Horse racing A moment of silence at the Tauranga races on August 13, 2022 for Taiki Yanagida. Photo / Trish Dunell.
Fallen jockey Taiki Yanagida inspired heartfelt tributes and many tears as he bid farewell at a public memorial service at Matamata Racecourse yesterday.
The 28-year-old jockey died in Waikato Hospital last Tuesday, six days after a fall in Cambridge left him in an induced coma from which he never woke up.
Up to 400 people gathered for the ceremony at Taiki’s runway, including Yanagida’s mother, Kayano, and Chiaki, one of her two sisters, who had flown in from their native Japan to be with him before his death.
Family and very close personal friends had gathered for a private ceremony and cremation last Friday, but yesterday’s service was an opportunity for those close to Yanagida, particularly in the horse racing industry, to meet.
“It was a very fitting memorial that demonstrated how much respected and loved Taiki was,” said Matamata’s loyal runner Dennis Ryan.
“We had a lot of people there and there were wonderful words from those who knew Taiki well.”
One of them was fellow Japanese-born jockey Yuto Kumagai. Former Yanagida boss Lance O’Sullivan also spoke, as did former champion jockey and apprentice mentor Noel Harris, who said “Taiki was an example for all the other apprentices”.
“The day was a great opportunity for all of us to come together and Tommy Hazlett, who along with Pam Gerard and their family had been so close to Taiki of late, did a wonderful job of organizing much of the day. “Ryan said.
There were also tributes from those overseas who were unable to attend, including expatriate Kiwi jockey and good friend Samantha Collett, Sydney rider Kathy O’Hara and Yanagida’s close friend Masa Hashizume, who gave his video tribute in Japanese.
“Ted McLachlan [Taiki’s manager] spoke so well and it was a very moving experience,” Ryan said.
“It was especially important for Taiki’s friends and families who were overseas, some in Japan, who could watch the service’s live stream so they could understand how much Taiki was loved and respected here.
“I’m really glad they got to experience that.”
The service came two days after a minute’s silence for Yanagida ended the Tauranga race meeting on Saturday, with commentator George Simon among those leading the tributes as race participants gathered on the parade ring.
Yanagida was rising rapidly through the ranks of New Zealand jockeys and finished tied for 15th as national premier last season, with 42 winners.
He had just returned from a month-long visit to family in Japan when he was involved in the crash that claimed his life, the first jockey to die in a racing fall in New Zealand since 2016.
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