KT Exclusive: Champion jockey Kawada says Ushba Tesoro made everyone proud in Japan

Dubai World Cup win was a moment for the ages, he says

Yuga Kawada celebrates with the trophy. — Reuters
Yuga Kawada celebrates with the trophy. — Reuters

Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Wed 12 Apr 2023, 9:05 PM

Winning the Dubai World Cup means more than any other race, says Yuga Kawada, Japan’s No.1 jockey, who rode Ushba Tesoro to a stunning come-from-behind victory in a race that topped off a monumental meeting for Japan.

If the Dubai World Cup was created to celebrate the best in horse racing, it was not lost on Kawada, who wants to come back every year to ride in the iconic race.

“I felt the joy of this win from the minute I crossed that wire,” he told Khaleej Times during an exclusive online interview, where he described the victory as a "moment for the ages."

“From the moment I crossed that wire and up until now, I feel an extreme honour to have been the one to be on the back of such a horse,” he said.

“It was a wonderful experience for all, and Ushba Tesoro gave all of the people in the Japanese racing industry a moment for the ages.”

The Dubai World Cup victory has not just made Kawada an even bigger celebrity than he already is and it has made many Japanese people proud.

“I have received an overwhelming amount of congratulations for winning the Dubai World Cup – and, even now, I still get it from people I’ve never met before,” he said.

“So, I think it really meant a lot for the Japanese people, and for me personally, I feel like I was able to fulfil my responsibilities as a jockey by winning the race.

“So, I am frequently reminded of the race itself and the emotions that came with it,” Kawada added.

Commenting on his expectations in his second Dubai World Cup after riding Chuwa Wizard to third place behind Country Grammer 12 months ago, he said: “I’d never ridden him in his races before, but when I got on him for his final breeze in Dubai, I could sense from his hack that he is in a good condition to run well.

“From my experience with Chuwa Wizard last year, I had a good feel of what is required to do well in this race, so I had a good feel of the horse. It was just up to his mental side – as long as he can be mentally strong and brave after getting a lot of kickback in the race, which I knew he was going to get, I was sure he will have a good chance to win.”

Kawada grew up idolising Frankie Dettori, who he was up against in the race but said that he shut out all emotions and just focused on how he wanted to ride Usbah Tesoro.

“Frankie’s presence is huge for every kid hoping to become a jockey worldwide – and I was one of them,” he said. “Once I became a jockey and began to travel around the world, I got to interact with my idol.

“But it became evident that our time together as jockeys was running out and this was going to be Frankie’s last Dubai World Cup. I did have that in my mind, but I wasn’t really focusing on those emotions in the race. I was solely focused on how to guide Ushba Tesoro and what I can do to give him a better chance to win the big race.”


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