Bejarano Fourth in Japan's Jockey Series

by Claire Novak
Competing internationally for the first time, 23-year-old Rafael Bejarano rode to a fourth-place finish in the 19th World Super Jockey Series at Hanshin Race Course on Sunday.

Bejarano represented North America along with Edgar Prado, who won the series in 1994. Prado finished 12th in this year's competition.

"It's pretty much a matter of luck, since the horses are assigned by lottery," said Bejarano's agent, Joe Ferrer. "But Rafael was excited to ride in Japan. We knew it would be a good experience."

On Saturday, Bejarano placed fourth in the Golden Spur Trophy, the first leg of the four-race series. He went on to finish out of the money in the second race of the series, but bounced back on Sunday to earn valuable points for fifth and third place finishes. Bejarano's final score (36) placed him three points behind third-place finisher Michael Kinane.

Not many spectators expected 31-year-old Yasunari Iwata's come-from-behind triumph on Sunday. A Japanese jockey with more than 2,800 career wins to his credit, Iwata scored an easy victory in the final leg of the competition and jumped from eighth place to win the series with 41 points, one point ahead of fellow countryman Norihiro Yokoyama.

Organized by the Japan Racing Association, this year's $1.6 million World Super Jockey Series attracted fourteen top international riders, including Kieren Fallon, Stephane Pasquier, Douglas Whyte, and Japan's leading jockey, Yutaka Take.

The final placings (and points) were:

1. Yasunari Iwata (NAR)  41 (1/15/5/20)
2. Norihiro Yokoyama (JRA)  40 (13/1/20/6)
3. Michael Kinane (Europe)  39 (20/11/4/4)
4. Rafael Bejarano (North America) 36 (11/2/10/13)
5. Darren Beadman (Oceania) 33 (10/20/1/2)
6. Shinji Fujita (JRA)  29 (5/13/6/5)
7. Leith Innes (Oceania)  25 (1/10/13/1)
7. Eiji Nakadate (JRA)  25 (6/3/1/15)
9. Kieren Fallon (Europe)  24 (4/4/15/1)
9. Stephane Pasquier (Europe)  24 (2/1/11/10)
11. Yutaka Take (JRA)  22 (15/2/3/2)
12. Edgar Prado (North America)  20 (3/5/1/11)
13. Yuichi Fukunaga (JRA)  10 (1/6/2/1)
14. Douglas Whyte (Asia)  8 (2/1/2/3)