Day: April 12, 2011

Hitomi Heads Home

Hitomi Miyashita has given up her Korean Jockey license to return to her native Japan. The 34-year-old has spent the last 18 months riding at the Busan Race Park. She has cited personal reasons for her departure.

Going: Hitomi Miyashita

Hitomi first rode in Korea in the International Lady Jockey Invitation race on Korean Oaks day in August 2009. She ended up victorious, partnering Ima Firecracker to a narrow victory. She returned to the track full-time in October of that year and quickly became one of the track’s top jockeys.

In her time in Korea, from 660 rides, Hitomi ride 55 winners and 66 seconds for a win strike rate of 8.3% and a quinella rate of 18.3% and a place rate of 29.5% and was very popular among racing fans on the peninsula. She made one appearance at Seoul Race Park in the Grand Prix Stakes in 2009.

Here is her win on Ima Firecracker in the International Lady Jockey Invitational in 2009:

For obvious reasons it’s a touchy subject but a lot of things changed at Busan after the suicide of jockey Park Jin Hee in March 2010. Hitomi was one of the jockeys who, along with fellow visiting riders Martin Wepner and Kunihisa Hirase was put in a very difficult position between the trainers and the local jockey union. The Union, which had not exactly gone out of its way to make foreign riders welcome, now expected them to join them in their battle certain trainers along with the rest of the jockeys. On the other side the trainers union, knowing the difficulties the foreign riders had had with the union, expected them to side with them

The trainers and jockeys eventually came to an understanding with the foreign riders caught in a figurative no-man’s land. Wepner and Hirase quickly left while Hitomi stayed on and continued to try her hardest. It may have been coincidence, but never again though did she find herself on either the quality or quantity of horses she was on before and her strike rate declined accordingly. That she stuck things out and continued to ride winners is a credit to her talent and perseverance.

Hitomi’s departure leaves Busan with no female jockeys compared to five at Seoul and three with the pony racing colony on Jeju Island. Toshio Uchida and Yoshi Aoki continue to fly the flag successfully for Japan at Busan while Hiro Hamada and the currently injured Mai Beppu are at Seoul. There are currently no non-Japanese foreign jockeys in Korea.

We wish Hitomi the best for the next stage of her career.