The handler has proven himself not only on homeground as one of Japan’s top trainers but also one of the best internationally having captured the world’s most valuable race in the Gr.1 Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup’s prestigious Gr.1 Dubai Turf. Being named Japanese Champion trainer four times (2014, 2016, 2020, 2021) he has also taken the spoils in global major races that include three Dubai Turfs, the Cox Plate in Australia (2019), Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf and a Hong Kong Cup. The past year has been one of great international glory armed with his Lord Kanaloa x Miss Pemberley entire, Panthalassa, who won the Gr.1 Dubai Turf last year and is now the reigning winner of the Gr.1 Saudi Cup.
The win in Saudi left Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer relegated to runner up for a second consecutive year and saw Panthalassa win by a short head. Impressively Panthalassa had no prior track record in the dirt, but Yahagi said that it was a different condition of sand that assisted his horse in Saudi. “He had only lost one race on the dirt in Japan. However Saudi Arabia's dirt was completely different from Japan's so I felt it would suit Panthalassa and that’s why we chose to race there.” For Yahagi he believes that the start to the race greatly helped him in the running and in turn the win as he favours working from the front, no matter the surface type. “If he didn't get to the front there was a possibility that he would end up with no power at all. “That's why I only hoped for the start for him to ‘please come out firmly’. “He did jump start as if that wish had come true.”
Keeping Things Simple
He had given his hoop Yutaka Yoshida simple instructions for the race as the jockey said. "I did break well and then it was straightforward. “Mr. Yahagi had said to me to ride my race and I would get a good result. So, I didn't think about the surface. I just rode my race and thought if he adapts to the track, it would be all right. Of course, they were coming for me in the straight, but Panthalassa always found another gear and so I kept riding. It is an unforgettable moment and I am very happy to have ridden the winner." The trainer watched the race run its full journey and thought his runner did impressively. “Even in the last corner he was doing well. I was also watching the horses behind him, and I felt that he would not lose much.” Post-race Yahagi was clearly ecstatic as he told media applauding both his jockey and his now four times Group company winner, Panthalassa. "Panthalassa had a perfect start today. I applaud Yutaka's jump, it was a masterful job from the jockey. When I drew barrier one I thought this was a big advantage to him but it worked perfectly. "I really can't believe it. I don't know if it is real at the moment. Thank you to my staff and to my horse.
This horse only has one way to go. He jumped really well when he needed to and got the job done. I think I was correct that my feeling was right that he could handle the dirt. You know this is not easy. Japanese racing tries everything to improve and develop. Japanese horse racing has become more international. Of course, this is the best feeling as the prizemoney is the best!” Yahagi still was in awe and over the moon that his horse had achieved the mission and wrapped up exactly how he felt as Panthalassa crossed the finish line. “I sent him out to try to win, and it was an incredible feeling. Well done, Panthalassa, my stable staff and jockey Yutaka Yoshida. They did it!” The Saudi Cup meeting has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Yahagi with him training four winners. This year saw him with a training double in the $20 million feature as well as preparing Bathrat Leon in the 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc.
Its Time To Capture The World Cup
He now prepares for a title defence in Dubai and Yahagi says that his horse is ready to go back to back for himself and the team, even after the gritty race in Riyadh. “Luckily he is still in good condition after winning the Saudi Cup last race. “So I'm sure he will run in both races. We still have a little time left so I'm thinking about deciding whether to aim for a turf race or a World Cup race while also considering the power relationship with other horses.” Yahagi understands the power of the Japanese contingent that have touched down in Dubai and will be unleashed on Meydan with the likes of Crown Pride and Vezel Azul having arrived this week. The relationship he has with Dubai goes back even before he opened his stables as he reflects and it is for those memories that he is proud to continue bringing horses to the UAE. “Yes, that’s right. At that time Yutaka Yoshida (jockey) took me there. “Thanks to that time he continues to ride Panthalassa's overseas expeditions without us having to change jockeys. “Of course it's very good that he is a great jockey.” Yutaka Yoshida has partnered Panthalassa on the past seven occasions which have included both victories in the Saudi Cup and Dubai Turf.
As is the same with Saudi Dubai also has been a place of winning for Yahagi last year winning three Group races on Dubai World Cup night but also having won the Dubai Turf in 2016 with Real Steel. Although Yahagi admits it has not all been about winning and good times in Dubai. “No, not all good memories. “There was a time when I couldn't win no matter how many times I tried. “But we don't give up and lately my stable has matured.”
The Statement Hat
With a reputation and trademark as the ‘Man In The Hat’ Yahagi said that he was yet to decide which hat would be making the journey with him to Dubai. “I haven't decided that yet. “When I started training, no one knew me and when I wore a hat they knew who I was. Today, I wore the same hat I wore at the Breeders’ Cup. I have between 200 and 300 hats. I don't count. It would be fun if they started a game where they bet on the colour of my hat. “I don't know until just before I leave because I make decisions based on my feelings at that time. “However, I plan to bring at least three,” he laughed.