Okada's dreams come true
MOTOKI OKADA came to Australia with little more than a dream.
And the 22-year-old Japanese migrant is bringing his dream to life.
Okada has entrenched himself as a fixture of the Northern Rivers racing scene.
He sits second on the apprentice’s premiership with 14 wins this season after adding to the tally yesterday with a composed ride on the Danny Bowen trained Lord Dubai.
The touch he shows in his rides defies his background – Okada grew up in the city and had never even touched a horse in his home country.
By 15 he had decided that being a jockey was the life for him; by 16 he had convinced his parents to let him fly the coup for Australia.
But it wasn’t easy.
“The parents, they said no for a long time,” Okada said. “But I kept persisting and they eventually gave up and let me go to Australia.”
As a 16-year-old, fresh out of junior high school, Okada enrolled at Train-Tech on the Gold Coast.
Here, he would learn the basics of the thoroughbred racehorse.
Eighteen months in and he was apprenticed to Ballina trainer Sue Birney where he began his career as a jockey.
And after bouncing through a couple of stables Okada ended up in the Bowen camp.
And anyone who knows the Bowen stable knows that the Japanese teenager would be getting a crash course in Aussie culture.
“It has been great with Dan,” Okada said.
The quietly spoken hoop lives with Bowen, his wife Shelley, and two of their children.
This has been an undeniable benefit to his development as a jockey, a horseman, and an Aussie.
“After the races I sit down with Dan and we watch the replays,” he said. “He shows me everything I do right and everything I do wrong.
“Exactly where I should be and where I shouldn’t be.”
Okada has found a home with the Bowen team at Ballina and he is as determined as a man could be to make a success of his endeavour.
After all, he left his family to chase his dream – one that they weren’t familiar with.
“I have to keep going,” he said. “If I stop now I am nothing.”
And the drive is evident when you talk to Okada.
He is shy and quiet but you can sense his will to succeed.
He has set two goals for himself for the next racing season which begins on August 1.
“I want to win the apprentices premiership,” he said. “And I also want to become and Australian citizen so I can stay here.”
Okada is thriving here in his adopted country – he doesn’t want to go anywhere, and why would he when he is doing exactly what he loves.