The amazing Akifumi Kato returns to Emerald Downs for a special riding assignment Saturday evening.
The only active jockey to have won a race at the four major Washington tracks past and present – Longacres, Playfair, Yakima Meadows and Emerald Downs – Kato rides Cats Gulch in Race 5 at 7:07 p.m. For Kato, 67, it’s his first mount at Emerald Downs since 2006.
“It’s like a homecoming for me, wow!, said Kato, winner of over 2,000 races in a 48-year-riding career. “It all started in Spokane in 1973 at Playfair. It was like home to me, people were great, both my kids were born in Spokane.”
On Saturday, Kato teams with North America’s oldest active trainer – 95-year-old Arturo Arboleda – for a mount aboard Cats Gulch in a $2,500 claiming race at 6 furlongs. That’s 162 years combined between the jockey and trainer, including about 11 decades of racing experience.
“With Akifumi coming to ride at Emerald Downs, it only seemed natural to team him on a horse with Arturo,” said Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler. “It’s great to recognize a horseman like Mr. Kato, who has contributed so much to our industry.”
Kato, son of a Japanese jockey turned trainer, was born in Osaka, and rode primarily at Playfair in Spokane where he was the all-time leader with 1,104 victories, including two riding titles and four victories in the Playfair Mile. Remarkably, 2019 represents the 48th straight year that Kato has ridden at least two winners, a streak that continued with a pair of wins earlier this year at Turf Paradise.
Kato also has worked as a bloodstock agent and a daughter, Kaylyn, is an active trainer in Arizona.
Saturday’s eight-race program begins at 5 p.m.