There’s a new face in the overseas jockey ranks in Korea as Great Britain’s Richard Oliver prepares to embark on an initial four-month license at Busan Racecourse this weekend.
Not that there’s been much time for acclimatization for Oliver, who showed up at the racecourse fresh off the plane on Wednesday – coincidentally declarations day – and left having been booked for two rides, one each on Friday and Sunday. “They were a last-minute pick-up, I was there for my orientation. I wasn’t initially planning to ride this week!”.
Last minute or not, the twenty-seven-year-old Oliver has landed on his feet, as he gets the leg-up on talented filly Core Blade for trainer Kang Eun-Seok in Friday’s class 2 finale. Core Blade has won four of ten starts so far and while up in class and back in trip, will be among the favourites in the seven-furlong test. It’s a whirlwind start but for the 27-year-old, the journey to Korea has been some years in the making.
“I found out about Korea when I was an apprentice riding in California in 2016, (and read a news article) naming it as an up and coming ‘racing superpower’ and it kind of stuck in my head.” A native of Great Britain, Oliver chose to go to the USA to complete his apprenticeship and make his breakthrough as a jockey and has subsequently ridden winners in France, Germany, Bahrain and Mauritius, as well as back at home.
The chance to come to Korea and get a foothold in Asia was always at the back of his mind though. “I heard more and more about it but wasn’t at a stage in my career where I’d proven qualified to come here until now, so I applied and waited.”
During the wait, Oliver has built a successful career and comes in having experienced a standout 2018 during which he won feature races in both France and the UAE. However, the jockey rates his recent stint in Mauritius as his favourite memory to date: “I think my best day came on my first day riding in Mauritius where I had a treble. This was particularly satisfying as I was competing in a highly competitive environment with leading riders from South Africa, Australia and the USA”.
It will be competitive too at Busan and Oliver, who can ride at 52kg, joins Franco Da Silva and Francois Herholdt, who make up the small overseas contingent at the track. He’s set himself ambitious but achievable targets. “I want to maintain a respectable strike-rate throughout my time here, ride as many winners as possible and would like to hold a spot among the top five riders”.
Richard Oliver’s Korean debut will come in the very last race of Friday’s 11-race card at Busan which runs from 11:30 to 18:00 local Korea time. He’ll get a further taste of the Busan track on Sunday afternoon when he partners New Jack Swing in race 2.