aside from being a great talent, Hiroki's passion for this sport truly shines through his demeanor on and off the track. How he desires to share himself with the fans and continuously strives to grow as an athlete by learning various riding styles and riding at tracks all over the world. Hiroki Goto is what is good about the sport of horse racing.
Photo: Ryan Denver/Equi-Photo
Caption: She Digs Me #6 with Elvis Trujillo riding won the $70,000 Tyro Stakes for Two-Year-Old's at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Second was #1 Gentlemans Code and Hiroki Goto.