Foreigners in Korea

Ryan Curatolo Rides 1st Korean Winner

It hasn’t taken Ryan Curatolo too long to settle in at Seoul. The well-traveled jockey notched his first Korean winner on Sunday, guiding Stride Up to victory in race 2.

It was Curatolo’s second weekend in the saddle at Seoul and he spoke prior to racing:

Stride Up was Curatolo’s tenth ride in Korea and started at odds of 9/1. The only horse he has ridden so far to start at shorter was 5/1 Cheongdam Tiger a week earlier, who finished 2nd.

Johan Victoire Joins The 100-Club

Johan Victoire has become the latest foreign jockey to ride 100 winners in Korea.

Johan VictoireThe French rider reached the milestone when guiding 3/1 chance Fast Fashion to victory in race 4 on Korean Derby day at Seoul Racecourse last Sunday.

Victoire debuted in Seoul in July of 2017 scoring success with his very first mount and has maintained a steady stream of winners ever since.

The 100 came up just after he passed 920 rides in the country making for a win rate of almost 11%.

Victoire now lies in 8th place on the all-time foreign jockey list in Korea which is led by Ikuyasu Kurakane, way out in front in 347, followed by Djordje Perovic on 238.

Of the foreign jockeys currently riding in Korea, Franco Da Silva leads with 156 followed by Masa Tanaka on 133 and Antonio Da Silva on 129.

Victoire is one of three French jockeys licensed at Seoul right now with he and David Breux joined this month by Ryan Curatolo, who is beginning an intial four-month license.

 

 

1st Korean Winner For Jockey Francois Herholdt

Francois Herholdt has ridden his first Korean winner. It came aboard favourite Jeonsaui Jilju (Tiz Wonderful)  for trainer Bart Rice in the 1300M race 4 at Busan on Friday afternoon:

It was Herholdt’s 19th ride in Korea since beginning two weeks ago. He had scored three 2nd places prior to the win.

It didn’t take long for number 2 to arrive either as Herholdt guided Queen Of Captain (Ecton Park) to victory in race 7 to complete a double on the day:

Busan Friday: Francois Herholdt Debuts & Race-By-Race Preview (November 16)

Francois Herholdt will take his first mounts in Korean racing on Friday’s card at Busan. The South African jockey begins an initial four-month license with three rides across the eleven-race meeting on the South Coast which runs from 11:30 to 18:00.

Silver Wolf Power Blade Busan Ilbo 2018

It’s Friday! It’s Busan!

The globe-trotting rider has ridden in several countries amassing over 1000 winners in a career which began as an apprentice in Durban in 1989 and has taken in spells in Singapore, Dubai, Mauritius, France and Saudi Arabia as well as his native South Africa. Herholdt has ridden six Group winners in South Africa as well as notching up several more in neighboring Zimbabwe and was Champion Jockey in Mauritius in 2004. Earlier this year, the 44-year-old travelled to Ng’ong Racecourse in Nairobi to win the Kenya Derby on Freewheeler. Herholdt is well prepared for the challenges of making it in a new country and is finding his feet having arrived in Busan earlier this month.

“I was a bit lost the first two days but I’m a quick learner” said Herholdt “I’m really looking forward to riding on Friday”. He gets underway in race 1 where he partners the previously unraced two-year-old My Hero for trainer Cho Young Bae but it is another first-timer starter, Fusion Park in race 2 for fellow South African Bart Rice, that perhaps offers Herholdt his best chance of hitting the board on his first day.

Even if it takes a bit longer, he is prepared. “I’ve been watching a lot of the racing here and am very excited to start. My goals are to do well and I’m very confident that I will”. Herholdt will be joining Franco Da Silva as one of only two overseas jockeys currently full-time at Busan and who in his two years so far at the track has a Korean Derby victory among his almost 120 winners.

Da Silva may well be the man to follow on Friday too as he has ten rides across the day, including Jumbo Blade in the feature race 5. The Mineshaft colt steps up to class 2 for the first time having run out a four-length winner on his latest start to move to three wins from seven total outings and looks to have plenty more in the tank to enable him to win the 1800M handicap:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

Maidens to begin with and five of the twelve are making their racecourse debuts. We’ll start with the experienced ones though and (5) GOLD TICKET improved to 2nd place on what was his third career start a month ago, beaten less than a length at this distance but a good winner. He’s well drawn here to lead and can go all the way. (11) YEONGSEONG STAR has raced twice so far, finishing in 3rd place on both occasions. She’s led until close to home both times and so long as she doesn’t have to use up too much effort getting to the front from gate 11, she can go close again. (4) SEUNGNI DAEJANG raced three times in the Spring recording two 3rd places of his own. He subsequently had some respiratory problems that resulted in surgery and he makes his return here having trialed adequately but unspectacularly at the end of last month. He could go well. Of the first-timers, both (2) SPARKLE and (8) HALLA HWANGHU caught the eye in trials and should go well first-up in what is quite limited company.

Selections (5) Gold Ticket (2) Sparkle (11) Yeongseong Star (8) Halla Hwanghu
Next Best 4, 7
Fast Start 2, 5, 8, 11

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Juvenile maidens with just two of the twelve having raced before. This two debuted together on October 19th and while (11) I AM CHAMPION did nothing, beating just one home, (3) DOCTOR THUNDER ran rather well, coming back in 3rd place, running on nicely after a slow start. That may be enough to make her favourite here. Peter Wolsey and Jo Sung Gon combined for plenty of winners last week and they could get off to a god start this week too with (2) NAKITA. She’s the pick of the first-timers having looked competent trialing with experienced racehorses last Saturday. (5) YEONGSEONG HOPE and (8) MAN OF THE MATCH both won their trials, the latter in more impressive fashion, and both will also be well backed here. Bart Rice’s (10) FUSION PARK also looked like he knows what he’s doing and could go well first-up under South African jockey Francois Herholdt, who is making his Busan debut today.

Selections (2) Nakita (3) Doctor Thunder (8) Man Of The Match (10) Fusion Park
Next Best 5, 6
Fast Start 1, 2, 7, 8

Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

More juvenile maidens and this time five of the twelve have raced before. And all five of them acquitted themselves very reasonably indeed. Bart Rice’s (4) GOOD DANCER ran a good 2nd on debut a month ago, showing prominently and briefly leading close to home before being headed. A week later it was a similar story for (6) GABO DAY, who led almost the whole way around on his first appearance before ultimately having to settle for 3rd. Both were promising and the additional trip should suit. Good Dancer is marginally favoured between them (8) REVERSE SWEEP debuted at this distance and while he was a well-beaten 2nd, he did nothing wrong and can build on it here. (9) SEONGSAN POWER too raced well for 3rd on his racecourse bow on October 12th, also at 1300M and should be in the frame again. The one they’ll all need to beat though is first-timer starter (7) TRUE VALOR. Half-brother to some very useful racehorses, he’s looked strong and fast in two trials so far and could well come out on top first-up.

Selections (4) Good Dancer (7) True Valor (6) Gabo Day (8) Reverse Sweep
Next Best 9, 12
Fast Start 4, 6, 7

Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

(7) MAKGANG YEOGEOL was just beaten a nose on what was her fourth career start three weeks ago. She steps up in trip for the first time here, should be on pace early and could go one better today. (3) CHEONNYEONUIJILJU also has a 2nd place to his name and he too tries further than the minimum for the first time today. (5) GIPPEUM DAY has raced at this distance before and while it didn’t go well, it was a full ten months ago. She returned form a long lay-off with a decent 2nd place over 1000M in October, beating a couple of these along the way and should go close here. (1) BAENGNICHONG and (2) TIZ LINE, the latter making just his second start having debuted in a tough race in (more…)

1st Day Winner for Fergus Sweeney At Busan

It was a good start to life in Korea for jockey Fergus Sweeney at Busan on Friday. He rode Rock Hard Seven (Rock Hard Ten) to victory for trainer Bart Rice in Busan race 10:

Sweeney had earlier ridden Thomas Gillespie’s Great Rock (Ecton Park) to 2nd place in race 9 and made all to win by nine-lengths on Rock Hard Seven, who was notching his 4th win in 6 career starts.

Manoel Nunes & Fergus Sweeney Set For Weekend Debuts at Seoul & Busan

There are two new foreign jockeys making their full-time Korean debuts this weekend. Three-time Singapore Champion Manoel Nunes will be in action at Seoul while British racing stalwart Fergus Sweeney will be legged up for the first time at Busan. Both riders are on initial four-month licenses.

RH7_8862

Manoel Nunes looks on at Seoul Racecourse last weekend

Manoel Nunes is no stranger to Seoul, having ridden in International Jockey Challenges and also having partnered Singapore-based horses in the Asia Challenge Cup and Korea Cup in the capital but this is his first time riding full time in Korea.

A native of Brazil, Nunes topped the Jockey Premiership in Singapore in three consecutive years between 2014 and 2016 and was runner-up in 2017, picking up numerous big race wins along the way.

42-year-old Nunes is also a six-time champion in Macau  where he is the most successful rider in the Macau Jockey Club’s history.  Nunes will be based at Seoul where his first ride is in race 3 on Saturday when he partners Lucky Race for trainer Yu Jae Gil.

Belfast-born Fergus Sweeney has had a long and distinguished career in the United Kingdom where he is closing in on 1000 career wins. His biggest success to date was on Twilight Son in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock Park in 2016.

The 40-year-old Sweeney has some live chances at Busan on Friday including Great Rock for Thomes Gillespie. He’s the third British licensed jockey to ride at Busan after Darryll Holland and JP Guillambert. And Sweeney doesn’t just ride horses – the Noraebangs of Haeundae have been warned:

Simon Foster Trains First Korean Winner

Simon Foster is off the mark in Korean racing. The Australian trainer saddled his first winner at Seoul on Sunday afternoon as Yaho Aurora won the 1700M race 6.

Yaho Aurora (Rock Hard Ten) was a twelve race maiden going into the race and started at odds in excess of 20/1. However, under jockey Cho Han Byeol, he sat nice and handy throughout and outstayed the rest in the home straight to win comfortably.  For jockey Cho, it was a first win since returning from national service at the start of the year.

Trainer Foster opened his barn towards the end of last year and has been steadily putting together his string. He now has ten horses under his care and Yaho Aurora was just his thirteenth runner. He got his first placed finish last week when Pegasus Farm’s Jungle Beat ran 2nd on his debut.

It would be a surprise if Yaho Aurora went on to do very much but now the breakthrough has been made, hopefully Simon Foster can will be sending out many more winners.

Silver Wolf Strolls To Donga Ilbo Cup Win

Silver Wolf was the dominant filly or mare of 2017, sweeping all three legs of the Queens’ Tour and she got her six-year-old win underway in the best possible fashion with a dominant win in the Donga Ilbo Cup. In doing so, it gave Djordje Perovic a Listed winner on the Serbian jockey’s last day at Seoul before leaving on an extended sabbatical to recover from a back injury. 

It was always going to be a mismatch.  Just eight fillies and mares opted to take her on over the 1800M, a mix of slightly faded talents and not quite up there prospects. Perovic brought Silver Wolf to the lead at the top of the stretch and the pair eased away from the field for an easy nine-length victory.  43/1 outsider Lead Money came home 2nd with 38/1 Chang Se in 3rd.

Australian-bred SIlver Wolf (Orotorio) has now won 10 of her 21 career starts, three of them Graded Stakes races (the Queens’ Tour last year) and now two Listed (adding to the Munhwa Ilbo Cup last autumn). It was only as a five-year-old last year that she really showed her ability and while she is now too old to run in the Queens’ Tour races, she will surely be a danger in other big races, especially at sprint distances.

As for the other “wolf”, Djordje Perovic; known as “The Balkan Wolf” has been suffering from a back injury for some time and the constant grind that goes with being a top freelance jockey in Korea makes recovery very difficult. While it’s true there are only two race days each week, a freelancer is expected to ride an awful lot of track-work six days a week if he wishes to ride in the races – din’t ride the work and you don’t ride the race. It’s the same for the top local jockeys with Moon Se Young speaking last year about how it is increasingly hard to do.

PeroMoon

Moon Se Young (left) & Djordje Perovic embrace after the last at Seoul on Sunday 

Perovic would go on to ride the final two winners on the card too, finishing off with Choegang Schiller (Artie Schiller) beating Another Smart One (Smarty Jones) in the class 1 finale. Moon Se Young was on the runner-up and the pair shook hands after the line. Their rivalry over the past three years has brought another aspect to racing at Seoul and with any luck, it will be renewed when Perovic returns which, if all goes well, could be around Korea Cup time.

Luigi Riccardi Trains First Korean Winner

It hasn’t taken Luigi Riccardi very long to get among the winners in Korean racing. On Sunday afternoon, Rocket Queen won the 1700M race 7 giving the Italian trainer his first Seoul success with just his second runner.

Luigi

Luigi Riccardi on the Korea Racing Broadcast Channel following his first win

Rocket Queen actually has a history with foreign trainers having previously being with Brian Dean and giving the Australian trainer his final Korean winner last June. She’s one of 17-horses in Riccardi’s fledgling Seoul barn and on Sunday was sent off as 2nd favourite for the Class 3 handicap. And under jockey Jeong Jeong Hee, Rocket Queen made all for very comfortable four-length score.

Riccardi came close to adding another later one race later with his only other runner of the weekend, Choego Money having to settle for 2nd in race 8.

The 49-year-old Riccardi arrived in Seoul last autumn having previously trained extensively in Europe and held assistant trainer positions in the United States. He and Australian Simon Foster became the 2nd and 3rd foreign trainers to be based at Seoul following Brian Dean who spent a year here between 2016 and 2017.  Foster too has sent out a total of three runners so far and is in the process of building up his stable.

Djordje Perovic Becomes Seoul’s First Foreign Champion Jockey

For the first time since 2009, Seoul Racecourse has a new Champion Jockey and for the first time ever, the champion is from overseas as Djordje Perovic wrapped up the 2017 title at the weekend bringing to an end Moon Se Young’s seven straight Championships.

Perovic

2017 Seoul Champion Jockey Djordje Perovic (Pic: KRA)

Earlier in the week, Perovic donned suit and bow-tie to pick up “Jockey Of The Year” and “Most Popular Jockey” titles at the annual “LetsRun Park Seoul Awards” but on the track, he could conceivably – if improbably – have been caught with closest rival Kim Yong Geun six behind heading into Seoul’s final two racing days of the year. Ultimately Kim would only add one more win while Perovic would find himself in the winner’s circle on four occasions across Saturday and Sunday to end the season on 106. Moon was 3rd on 84.

36-year-old Perovic, who sports nicknames of “The Balkan Wolf” and “Serbian Frankie” is licensed in Italy and even took time out this summer – as he has done in previous years too – to fulfill licensing requirements back in Europe. Debuting in 1997, he has won Group races in Italy, Croatia, Slovakia and Austria as well as his native Serbia where he has been “Jockey of The Year” on seven occasions as well as being named “Best Sportsman in the city of Kragujevac”.

He arrived in Seoul in 2015 and quickly got among the winners ending that year with 47 victories from 319 rides. More of the same followed in 2016 with 72 wins. In 2017 everything came together. With Moon Se Young opting to spend three months in Singapore and Jo Sung Gon and Jo In Kwen moving to Busan, Perovic quickly became the go-to-man for trainers at Seoul. He passed the 150 Korean winners mark in March and in October became just the second foreign jockey, after Ikuyasu Kurakane, to reach 200.

Perovic’s partnership with Song Moon Gil, who has emerged in the past two seasons as the real heavyweight in the Seoul trainer ranks, yielded the jockey big race success too. He partnered Clean Up Joy to wins in the Listed Herald Gyeongje and YTN Trophies in April and May before guiding Silver Wolf to the Ttukseom Cup in June, thereby securing his first Korean Group winner. In the autumn, he and Silver Wolf added the Listed Munhwa Ilbo Cup to their resumes.

Silver Wolf Ttukseom

Perovic landed his first Korean Group winner on Silver Wolf in the Ttukseom Cup (Pic: KRA)

Seoul Jockey Championship 2017 (Total Wins & Win %age)

1. Djordje Perovic – 106 (21.3%)
2. Kim Yong Geun – 97 (14.7%)
3. Moon Se Young – 84 (18.5%)
4. Lim Gi Won – 63 (15.6%)
5. Song Jae Chul – 46 (11.4%)
6. Lee Hyuk – 46 (10.1%)
7. Park Eul Woon – 43 (16.3%)
8. Kim Hye Sun – 41 (11.95)
9. Choi Bum Hyun – 37 (13.65)
10. Kim Dong Soo – 34 (9.4%)

13. Antonio Da Silva – 26 (7.8%)
21. Shinji Hatanaka – 19 (4.4%)
24. Johan Victoire – 18 (7.6%)
(Da Silva & Victoire only began riding in Korea in May and July respectively)

As this blog has noted for many years now, it is extremely difficult for foreign jockeys to become established in Korea. It isn’t enough to be a good jockey – although Perovic most certainly is one of those – but being able to shrug off the perceived indignities of the early months and the gulf in racing culture between Korea and some other countries, is no easy task, especially for the non-Japanese visitors. Life in general is not easy here – as one jockey who acquitted himself very well but opted not to stay beyond his initial four-month contract put it, it’s all very well only racing twice a week but after morning work is done at 8:30am, what do you do for the rest of the day, especially in winter?

We’ve also noted for many years that the jockey who finally did make the breakthrough would reap lucrative rewards. Djordje Perovic’s hard work and relentless focus has made him that jockey. As of the end of 2017, along with Shinji Hatanaka of Japan, he’s joined at Seoul by Antonio Da Silva and the French pair of Johan Victoire and David Breux. The former two have established themselves well and the latter made an extremely promising start this past weekend.

The Perovic model isn’t going to be an easy one to follow and it may be that this year proves to be the exception rather than the rule but he’s demonstrated it can be done and thoroughly deserves the success that he’s earned.

Djordje Perovic is Seoul Racecourse Champion Jockey of 2017.