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Christophe Lemaire breaks JRA's single-season win record

Kyodo

Jockey Christophe Lemaire picked up two wins on Friday to set a single-season Japan Racing Association record with 213 wins.

The French-born Lemaire steered 2-year-old colt Maillot Blanc to victory in the sixth race of the day at Nakayama Racecourse to break star jockey Yutaka Take’s record of 212 wins set in 2005.

“I’m thankful to the owner, trainer and my family,” Lemaire said. “The fans in Japan are the best in the world. I’m very happy.”

He matched Take’s record by winning the fourth race on Friday, the final day on the JRA calendar.

But Lemaire was unable to claim the final Grade 1 race of the year Friday when his Admire Justa lost to Saturnalia, ridden by Italian jockey Mirco Demuro, in the Hopeful Stakes at the racecourse.

Top-pick Saturnalia crossed the line in 2 minutes, 1.6 seconds, beating Admire Justa by a length and a half. Lemaire’s colt had a brief lead in the final dash of the 2,000-meter race, but Saturnalia stole the show when it sprinted past the second favorite in the final stretch.

“It feels amazing. I knew I was riding the best 2-year-old horse,” Demuro said. “I was worried because it was the first 2,000-meter race with four turns, but the horse finished great.”

Third-pick Nishino Daisy finished as expected, followed by eighth-pick Cosmo Calendula in fourth.

Saturnalia claimed its first Grade 1 title worth ¥70 million ($633,290) in prize money and is now unbeaten in three starts.

Lemaire and Demuro became the first non-Japanese to earn full-term jockey licenses from the JRA in 2015. This year, the Frenchman steered Almond Eye to the Triple Crown for 3-year-old fillies, just the fifth time the feat has been achieved.