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Picture: Durston with strapper Jin after winning the Caulfield Cup (Racing.com)

Anyone that has worked with Jin Takahashi – and there are plenty that have crossed paths with the likable Japanese horseman during his lengthy career in Australian racing – will know that he’s an asset to any stable he walks into.

Those same people wouldn’t be surprised to know that the humble Takahashi considers himself the lucky one.

Vision of the stable worker overcome with emotion in the mounting yard after he strapped Durston to victory in the Caulfield Cup went viral over the weekend and he said he was still coming to terms with the horse’s incredible performance.

Although he’s worked in racing stables for the best part of two decades, he’s only been a member of the Chris Waller yard for four months and only recently become acquainted with the well-traveled chestnut.

“I still cannot believe it,” Takahashi said.

“I’m still getting to know the horse because he’s just come down from Sydney.

“He’s an older horse so he’s very quiet and I was actually worried on Saturday that he was too quiet because you normally want them to switch on a bit more before they tackle a big race.

“He’s a very gentle horse.”

Takahashi had never touched a horse when he arrived in Australia more than two decades ago but a career with animals, and horses in particular, appealed to him.

An opportunity to complete an equine course in Queensland presented itself and afterwards he spent several years as a student liaison, helping other Japanese youngsters build their skills with horses.

“I came to Australia as a student and have been working as a strapper for more than 20 years,” he said.

“I had nothing to do with horses, I’d never touched a horse in Japan.

“I spent 18 months studying at an international equine school, learning general horse management.

“If it was possible, I was always thinking that I wanted to stay in Australia.

“As soon as I graduated from that school, they employed me as an instructor and an interpreter for Japanese students – I was basically a liaison officer between students and the school.”

It was a series of regular encounters with another Group 1-winning strapper, Sunline’s human partner Claire Bird, that prompted Takahashi’s move to Victoria, where he landed in the Flemington stable of Robert Smerdon, before moving to the neighbouring Danny O’Brien yard.

O’Brien sponsored his visa and he spent more than 10 years working for the Melbourne Cup-winning trainer. 

“Sunline’s strapper Claire Bird used to visit the school to recruit students to go to Victoria,” he said.

“We used to send a lot of students down to Victoria and I actually wanted to do that as well so after four years, I followed her.

“She got me a job for Aquanita and I worked there for six months before they moved to Caulfield.

“My friend worked for Danny O’Brien and I didn’t want to move so I stayed there and worked for Danny for more than 10 years.

“After that I worked for Lindsay Park for more than five years and then, after a recent holiday, I started with Chris Waller Racing and I’ve only been there for four months.”

While Durston’s Caulfield Cup win represents his greatest raceday success to date, Takahashi is no stranger to working with elite horses and has led in no fewer than five Group 1 winners.

Trips to Hong Kong with Douro Valley and Royal Ascot with Shamexpress (pictured above) have been other highlights during his career. 

“When I was at Danny’s stable, I had a lot of luck,” he said. 

“I strapped a horse called Douro Valley, who was runner-up in the Caulfield Cup behind Master O’Reilly.

“He won the race they used to call the Yalumba Stakes, which is now the Might And Power Stakes, and that was my first ever Group 1 winner.

“He ended up going to Hong Kong and I got to go to Hong Kong for the December International meeting.

“In 2013, I strapped the Newmarket Handicap winner called Shamexpress.

“Again, somehow, I got to go to Royal Ascot and Newmarket for the July Cup with him.

“I moved to Lindsay Park in 2016 and in five years I was fortunate to have a lot of luck to strap two consecutive Australian Cup wins with Harlem and in 2020 I strapped the Oaks winner Personal (pictured below).

“My life as a strapper has been so bloody lucky.”

A career outside of a racing stable has never crossed Takahashi’s mind. 

While he acknowledges the hours can be long and the work can be physically demanding, his veiw is that it makes the success all the more sweet. 

“I couldn’t do anything else,” he said.

“It’s tough and hard and many people whinge about the long hours or the early mornings but for me, it’s rewarding.

“This job gives you some amazing moments.

“I love working with the people as well.”

Asked about Durston’s Melbourne Cup chances, Takahashi said he prefers to focus on his role for the stable more broadly rather than an individual horse’s prospects of winning a race. 

The seven-year-old is on the fourth line fo betting at $15 ion Sportsbet’s Melbourne Cup market, which is headed by UK raider Deauville Legend at $6. 

“I try not to say too much because my theory is the more you say, the less it happens,” he said.

“So I just shut my mouth and keep doing what I have to do.

“It’s exciting but I’m not worried about winning the Melbourne Cup, I just focus on doing my job.”