Foreign Jockeys

200-Up Kurakane Heads High Performing Visitors

Ikuyasu Kurakane reached a major milestone over the weekend, when he became the first foreign jockey to ride 200 winners in Korea.

200 winners: Ikuyasu Kurakane (Pic: Ross Holburt)

200 winners: Ikuyasu Kurakane (Pic: Ross Holburt)

His two victories across the weekend, on Big Show on Saturday and Ms. Celtic Senior on Sunday, took the Japanese rider to 201 victories from 1711 rides across two stints riding on the peninsula.

Now 38, Kurakane originally came to Korea in 2007 and spent a successful 18 months riding at Seoul and Busan. During this period he won what remains his only Stakes race to date, the 2007 Nonghyup Trophy on Pilseung Giwon.

Kurakane returned to Seoul in April last year and quickly established himself as among the track’s top riders.

An exceptionally hard-worker in the mornings, he doesn’t get the biggest rides, but unlike many foreign jockeys here before him, he does get the numbers and when on a fancied horse, he generally converts it into the win. He currently lies 3rd in the 2014 Championship

His feat is made all the more impressive in that the vast majority of his winners have come at Seoul, a track where he is the only foreign jockey to have enjoyed even moderate success. At Busan, it is a different story although still by means easy for the visitors.

Kurakane’s license has been extended by 6-months, as have those of Busan-based trio Darryll Holland, Joe Fujii and Masa Tanaka.

Royal Ascot winning rider Holland is the KRA’s marquee jockey and after overcoming a challenging first few months, he’s now reaping he benefits, taking out another feature race at Busan on Sunday and is currently in 2nd place in the Busan Championship.

Grand Prix Stakes, Korean Derby and Oaks winner Fujii is just two places back. Tanaka too is a regular visitor to the winner’s circle. The “foreign jockey quinella” is now a very popular bet among punters.

In the barn at Busan things are going well too. After his 2nd place finish last year, Peter Wolsley currently leads the 2014 Trainers’ Championship in numbers of winners – ahead of even the Kim Young Kwan machine. Meanwhile, South African Bart Rice has made an impressive start with 5 of his 23 runners to date returning victorious.

Korea is still a very difficult place for foreign jockeys to ride as the recent experiences of Jerome Lermyte and Fausto Durso show, making the achievements of the likes of Kurakane even more notable.

Overseas Jockeys in Korea All-Time Top Ten

1. Ikuyasu Kurakane (Japan) – 201*
2. Toshio Uchida (Japan) – 138
3. Kanichiro Fujii (Japan) – 116*
4. Garry Baker (Australia) – 78
5. Narazaki Kosuke (Japan) – 68
6. Eiki Nishimura (Japan) – 60
7. Hitomi Miyashita (Japan) – 56
8. Darryll Holland (United Kingdom) – 52*
9. Martin Wepner (South Africa) – 49
10. Nozomu Tomizawa (Japan) – 48

* Still riding in Korea

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Japanese Jockey Joe Fujii Mounts-Up At Busan

There’s another new Japanese jockey on the South Coast. Kanichiro Fujii will have his first rides at Busan Race Park this coming weekend.

Kanichiro “Joe” Fujii debuts at Busan this weekend

Fujii – who goes by Joe – was born in Nara, Japan but went to Australia at the age of 15 to train as a jockey. He debuted in 2001 and spent the next five years riding mainly in New South Wales, finishing 2nd in the State’s Apprentice Jockey race in 2006.

In 2007, Fujii spent nine months in Singapore where he won the Listed Chairman’s Trophy and rode third-placed finisher Jade in the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby.

After Singapore, Fujii went to Europe where he rode work in France for, amongst others, Criquitte Head before returning to Australia in 2008.

In 2009 he went to the USA and rode work at Belmont Park before relocating once more to Australia, this time to Queensland where he has been riding until recently. To date, he has ridden just shy of 300 winners.

Fujii is married and became a father for the first time earlier this month.

Riding on an initial four-month license and joins fellow Japanese riders Narazaki Kosuke and Yukio Abe as well as South African Gerrit Schlechter in making up the foreign jockey contingent at Busan. He will make his racing debut this Friday in race 7.

He told Korea Racing that he became interested in riding in Korea after speaking with Japanese riders Nozomu Tomizawa, Yoshi Aoki, Hiro Hamada and Akane Yamamoto – all of whom rode in Korea and have strong Australian connections, as well as Aussie jockey Garry Baker who rode at Busan from 2005 until 2007.