Day: September 5, 2011

Who Is Seo Seung Woon?

Nathan Stanley And Six Apprentices Join Weighing Rooms

It was such a breathless start to the month on the track that perhaps it’s no bad thing that we’re off this coming weekend for the Korean Thanksgiving holiday. Highlight of the weekend was Australian jockey Nathan Stanley making an unexpected debut, and scoring an even more unexpected DQ victor, for countryman Peter Wolsley in the dramatic Busan Owners’ Cup on Sunday. However, Stanley was just one of seven new jockeys to debut at the weekend.

Dream Start: Seo Seung Woon drives Darling Vision to victory

The rest were all graduates of the KRA Jockey Academy, three at Seoul and three at Busan. And undoubtedly the star of the show was 21-year-old Seo Seung Woon. It started off as good fortune as the young jockey got the kind of break that others have had to wait many months for in only his second ride – he was on the favourite. If he felt any pressure, it didn’t show as he guided Challenge Concept (Concept Win) to a comfortable win. Later came the shock as in race 9, he produced a perfectly timed run on 37/1 shot Daring Vision (Perfect Champion) to beat out the opposition and claim a very good win. Punters were impressed.

New At Seoul: Lee Hyeok, Lee A-Na and Seo Seung Woon Pic: KRA

Seo is joined at Seoul by 24-year-old Lee Hyeok and 22-year-old Lee A-Na, who brings the number of female jockeys currently riding at Seoul to six. She will be looking to follow Kim Hae Sun who, two years after qualifying, is slowly becoming established as a potential star. Busan’s jockeys tend to be slightly less experienced than those at Seoul (although that is not to say less talented – often it’s anything but) so this year was the first in some time that the track has had a new intake. As well as Australian veteran Stanley, academy graduates Kim Jung Woong, Yoo Kwang Hee and Jung Dong Chul also debuted.

Busan new boys: Kim Jung Woong, Yoo Kwang Hee and Jung Dong Chul - The very manly pic is by the KRA

Korean blogger Chulgigi did sound a note of caution though. In 1995, newly qualified Ji Ha Ju won his first two races. Sixteen years later and he’s only won 212 more and has never been prolific in terms of mounts or wins. Things are different these days though. Much more rigorous training, helped by the presence of South African jockey trainer Kenny Michel, as well as stints in wither South Africa or Australia for the graduates mean that today’s newly qualified jockeys are better prepared – and, dare we say just plain better, than their forerunners. Lee Sang Hyeok, Jo In Kwen, Kim Hae Sun and Jang Chu Youl are just four recent graduates at Seoul who punters would place ahead of all but the elite four – Park Tae Jong, Cho Kyoung Ho, Moon Se Young and Choi Bum Hyun (that last one is questionable too).

As for Nathan Stanley, he debuted in 1992 and in addition to having ridden in Australia, has also competed recently in Malaysia. He takes over the senior International Jockey role at Busan from Toshio Uchida who completed his second stint at the track at the end of August.

And if the foreign contingent in Korea were feeling some sense of satisfaction that the Union had seen off Uchida only to see his replacement win a Group race in his very first ride – for a foreign trainer to boot – then they were positively rolling on the floor with laughter an hour later as Akane Yamamoto took out the Gold Circle Trophy on outsider Cheonji Horyeong (Buster’s Daydream). For some it may be that the foreigners are coming here and taking the money. They should, however, look at the benefits. The bar is being raised for everyone and that can only benefit racing in the long-term.