Jo Sung Gon

Jo Sung Gon: 1982-2019

Jo Sung Gon, five-time Champion Jockey at Busan and one of the top Korean riders of his generation, has died. He was 37.

Dangdae Bulpae Jo SUng Gon

Jo Sung Gon and Dangdae Bulpae after another President’s Cup win

Jo was found in his car by staff at the Busan Racecourse in the early hours of Tuesday morning. His death is not being treated as suspicious.

Debuting in 2005 at around the same time Busan Racecourse opened, Jo Sung Gon quickly built up a reputation as a fine young rider and one of the new track’s potential stars. His first big race win came in the 2009 Korean Derby on the filly Sangseung Ilro and in the same year he won what would be the first of five South Coast Jockey Championships.

Jo Sung Gon

Jo Sung Gon 1982-2019

The second of those Championships followed a year later and it was that same year, 2010, when he first became acquainted with the horse he will likely be most remembered for, Dangdae Bulpae.

Having won the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown in October 2010, a month later Dangdae Bulpae and Jo Sung Gon won the first of what would be three President’s Cups.

With Dangdae Bulpae, Jo also won the Ttukseom Cup and KNN Cup in 2011, the Busan Mayor’s Cup and Owners’ Cup in 2012 and the Busan Ilbo Cup in 2013. He would finish as Champion Jockey in each of those seasons.

As his career developed, Jo Sung Gon developed a strong partnership with trainer Peter Wolsley, the pair combining to win the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup with Secret Whisper in 2013 and then in 2015, in what for both would be a career-high, the Grand Prix Stakes with Bold Kings.

A three-year-old, Bold Kings had only raced six times prior to the Grand Prix, Korea’s most prestigious race, and despite having won all of them, was sent off as a 6/1 third-favourite behind Clean Up Joy and fellow youngster Triple Nine.

Under a tremendous ride by Jo Sung Gon, Bold Kings stole a couple of lengths entering the home straight to strike the front and then held off a slew of late challenges to win by a neck on the line in what is still regarded by many as having been the most exciting finish to a Grand Prix.

Always keen for new challenges – earlier in his career he had spent time riding in Macau – Jo Sung Gon spent the 2016 season in Seoul where he partnered Bichui Jeongsang to victory in the Ttukseom Cup.

That would be his final Group winner although after returning to Busan and reuniting with Wolsley, he guided Ace Korea to victory in the Listed Kookje Sinmun in November 2018.

An excellent jockey who was still at the peak of his powers, as well as a friendly and personable character, Jo Sung Gon will be missed. Thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.

Rides: 5588
Wins: 874
Group 1 wins: 5
Other Group Wins: 8
Champion Jockey (Busan): 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

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Bichui Jeongsang Strikes For Seoul In Ttukseom Cup

It’s not often that Seoul bests Busan when horses from the two tracks meet in Stakes races but that’s exactly what happened in the first leg of the Queen’s Tour on Sunday afternoon as Bichui Jeongsang justified her favourite status to win the Ttukseom Cup.

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Jo Sung Gon and Bichui Jeongsang win the Ttukseom Cup (Pic: KRA)

The race attracted thirteen fillies & mares with Bichui Jeongsang, 3rd in last year’s race and a multiple time class 1 winner, sent off just the right side of even money for the 1400 series opener.

Under former Champion Busan jockey Jo Sung Gon, Bichui Jeongsang was slowly away as last year’s Oaks winner Jangpung Parang showed the way early on. The latter though would fade and eventually finish i 5th place as Buchui Jeongsang improved around the home turn and then powered away from her rivals in the home straight, beating 20/1 shot Halla Chukje by half a length on the line. New York Blue, 2nd in last year’s race was Busan’s best finisher in 3rd.

Bichui Jeongsang was purchased for $30,000 at Fasig Tipton in 2013 and won four out of her first five on her way to a quick elevation to class 1 racing. She was slightly disappointing in some big Stakes races in the second half of last year which led to her missing out on a trip to the Dubai Carnival but scored back to back class 1 wins at the turn of the year and now heads the favourites as the Queen’s Tour contenders reassemble in Busan for the KNN Cup next month.

The Ttukseom Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – June 5, 2016

1. Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] – Jo Sung Gon – 2.3, 1.2
2. Halla Chukje (USA) [Gottcha Gold – C D Player (Montbrook)] – Lee Hyeok – 4.9
3. New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.5
Distances: 0.5 lengths / 0.75 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Silver Wolf (AUS) 5. Jangpung Parang (KOR) 6. Ms. Margaux (USA) 7. Queen’s Champion (USA) 8. Supreme Magic (USA) 9. Hay Queen (USA) 10. Model Line (USA) 11. Bukbeol Sinhwa (KOR) 12. Winner’s Marine (KOR) 13. Indian Star (KOR)

This coming week, attention shifts to the next generation of fillies in the shape of the Korean Oaks at Busan. It is unlikely Seoul will be able to follow up with another victory.

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.

Dangdae Bulpae Jo SUng Gon

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.

Rafale Downed As Goliath Marine Wins Again At Busan

Highly rated 3-year-old Rafale slumped to defeat as trainer Peter Wolsley and jockey Jo Sung Gon cleaned-up at Busan on Friday.

While he was always going to be favourite, Rafale (Colors Flying) was sent off at impossibly short-odds for the 1900M class 2 handicap and while he looked well-placed entering the home straight, it was second-favourite Goliath Marine (Volponi) who sprinted away from the field to claim his 3rd win from his last 4 starts. Rafale, who was 2nd in last year’s Seoul Breeders’ Cup and was an easy winner when tried around two-turns for the first time in January, came home 4th.

Goliath Marine was the 4th winner of the day for Australian trainer Peter Wolsley, who returns to the tope of the trainer’s championship as a result. Earlier, he’d sent out Happy Hana (Biwa Shinseiki) to win race 5 and Choedae Gangja (Didyme) to win race 6 before his up and coming import Different Dimension (Into Mischief) landed a 3rd win in 3 career starts in race 10.

Lee Hee Cheon rode Choedae Gangja but the other three were all ridden by Jo Sung Gon and Jo would also get four winners on the day with a perfectly timed ride on Morning Hwiparam (Everydayissaturday) in race 8. Jo showed his quality in the saddle by bringing the gelding from last to first through a crowd of horses in the home straight, stealing victory on the line by the narrowest of noses.

Wolsley wasn’t the only foreign connection at Busan among the winners yesterday. Nozomu Tomizawa rode favourite Daejiui Jilju (Admire Don) to victory in race 3 while his fellow Japanese rider Masa Tanaka scored in race 7 on Triple Nine (Ecton Park). From the Kim Young Kwan stable, Triple Nine has now won three of his four starts to date.

Racing returns to Busan on Sunday when Success Story, Ghost Whisper, Cheonji Bulpae and Gumpo Sky all feature in the main handicap.

Jo Sung Gon Rides 6 Winners For 6 Different Trainers At Busan

Jo Sung Gon pulled off a remarkable feat at Busan Racecourse this afternoon, winning 6 of the 11 races – including 5 in a row – all for 6 different trainers and with only one slight odds-on chance among them.

Jo-nly me! Jo Sung Gon rode 6 winners at Busan today

Jo-nly me! Jo Sung Gon rode 6 winners at Busan today

Jo won Race 1 on Namdoui Yeowang, but didn’t strike at all between races 2 and 6, during which time Kim Yong Geun rode a treble of his own. From race 7 on, however, there was no stopping him as he won all of the remaining 5 races on the card.

Pick of the winners was in the class 1 feature where he guided the Peter Wolsley trained Ghost Whisper to a comfortable victory. It was the 14th win of the 6-year-old gelding’s career.

Busan’s reigning champion jockey, the 32-year-old Jo Sung Gon isn’t going to win the title this year. The main reason for this was that he gave his rivals a head start by spending the first three months of the season riding in Macau. Since his return, he has ridden 58 winners and lies 4th in the standings.

Best known among casual racing fans as being the regular jockey for Dangdae Bulpae (seen in the picture above) on whom he won an unprecedented 9 stakes races, he also has a Korean Derby and Oaks to his name and alongside Moon Se Young at Seoul, is widely considered as one of the top two jockeys in Korea.

Jo Sung Gon’s Six-Timer (with trainer name, margin and tote return):

Race 1: Namdoui Yeowang (Creek Cat), Jang Se Han – 4 lengths – 4.1
Race 7: Morning Hwiparam (Everydayissaturday), Lee Jung Pyo – 4 lengths – 3.9
Race 8: Yankee Dream (Yankee Victor), Han Sang Bok – 1.5 lengths – 3.0
Race 9: Forty Cure (Field Asuka), Choi Ki Hong – 1.25 lengths – 3.6
Race 10: Useung Radar (Student Council), Min Jang Gi – Head – 4.4
Race 11: Ghost Whisper (Gotham City), Peter Wolsley – 4 lengths – 1.9

Jo Sung Gon & Kenny Seo Combine in Macau, Major King Flops at Pimlico

Mixed news from the overseas Korean racing diaspora over the past couple of weeks. There was an all-Korean connections winner in Macau but Minister’s Cup winner Major King was a major disappointment on his American racing debut.

Jo Sung Gon and Kenny Seo in the Taipa Winner's Circle (MJC)

Jo Sung Gon and Kenny Seo in the Taipa Winner’s Circle (MJC)

Seoul Racecourse based trainer Seo Beom Seok – better known as Kenny Seo – has been running a parallel stable in Macau for a year now, primarily training for Korean owners. Busan’s champion jockey Jo Sung Gon has been based in Macau since January.

On April 4, the Park Nam Sung owned, Kenny Seo trained and Jo Sung Gon ridden Liver Pool (All Bar One) took victory in the 1100 metre race 2 at Taipa. For trainer and jockey it was their 4th and 2nd winners respectively in the Special Administrative Region.

Taipa will host the Korea Racing Authority Trophy on May 2. The KRA Chairman will be among those making the trip from Seoul.

Seo’s attempt to make a go of things in Asia is at odds with the KRA’s seemingly never-ending fascination with the USA, a jurisdiction which despite the source of a large quantity of racehorses and breeding stock, has little in common with Korea and by their own admission, isn’t a model that authorities here are aiming to emulate.

The sending of 2-year-olds to Florida for early training has great merit and the latest batch of them will be returning to Korea next month much better for the experience. However, the habit of sending of mature Korean-bred horses to run in claiming races in the North-East is far more questionable.

2013 classic winners Speedy First and Major King headed Stateside in January and Major King (Pico Central) – who hadn’t exactly been pulling up trees in his most recent Korean outings was the first to make his debut. Korean racing fans are strongly advised to look away now.

It was hoped that the Pick Me Up and Baekpa debacles of 2008 and 2009 had been learned from but it seems we are doomed to keep repeating the same old mistakes – Horses that are bred and only trained in Korea are going to struggle when expected to race alongside animals that have been raised entirely differently.

More interaction with Asia-Pacific – of which the exchange races with Japan last year were a perfect example – is what’s needed now, not sending our Classic winners to plod around Pimlico.