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Horse Racing

New JRA Trainer Kyoko Maekawa Emerges as a Front-Runner Ready to Ignite Change

Kyoko Maekawa shatters a proverbial glass ceiling by becoming the Japan Racing Association's first female trainer, ushering in a new era.

With an annual revenue surpassing ¥3 trillion JPY ($20.6 billion USD), the Japan Racing Association naturally boasts a substantial number of talented female staff. Therefore, there have been expectations centered around achieving the first-ever female department head or racecourse manager in the JRA's history. Thus, the organization is celebrating the emergence of Kyoko Maekawa as its inaugural female trainer. 

On December 7, the revelation of successful candidates for the 2024 new trainer examination showcased the achievement of the 46-year-old Maekawa, presently serving as a training assistant.

Maekawa's success also reflects the surge ignited in female jockeys, with notable figures like Nanako Fujita, Seina Imamura and Manami Nagashima making their mark. Despite this, the workforce statistics reveal a stark reality, as out of 2,317 individuals in central horse racing stables, only 32 are women. That constitutes a mere 1.38% of the total.

Kyoko Maekawa's Persistence Pays Off

Against this backdrop, the prospect of a female trainer appeared distant until Maekawa's positive news emerged, signaling the onset of a new era. Successfully managing both work and childcare responsibilities, she achieved success on her fifth attempt. It is a remarkable accomplishment truly worthy of praise.

On a business trip to France in 1998, I had the privilege of interviewing Christiane Head. She was a trailblazing female trainer renowned for raising numerous champion horses. The stable she presided over was immaculate, adorned with flowers, showcasing meticulous attention to detail. What truly left a lasting impression was Head's commanding yet graceful presence as she directed her staff.

During the dinner we shared, she generously shared insights into her background and the intricacies of French horse racing. Equally knowledgeable about Japanese horse racing, she extended warmth to a newcomer from the Far East.

Future Expectations for Maekawa

I anticipate Maekawa will become a trainer akin to Head. In Maekawa's words, "Whether female or male, one's strength is weaker than that of a horse, so being a woman doesn't mean you can't handle the job." Her unwavering determination and pride in her work shine through. 

Furthermore, when she expresses, "I want to notice subtle changes in the horses so that they can maintain better health and fully unleash their capabilities," one can sense qualities akin to those of Head. 

I eagerly anticipate Maekawa leading the charge as a front-runner, stirring up a whirlwind in her path and leaving an indelible mark on the world of horse racing.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Manabu Suzuki, The Sankei Shimbun

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