Ikuyasu Kurakane reached a major milestone over the weekend, when he became the first foreign jockey to ride 200 winners in Korea.
His two victories across the weekend, on Big Show on Saturday and Ms. Celtic Senior on Sunday, took the Japanese rider to 201 victories from 1711 rides across two stints riding on the peninsula.
Now 38, Kurakane originally came to Korea in 2007 and spent a successful 18 months riding at Seoul and Busan. During this period he won what remains his only Stakes race to date, the 2007 Nonghyup Trophy on Pilseung Giwon.
Kurakane returned to Seoul in April last year and quickly established himself as among the track’s top riders.
An exceptionally hard-worker in the mornings, he doesn’t get the biggest rides, but unlike many foreign jockeys here before him, he does get the numbers and when on a fancied horse, he generally converts it into the win. He currently lies 3rd in the 2014 Championship
His feat is made all the more impressive in that the vast majority of his winners have come at Seoul, a track where he is the only foreign jockey to have enjoyed even moderate success. At Busan, it is a different story although still by means easy for the visitors.
Kurakane’s license has been extended by 6-months, as have those of Busan-based trio Darryll Holland, Joe Fujii and Masa Tanaka.
Royal Ascot winning rider Holland is the KRA’s marquee jockey and after overcoming a challenging first few months, he’s now reaping he benefits, taking out another feature race at Busan on Sunday and is currently in 2nd place in the Busan Championship.
Grand Prix Stakes, Korean Derby and Oaks winner Fujii is just two places back. Tanaka too is a regular visitor to the winner’s circle. The “foreign jockey quinella” is now a very popular bet among punters.
In the barn at Busan things are going well too. After his 2nd place finish last year, Peter Wolsley currently leads the 2014 Trainers’ Championship in numbers of winners – ahead of even the Kim Young Kwan machine. Meanwhile, South African Bart Rice has made an impressive start with 5 of his 23 runners to date returning victorious.
Korea is still a very difficult place for foreign jockeys to ride as the recent experiences of Jerome Lermyte and Fausto Durso show, making the achievements of the likes of Kurakane even more notable.
Overseas Jockeys in Korea All-Time Top Ten
1. Ikuyasu Kurakane (Japan) – 201*
2. Toshio Uchida (Japan) – 138
3. Kanichiro Fujii (Japan) – 116*
4. Garry Baker (Australia) – 78
5. Narazaki Kosuke (Japan) – 68
6. Eiki Nishimura (Japan) – 60
7. Hitomi Miyashita (Japan) – 56
8. Darryll Holland (United Kingdom) – 52*
9. Martin Wepner (South Africa) – 49
10. Nozomu Tomizawa (Japan) – 48
* Still riding in Korea