Kazuo Fujiwara’s Hong Kong experiences are an asset to his brother’s team

Kazuo Fujiwara’s first Hong Kong International Races experience came 16 years ago, as part of the team that celebrated Eishin Preston’s victory in the 2001 G1 Hong Kong Mile. He has nothing but gratitude for his life in horseracing.

“I am grateful for all the horses and all the people that I have met and all the things that I have experienced through horse racing.” said Fujiwara, who works as an assistant trainer for his older brother.

That sibling is one of Japan’s leading trainers. Hideaki Fujiwara has captured no less than 44 graded stakes titles and 12 G1/JPN G1 triumphs in his career. His notable performers at home include Asian Winds (2008 G1 Victoria Mile), Success Brocken (2008 JPN G1 Japan Dirt Derby, 2009 G1 February Stakes and JPN G1 Tokyo Daishoten), Roman Legend (2012 JPN G1 Tokyo Daishoten) and Tosen Ra (2013 G1 Mile Championship).

The older Fujiwara brother, though, is a very international-minded trainer with a history of taking high-class performers to the global stage. The 2010 Japanese Derby and 2012 Tenno Sho Autumn winner Eishin Flash ventured to Dubai and Hong Kong, while his best sprinter-miler, Straight Girl, raced in Hong Kong twice. Successful in the 2015 and 2016 G1 Victoria Mile and the 2015 G1 Sprinters Stakes, and third in the 2014 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, she was covered by Frankel this past spring.

Hideaki Fujiwara launched his stable in 2001, and along with his dressage inspired concept of how to train horses, the biggest factor to his success has been his carefully-selected staff, his brother included.

Tosen Basil (JPN) with Joao Moreira and Staphanos (JPN) with Hugh Bowman working on the Turf course on Thursday, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

The handler has two horses at this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races: LONGINES Hong Kong Cup contender Staphanos and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase runner Tosen Basil. His younger brother has been entrusted with the pair while the elder Hideaki is still in Japan.

Kazuo Fujiwara, like his brother, was a high-level equestrian rider as a young man. Many others among the Fujiwara stable’s team have equestrian backgrounds as well, thus making it even easier to employ the stable’s equestrian flatwork-based training method.

“The essential element for training horses is always straightness training,” the younger brother and assistant said. “It is very difficult to ask for horses to achieve straightness, however to achieve the right amount of flexibility, I teach them the lateral movements such as shoulder-in and leg yielding, which can strengthen the core muscles. Having used these training methods, both Staphanos and Tosen Basil have improved their impulsion, which can be seen in their bursts of speed. But the most important thing for me is always to think the horse comes first! I do lots of things but I also learn from them. I always have to feel their movements.”

From more than a decade of experience at the Hong Kong International Races, Kazuo Fujiwara is always thankful for the prompt and high-level of support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and he thinks the Club’s hospitality has improved a lot over the years.

“Whenever I return from Hong Kong, I tell other Japanese horsemen how well organized the Hong Kong racing authority is. I do not know whether this is the reason but maybe it is one of the reasons that the number of Japanese horses that travel here has increased over the years,” he said.

This year, eight contenders from Japan will try to capture a Hong Kong International Races title, and Staphanos and Tosen Basil have settled in well ahead of the races on Sunday.

“The Fujiwara team is always grateful to all the horses, the people, and the experience we have here. I hope to raise the Japanese flag at Sha Tin on Sunday and find some way to return all the favors to my Hong Kong friends,” Kazuo said.

The Fujiwara Stable hopes a long-awaited victory in Hong Kong is just around the corner.