Jockey Profiles

Djordje Perovic Reaches 100 Korean Winners

Djordje Perovic on Sunday became the just the fifth foreign rider – and the first who’s not from Japan – to ride 100 winners in Korea.

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Ton-Up: Djordje Perovic (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The Serbian jockey completed the feat on 14/1 chance Dream Sun in race 4 at Seoul on Sunday lunchtime and promptly followed up with another to take him to 101. That figure draws him level with Masa Tanaka as joint-fourth on the all-time foreign rider list.

Perovic’s achievement is arguably the greater as all of the other jockeys in the top ten, with the exception of Ikuyasu Kurakane, rode the vast majority of their winners at Busan which is well known to be more welcoming and accepting of overseas riders than Seoul.

Perovic has had to do it the hard way but he is now firmly established in the elite group of riders at Seoul. Despite missing three months of this year due to the need to fulfil license requirements elsewhere, he lies in 2nd place in the 2016 Jockey Championship behind champion Moon Se Young, four places ahead of 3rd ranked Jo Sung Gon.

Punters and others have often noted about Perovic that from the moment he gets on a horse in the parade ring until he dismounts after the race he is constantly stroking and soothing his horse. Very few jockeys do this in Korea. His style may look ungainly at times but it is extremely effective.

Next month Perovic has another opportunity when he is scheduled to partner a Korea-trained horse in the annual Goodwill Cup at Ohi in Tokyo. Well mannered, hard working and talented, Djordje Perovic has demonstrated that it is possible for a foreign rider to succeed at Seoul. May there be many more winners for the “Serbian Frankie”.

Marcello Belli To Debut At Seoul As Perovic Returns

A new foreign jockey debuts at Seoul this Saturday afternoon. 44-year-old Italian Marcello Belli, a one-time champion jockey in Italy will take his first Korean mount in race 9. Also on Saturday at Seoul, Djordje Perovic makes his long-awaited return.

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Marcello Belli (Pic: supplied by jockey)

Marcello Belli debuted in 1988 and has ridden approximately 1650 winners in Italy including success in Italian Group and listed races. Over the past three years he has maintained a win rate of 9.3% and a place rate of 21.6%. He is riding at Seoul on an initial three-month license until the end of November.

Although Belli has just the three mounts across the weekend, he has at least one live chance in the shape of Geumbit Ullim in Sunday’s race 4.

Fellow Italian-licensed jockey, Serbia’s Djordje Perovic, has been absent the past couple of months having had to fulfill license requirements elsewhere. Hhowever, the “Balkan Wolf” remains in 3rd place in the Seoul Jockey Championship and will be looking to pick up from where he left off with 14 rides across the weekend.

Belli and Perovic join Imran Chisty as the foreign contingent at Seoul.

Belli’s countrymen Pasquale Borelli and Paolo Aragoni are riding at Busan. Borelli rode a winner on Friday as did the third overseas member of the Busan jockey colony, Japan’s Yonekura Saoshi. Satoshi partnered Ms. Margaux to victory in the class 1 feature race for trainer Thomas Gillespie. Bart Rice also trained a winner on the day. Another foreign jockey has also been licensed at Busan as from September.

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Yonekura Satoshi and Thomas Gillespie’s Ms. Margaux win at Busan (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Saturday sees racing at Seoul and Jeju starting from 2pm and running until 9pm. Daytime cards at Seoul and Busan on Sunday.

Click here for English Racecards.

Shin Woo Chul Retires From Training / Several Jockeys Retire Or Relocate / New Apprentices Set To Begin At Seoul & Busan

A couple of weeks after Tough Win had his retirement ceremony it was the turn of his trainer for his biggest wins, Shin Woo Chul, to have a retirement ceremony of his own at Seoul Racecourse last week. The 63-year-old trainer has reached the mandatory retirement age for trainers and will not apply to renew his license. 

Shin Woo Chul

Shin Woo Chul (Pic: Sports Chosun)

Shin has trained more winners than any other trainer in Korea – although that record will almost certainly be passed shortly by Kim Young Kwan at Busan – seeing his horses return victorious on 1149 occasions from a total of 8713 starters dating back to 1983.

Tough Win was his best horse although he also trained two-time SBS Cup winner High Point and 2003 Grand Prix Stakes winner Habidongju. Shin’s stable had been winding down recently with only 6 winners from 140 starters in his final 12 months.

Current leader of the Seoul Trainer’s Championship is Seo In Seok with 24 winners although only 8 winners separates him from 10th placed Bae Dae Sun in the ever noncompetitive capital. By contrast at cut-throat Busan, Kim Young Kwan leads with 66 with Peter Wolsley in 2nd on 36.

The end of June is the time when many licenses expire or come up from renewal and there are plenty of comings and goings this year.

Seoul jockeys Seo Do Soo, Kim Seok Bong, Kim Young Jin, Kho Sung Yi and Shin Dae Jun all surrendered their licenses at the end of June after careers of varying length and indifference. Some are likely to apply for training licenses. From Busan, Seo In Sub and Park Sung Kwang have also retired from the saddle.

For reasons recently reported,  a higher than usual number of riding vacancies have recently arisen in the pony racing on Jeju Island and along with a slew of new apprentices, Busan’s Jo Hee Won and Seoul’s Yoo Mi Ra have relocated to the island to become pony jockeys. For both it looks to be a good opportunity to revive careers that had been drifting somewhat.

Five riders have successfully graduated from the academy and have become apprentice thoroughbred jockeys. Two  will begin riding at Seoul shortly. They are 21-year-old Lee Dong Ha, who will be apprenticed to trainer Ha Jae Heung and 27-year-old Lee Cheol Kyung, who will be with Seo In Seok.

At Busan there are three new apprentices. 20-year-old Lee Hyo Sik will be with Kim Nam Joong. Jung Do Yoon, also 20, is apprenticed to An Woo Sung while the first Korean female jockey to be ride full-time at Busan since 2010 is 19-year-old Choi Eun Kyung. She gets a great opportunity to learn, having been placed with South African trainer Bart Rice.

Park Tae Jong: 2000 Not Out

It had been coming for a long time but when it finally did, at 11:43am last Saturday, something happened at Seoul Racecourse that rarely – if ever – occurs. There was applause. After winning race 3, Park Tae Jong turned his mount around and then trotted back past the winning line to the spontaneous acclaim of the grandstand.  

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Punters help Park Tae Jong celebrate 2000 career winners at Seoul Racecourse last Saturday

We’ll get the cynicism out of the way early. Park had just guided Gangho Cheonnyeon, a 1.3 favourite to victory meaning just about every punter present had won their quinella bet; had this happened in race 1 when he was riding a 40/1 chance, the assembled punters may not have been so generous with their praise. It was though, a very warm moment.

In that race; race 3 on Saturday morning, Park Tae Jong became the first Korean jockey to ride 2000 career winners. In worldwide terms that’s a figure that is creditable and noteworthy but not unusual. For a Korean jockey of Park’s generation, it is an achievement that is nothing short of astonishing.

While Korean racing in 2016 still has a long way to go to be internationally competitive, it is worlds away from what it was when Park gained his license aged 22 in April of 1987. Most jockeys in those days would expect to ride for about five years, maybe getting 50-100 winners along the way if they were lucky. In a less than optimal system, many would then become Trainers. Many of them still are.

Additionally, in those days, there was a strict cap on the number of races a jockey could ride in each week. This  was only lifted when some jockeys were permitted to become freelance instead of being retained by a trainer around ten years ago. Even so, there are still only a total of 22-23 races a week that a jockey can ride in and few jockeys ride the full amount.

Park has also managed to make it through 29 years without any integrity run-ins. Famous for going to bed at 9pm every night and eschewing the soju-sloshing ways of some of his former contemporaries, he is one of only four from that era still riding today. However, none of Shin Hyoung Chul, Kim Ok Sung and the still hanging in there, Kim Gui Bae, have come anywhere close to what Park has achieved. Of those SHin has ridden the most winners with 677.

The 2000th winner:

Park Tae Jong’s first Stakes win was on Beoun in the now defunct Mugunghwa Cup in 1992 having already passed 100 career winner the year before. His first Graded race winner, Kev, came in the Ttukseom Cup, also in 1992. Park’s first and so far only Grand Prix Stakes win was in 1995, when he guided Daekyeon to a gate-to-wire eight-length win.

During the 1990s Park would establish himself as the nation’s top jockey, passing 500 winners in 1998 and then in 2000, passing Kim Myung Kuk’s record of 722 winners. Since then he has led the all-time winner’s list without interruption. He’s won three Korean Derby’s, a couple of Owner’s and Minister’s Cups and also the KRA Cup Mile at Busan in 2010.

Park became the first jockey to pass the 1000 winner mark in 2004 – and celebrated by being driven down the home straight in a Porsche – something he would repeat on Saturday only twelve years ago the Porsche was red, this time it was yellow. In common with all Seoul jockeys, Busan’s emergence as the base for the best horses in Korea has limited Park’s opportunities to win the very biggest races as, such as the arrangements the jockeys’ unions have made between themselves, only Busan jockeys may ride Busan horses.

Regardless, on a day to day basis, he remains one of the best in Korea. Park continues to ride winners and currently lies in 4th place in the 2016 Seoul Championship behind only Moon Se Young, Djordje Perovic and Jo Sung Gon.

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Park Tae Jong (Pic: Ross Holburt)

When you tell people in Korea that you are interested in horse racing, reactions are mixed. Many will think you are a degenerate gambler beyond redemption. Perhaps they are right. But most when pushed will also have heard of Park Tae Jong. They probably won’t have heard of Moon Se Young. Not yet, anyway.

His achievements may only be domestic in a country that craves international recognition and where a substantial proportion of the population looks down on its own sports leagues and events, but Park Tae Jong still deserves acknowledgement as one of Korea’s finest sportsmen of the past three decades. For a moment last Saturday, that was celebrated.

Park Tae Jong – as of May 2016:

Rides: 13365
1st: 2001
2nd: 1830
3rd: 1531
4th: 1442
5th: 1264

Win Strike Rate: 15.0%
Quinella Strike Rate: 28.7%
Show Strike Rate: 40.1%

Four Foreign Jockeys Newly Licensed In Korea

Four foreign jockeys have recently been licensed in Korea. Japan’s Yonekura Satoshi began riding at Busan on Friday and is about to be joined on the south-coast by Italian Paolo Aragoni. Meanwhile at Seoul, India’s Imran Chisty and Australian Patrick Keane have arrived in the capital and are set to start as soon as possible.

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Paolo Aragoni is set to join Busan (Pic: Supplied by jockey)

35-year-old Paolo Aragoni debuted in Italy in 1997 and has ridden seven Group 3 and numerous Listed race winners in his home country among more than 700 career winners overall. His riding weight is 53kg.

Yonekura Satoshi has been riding in Japan’s NAR since 1994, most recently based at Kanazawa Racecourse. The 40-year-old jockey has partnered over 1300 winners throughout his career and has a riding weight of 51kg.

Imran Chisty turned professional in 1997. The 39-year-old Indian rider has mainly been at the Bangalore Turf Club where over the past three years he has 216 winners while achieving a Moon Se Young-esque quinella strike-rate of 33%.He can ride at 50kg.

The youngest of the newcomers is up and coming Australian jockey Patrick Keane. Based in Victoria, 23-year-old Kean has a quinella strike rate of 15.3% over the last three years on the ultra-competitive circuit there.

Aragoni and Satoshi join Makoto Okabe, Ikuyasu Kurakane and Pasquale Borelli at Busan taking the foreign jockey contingent on the south-coast up to five following Nozi Tomizawa’s departure last month.  Chisty and Kean’s addition at Seoul mean there are now four foreign jockeys in the capital, Djordje Perovic and Dean Holland being the others.

Dean Holland Off The Mark At Seoul

Aussie jockey Dean Holland rode his first Korean winner at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon. It arrived on his tenth mount in the country and his first well fancied one. 

The first week can often be somewhat of an ordeal for foreign jockeys in Korea and while Holland got a decent number of rides last weekend, none of the six he was legged up onto had anything remotely resembling a chance. Observers noted, however, that he put each of them into the spot they needed to be before their limitations prevented them from going any further.

Today, Holland rode six more horses. Four of them had no chance, one of them an outside chance of some minor prize money and one of them a good chance. The good chance was Seungjahwanhui (Exploit), sent off as second-favourite in race 9. Having drawn the inside gate, the 27-year-old rider took Seungjahwanhui straight to the front and never looked like being headed as they made all to win by over two lengths on the line.

Hopefully that will be the first of many. Holland has six more rides on the Sunday card at Seoul.

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Jo Sung Gon & Seo Seung Un To Trade Tracks In 2016

Two of Korea’s top jockeys will relocate from January 1st. Seo Seung Un is going to Busan while the south coast’s champion jockey Jo Sung Gon will be based at Seoul.

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Jo Sung Gon, seen here on a previous winning visit to the capital, will be full-time in Seoul in 2016

Jo Sung Gon to Seoul is something that has been talked about every year for at least the past six and now the jockey who is about to be crowned Busan’s Champion for the fifth time, will finally go head to head with the country’s top rider in terms of numbers, Moon Se Young, in the capital.

With 658 winners from from 4181 rides at Busan so far (with one weekend to go), Jo leads the all-time winners’ list at the track and won the Championship in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. This year he will win the Championship this weekend and has become the first jockey at the track to ride over 100 winners in a calendar year.

Jo is, of course well-known to Seoul punters and was winning the nation’s most prestigious race at the track on Peter Wolsley’s Bold Kings only two Sundays ago. He won the Korean Derby on Sangseung Ilro in Seoul in 2009 and also partnered the remarkable Dangdae Bulpae to a hat-trick of President’s Cups between 2010 and 2012.

Seo Seung Un burst on to the scene in 2011, winning two races on his first day as an apprentice. He has gone on to ride 294 winners from 2170 rides at Seoul, finishing 3rd in the Championship in 2013 and 2nd in 2014. This year he finished in 3rd place but had a slightly disappointing end to the season, being only 6th best in the second half of the year.

Daring Vision Seo Seung Woon

Busan Bound – Seo Seung Un

Seo is a rare Seoul jockey in that he has tasted Group race success at Busan, winning the 2014 KRA Cup Mile on Cheongnyeong Bisang.

Another Busan rider, Hwang Jong Woo, will also transfer to Seoul (Hwang only rode eleven times in 2015). In other licensing news, Nozi Tomizawa and Pasquale Borelli have extended their licenses at Busan by three and six months respectively. As previously reported, Masa Tanaka, whose license expires on December 31st, is not renewing.

Jo Sung Gon is currently retained rider for Peter Wolsley and his departure eaves the Australian trainer with a dilemma in advance of the 2016 season with the rides on Triple Crown contender Banjaui Jewang  and of course, Bold Kings, now up for grabs. While the depth in quality of horses is much greater at Busan, in the weighing room – where there is big gap between a small number of top jockeys and the rest – the depth in terms of top line riders is in favour of Seoul.

Iku and Jo Sung Gon Dominate At Busan

There isn’t a jockey challenge bet in Korea but if there was, yesterday at Busan it would have been a two-man race with Jo Sung Gon and Ikuyasu Kurakane dominating the Friday afternoon card.

Four winners: Ikuyasu Kurakane (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Four winners: Ikuyasu Kurakane (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Of course, punters had seen this coming. With the likes of Kim Yong Geun, Choi Si Dae and Masa Tanaka among eight Busan riders in Seoul for the President’s Cup on Sunday (Union rules say a jockey who has the temerity to go and ride in a big race at the other track isn’t allowed to ride at his or her home track on the same weekend) and You Hyun Myung on the long-term injured list, Jo and Kurakane were really the only Big Beasts of the weighing room in action.

Jo Sung Gon managed to get himself beaten on two favourites but like Kurakane, still emerged with four winners from the eleven-race card.

Highlight of Jo’s winners was perhaps a dominant victory for the young US import Doraonpogyeongseon (Kantharos) the third of his four winners which all arrived consecutively in races 5 to 8. Doraonpogyeongseon, named after a Grand Prix winning horse of the 1990’s, was getting his maiden win on his second start.

Kurakane’s winners arrived in pairs. He rode two-year-old debut-maker My Alice (Limitless Bid) to an eye-catching, albeit hard to judge how good it really was, eleven-length  triumph in race 2 but the highlight was in the final race 11 when he guided two-year-old import Gakbyeolhan (Big Brown) to win by three lengths.

Four winners: Jo Sung Gon

Four winners: Jo Sung Gon

The juvenile Gakbyeolhan was beating seven older horses over a mile on what was just his third career start and looks quite a prospect.

Had there been a jockey challenge and had it been run under Hong Kong rules, Kurakane would have come out as the winner due to riding three 2nd place finishers as well – two of them behind Jo’s winners. Contrastingly Jo, aside from his winners, only got one other into the top three.

While the eight Busan riders in the capital will be riding in the big race on Sunday afternoon, both Jo Sung Gon and Ikuyasu Kurakane have a full book of rides on Busan’s short six-race card on Sunday. It would be very surprising if either failed to add to their weekend total.

Borelli Bags A Busan Brace

It didn’t take Pasquale Borelli long to make an impact at Busan. The Italian jockey had eight rides on his first day in the saddle in Korea and two of them came home as winners.

Things started well for Borelli as he guided 19/1 chance Garak Yeowang to a creditable 4th in race 2 before partnering Bart Rice’s King’s Rules to 3rd in race 3. The breakthrough would come in race 4 as Borelli produced Useung Choego, the longest shot on the board at exactly the right time to score victory in race 4

It wouldn’t be all plain sailing for Borelli. On a day when favourite after favourite got turned over in the Busan sand, Peter Wolsley’s well-fancied Daseot Me was a disappointment in race 7 although the pair did combine earlier for a useful 2nd place with Nuri Bulpae in race 5.

Borelli’s final mount of the day came in race 10 and it was another successful one with 2-year-old US import Soul Blade, also making his debut today, romping away to a 6-length victory.

Masa Tanaka was also on target with a double in what was a good day for the foreign jockey contingent at Busan. Borelli has three more rides at Busan this coming Sunday.

Lee Yong Ho Winning At Busan While Takahashi Debuts At Seoul

Several new apprentice jockeys have debuted over the past couple of weeks at both Seoul and Busan with a couple of them catching the eye so far. Meanwhile there are comings and goings among the foreign jockey ranks.

Winning already: Apprentice jockey Lee Yong Ho

Winning already: Apprentice jockey Lee Yong Ho

Among the apprentices, the stand-out so far has been 18-year-old Lee Yong Ho who has already ridden 5 winners from his first 29 mounts at Busan. Lee, the youngest jockey to gain a license in Korea for many years, is the younger brother of Seoul rider Lee Chan Ho, who made a similarly impressive start to his career two years ago. The younger Lee had already built quite a reputation for himself before his debut and he has received support from trainers right from his first day.

At Seoul, the best so far has been another Lee; Lee Hyeon Jong. After several near misses the 21-year-old rode his first winner last Saturday and quickly followed up with another. He has only had 13 rides so far but 7 of them have finished in the placings.

Among the other new apprentices, Park Jae I and Jin Kyum, both at Busan, have managed to get 2nd places while Kim Do Jung at Seoul has a 3rd to his name.

Debuting at Seoul last Saturday was Japanese jockey Yuri Takahashi. The 28-year-old, who is affiliated with the Iwate Racing Association, endured a challenging opening weekend with seven rides, none of which had a chance. Hopefully things will get better for him in future weeks in the way they’ve certainly got better for Djordje Perovic. The “Serbian Frankie” rode his 14th Korean winner on Saturday and if he continues riding the way he has been, he looks set to be the first non-Japanese visiting jockey to make a real impact at the notoriously difficult Seoul.

The other foreign rider at Seoul, Jarred Samuel, who has been a popular and positive presence for the past four months, has opted not to renew his contract and will return to South Africa at the end of July. Samuel will be replaced and another foreign rider is expected to arrive at the end of August.

Down at Busan meanwhile, Ikuyasu Kurakane is set for his third Korean stint, having been granted a license once more. Kurakane won the “MVP Award” at Seoul Racecourse last year – an achievemnet that led to the Japanese NAR presenting him with a special prize at their annual “Grand Prix” awards ceremony in February.

Elsewhere, former Busan jockey Joe Fujii is now riding in Hokkaido and landed his first Japanese winner at Mombetsu Racecourse last week.