One of the most popular riders on the California circuit for years, Corey Nakatani made a strong name for himself with numerous stakes victories at Santa Anita and Del Mar. Nakatani is known for being an intelligent rider than knows how to urge a horse to give its best.
Corey Nakatani was born in California in 1970. His path to racing was a little bit different in that he became interested in racing a little later than many of his fellow riders. In high school Nakatani was an accomplished wrestler. This surely benefitted him in his choice to ride horses as jockeys are considered some of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes in the world. After a wrestling tournament when he was 16 the young Corey visited Santa Anita Racetrack with his father and became interested in horseracing.
Following a few more trips to the racetrack Nakatani approached trainer Roger Stein about a job. Stein gave the youngster work cleaning stalls and walking horses after their training sessions. After just three days of this labor Nakatani decided he wanted to ride even though he had never been on a horse before. Stein realized that the newcomer’s enthusiasm could stand a dose of more work, however, and encouraged him to take a job on the thoroughbred farm of Tony Matos. While there Nakatani learned how to ride horses and galloped horses owned by Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden. This association surely benefitted Corey but he still was sent to a jockey school in California before making his professional debut in Mexico in 1988 where he rode Blue King to a dead heat win.
The next year Nakatani returned to Southern California where he became the leading apprentice rider and pretty much remained on the California circuit for his entire career. He has, however, had success on the east coast as well, winning races at Aqueduct in New York. His 3,500th career win came there on a horse named Grand Strategy.
Nakatani’s big break came in 1990 when he rode Itsallgreektome to victory in multiple stakes races. This was followed by winning campaigns aboard Nehro, Colonel John, Lava Man, and Indian Blessing to name just a few.
Through June of 2015 Nakatani had complied an impressive list of 3,772 career wins. Many of these came in high profile stakes races such as the Kentucky Oaks, Del Mar Futurity, and Hollywood Derby. In the 2015 Kentucky Derby Nakatani piloted Frammento, a 15th place finisher behind eventual Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.
It appears that the lingering effects of a broken collarbone suffered in March of 2015 has slowed down Nakatani’s career although he has issued no official proclamation of retirement.