They say you should never go back, but Ikuyasu Kurakane’s second stint at Seoul Racecourse is shaping up to be just as good – and maybe even better – than his first.
Japanese jockey Kurakane first rode at Seoul in 2007 and spent nearly 18 months in Korea, riding both in the capital and at Busan, scoring 106 winners in all.
He returned at the beginning of April this year and has quickly become the hardest working man at the track, riding in 188 races since – no mean feat when there are only 2 race meetings a week.
The horses he’s been riding haven’t necessarily been the best and it is rare for Kurakane to get on a favourite, however, this past weekend the 38-year-old partnered 5 different horses to victory. It takes him up to 22 since his return and puts him in 8th place in the 2013 jockeys’ championship.
Shortly before returning to Korea, Kurakane rode his 1500th winner in Japan. Prize-money and lifestyle in Korea is such though that there is plenty of competition among Japanese jockeys to ride here and many apply to return after they leave.
It does take a certain kind of jockey to succeed in what is a harsh weighing room environment for foreign jockeys and the workaholic Kurakane, who rides a full lot of trackwork every morning and never turns down a mount, fits it exactly.
While Japanese jockeys find things much easier than western riders, there have still been as many who haven’t been a success than have. At semi-foreigner friendly Busan, Toshio Uchida and Joe Fujii have, a couple of years apart, both become the track’s top rider. At Seoul, Ikuyasu has been the only one to break through to the top-tier of jockeys.
Currently there are 5 foreign jockeys licensed in Korea. Britain’s Darryll Holland – with 9 wins to his name so far – is the only non-Japanese. Another Japanese rider will start at Busan this month.
Meanwhile in foreign training terms, there really is only one Peter Wolsley. The remarkable Australian is closing in on 200 Korean winners and made it 190 on Sunday afternoon when Cheongchun Bulpae (Milwaukee Brew) took the first of Busan’s co-feature races.