The Korea Racing Authority has made much of its plans to “internationalize” horse racing in Korea. Part of its plans extend to international jockeys. Each November, Seoul Race Park hosts the “International Jockey’s Challenge” where a group of international jockeys come for the weekend to compete in races against the locals, won in 2007 by South African Gerrit Schlechter. In mid 2007, the KRA made a rare update to the English language section of its website and advertised for foreign jockeys to apply for a one year contract at Seoul Race Park. This wasn’t the first time they had done this – when Busan Race Park opened in 2005, three Australian jockeys were signed up to ride, one of whom – Garry Baker – went on to become one of the track’s top riders in his two year stay. As of May 2008, there are three overseas jockeys riding in Korea:
Ikuyasu Kurakane: Ikuyasu debuted in July 2007 and has gone on to become one of the most frequent riders at Seoul. Before coming to Seoul, the 32 year old was riding at the Kochi track in Japan. As of May 2008, Ikuyasu has had 498 rides with 40 winners – a strike rate of 8.0% and a place strike rate of 14.1%. He also has a big race win under his belt having been successful on Pilseung Giwon in the 67Million won Nonghyup Bank Cup last November, an especially impressive win as he had taken a heavy fall in the race immediately beforehand. Ikuyasu has a personal blog which although infrequently updated has some interesting pictures of his early days in Korea. Here he is winning the Nonghyup Bank Cup.
Nozomu Tomizawa: The second Japanese jockey at Seoul Race Park is 26 year old Nozomu Tomizawa. Making his debut in August 2007, Nozi has 17 winners from 329 rides (5.2%) and a place strike rate of 12.8% (May 2008). Before coming to Korea, he rode on the East Coast of Australia for 5 years amassing 65 winners from 1362 rides according to Virtual Formguide.
Danny Craven: Arriving in November 2007 on a 6 month contract was Australian jockey Danny Scott Craven. At 33, Craven arrived with a career already stretching back 17 years with his most recent Australian figures showing 115 winners from 1316 rides in the last 4 years. He made the best possible start, winning on Luxury Queen on his first day’s racing and went on to record 5 winners from 113 rides at Seoul – a win strike rate of 5.3% and a place rate of 7.7%. In April 2008, he relocated to Busan Race Park and recorded his first win at the Gyeongnam track on board Power Captain on May 10, 2008. Here is his debut win at Seoul on Luxury Queen.
Towards the end of 2007, the KRA recorded a special feature on the three overseas riders for their in-house broadcasting service. Click here to see the video.