Seo Seung Un has completed his compulsory national service and the jockey – one of Korea’s leading riders before his departure – will return to action at Busan Racecourse this Friday.
Cheongnyong Bisang wininng the KRA Cup Mile in 2014 under Seo Seung Un (Pic: KRA)
Seo burst onto the scene in 2011, riding a pair of winners on his very first day’s racing before proceeding to ride out his allowance in double-quick time. In early 2012, Seo spent time in the United States riding at winner at Charles Town and that summer went on to represent Korea at the 2012 Asia Young Guns Jockey Challenge in Macau, finishing 3rd.
He rode his first Korea Group race winners in 2013 and the same year played a part in Korean racing history when he travelled to Ohi Racecourse and rode Watts Village to a 30/1 victory in the Japan/Korea Interaction Cup – the first Korea-trained horse to win a race overseas. In 2016, he switched base from Seoul to Busan but would return to the capital to partner Triple Nine to glory in the G1 President’s Cup that November.
Seo’s return means there are now six Korean jockeys currently away on service, including top Seoul rider Jang Chuyoul, who enlisted at the end of January and won’t return until late 2020.
The others currently serving and their anticipated return dates are as follows:
Park Hyun Woo – June 2020
Song Jae Chul – August 2019
Lee Hyeon Jong – July 2019
Lee Yong Ho – April 2019
Chae Sang Hyun – July 2019
It’s always nice to see various alumni of Korean racing around the world doing well and this week began with the news that Kanichiro (Joe) Fujii, who rode full-time at Busan from 2012 to 2014 and has been a frequent return visitor since, has achieved his long-standing ambition of passing the JRA Jockey’s License exams and as a result, can now enter the elite tier of Japanese racing.
Joe Fujii won the Grand Prix Stakes on Gamdonguibada in 2012 (Pic: KRA)
Fujii had attempted the brutally difficult selection process five times previously, however, there was a big sign that it was going to be different on this occasion when it emerged last November that he had been the only candidate to have passed the fiendish written examination – the stage that ended for now the JRA hopes of Joao Moreira. Having successfully completed the rest of the tests, Fujii will be able to start riding full time in the JRA in March.
Fujii was born in Nara, Japan, but went to Australia at the age of 15 to try to become a jockey. He debuted in 2001 and spent the next five years riding mainly in New South Wales, finishing 2nd in the State’s Apprentice Jockey race in 2006. In 2007, he spent nine months riding in Singapore before embarking on a tour of Europe and the United States, during which he rode work at Chantilly and Belmont Park before returning to Australia.
He made the switch to Korea in 2012 and quickly became successful, winning that year’s Grand Prix Stakes on Gamdonguibada before completing a Derby/Oaks double on filly Speedy First in 2013. With almost 150 Korean winners to his name, he bowed out of Busan in late 2014 riding on the local NAR circuit in Japan as well as back in Australia again.
Fujii has, however, become something of a go-to jockey for Japanese trainers sending horses to Korea for the international races. He returned to Seoul in 2015 to partner Esmeraldina to victory in the Ttukseom Cup and then Chrysolite in the inaugural Korea Cup the following year. While those two were by far and away the best horses in their respective races, Fujii’s local knowledge came into play in 2018 when he produced an aggressive ride to win the Korea Sprint on Moanin. Now a fully-fledged JRA jockey, it would be no surprise were Japanese connections to opt for his services once more on international weekend in Seoul this September.
We’ve had a couple of weeks off but the late nights begin again on Thursday for Korean racing fans as Ace Korea and Buhwarui Banseok run at Meydan for the second time, with both looking to improve having made stuttering starts to their Dubai World Cup Carnival campaigns.
It’s a stiff ask once more for Buhwarui Banseok as he goes up against a slew of Godolphin runners at 2410M. He wasn’t a factor on his Meydan debut over 2000M on January 17th, however, that’s not to say he ran badly. He picked up momentum late on and ran on through the line pleasingly enough on what was his first ever race on turf. That experience, coupled with the additional distance – half a furlong further then the longest races in Korea – may help and sneaking in at the bottom of the handicap, he gets to carry a nice light weight. Richard Mullen will ride.
Mike De Kock’s Astronomer carries top weight. Previously trained by Aiden O’Brien, he was a winner of four consecutive races in Ireland last year before running 2nd in the Old Rowley Cup Handicap at Newmarket but had a hard time on his first try at Meydan a month ago. The seven Godolphin representatives are sure to be dangerous in what is a very tricky contest.
As for Ace Korea, the start will be important. The colt has generally been a very good starter but in his final race in Korea, the Listed Kookje News Cup, he stumbled coming out of the gate. It didn’t matter that day as he was far too good but over 1200M on the dirt in Dubai, giving rivals any kind of head-start is generally terminal, as it proved to be on his Carnival bow on opening night last month. He’s had a month to fix that and and if he gets away well this time, he should be more than competitive – although he will have to overcome the widest gate. Fabrice Veron will be aboard.
Turkish star Good Curry, a winner of 15 of 22 starts at home carries top weight ahead of Steve Asmussen’s Switzerland, who ran 6th on his Carnival debut last month. Victory Wave will likely be dangerous for Godolphin although likely favourite is Lavaspin, who has been very consistent across six starts so far and is unbeaten in two outings at Meydan, both of which were at this distance, albeit in non-Carnival races.
The races are numbers 6 and 7 on Thursday night’s Carnival program and are scheduled to begin at 2.25am and 3am respecitively on Friday morning Korea time. See www.emiratesracing.com for more information.