Day: July 8, 2010

Wepner Bows Out But There’s a King Shark in the Busan Tank

Four New Jockeys for Seoul while Jo In Kwen and Lee Sang Hyeok Go Free

South African Martin Wepner has left Korea and has been replaced in the Busan jockey ranks by Japanese rider Katsuya Sameshima. The 47 year-old has a professional record of 3,839 wins from 18,337 rides over a career spanning thirty years. Nicknamed “King Shark”, Sameshima arrives with a formidable reputation, with Japanese “twitter” commenter Mitochunagon describing him as “…(riding) horses better than Mr Pink”. That of course being a reference to Toshio “Mr Pink” Uchida who in six dominant months at the track, was loved by punters and loathed by his rivals in equal measure.

Ketsuya Sameshima

Although slightly less prolific, Martin Wepner was similar. In a sixteen month stint at Busan, he recorded 49 winners from 483 mounts, landing some major prizes along the way. Things were never simple with Wepner though. After a breakdown in communication over a pre-Derby dinner he walked away from the ride of Namdo Jeap in the Derby the next day. Shin Hyoung Chul would step in to guide Namdo Jeap to second place while it seemed Wepner was on the way to the airport.

Feeling he had been treated unfairly and possibly recognizing talent, trainer Kim Young Kwan stepped in and offered Wepner the role of stable-jockey which the South African accepted and the two formed a formidable partnership throughout the summer of 2009 culminating in victory for Namdo Jeap in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Korean Triple Crown at Seoul Race Park in October. Their relationship would break down later in the year though and although Wepner kept riding winners both men would, for different reasons, go on to have a sobering time in 2010.

Wepner is expected to return to Malaysia where he rode successfully for a number of years before coming to Korea. Ultimately his time here must be judged a success and proof that jockeys with talent and perseverance can make it in the undoubtedly harsh environment of the Korean weighing room. Here is that win on Namdo Jeap:

With Sameshima joining Hitomi Miyashita at Busan, Kunihisa Hirase has made the unenviable trip up the Gyeongbu Expressway to Seoul. He’s not the only new-boy at the capital track as four graduates from the KRA Jockey academy are making their debuts this month. Lee Kang Seo, Kim Jung Jun, Jang Chu Yeol and Park Jong Mi will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jo In Kwen and Lee Sang Hyeok, both of whom have recently turned freelance after riding out their apprenticeships.

The quality of newly licensed riders has increased greatly in recent years and hopefully this year’s new recruits will go on to have long, successful and safe careers.

From left: Lee Kang Seo, Kim Jung Jun, Park Jong Mi, Jang Chu Yeol (Picture: KRA)