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Racing: Jockey Taiki Yanagida in critical condition in Waikato Hospital after fall during race

4 Aug, 2022 06:03 PM3 minutes to read
Taiki Yanagida fell during a race on Wednesday and remains in a critical condition. Photo / Photosport

Taiki Yanagida fell during a race on Wednesday and remains in a critical condition. Photo / Photosport

Michael Guerin

Herald racing editor.


Critically injured jockey Taiki Yanagida's mother is rushing from Japan to be near her son's side as he fights for his life in Waikato Hospital.

The 28-year-old jockey was badly hurt in a racing accident at Cambridge on Wednesday when his mount, Te Atatu Pash, fell. Yanagida was placed in an induced coma at the track and transported by ambulance to Waikato Hospital.

He was diagnosed with brain and spinal injuries, and while he was initially going to be flown to Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland, doctors decided against that.

Yanagida remained in an induced coma on Thursday afternoon with scans being conducted on his brain, while he could also have an operation to stabilise his spinal cord.

Yanagida was born and raised in Japan, only learning to ride at 18 and moving to New Zealand to start an apprenticeship with trainers Andrew Scott and Lance O'Sullivan, the latter one of New Zealand's greatest ever jockeys.

Yanagida's mother Kayano is being flown from her home in Kyoto to Auckland and is expected to arrive on Friday morning, with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing assisting her to make the trip.

Yanagida's close friend and fellow Japanese jockey Yuto Kumagai, who, like Yanagida, lives in Matamata, has been the contact for Yanagida's mother, who does not speak English.


"We are very upset for her and for Taiki and all we can do is pray," says Kumagai.

"He is my close friend and has taught me so much and looked after me here.

"He is very tough but it was not a good fall so it a very hard time for all of us. I hope people pray for him because he needs our help."

Yanagida had a personal best season last term, riding 42 winners to finish equal 15th on the national premiership.

"That is simply down to hard work," says O'Sullivan.


"Taiki came to use without much riding experience but worked very, very hard at his job and kept getting better.

"Part of that is because of his extreme dedication to his fitness. Being quite tall for a jockey he never shirks doing the hard work running he needs to and is a bit of a fitness fanatic.

"He is a good young man, a really hard worker around the stables when he was our apprentice and even though things were quite grim up at the hospital today we are hoping for the best."

Yanagida, known to almost everybody in the industry as Tiger, has ridden 162 winners in New Zealand including five at the elite black type level.

He rode Rusavy to win race five at Wednesday's meeting, just two hours before the accident.



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Industry mourns Taiki Yanagida

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9 August 2022

The New Zealand racing industry is mourning the death of popular Matamata-based jockey Taiki Yanagida who passed away shortly after 8pm today.  The 28-year-old suffered critical injuries following a fall in the last race at the Cambridge race meeting on Wednesday, 3 August and had been on life support at Waikato Hospital.

His mother Kayano, and younger sister Chiaki, arrived from Japan last Friday and Taiki’s friend and fellow rider Yuto Kamagai accompanied them to Waikato Hospital. 

“Our deepest sympathies are with Taiki’s family – his mother Kayano, sisters Chiaki and Ayano, and his grandmother.  We share their grief at the loss of such a talented, friendly, and well-liked young man,” New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing CEO Bruce Sharrock said.

 “Taiki was recently able to spend a month back at home with his family following a lengthy period where he could not travel home due to Covid, and we hope they take comfort from the memories created during that time,” he said.

The close-knit nature of the racing industry will mean that Yanagida’s loss is felt widely and the NZTR CEO encouraged industry participants to be mindful of this.

“Our thoughts are also with those at Wexford Stables, members of the O’Sullivan-Scott team were Taiki’s New Zealand family, and they will all be impacted by his death.”

“The tragic loss of one of our own always hits hard and we need to be aware of how others might be feeling and processing this loss,” Sharrock said.  “We are also particularly conscious of Taiki’s fellow jockeys and will be ensuring there is support in place for them.”

Sharrock said that NZTR had been focusing on what could be done to assist Yanagida’s family from the moment Taiki was transported to hospital. “We have been conscious of the fact that they needed to be comfortable every step of the way, including how and when news of his death was relayed, bearing in mind the fact there are other family members to consider,” he said.

“We will now be assisting Taiki’s family as they make plans to take their son and brother home.”

“Many people have been in touch wanting to contribute to the family in some way, and we will be organising an account for contributions to be passed on to Taiki’s family,” Sharrock said.

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Horse racing: Japanese jockey Taiki Yanagida dies following tragic fall in Cambridge

9 Aug, 2022 08:38 PM5 minutes to read
Taiki Yanagida. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Taiki Yanagida. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Michael Guerin

Herald racing editor.


Jockey Taiki Yanagida has died in Waikato Hospital from injuries suffered in a horse racing fall at Cambridge last Wednesday.

The 28-year-old jockey had his mother Kayano and one of his two sisters Chiaki by his side when he died on Tuesday. They had rushed from Japan last Thursday to be with Taiki, who suffered brain and spinal cord damage in the accident.

He was placed in an induced coma straight after the accident and never regained consciousness.

If he had, the damage to his spinal cord was so severe it was highly unlikely he would have walked again.


Yanagida was riding maiden horse Te Atatu Pash in the last race of the Cambridge synthetic track meeting last Wednesday when his mount was checked and fell.

Yanagida's riding helmet came off in the fall and he was partially rolled on by his own mount but was also galloped on by a following horse, who in the split-second incident could not have avoided him and struck him heavily in the back.

The accident stunned racing industry participants, particularly the very close-knit ranks of professional jockeys, with Yanagida the first jockey to die in a race fall in New Zealand since Rebecca Black at Gore in December, 2016.

Yanagida, known to almost everybody in the racing industry as Tiger, was born and raised in Japan and didn't start riding until he was 18, firstly in Australia before moving to New Zealand.

He recent told racing publication Raceform his mother had initially been against him becoming a jockey.

"I wanted to try and become a jockey but my Mum didn't agree, she said I must to go to university first, " Taiki said in June.

"I completed one year at university before I said I was going to Australia to train to be a jockey."

Yanagida then spoke of his mother's fears for him in his chosen career, fears that have so tragically become reality.

Taiki Yanagida. Photo / Photosport.co.nz Taiki Yanagida. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

"Now my mother is happy for me, she knows I am doing what I always wanted to, but she still worries about me and is always going to the temple to pray for my luck and safety," he said just two months ago.


Advertise with NZME.

Yanagida moved to New Zealand and developed his craft working for top Matamata trainers Andrew Scott and Lance O'Sullivan, the latter one of New Zealand's all-time champion jockeys.

O'Sullivan said the news was heart-breaking for those who knew Yanagida but will be felt throughout the racing industry not only in New Zealand and Japan but beyond.

"He was a good young man, very dedicated to his career," said O'Sullivan.

"He had to be because he was quite tall for a jockey so had to work hard to keep his weight under control but that became his other passion, being a fitness fanatic so he could keep being a jockey.

"He wasn't a natural jockey when he first came to us but worked so hard he got better and better.

"It is a very sad day for everybody who knew him and the racing industry."


One of Yanagida's closest friends was fellow Japanese apprentice jockey Yuto Kumagai, who Yanagida's had helped mentor since Kumagai arrived in New Zealand.

"He was a very special friend and he told me a few weeks ago he wanted to help me become the leading apprentice this season," said Kumagai.

"He loved riding and worked so hard to stay fit so he could be better at it. He always wanted to improve.

"It is very, very sad. I am very sad."

Yanagida was a single man with no children who O'Sullivan says was unfailingly polite.

"These days it is rare for an apprentice to stay with the same trainers right through their apprenticeship because it is so easy once they start riding winners to go somewhere where they don't have to do the stable work, just ride trackwork and in races.

"But Taiki stayed with us all the way through. He wanted to work hard and do the right thing. That is what sort of young man he was."


Yanagida's racing manager Ted McLachlan had been with him and his family at the hospital every day and was devastated by his death.

"He was such a wonderful young man it really is a tragedy and so hard to watch what his mother and sister here have had to go through," said McLachlan.

"This will really hurt the other people in the industry because Taiki was so popular."

Yanagida had his personal best season last racing term, riding 42 winners including three black type successes, which are at racing highest levels.

He sacrificed his goal of winning 50 races for the season to fly home to Japan for the first time in four years to see his family for a month in June, only returning to New Zealand mid-July.

Yanagida rode 162 winners in his New Zealand career and while those numbers are testament to his work ethic those who met and worked alongside Yanagida will not remember him for his racetrack victories.


They will remember a polite, happy, dedicated young man who was willing to leave his home country to chase his dream of becoming a jockey.

Taiki achieved his dream and that can never be taken away from him.

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