Prior to racing at Tumut on Saturday, Akira Kajiya’s most recent success in the saddle arrived way back in December of 2020, when guiding the Garry Kirkup-trained Red Hot Tango to victory at Cooma.
The Japanese jockey had suffered through a lean run of more than 12 months and over 70 rides without recording a win, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying, with the hard-working hoop often teaming up with Canberra trainer, John Rolfe.
On Saturday, Kajiya and the Rolfe put a frustrating run of bad luck behind them when The Fancyjonesgirl won at big odds in the 1400m Class Two Handicap.
The Zabexpress mare sat last in the seven-furlong event, but Kajiya rode the eight-year-old to perfection, flashing down the outside to win in remarkable fashion.
Kajiya was understandably pleased with the win, but the modest jockey passed all the praise back onto his mare.
“I was over the moon. I know the horse is good but before the race, I thought to myself, ‘it is up to me’, so I just trusted the horse and she responded really well,” Kajiya told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“Her first start at Tumut was very good. She got beaten by half-length and a half-length when running the same style of race.
“I know Tumut is a leader’s track, but I thought she could do it, and from the 600m, I just pushed the button, and she found the line at the right time.”
Kajiya is not afforded as many opportunities in the saddle compared to other jockeys, and mostly rides for John Rolfe, and he was most pleased to land a drought-breaking win for his stable.
“I have no words to describe what they (Rolfe stable) have done for me,” Kajiya said.
“They gave me opportunities and I nearly cried after the win. I was so emotional and one day, I really want to meet their expectation of me.
“Really, I can’t remember the last time I got a winner for them. It has been a long time, but we broke through and I just can’t thank them enough.”
Winning at Tumut’s premier meeting and on a TAB program could potentially open doors for the 40-year-old, who has been riding in Australia for approximately 15 years.
“Hopefully some owners and trainers see me riding and winning and I get some more opportunities,” Kajiya said.
“I am still learning but I appreciate the opportunities when I get them.”
Rolfe couldn’t praise Kajiya enough, with the winning trainer highlighting just how important his hard-working jockey was to the stable.
“He turns up every morning at 4am, he rides work, and he will ride anything; whether it is slow or fast, but we look after him,” Rolfe said.
“He doesn’t get too many opportunities, but he is a good guy and deserves his chance.
“It pays dividends having him too. He rides them all in their work, and with Thefancyjonesgirl today, most jockeys would have given up on her when she was back there like that but at the 600m, she just sprints, and he gave her every chance.”
Rolfe conceded it had been a dry run for his stable, with luck certainly not going their way in recent times, but he hopes their fortunes will turn around following their Tumut victory.
“The fancyjonesgirl has been unlucky,” Rolfe said.
“We had her ready to win at Cooma, but she hit the gate at the saddling paddock and got scratched and she had a cut on her back leg and had four weeks off and that is why she went to Gundagai over a 1000m to have her ready for this.
“It was good to get that win. When you don’t win very often, the bad luck piles up, and we had a lean run but it’s nice to get a win and hopefully we can keep on with it.” The Rolfe stable and Kajiya will look for more success at Queanbeyan on Monday, with Billie Frenado going around in the 1600m Maiden Plate and George Two taking on the 1600m Benchmark 58 Handicap.