Striking up a friendship with star Australian jockey Damian Lane has landed a Japanese apprentice Akatsuki Tomita the chance to ride for Flemington trainers Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra on a three-month loan.
Lane was also apprenticed to Ellerton and Zahra when he arrived in Melbourne from Perth. Lane, who recently returned from a brilliant stint in Japan, suggested Tomita head to Melbourne to further learn his craft.
Ellerton said Lane, who has provided accommodation for Tomita during his stay, recommended the 23-year-old as an apprentice after Stephanie Thornton completed her three-month loan with the stable.
Tomita said he looked at heading to the United States but found it too difficult to secure a visa before deciding to leave the warmth of the Japanese summer for the late winter cold in Melbourne.
“I’m here to polish my riding skills and I want to learn from all of the good Australian jockeys,” Tomita said via an interpreter.
“I would love to be a very good jockey here but we’ll see how it goes.”
Tomita, who has ridden 57 winners to date, said Australian racing offered young jockeys like him more chances to show their talent than in Japan.
“I think apprentices get a lot more chances in Australia because there’s so many young jockeys always coming through,” Tomita said.
“In Japan, it’s always the experienced jockeys getting the best rides.”
Learning is the aim of Tomita’s trip and the young rider knows he must quickly master enough English to succeed in Victoria while learning about the local tracks and racing style.
Tomita said he sought advice from other jockeys that have experience Australian conditions before heading to Melbourne.
“I have to learn to improve my English very quickly and I am working to do that,” Tomita said.
“I’ve been watching a lot of Australian races since I have known that I will be coming out here and trying to learn about the pace and the tracks.
“There are some jockeys in Japan that have been to Australia so I have been talking to them about the different tracks and everything like that.”
Tomita can ride as light as 50kg and will get his first chances to ride in Victorian when Ellerton and Zahra put him on their runners at Saturday’s Wangaratta meeting.