I went over to Japan for the Nakayama Grand Jump back in 2013, and what a brilliant experience it was.
The horse, Blackstairmountain, had gone over a couple of weeks before and run in a race called the Pegasus – a prep race for the Grand Jump over two miles. Willie Mullins and I went to Nakayama and he finished ninth or 10th that day. He might have e finished nowhere, but he stayed on really well in the last two furlongs and we were thinking ‘The big race is over two miles and five furlongs so he’ll run a lot better’.
But I think he was around 30/1 on the Japanese Tote – they really didn’t fancy him and it was a huge pot. It was the most valuable race I ever won in my career. It was the biggest single payday I had so I really enjoyed it!
It was a much different way of riding in Japan. I had to be interviewed to get a licence when I arrived in Japan the first time, and actually had to do an interview again the second time!
They only gave me a day licence while they gave Willie a licence to train the horse for a month. They gave me two separate licences for each race and in the interview they were explaining the rules, the way that they rode, what you were allowed to do, what you weren’t allowed to do. All the videos they showed me of what you couldn’t do were of Christophe Soumillon!
The jockeys didn’t make any manoeuvres during the race. The race started and they got a position but they stayed where they were until the three-furlong marker, then they started making a move. But I moved through the race to get that much closer to the front, while the runner-up was quite a long way back.
The race was run in two segments. You literally had to ride a finish through the first two furlongs to get a half-decent position.
It was a great occasion but it cost Rich Ricci a hell of a lot of money to go there and win that race. There was no travel allowance and no help from the Japan Racing Association, no transport costs or anything like that and he really stuck his neck out for basically a 40/1 shot that he was backing. It was great that it paid off.
When the race first started they invited horses from Europe to come along and the JRA paid for the horse, trainer and jockey. Willie had been out to see the race and was always looking for the right horse. Blackstairmountain was the right horse but it took us a good few years to find him, and by the time we found him the JRA had stopped paying for international horses to come.
I think there was plenty of pressure on by the time the big race came around. It was a big outlay and it was good that it came off.
It was great trip. My wife Gillian and Jackie Mullins came as well and we stayed in Tokyo for an extra day afterwards. Tokyo is a fabulous city and it was great to see it. I really enjoyed it.
FROM PADDY POWER’S RACING ICONS DOCUMENTARY WITH RUBY…
- I took Annie Power home for the summer… and horse joined our family BBQs!
- My biggest Cheltenham regret and one race I’d love to have a second chance at
- Ruby’s hilarious story about dad Ted’s terrible medical advice after nasty leg break