Foreigners in Korea

150-Up Perovic As Shamrocker & Champ Line Win Well At Seoul & Busan

Djordje Perovic rode his 150th Korean winner at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon and not many of them will have been easier than the landmark one which arrived on Shamrocker in the 2300M Championship Series feature.

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Djordje Perovic returns to scale on Shamrocker

Possibly the biggest challenge for Perovic on Sunday would have been the 52kg weight assigned to the on the up Shamrocker but once that was made there was only likely to be one winner in the race which was run over the maximum distance used at Seoul. After a steady start, Shamrocker hit the front early in the home straight and cantered away from the field to win by six lengths on the line.

It had taken Shamrocker (Dublin), a $30,000 purchase as a 2-year-old at OBS in Florida, eight starts to get his maiden victory but yesterday’s was his fifth in total and second consecutive at class 1. He could have a big summer ahead of him.

Djordje Perovic could well have a big summer ahead of him too. Shamrocker was his 31st victory of 2017 and leaves him five clear of perennial champion Moon Se Young at the top of the standings. With Moon set to spend at least three months of this year in Singapore, Perovic is in pole position to become the first foreign jockey to claim the Seoul championship.

150 wins also ties Perovic with Joe Fujii – who spent Saturday watching Winx disappear into the distance at Rosehill – in 2nd place in the all-time foreign jockey standings in Korea.

Down at Busan a foreign jockey was on top too with Yonekura Satoshi winning Sunday’s feature – also a Championship Series race – over 2200M. It came on Thomas Gillespie’s Champ Line over what was a high class Busan field.

Success Story, as ever, set the early pace but was always likely to struggle to maintain it over the extended distance and so it proved as a host of horses swept by him in the closing stages.

It was Champ Line who did it the most convincingly, running on very strongly for victory by almost three lengths. Places 2nd-6th came home within a half-length of each other, surprisingly headed by 100/1 outsider Bathsheba Park, who was given an enterprising ride by Marios Mina.

Champ Line (Curlin) moves on to 10 wins from 19 starts and is on a four-race winning streak and heads an impressively effective string that has been put together by talented trainer Gillespie.

Choegangja Four For Four For Brian Dean

Brian Dean looks to have a lively one on his hands. Choegangja stepped up to class 1 at Seoul for the first time on Saturday afternoon and and absolutely blitzed by no means hopeless set of rivals over 1200M. Swedish jockey Shane Karlsson was in the saddle.

Choegangja (Silver Train) is a four-year-old gelding who had shown promise but not a whole lot else, winning one out of six starts before he was transferred to Brian Dean last autumn. Since then he’s been unstoppable, winning four out of four and transitioning from class 3 to class 1 in the process. Yesterday, he got the jump on the field and never looked back, leading home Canada-bred filly Gaenari by four lengths in a quick time. If he continues his progress, he’ll be a Korea-sprint contender come September.

Aussie trainer Dean continues to get results under the no doubt challenging circumstances of being the first foreign trainer at Seoul. Only 3 of the 51 trainers at Seoul have sent out fewer horses than Dean in 2017 so far and yet he finds himself up in 9th place in the the Trainer Premiership with a vastly superior Win, Place and Show strike-rate than any other handler at the track. Owners may start to take note.

As for Karlsson, he too is showing useful figures. Choegangja was his 4th Korean winner (he won on him last start too) – all of them for Dean. Other trainers may wish to take note of that too.

Mina & Mezzatesta Notch First Busan Winners

It was a good start to the weekend for both Marios Mina and Andrea Mezzatesta as the visiting jockeys both partnered their first Korean winners at Busan on Friday afternoon.

Cypriot rider Mina went first, guiding 13/1 shot Jilju Daejang to victory by a nose in race 3. His Italian counterpart, Mezzatesta would strike one race later as 6/1 chance Coming Again obliged in race 4.

Mina and Mezzatesta are among five overseas jockeys currently licensed in Busan. The ther others are Britain’s Darryll Holland, Japan’s Yonekura Satoshi and Italian Mirko Sanna.

Mirko Sanna Rides 1st Korean Winner

Mirko Sanna began his Korean stint at Busan on Friday and it didn’t take the Italian licensed jockey long to get off the mark as he guided 20/1 chance B.K. Park to victory at Busan on Sunday afternoon.

The 32-year-old Sanna, who had previously ridden in Europe, Malaysia and Canada, made the breakthrough on what was 12th Korean ride. He took B.K Park right back at the start of the 1300M Busan race 4 and closed well to beat odds on favourite Great King by just over a length on the line.

Seven-Timer Satoshi Shines & Holland Returns With A Double

The 2016 season wrapped-up at Busan on Saturday and it was a great end to the year for much of the foreign contingent at the south coast track. The returning Darryll Holland landed a double for Peter Wolsley and Bart Rice while Thomas Gillespie trained a double and Francisco Da Silva rode a winner. Star of the show though was Japanese rider Yonekura Satoshi who ended up in the winner’s circle on no fewer than 7 occasions on the 15 race card.

Holland, who resumed regular riding at Busan on Friday following a two and a half year absence, got off the mark on Sunday in race 4, guiding Peter Wolsley’s Secret Marine (Sea Of Secrets), a 5/1 chance, to a seven length win. Holland would go on to win the day’s feature race, a valuable test for three-year-olds, on Bart Rice’s Buhwarui Banseok (Tizway), who beat Korean Oaks winner Ottug Ottugi by two-lengths. The victory – and a later one for Wonil Gangja (Cowboy Cal) in race 15, the final race of the year – capped a superb year for the Rice stable which has seen him finish in 5th place in the Trainer Premiership. Only Kim Young Kwan and Peter Wolsley had a better strike-rate and a top-three finish is surely on the agenda in 2017 for the South African handler.

Da Silva’s win was on the promising Shunsuke Yoshida owned colt Wonder Wall (Chapel Royal) in race 8 while the Gillespie-trained winner of race 7, Party Again (Singing Saint), was one of four victories on the day that took jockey Seo Seung Un to joint-1st in the Jockey Premiership on 104 wins for the year, level with You Hyun Myung. The weighing room is about to become a lot more competitive with Seoul jockeys Ham Wan Sik, Jo In Kwen and former Busan champion jockey, Jo Sung Gon, all set to ride full time at the track from January with only Kim Yong Geun headed in the opposite direction to the capital.

No-one finished the year in better form though than Yonekura Satoshi, who put on a sparkling display on Saturday. The highlight of his seven wins in the valuable 2-year-old race when he guided US import Drop The Beat (Mad Flatter) to a comfortable win over five rivals. He also teamed up with Thomas Gillespie to get 7/1 chance Great Song (Songangaprayer) home in race 14.

His closing day heroics meant Satoshi ended the year on 39 winners for 5th place in the standings. With a top line-up of overseas jockeys and now, possibly for the first time at Busan, some real depth in the domestic jockey ranks too, the first few months of 2017 are set to be an exciting time.

Havlik Off The Mark On Christmas Day

It hasn’t taken Jan Havlik long to get off the mark in Korea. The Slovakian jockey debuted at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday and within 24 hours he had ridden his first winner, striking on board 10/1 chance Yeongung Geonmu (Exploit) in race 4 on Christmas Day.

That success enabled the 42-year-old Havlik to pick up a number of spare rides later in the day and he came very close to scoring again on another long shot, 22/1 Strong Road in the day’s final race, only to be denied by Mighty Gem, 3rd in last month’s Busan Governor’s Cup, right at the end. Saturday had been up and down for the newcomer as while he gt some good runs out of horses with low expectations, he had to miss his final mount of the day after suffering a injured toe. He was fit again in time for Sunday though.

Havlik and Djordje Perovic had previously been rivals for several years in Europe and with the early breakthrough will do no harm at all for the “Slovak Moore” as he seeks to emulate the “Serbian Frankie” at Seoul.

*In the weekend’s valuable 2-year-old races, Meni Bracing (Menifee) took Saturday’s contest for Korean-bred juveniles while US bred Dolkung (Afleet Alex) took the one for the imports on Sunday.

Miller’s Time: Kiwi Trainer Breaks Through At Busan

Dynamic Star was a winner on debut at Busan on Friday and the 2-year-old Hansen colt landed not only his own maiden win but also a Korean maiden win for New Zealand trainer David Miller.

Miller, who previously trained in Malaysia, has been steadily establishing his stable since arriving in Korea in early autumn and has now assembled a string of 21 horses.

Dynamic Star, a 5/1 shot having put in a reasonably impressive performance in a trial last month, was Miller’s 14th runner and under jockey Chae Sang Hyun, he pulled clear in the closing stages to win by a comfortable three-lengths on the line. Hopefully it will be the first of many.

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David Miller

Miller brings the total number of overseas trainers at Busan to four. Finishing 2nd to Dynamic Star on Friday was Agnes, trained by Thomas Gillespie.

The Irish trainer is almost 18 months into his time at Busan and is quietly moving into the upper echelons of the Busan ranks. He currently lies 10th in the 2016 standings and is sure to rise. Gillespie was 2nd only to Kim Young Kwan in prize-money won in November courtesy of Ms. Margaux giving him his first group winner in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup.

Already firmly established in the top tier of trainers at Busan is Bart Rice. Although the South African’s stable has had a quiet couple of months, he remains in 5th place in the Championship and maintains a very impressive strike-rate. Also in the top tier of course, is Peter Wolsley. The Australian saddled his 400th Korean winner last week and will finish in 2nd place in the Championship.

Three overseas trainers in the top ten can only be good for the overall standard at Busan. Can David Miller make it four in 2017?