Ikuyasu Kurakane

More Acclaim For Ikuyasu Kurakane With NAR Special Prize

The exploits of Ikuyasu Kurakane, who was recently named Seoul Racecourse Jockey of the Year, have now earned him recognition in his home country with the Japanese rider set to receive a “Special Award” at the upcoming NAR Grand Prix in Tokyo on February 5.

Ikuyasu is becoming accustomed to receiving prizes (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Ikuyasu is becoming accustomed to receiving prizes (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Although he didn’t win the Seoul Jockey Championship, Ikuyasu rode 102 winners in 2014 including his first Korean Group win, which came on Samjeong Jewang in the KRA Cup Classic in October. That, combined with the fact that he had achieved his total with significantly less quality rides at his disposal than his rivals, was enough for the Korean poll to go his way.

Now that news has reached Japan. The Special Award generally goes to a rider who has reached a particular milestone in his or her carrer but it is unusual for the NAR to grant such an award for a Jockey’s performance overseas. Previous winners include one-time Busan based Hitomi Miyashita, who was recognized on her retirement in 2011.

Kurakane, who’s home track is the NAR’s Kochi Racecourse, is currently in his second stint in Korea, having previously ridden at Seoul and Busan between 2007 and 2008.

Taking both times into consideration, he has 285 winners from 2293 rides in Korea. Remarkably, it is a record that puts him 11th on the all-time leading jockey list at Seoul Racecourse.

Jockey Of The Year Ikuyasu Kurakane Is Ton-Up For 2014

Ikuyasu Kurakane has been named Seoul Racecourse Jockey of the Year and the Japanese rider celebrated in style on Saturday by riding a treble to become the first ever foreign rider in Korea to claim 100 winners in a season.

Ikuyasu Kurakane after riding his 100th winner this year at Seoul (Picture: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Ikuyasu Kurakane after riding his 100th winner this year at Seoul (Picture: Hiromi Kobayashi)

While Moon Se Young was crowned champion with an out of sight 162 winners (which won’t be added to after he was slapped with an 8-day ban by stewards last weekend), it was Kurakane – who gets nothing like the pick of the rides Moon does – who was adjudged to be most desrving of the award.

And the hardest-working jockey in Korea – riding 8-lots each morning is the norm for Kurakane – has certainly had a great year. A clear second in the Jockey Championship, he began Saturday on 98 winners. He was soon on 101.

Yeoui King takes Ikuyasu Kurakane to winner 99 of the year (Picture: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Yeoui King takes Ikuyasu Kurakane to winner 99 of the year (Picture: Hiromi Kobayashi)

He took race 3 on 11/1 chance Yeoui King (Admire Don) to move to 99, before completing his ton an hour later as 5/1 Grand Bleu (Peace Rules) did the business in race 4. The best was yet to come though as he threaded his way through a crowded field to steer 16/1 chance Queen Pico (Pico Central) to an unlikely win in race 5.

It’s a year that saw Ikuyasu win the KRA Cup Classic on Samjeong Jewang but the majority of his wins come at the less glamorous end of racing here. Hard work has certainly paid off and he is in great demand among Owners and extremely popular among punters.

They will be hoping that the 39-year-old isn’t quite done in Korea yet.

Ikuyasu Kurakane Wins KRA Cup Classic on Samjeong Jewang

The year just keeps on getting better for Ikuyasu Kurakane. The Japanese rider, who is 2nd in the Jockey Championship, got his first Group win or his second stint in Korea by riding Samjeong Jewang to the narrowest of victories in the KRA Cup Classic at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

Samjeong Jewang just gets up to beat Rush Forth (obscured) in the KRA Cup Classic (Pic: KRA)

Samjeong Jewang just gets up to beat Rush Forth (obscured) in the KRA Cup Classic (Pic: KRA)

Indian Blue, who Kurakane has had success on in the past, was sent off as the odds on favourite, but despite a change in tactics from jockey Moon Se Young, the filly still found herself left with too much ground to make up in the final furlong.

Instead, it was Samjeong Jewang who beat out a determined challenge by outsider Rush Forth and filly My Day to win by a nse on the line. Indian Blue came hom in 4th but last year’s winner Mari Daemul could only manage 10th.

Samjeong Jewang moves on to six wins from nine career starts and a possible run for the Grand Prix Stakes in December.

KRA Cup Classic (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – October 19, 2014

1. Samjeong Jewang (USA) [Patriot Act – Ms.Sadira (Dixieland Heat)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane 3/5, 1.6
2. Rush Forth (USA) [Rush Bay – Fourth Quest (Norquestor)] – Kim Ok Sung – 6.0
3. My Day (KOR) [Touch Gold – Smart Advice (Smart Strike)] – Jang Chuyoul – 3.6
Distances: Nose/0.5 lengths
Also ran: 4. Indian Blue (USA) 5. Unbeatable (USA) 6. Cheonma (USA) 7. Sun Speed (USA) 8. Him Jjang (USA) 9. Hwanggeumbiyul (USA) 10. Mari Daemul (USA) 11. Mani Income (USA) 12. Daehan Janggun (USA)

Ua Deungseon Takes Donga Ilbo, Kurakane Can’t Stop Winning While Ghost Whisper Does The Business At Busan

Ua Deungseon was the convincing winner of the Donga Ilbo Cup at Seoul this past Saturday, outpacing long-shot Ruby Canter and Horse Racing Ireland Trophy winner Pinot Noir by two lengths.

In a race designed for fillies who came close in the Oaks, couldn’t quite get it done, but still harbour hopes of competing in the big Stakes races later in the autumn, Ua Deungseon, 7th in the Classic at Busan last month, was sent off as a 5/1 shot.

Tracking the longshot, Ruby Canter, who stayed on for a very impressive 2nd place, Ua Deungseon hit the front in the home straight and took a comfortable win. She moves on to 5 wins from 8 starts and there looks to be plenty to come.

Donga Ilbo Trophy – Seoul Racecourse – 1800M – September 27, 2014

1. Ua Deungseon (KOR) [Menifee – Singgeureoun (Mr. Adorable)] – Ham Wan Sik – 5.7, 1.9
2. Ruby Canter (KOR) [Volponi – Crystal Decanter (Encosta De Lago)] – Kim Hye Sun – 9.4
3. Pinot Noir (KOR) [Capital Spending – Neungnyeokchungman (Pacific Bounty)] – Lim Gi Won – 3.4

Distances: 2.5 lengths / 1.25 lengths – 14 ran

The pre-race favourite for the Donga Ilbo Cup was Fusion Korea. She finished 4th in what was a rare setback this weekend for jockey Ikuyasu Kurakane. The Japanese rider has been in remarkable form recently and scored 7 winners over the weekend; 3 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday.

Sunday’s haul included the feature race when he smartly eschewed the ride on favourite Indian Blue – one of his regulars – and partnered another he has had success with in the past, Samjeong Jewang. Kurakane is now clear 2nd in the Jockey Championship behind Moon Se Young with 77 wins so far in 2014.

Down at Busan, there was another win for old favourite Ghost Whisper (Gotham City). Peter Wolsley’s 6-year-old grey recorded hs 13th victory from 25 starts when taking Sunday’s feature race by a length and a half from Wonil Gangja.

Next weekend it is the big one. The final leg of the 2014 Korean Triple Crown – the Minister’s Cup – is set for Seoul Racecourse. If she runs, Queen’s Blade, winner of both the Derby and the Oaks, will be the hot favourite.

Shinichi Bows Out Of Seoul But Nozi’s Back At Busan And Fujii Is Recovering

Shinichi Terachi has finished up his stint rising at Seoul Racecourse but there’s a familiar face back on the Korean racing scene as Nozomu Tomizawa returns to the peninsula to take up a 4-month jockey license at Busan.

Shinichi Terachi's biggest win in Korea came on Geumbit Hwanhui in the Seoul Oaks Trial (KRA)

Shinichi Terachi’s biggest win in Korea came on Geumbit Hwanhui in the Seoul Oaks Trial (KRA)

It was a challenging four months at Seoul for Terachi. The 35-year-old was able to get on plenty of horses but he wasn’t given a whole lot of quality to work with and ends with 7 winners from 159 rides. Whenever he got a horse with a chance of winning, he got the job done including two winners on his final weekend.

He also won on one which didn’t look to have a chance. Terachi’s biggest victory came in June’s Sports Seoul Cup, the capital’s main Oaks trial race, on 27/1 outsider Geumbit Hwanhui.

Nozomu Tomizawa in the Seoul paddock during his first stint in Korea (KRA)

Nozomu Tomizawa in the Seoul paddock during his first stint in Korea (KRA)

His departure leaves the remarkable Ikuyasu Kurakane, currently 2nd in the Seoul Jockey Championship, as the only foreign rider in the capital.

That’s because it’s to Busan, where Masa Tanaka has been having to talk to himself in the weighing room since the departure of Darryll Holland and long-term injury to Joe Fujii, that Nozomu Tomizawa will go as he returns to Korea five years after he finished up his first stint here.

Tomizawa arrived in August 2007 and battled away for almost two years racking up 47 winners from 722 rides at Seoul. He didn’t win any Stakes races but is best remembered for his partnership with the gelding Gamadongja – a horse that was really a sprinter – on whom Tomizawa won four Class 1 races at distances from 1200M to 2000M.

It won’t be Tomizawa’s first time at Busan. He has one win from eight mounts at the South Coast track on weekends when he visited to ride in Stakes races. The 33-year-old has spent most of his riding career in Australia and should fit in well with the similarly Antipodean-accented Tanaka, who is also committed to the track until at least the end of this year.

As for Masa Tanaka himself, the hugely personable jockey currently lies in 8th position in the Busan Championship and produced a cracking ride in Seoul this past Sunday to guide New York Blue to 3rd place in the Asia Challenge Cup.

Two days before the Asia Challenge Cup, Tanaka rode a double at Busan, one of which was for trainer Bart Rice. The South African is maintaining his superb strike rate with 21% of his starters winning since he opened his barn at the track last December.

Rice currently lies in 12th position in the Trainers’ Championship, having saddled more than 100 fewer starters than all but two of the trainers ahead of him. One of those two is Peter Wolsley, currently clear in 2nd place.

No update on foreign riders in Korea would be complete though without talking about Joe Fujii, The man who took over Toshio Uchida’s title as “the most popular Japanese person in Korea” was in Seoul last weekend to watch the Asia Challenge Cup.

While his broken shoulder is expected to keep him out for another three months, the ever-positive Fujii was in high spirits and with his license to ride in Korea having been extended despite his injury, he was looking forward to getting back to business on the track as soon as possible.

Fujii has won the Derby, the Oaks and the Grand Prix Stakes. Korean punters are looking forward to his return just as much as the man himself.

Joe Fujii watches the races at Seoul on Sunday. All punters want him back riding as soon as possible

Joe Fujii watches the races at Seoul on Sunday. All punters want him back riding as soon as possible

Bichui Jeongsang Gives Ikuyasu Kurakane JRA Trophy Win

Bichui Jeongsang swept to a comprehensive win in the JRA Trophy at Seoul Racecourse today, giving Ikuyasu Kurakane a victory in the race sponsored by his home nation’s racing authority.

Bichui Jeongsang and Ikuyasu Kurakane win the JRA Trophy (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Bichui Jeongsang and Ikuyasu Kurakane win the JRA Trophy (Pic: Ross Holburt)

With the well-fancied Yeondu having been scratched, punter made Bichui Jeongsang the slight favourite in the race which, with its 23rd edition, is the longest running exchange race in Korea.

Kurakane landed a treble on the day (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Kurakane landed a treble on the day (Pic: Ross Holburt)

13/1 chance Ssangdu Bima set the pace for much of the 7-furlong race but Kurakane always had Bichui Jeongsang handy and once he hit the front with a furlong remaining, he was the only likely winner.

Seo Seung Un, who rides the favourite in the Korean Derby tomorrow, closed very quickly on Clean Up Speed, passing 5 horses in the final furlong to grab 2nd place, while Aussie-bred filly Marica stayed on for 3rd.

A three-year-old filly, Bichui Jeongsang was a $30,000 purchase at Fasig Tipton’s Mid-Atlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training sale last May. This was her fifth start and her sixth win. Although as an import, she is ineligible for the Oaks, if she can go on to stay around two turns, she could have a big part to play later on in the season.

For jockey Kurakane, it was not only a big race win, it was also his third triumph of the day. Ikuyasu is renowned for grinding out a big volume of winners but chances in feature races are less common – his last Stakes win came in his first spell at Seoul in 2007. He is 2nd only to Moon Se Young in the 2014 Jockey Premiership.

JRA Trophy – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – May 17, 2014

1. Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 3.3, 1.5
2. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeaux Danseur)] – Seo Seung Un – 3.2
3. Marica (AUS) [Reset – Teneales Pearl (Redoubte’s Choice)] – Jang Chuyoul – 3.4

Distances: 3 lengths / 2 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Samjeong Tiger (USA) 5. Ssangdu Bima (USA) 6. Foolish Scip (USA) 7. Dorgon (USA) 8. Lion Galloper (AUS) 9. Incheonui Seungni (KOR) 10. Daerugui Byeol (USA) 11. Zentenary (Choi Bum Hyun) 12. Royal Review (USA) 13. Strong Wind (NZ) Scratched: Yeondu (USA)

The JRA Trophy Presentation part (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The JRA Trophy Presentation part (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Racing returns to Seoul on Sunday with the Korean Derby. Ikuyasu Kurakane rides Clean Up Speed, who is not without a chance.

Indian Blue Closes To Sports Donga Success

Indian Blue lived up to her reputation as one of Seoul’s top horses over any distance as she walked off with the Sports Donga Cup this afternoon.

Indian Blue and Ikuyasu Kurakane return as winners of the Sports Donga

Indian Blue and Ikuyasu Kurakane return as winners of the Sports Donga

Remarkably, the 4-year-old Indian Blue (Henny Hughes) had won only 4 of her 15 starts coming into today’s race. However, a 3rd and a 2nd in consecutive Ttukseom Cups, a 2nd in the KRA Cup Classic and a 4th in the Grand Prix Stakes meant the raw statistics didn’t really tell the full story.

Add in a sprint victory over Watts Village, Korea’s “Hero of Ohi” and it was no surprise that punters sent her off the short-priced favourite in a field of 14 for the Sports Donga.

She didn’t disappoint. Under Ikuyasu Kurakane, Indian Blue was inevitably the fastest of a group of closers who took charge in the home straight. Hitting the front with a furlong to run – early by her standards, Indian Blue was pushed all the way by Wonder Bolt but never looked in serious danger.

In third place there was a welcome return to form for 2012 KRA Cup Classic winner Sing Sing Cat but the highly though of pair of Double Shining and Kentucky Galloper disappointed.

Going forward, there are plenty of options for Indian Blue. The remaining legs of the Queens’ Tour will be attractive but so will a the Busan Metropolitan in July. Further on, a second tilt at the Korea vs Japan Goodwill race in August – with its prospect of an international rating and subsequent trip to Dubai – should be on the agenda.

Down at Busan, the JRA Kokura Racecourse Trophy was the main event. And while at Seoul it was one of the up-and-comers taking the plaudits, this race went to one of the elder statesmen of the sand as 8-year-old Full Forest (Full Mandate) took victory by a length.

Debuting in 2008, Full Forest was making his 58th start and recorded his first win since Janaury 2012 – and only his 7th in all. Over the years he’s had many jockeys – including the tragic pair of Park Jin Hee and Yoshi Aoki – but today it was the turn of Kim Yong Geun, who made the race his 4th win of the afternoon.

A fine ride it was too as he guided Full Forest into contention as they entered the home straight before passing long-time leader Star Bolt inside the final furlong to win going away.

Next weekend, Stakes action returns to Seoul in the form of the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy.

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

Joy Lucky Saunters To Seoul Success

Joy Lucky began her 2014 campaign in fine style with an easy gate-to-wire win at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Winner Again: Joy Lucky and Seo Seung Un

Winner Again: Joy Lucky and Seo Seung Un

If anything it was too easy with the 7-furlong class 1 race proving little more than a workout for the 4-year-old who ended 2013 as Seoul’s top filly.

Under Seo Seung Un, Joy Lucky took an early lead and settled into a steady pace before sauntering away from her rivals in the home straight to win by a leisurely 9 lengths.

Despite how easy it was, her time was only just over half a second outside the track record for the distance.

Joy Lucky (Ecton Park) now has 8 wins from 11 starts and looks set for a very interesting year. The Queens’ Tour, which begins with the Ttukseom Cup in just over a month’s time, may be on the agenda.

There was no joy for the foreign jockeys at either Seoul or Busan today, but it will still go down as a successful weekend for them. On Friday at Busan, Joe Fujii landed a double while there were also wins for Jerome Lermtye and Masa Tanaka.

Meanwhile in the capital on Saturday, Ikuyasu Kurakane notched a treble, taking him up to 11 wins for the season. The most notable of those victories came on the promising 3-year-old filly Clean Up Speed (Pico Central), who was recording her 3rd win from 5 starts.

It was another wintry weekend in Seoul

It was another wintry weekend in Seoul

Next week sees the return of big race action in the shape of the Segye Ilbo Cup, a Queens’ Tour trial, at Seoul. Joy Lucky doesn’t need to run in it but a host of domestic and imported fillies looking for their pass to compete for the big prizes will be there.

Indian Blues For Watts Village

Watts Village scored an unforgettable victory in Tokyo last November but found himself brought back down to Earth this afternoon as he was handed a defeat on his season re-appearance at Seoul Race Park.

Indian Blue & Ikuyasu Kurakane

Indian Blue & Ikuyasu Kurakane (Pic: Ross Holburt)

And it was a horse ridden by a Japanese jockey that did for him as Ikuyasu Kurakane guided Indian Blue (Henny Hughes), 4th in the Grand Prix Stakes last month, to victory by a length.

On board Watts Village, Seo Seung Un tried to repeat the same tactic that served him so well in the Japanese capital and headed straight for the front. By contrast, Kurakane took Indian Blue right to the back.

There was a key difference this afternoon though as they were racing over 7 furlongs as opposed to 6 in Tokyo and this time Watts Village just couldn’t hold on. Once Indian Blue got into the gear in the home straight, it was just a matter of time and she swept by inside the final 50 metres.

Indian Blue was recording just her 4th win in 14 starts, however, she’s only been outside the money on 2 occasions and has shown she can claim prizes at distances ranging from 1000-2300 metres. It seems the best is still to come for her. As for Watts Village, now that a trip to Dubai is off the table, he’ll be back. He still looks very difficult to beat at sprint distances.

Despite being beaten on Watts Village, the day was by no means a write-off for Seo Seung Un. One race earlier, the jockey guided filly Cheonnyeon Dongan (Ecton Park) to a comfortable victory in the first of the 2 co-feature races.

Now entering her 4-year-old season, Cheonnyeon Dongan was 4th in last year’s Korean Oaks but followed it up with back-to-back Stakes wins in the Dong-a Ilbo Trophy and NACF Chairman’s Cup. Today made for her 3rd straight win and her first against class 1 mixed company.

Down at Busan, it was another successful day for Darryll Holland. The British jockey now lies in joint 1st-place with Joe Fujii in the Busan Jockey Championship after victory on promising US import K Teryus (Not For Love) in race 5. Holland is yet to draw a blank at a single meeting in 2014.

Holland couldn’t score in the feature race though (not having a ride in it didn’t help) as Choi Si Dae guided High Five (Creek Cat) to a 3-length victory from My Key (Macho Uno).

Next weekend is the last before racing takes a short break for the lunar New Year holiday. As such, a number of big names are expected to be in action, especially at Busan where beaten Grand Prix runners Beolmaui Kkum and Gyeongbudaero are entered.