“Mighty Heart changed my life.” – jockey Daisuke Fukumoto on June 3, 2021
Young rider DAISUKE FUKUMOTO, who guided Lawrence Cordes’ Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old Colt in Canada to wins in two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown in 2020, has returned to Canada from riding overseas and is eager to get going when Woodbine begins June 18.
Nominated for a Sovereign Award as Canada’s top apprentice in 2019 in only his second full season of riding since arriving from Japan, Fukumoto has come a long way in a short time and his successes on the one-eyed Mighty Heart (Dramedy) thrust his career to a new level.
Born on the small island of Kagoshima, Fukumoto rode ponies as a child, learned to race-ride in amateur and bush races and then talked his family into letting him come to Canada to be a jockey. After learning the ropes of Canadian racing in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Reade Baker, Fukuimoto met Pram Seebah, who had come to Canada only a few years earlier from his homeland of Mauritius. Seebah, who learned to read racing past performances from his grandfather when he was a child, flirted with going to lawyer school in England before moving to Canada and pursuing a career in racing.
The Queen’s Plate victory aboard Mighty Heart was a “dream come true” said Fukumoto who was interviewed by Canadian Thoroughbred June 3 while the 22-year-old relaxed at home during his 14-day quarantine. He will be available to ride horses in the morning beginning June 12 and has been keeping fit and improving his skills since February riding against some of the biggest names in jockey-dom.
Fukumoto spent time with family in Japan following the 2020 Woodbine season and then headed to Bahrain where he rode against the likes of Frankie Detorri and David Egan, winning numerous races. He had a short visit to Istanbul, Turkey, and won a race there the day before he returned to Canada.
The opportunity to ride in major racing centres such as Bahrain and Turkey came about with the help of Mighty Heart, trained by Josie Carroll who hired Fukumoto to ride the colt in the Plate. Mighty Heart and Fukumoto led most of the way in the 1 1/4 mile Plate but it was his deft ride in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie that stood out to many. Fukumoto got Mighty Heart to relax inside of the other speed in the 1 3/16 mile ‘Wales and then pulled him off the rail to launch a strong bid in the stretch to run down rival Clayton. In the following three weeks, as Mighty Heart was aiming to win the Triple Crown, Fukumoto, Carroll and Cordes were swarmed by media and on Breeders’ Stakes day, Fukumoto admitted he was a little nervous.
Mighty Heart was sharp for the Breeders’ as he went to the lead early in the 1 1/2 mile grass race but he was soon joined by 101-to-1 longshot Kunal who pushed the one-eyed colt to the limit. Mighty Heart could not keep up that pace and ended up seventh.
Fukumoto ended 2020 with 69 wins, seventh on the list of leading riders at Woodbine and his fourth straight improved season since he rode his first race in 2017.
Seebah, who like other jockey agents preparing for the 2021 season has had to work the phones from home as they are not allowed on the Woodbine backstretch, has high hopes for Fukumoto and it is easy to see why. “He has improved so much in a few years, it has been exciting.”
The soft-spoken jockey loves to talk international racing and is grateful for finding a home at Woodbine.
“The first day I came to Canada I went to the Queen’s Plate [in 2015]. It was amazing and I said that is where I want to be, riding at Woodbine in the Plate.”
With that accomplished in less than four years, look for Fukumoto to be at the top of the jockey crop when the new season gets underway.