Djordje Perovic

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Perovic Achieves A Double-Ton

Djordje Perovic has become just the second overseas rider to reach 200 winners in Korea. The Serbian jockey passed the milestone at Seoul Racecourse this past Sunday when he notched the second of three winners across the weekend.

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200-up for Perovic (Pic: Ross Holburt)

That win, on hot favourite P.K. Time in race 1 and then a later one aboard 4/1 chance Yes You Can in race 8 took Perovic’s 2017 tally to 82, three shy of Premiership leader Kim Yong Geun.

Licensed in Italy but a native of Serbia, the “Best Sportsman of the City of Kragujevac” arrived in Seoul in May of 2015. It took 35 rides for him to partner his first winner, Gold Mountain on June 7th of that year, as Perovic struggled with the usual issue facing foreign jockeys at Seoul – getting competitive mounts. The floodgates soon opened though. He rode a double the following week and despite some minor setbacks, never hasn’t stopped riding winners since.

100 winners arrived in October of 2016 and 150 in March of this year. In both years, Perovic has had to take time out in Europe for licensing reasons making his achievements – and to be in with a realistic chance of being Champion jockey this season – all the more admirable. In June this year, he won his first Korean Group race, guiding Silver Wolf to victory in the Ttukseom Cup.

Djordje Perovic now has 201 winners in Korea, still some way shy of Ikuyasu Kurakane’s final tally of 285. If he stays on though, few doubt that figure will be overcome.

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.

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”.

Satoshi On Fire At Busan While It’s Bravo Belli at Seoul

Yonekura Satoshi continued his solid September with no less five winners at Busan last weekend. Meanwhile up at Seoul, Sunday was a milestone day for Marcello Belli as the Italian claimed his first Korean winner.

Since winning the KNN Cup on outsider Supreme Magic in July, Satoshi has finally found himself getting plenty of opportunities and the 41-year-old Japanese rider is converting them.

Taking advantage of a number of Busan’s top riders being in Seoul for the Jeju Governor’s Cup, Satoshi won the first race last Friday on Queen’s Queen and added two more later on in the evening before coming back out on Sunday and adding two more. None of the five across the weekend started at shorter than 5/1.

It’s still early days for Marcello Belli but the Italian rider got a big boost on Sunday as he partnered his first winner in Seoul. On a day of long-shot winners, Belli made all on 43/1 chance Northern Hojae in race 8 and just had enough left to hold off the  favourite by a nose on the line

It was Belli’s first win on what was his 21st ride at Seoul. He still has some considerable way to go to match fellow Italian-licensed Seoul rider Djordje Perovic but he’s now on his way.

Seoul’s other foreign jockey Imran Chisty also rode a winner on Saturday although Paolo Aragoni and Pasquale Borelli who were also in the capital for the weekend both saw their mounts come up short in the Jeju Governor’s Cup.

Busan’s fourth foreign jockey, Francisco Da Silva got his own Korean career off to a remarkable start. Debuting on September 9th, he won on his first two rides and added a third later that same day. The 37-year-old is yet to add to that tally but has had a few near misses and was suspended last weekend.

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.

Saturday Round-Up

There was Class 1 action at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday afternoon and it was 8/1 shot Ganghae who returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in over a year as he got the best of a tight finish to win the seven furlong contest.

Ganghae (Didyme) recorded consecutive 2nd place finishes in Stakes races last year but yesterday would record his 7th career win, racing forward throughout under jockey Choi Bum Hyun and holding off the fast finishing 2nd-favourite Grade Captain by a neck on the line.

Grade Captain was ridden by Djordje Perovic and the “Balkan Wolf” was in superb form throughout the day, partnering three winners; Power Jeongsang in race 3, Bulkkochwangja in race 5 and Whiz Speed in race 6 to move onto 59 Korean winners.

In other races, US filly Wow Cat (Cowtown Cat) continued her development, taking the class 3 race 10 by just over a length to chalk up her 3rd win in 7 starts.

Racing retirns to Seoul Sunday with 11 races including the Donga Ilbo Cup. Race 1 is at 10:50. There are 6 races at Busan with the first underway at 1pm.

Round-up: Yoo Mira Goes Down Under, Doraon Hyeonpyo, Clean Up Cheonha, Perovic, Success Story, ARC

Plenty happening on and off the track over the past week. Doraon Hyeonpyo and Clean Up Cheonha were both impressive winners last Sunday, there has been plenty of follow-up to Success Story’s decent 3rd place in Dubai last week and Korea has been well-represented at the ongoing Asian Racing Conference in Mumbai.

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Yoo Mira was 2nd in the Arabian race at Caulfield on Tuesday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

We’ll start though in Australia and rather unusually in the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship race at Caulfield on Tuesday. We don’t mention You Mi Ra very often on these pages but the jockey (riding as “Mina You”) managed to finish 2nd in the race, which as won by Dutch jockey Cindy Klinkenberg. Thanks to Ross Holburt for the heads-up and the picture.

On the track in Korea last weekend, stand-out performances came from Doraon Hyeonpyo and Clean Up Cheonha, who won class 1 events at Seoul and Busan respectively. Doraon Hyeonpyo (Colors Flying) had won at class 1 for the first time at the end of December but despite carrying significantly more weight this time, was once more a dismissively comfortable winner in the Sunday’s Busan feature. It wasn’t a strong race but the manner of his victory suggests there is plenty more to come.

Clean Up Cheonha (El Corredor)at age 5, also seems to be on the up. The US import was 2nd in the KRA Cup Classic last August and 5th in the Grand Prix Stakes in December. On Sunday, carrying 60kg over 2000M, he beat his Cup Classic conqueror Chief Red Can and eight others by two lengths to record his eighth career victory.

It was a bitterly cold weekend across the peninsula with conditions at Seoul especially being extreme as temperatures dipped to -14C on Sunday morning. Jockeys have a tough job at the best of times but their fortitude on Sunday was impressive to say the least.

Speaking of jockeys, Djordje Perovic reached another landmark in his impressive sojourn in Korea. The Serbian rider guided home his 50th Seoul winner on Sunday, taking the very last race of the weekend on City Hunter for trainer Lee Shin Young. The victory moved Perovic into the top ten all-time foreign jockey list here.

Success Story’s solid 3rd place at Meydan last Thursday has finally reached the Korean mainstream media. While the racing press (and the popular tabloids) covered it at the weekend, the national broadcaster KBS put it on their national news bulletin on Monday. Video here. Success Story is likely to race again in Dubai in the second week of February although things are a little less certain for Cheongu, the other Korean horse at the carnival.

Finally, Korea is being widely represented at the Asian Racing Conference in Mumbai this week. The KRA’s Seungho Ryu (who seems to get just about everywhere these days) delivered a talk on quarantine protocols while Chief Marketing Officer Ben Heo spoke about addressing racing’s not inconsiderable image problem in Korea. Racing Director Yangtae Park probably generated the most interest though, using his presentation to formally announce the $1M Korea Cup which will be run at Seoul Racecourse in September and according to Andrew Hawkins at the South China Morning Post, is already attracting interest.

Racing returns to Korea this weekend with the first big race of the season, the Segye Ilbo Cup, at Seoul on Sunday.

Weekend Round-Up: Cinderella Man & Bold Kings Star

Cinderella Man charged back into the winner’s circle at Seoul while Bold Kings maintained his 100% record at Busan as the pair emerged victorious from Sunday’s two Grand Prix Stakes trials.

Cinderella Man had run just twice in the capital since his ownership transferred from Pegasus Stables to Ruairi O’Coilean and he joined the stable of Seoul’s fast emerging trainer Lee Shin Young. The first of those was the KRA Cup Classic when questionable riding tactics scuppered his chances but he looked sharp when running 2nd last month over 2000M

He had to battle on Sunday when racing over the Grand Prix distance for the first time but once he had finally managed to get past long time leader Hwanggeum Tap in the final furlong, Cinderella Man ran on for victory by just over a length under champion jockey Moon Se Young. It was Cinderella Man’s 10th win from 17 career starts.

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – Nov 9, 2015

1. Cinderella Man (KOR) [Southern Image – Tiza Fast Kat (Tiznow)] – Moon Se Young – 2.7, 1.3
2. Hwanggeum Tap (USA) [Tiz Wonderful – La Tulipe (Silver Deputy)] – Lee Sang Hyeok – 3.4
3. Winning Andy (USA) [Cowboy Cal – Belvedere Miss (Pleasant Colony)] – Djordje Perovic – 1.5
Distances: 1.5 lengths/1.5 lengths – 9 ran

At Busan, three-year-old US import Bold Kings confirmed his status as one of the hottest emerging talents in Korean racing. He too had to battle in the 2200M class 1 event but under Jo Sung Gon, he finally got the better of Goji Jeongbeol by a head after the two dueled for the final furlong. Bold Kings is now six for six.

The Grand Prix at Seoul next month would be a big ask for both of them. Bold Kings is three, has only run six times and is yet to travel to race. Cinderella Man, while reasonably conservatively campaigned this year (he has run eight times) did suffer setbacks over the summer. Their presence though would be a huge boost for the race.

Class 1 Handicap – Busan Racecourse – 2200M – Nov 8, 2015

1. Bold Kings (USA) [Afleet Express – Bold Arrival (Gilded Time)] – Jo Sung Gon – 2.5, 1.3
2. Goji Jeongbeol (USA) [Congrats – I Love CIndy (Adonis)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 1.5
3. Gandai (KOR) [ Don’t Get Mad – Gamble To Victory (Prospector’s Gamble)] – Song Keong Yun – 2.7
Distances: Head / 2.5 lengths – 8 ran

Bold Kings was ridden for the first time by Jo Sung Gon as regular rider Kim Yong Geun was riding Nobody Catch Me for Kim Young Kwan. It may be a good thing that he won’t be going to the Tokyo Daishoten and he probably won’t be going to the Grand Prix either as he faded to a well-beaten 6th having shown prominently early in the race.

Trainer Kim will still have plenty of options for the season-ending showpiece – which once again will be available to European punters through the PMU – with three-year-olds Rock Band and Triple Nine among them.

On a weekend when it rained practically non-stop and the track at times resembled more a rowing lake than a racecourse, the pari-mutuel system decided that it was as wet and fed-up as everybody else and packed up immediate following race 3 at Seoul. It was a good 40 minutes before it could be coaxed into life again and that meant the abandonment of race 4. It’s not the first time it’s happened.

Jockey of the weekend was once more Djordje Perovic who rode another treble on Saturday and a further winner on Sunday. Jockey of the weekend wasn’t Nicola Pinna who while finally making his debut on Saturday, had to get off two later mounts – one of which Perovic won on.

Jockey of the weekend wasn’t Kim Hye Sun either. She will be having nightmares over getting Saetbyeori beaten in Saturday’s race 4 when the race looked won. While it looked to be a total brain freeze rather than anything nefarious (the Stewards adjourned their inquiry), the punters who backed the 10/1 shot won’t have been amused. However, those who were on the favourite that Kim failed to notice closing on her inside until it was too late, wouldn’t have minded at all. The usually reliable Kim was much more vigilant on Sunday with a very good ride on 38/1 shot Beongae Power, who she coaxed home when looking about to be beaten.

In other jockey news, Japanese rider Makoto Okabe debuted at Busan with seven rides across the weekend. He didn’t manage to get a winner but did land two 2nd places and one 3rd. Pasquale Borelli, Ikuyasu Kurakane and Masa Tanaka all did manage to find their way into the winner’s circle though.