Japanese jockey Eiki Nishimura is coming back to Busan this weekend on a short-term license after nearly two years away from Korean racing. The 36 year old is best remembered in Korea for winning the KRA Cup Mile – the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown – on the champion filly Sangseung Ilro in 2009.
In all, Eiki rode 48 winners from 392 rides in his first spell at Busan. He started slowly but made his breakthrough as the regular rider of Sangseung Ilro culminating in her Cup Mile win in April 2009. However, he was mysteriously jocked off the filly for her successful run in the Korean Derby the following month.
Although no-one went record about it (apart from Eiki himself on his Japanese blog at the time), the feeling was that local riders at Busan had been angry about a foreign jockey winning the track’s biggest race of the year. The Jockey Union at Seoul who at the time opposed any foreign involvement in Korean racing were determined this would not happen in the Derby and pressure was applied.
Eiki persevered although he found his opportunities limited before he returned to his home track of Arao in late 2009. An affable and friendly character, he invited Korean jockey Park Jae Ho across to Japan to gain some experience.
Things at Busan are a little different now. After the shockingly bad treatment another Japanese rider, Hitomi Miyahshita received at the hands of the Jockey Union in the aftermath of Park Jin Hee’s death in early 2010, the locals have had another dose of Toshio Uchida winning races and recently of Akane Yamamoto and Australian Nathan Stanley winning Stakes races. As younger Korean jockeys come through, the foreign riders are gradually becoming more accepted and Eiki’s most welcome return is at exactly the right time.
Nishimura has nine rides at Busan across this weekend starting in race 1 on Friday when he’ll be riding for American trainer Joe Murphy. Nathan Stanley has twelve rides on Friday and Sunday most for Peter Wolsley. Akane Yamamoto sits out this week to serve a two-day suspension.