Mai Beppu

Sho Time – Japanese Jockey Ueno Has a Tough Task Ahead

Over the weekend, Sho Ueno became the latest Japanese jockey to debut at Seoul Race Park, replacing Mai Beppu who left the track at the end of February. He has a tough task ahead of him.

Sho Ueno at Seoul

Nevertheless, the young JRA rider made an encouraging start. With just four rides across the weekend, all unfancied, he ended up with two third-place finishes and another fifth with only one being out of the prize-money.

The foreign jockeys are now the only ones who are considered “freelance”. All others are attached to trainers.

Under the jurisdiction of the Jockey Union, it used to be the case that jockeys who were retained by a trainer could only take five race rides per week but would get a salary for trackwork. Freelancers could ride as many as they wanted but would have no guaranteed salary.

The best jockeys went freelance and on average, earned three to four times that of retained jockeys. The very top ones even more.

Now all jockeys are retained by a trainer with a limit for everyone of 14 rides over a weekend. Of course, the best jockeys still get all the best rides – Moon Se Young is with Ha Jae Heung and Ch Kyoung Ho back with his old boss Shin Woo Chul.

The new system makes is, however, likely making it even harder for the foreign jockeys to get rides. When each trainer has two or three jockeys retained, they need a very good reason to employ someone else. Not a problem for Moon Se Young who gets plenty from many trainers, but not so easy for the foreigners.

And the figures don’t lie. Makoto Noda has won 8 times since arriving last June while Toshi Inoue has just 1 victory to show from his three months so far – and that was on his first day. They are poor returns but both, just like Beppu and Hiro Hamada before them, seem more than capable in the saddle but only get opportunitites to ride horses in contention for the minor placings at best.

On the surface, the success last year of Nathan Stanley and Akane Yamamoto at Busan would appear to undermine this theory. In reality, however, while both were officially the only freelancers at the track, in reality the pair acted as stable jockeys to Peter Wolsley and Kim Young Kwan in all but name. It’s unlikely a visitor to Seoul will get similar opportunities any time soon.

With Cho Kyoung Ho sidelined since January, Moon Se Young has dominated the early part of the Seoul season. The breakthrough of the year is Seo Seung Un, still a first year apprentice but fourth in the standings:

2012 Seoul Jockey Championship (Up to March 12)

1. Moon Se Young – 33
2. Oh Kyoung Hoan – 16
3. Park Tae Jong – 14
4. Seo Seung Un – 12
5. Jo In Kwen – 11

Bye, Mai – Japanese Jockey Change at Seoul

Mai Beppu’s time riding in Korea has come to an end. The Japanese jockey has held a license at Seoul Race Park for a full year but will return to Japan at the end of February. She will be replaced by young JRA jockey Sho Ueno.

Yes!! I'm going home! - Mai Beppu

Beppu first rode in Korea in the “International Lady Jockey Invitational” – an event that mercifully for all sorts of reasons hasn’t been repeated – in Busan in 2009, finishing third in the race behind fellow Japanese Hitomi Miyashita who herself went on to spend a successful year riding full-time at Busan.

Beppu arrived in Seoul last March and, after getting injured on her first weekend went on to have a reasonably successful time at the track – at least by the usual standards of the thankless task that is being a foreign jockey riding at Seoul. She ended with 13 wins over the year, with a quinella strike rate of 9%. Like all other foreign jockeys at Seoul, while she did get plenty of rides (around 300 in total), their quality was lacking.

Always smiling, the 24 year-old Mai was popular with punters, trainers and other jockeys (some more than others) and will, with any luck, continue to have a successful career in future.

Mai’s replacement at Seoul is 26 year-old Sho Ueno. Based at tthe JRA’s Ritto Training Centre, Ueno debuted in 2004 but has only managed 38 winners from 1,236 rides in Japan. He joins Makoto Noda, who is coming to the end of his license and Toshihiko Inoue as the only foreign riders at Seoul.

Akane Yamamoto is currently the only foreign jockey at Busan although the suspended Nathan Stanley is still licensed. Sho Ueno is on an initial 4 month license starting March 1.

Inoue Debuts With A Winner

Veteran Japanese jockey Toshihiko Inoue made the perfect start to his time in Korea, scoring a victory on his debut at Seoul Race Park today.

The 47 year old has notched over 1500 winners in a career dating back to 1983 and comes to Seoul Race Park on an initial four-month license.

Inoue had six rides today and started off by scoring a shock second place in race 1 on 30/1 outsider Huimang Daejakjeon. His win came in race 7, when he drove home 7/1 chance Gigomamnjang by a neck in a tight finish.

Inoue joins fellow Japanese riders Makoto Noda and Mai Beppu at Seoul. Noda has had a tough time, landing 6 wins from 258 rides while Beppu – who has proved popular with the local trainers (not to mention certain top jockeys) has scored 13 from 236, including one today.

Down at Busan where the locals are generally more amenable to foreogn riders, Eiki Nishimura and Akane Yamamoto are both enjoying successful spells. Akane will be in Seoul on Sunday to ride Mister Park in the Grand Prix Stakes.

Inoue has a further five rides on Sunday.