Japanese teenage sensation does not want the rule adopted
Nanako Fujita may not be a name with which too many western racing fans are familiar but in Japan, where last season she became the first woman to be granted a professional licence in 16 years, she is little short of a sensation.
The 19-year-old apprentice counts 12 career successes to date and has been in Europe over the last week – paying visits to both the Derby and the Prix du Jockey Club, en route to Sweden, where she finished third in the latest round of the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak series of Arabian races for female jockeys.
Speaking at Chantilly on Sunday, she told the Racing Post: "I don’t find it [being the only female jockey in Japan] a great problem and always speak to others as people, without reflecting on whether they are men or women. I try to act like everyone else at the racetrack, and so I don’t feel like I’m a girl in a man’s world."
Fujita is guaranteed a big media presence wherever she goes and several members of the Japanese racing press followed her to Sweden, even in a week when Epicharis is due to line up in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the US Triple Crown.
"I'd like to gain the confidence of racegoers and win as many races as possible," she said. "It’s a good thing that a lot of people have begun to follow me and my career but my preference would be that they do so for reasons other than that I'm a woman. I want to win more races in order to justify more public attention.
"Of course it would be good to get a two kilo allowance, but I’m not aiming to come first among the female jockeys but to be first overall. I wouldn’t want to see the rule adopted in Japan right now. I want to win riding under the same conditions as men."
Sweden will host the inaugural Lady Jockeys' Thoroughbred World Championships at Bro Park in Stockholm next month, with Chantal Sutherland and New Zealand's Danielle Johnson among the confirmed participants on July 4.
Sweden is one of the leading nations in the racing world in terms of equality, with exactly half of the country's 52 licenced trainers being women, while there are only six more men who ride as professional jockeys than women.
Two big factors in such high levels of female participation in racing are the crossover from other riding disciplines – it is estimated that 90 per cent of jockeys and work-riders in Sweden start out in equestrianism – as well as the paucity of men who are of a slight enough build to pursue a career as a jockey in Sweden.
But a look at the figures from Svensk Galopp, the sport's governing authority, reveals that while nearly all apprentices are women the very top of the sport is still dominated by a handful of older men and foreign-born professionals.