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 New Zealand Gallops News 
Monday, February 27 2017

Having previously battled to gain rides on top class-horses Central Districts hoop Masa Tanaka now finds himself with live chances in both the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby and the Gr.1 Wellfield New Zealand Oaks.

Lincoln Blue  - Race Images Palmerston North

Tanaka will partner the ultra-consistent Lisa Latta-trained Lincoln Blue in the Derby on Saturday. The son of champion sire Savabeel has won three of his seven starts this season, never finishing further back than fourth and Tanaka has been with him all the way.

"I got on him at his first start as a three-year-old and he ran fourth fresh up at Hastings," Tanaka recalled.

"I thought then he might be a good horse. He had always showed potential and even though I wasn't riding here when he was two I heard that Lisa [Latta] rated him quite highly."

"It is my first time riding in the Derby so I am excited and looking forward to riding in the race and having a decent chance," he said.

His Oaks mount will come courtesy of the lightly tried Shared Secrets. The Nadeem filly loomed into contention following a gritty maiden win in Saturday's New Zealand St Leger trial over 2100m at Otaki.

The Mark Oulaghan prepared filly is now likely to go straight into the Oaks on March 18 at just her fifth start.

"She is a raw, green horse but she won against the older horses and we know she stays so the distance will be no problem," Tanaka said.

"It is quite exciting it is all happening at the same time," he said.

It has been a long time since Tanaka's first Group One victory which came on Booming in the Thorndon Mile at Trentham in 2011. That win created the opportunity for the Japanese-born jockey to return and compete in his homeland.

"I was the first Japanese jockey based overseas to win a Group One race so it opened a door for me," he said.

The buzz around his achievement meant Tanaka received plenty of media attention around his eventual three-month contract in Japan.

Once back in New Zealand Tanaka was still looking further afield for opportunities to hone his skills and this time his attention was grabbed by the South Korean racing scene.

Between 2013 and 2015 he rode in Busan amassing 101 wins and leaving the country placed fourth on the all time list of winning rides for foreign jockeys.

"I wanted to get back to New Zealand and turf racing - they only race on dirt in South Korea," he said.

That desire to keep improving means that Tanaka doesn't have much time for leisure pursuits.

"I like to keep busy so I keep riding," he said.

"If I ride winners then I sit on the couch and keep watching the replay."

When asked how many times he would view the replay should he win the Derby his answer is succinct.

"Probably forever!"

Posted by: Racing Desk AT 03:01 am   |  Permalink   |  Email