Djordje Perovic has reached three-hundred winners in South Korean racing. The milestone win came in race 2 at Busan last Saturday when the thirty-nine-year-old jockey partnered trainer Thomas Gillespie’s Sky More to a narrow photo-finish victory, becoming only the second foreigner to hit the triple-century.
“Sky More is still inexperienced and a little immature so he needed assistance throughout the race” said Perovic of the colt who was getting his maiden victory at start number four. “I expect Sky More to get better with more races.” Sky More is by Hansen and out of Korean Oaks winner Baekpa.
Perovic, known variously as “The Balkan Wolf” or “Serbian Frankie”, originally debuted in Korea in 2015 having previously ridden in Italy, where he is licensed, as well as his home country of Serbia and around Europe. He notched up Group winners in several countries as well as Jockey Premierships at the Italian tracks of San Rossore and Visarno, and even spent time on a short-term license on Japan’s elite JRA circuit, landing three winners from seventy-four rides in 2014.
During his first stint in the country, Perovic was based in Seoul where after enduring a testing start – it took thirty-five rides for him to break through and ride a winner – he quickly established himself among the top jockeys at the track. In 2017, he became the first foreign rider to win the Seoul Jockey Championship as he guided home 106 winners. They included Listed success on Clean Up Joy as well as his first Korean Group winner on Silver Wolf in the Ttukseom Cup.
After an extended time back in Europe, Perovic returned to Korea in late Spring of 2020, this time to be based at Busan but it was right in the middle of racing’s first COVID-induced shutdown. Racing did finally resume in June of that year but it was behind closed-doors and for Perovic, it was not the same as before. “My impression was like I am riding in trial races because races without audiences are not so exciting.”
Not that it seemed to affect his form as over the past year, Perovic has ridden sixty-three winners, second only in that time at Busan to You Hyun-myung with a win rate of 23.6% and finishing inside the top three on a remarkable 40.3% of his rides. Those wins included his first Korean Derby on Save The World in Seoul last August. “My favourite win is the Korean Derby, but all wins and horses are equally important and precious” he said. “Each win has its own grace. I would like to thank all the owners and trainers who believed in me and had trust in me and gave me their horses to ride.”
Japanese jockey Ikuyasu Kurakane holds the record for most wins by a foreign rider in Korea with 347 and while that figure is now within touching distance, Perovic has more fundamental ambitions. “The goal is to win many races in Korea and when I go back to my country to stay remembered by Korean people as a good person, sportsman and jockey.”