Park Tae Jong

Park Tae Jong: 2000 Not Out

It had been coming for a long time but when it finally did, at 11:43am last Saturday, something happened at Seoul Racecourse that rarely – if ever – occurs. There was applause. After winning race 3, Park Tae Jong turned his mount around and then trotted back past the winning line to the spontaneous acclaim of the grandstand.  

IMG_20160521_122243

Punters help Park Tae Jong celebrate 2000 career winners at Seoul Racecourse last Saturday

We’ll get the cynicism out of the way early. Park had just guided Gangho Cheonnyeon, a 1.3 favourite to victory meaning just about every punter present had won their quinella bet; had this happened in race 1 when he was riding a 40/1 chance, the assembled punters may not have been so generous with their praise. It was though, a very warm moment.

In that race; race 3 on Saturday morning, Park Tae Jong became the first Korean jockey to ride 2000 career winners. In worldwide terms that’s a figure that is creditable and noteworthy but not unusual. For a Korean jockey of Park’s generation, it is an achievement that is nothing short of astonishing.

While Korean racing in 2016 still has a long way to go to be internationally competitive, it is worlds away from what it was when Park gained his license aged 22 in April of 1987. Most jockeys in those days would expect to ride for about five years, maybe getting 50-100 winners along the way if they were lucky. In a less than optimal system, many would then become Trainers. Many of them still are.

Additionally, in those days, there was a strict cap on the number of races a jockey could ride in each week. This  was only lifted when some jockeys were permitted to become freelance instead of being retained by a trainer around ten years ago. Even so, there are still only a total of 22-23 races a week that a jockey can ride in and few jockeys ride the full amount.

Park has also managed to make it through 29 years without any integrity run-ins. Famous for going to bed at 9pm every night and eschewing the soju-sloshing ways of some of his former contemporaries, he is one of only four from that era still riding today. However, none of Shin Hyoung Chul, Kim Ok Sung and the still hanging in there, Kim Gui Bae, have come anywhere close to what Park has achieved. Of those SHin has ridden the most winners with 677.

The 2000th winner:

Park Tae Jong’s first Stakes win was on Beoun in the now defunct Mugunghwa Cup in 1992 having already passed 100 career winner the year before. His first Graded race winner, Kev, came in the Ttukseom Cup, also in 1992. Park’s first and so far only Grand Prix Stakes win was in 1995, when he guided Daekyeon to a gate-to-wire eight-length win.

During the 1990s Park would establish himself as the nation’s top jockey, passing 500 winners in 1998 and then in 2000, passing Kim Myung Kuk’s record of 722 winners. Since then he has led the all-time winner’s list without interruption. He’s won three Korean Derby’s, a couple of Owner’s and Minister’s Cups and also the KRA Cup Mile at Busan in 2010.

Park became the first jockey to pass the 1000 winner mark in 2004 – and celebrated by being driven down the home straight in a Porsche – something he would repeat on Saturday only twelve years ago the Porsche was red, this time it was yellow. In common with all Seoul jockeys, Busan’s emergence as the base for the best horses in Korea has limited Park’s opportunities to win the very biggest races as, such as the arrangements the jockeys’ unions have made between themselves, only Busan jockeys may ride Busan horses.

Regardless, on a day to day basis, he remains one of the best in Korea. Park continues to ride winners and currently lies in 4th place in the 2016 Seoul Championship behind only Moon Se Young, Djordje Perovic and Jo Sung Gon.

Park Tae Jong

Park Tae Jong (Pic: Ross Holburt)

When you tell people in Korea that you are interested in horse racing, reactions are mixed. Many will think you are a degenerate gambler beyond redemption. Perhaps they are right. But most when pushed will also have heard of Park Tae Jong. They probably won’t have heard of Moon Se Young. Not yet, anyway.

His achievements may only be domestic in a country that craves international recognition and where a substantial proportion of the population looks down on its own sports leagues and events, but Park Tae Jong still deserves acknowledgement as one of Korea’s finest sportsmen of the past three decades. For a moment last Saturday, that was celebrated.

Park Tae Jong – as of May 2016:

Rides: 13365
1st: 2001
2nd: 1830
3rd: 1531
4th: 1442
5th: 1264

Win Strike Rate: 15.0%
Quinella Strike Rate: 28.7%
Show Strike Rate: 40.1%

Advertisements

Round-Up: Fujii Has Surgery, Korean Horses Back From US, Yongsan OTB Controversy Rumbles On

Lots to catch up on…

Lets Run

Joe Fujii underwent surgery on his broken shoulder on Monday. Fujii fell heavily coming out of the gate in race 4 at Busan last Sunday, breaking his scapula. While he was originally hopeful of being back within 6 to 8 weeks, a visit to a Seoul specialist confirmed the need for an operation which is likely to keep him out for between 3 to 4 months. The Japanese rider hopes to be back in time for either the Busan Owners’ Cup or the President’s Cup at Seoul.

Speaking of falls, Park Tae Jong, is currently sidelined from a bad one suffered a month ago. “President” Park is currently on 1881 winners, by far the most of all time by a Korean jockey. However, he could be about to have company in the “Thousand Club” after Moon Se Young’s victory on Yeongsan II on Sunday took the 33-year-old to 987.

Three Korean horses arrived back from the United States last week and will go through a Seoul sales ring in a few days time. Gangnam Camp, Seoul Bullet and Better Than You have spent the past 17 months in Ocala training and, more recently racing. None of the three actually managed to win a race Stateside.

Gangnam Camp managed a 2nd place from his 7 starts while Seoul Bullet secured one 3rd place from his 4. Better Than You, however, was unplaced in all of his 4 starts. Seoul Bullet did achieve the rather dubious honour of getting himself claimed at one point though.

2013 Minister’s Cup winner Major King, who had been racing fruitlessly in the North-East US for the past few months, joined them on the flight home, however, last year’s Derby and Oaks winning filly Speedy First remains in the US.

Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the long-running dispute over the relocation of the KRA’s off-site betting Plaza in Seoul’s Yongsan district. The new plaza finally opened amid tight security and vehement protest at the end of June and the dispute – originally started by the fact that the new Plaza is a block closer to a school than the old one – has now become something of a political football between governing and opposition parties.

Counter protests by Unions with interests in the racing industry have also taken place at the site with the most memorable banner being one imploring the other side to “Please Stop Insulting Racing Fans”, a reference to the ongoing campaign against the Plaza which has, among other things, sought to link the presence of Plazas with a rise in sex-crimes.

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

While the KRA has been busy producing glossy videos on the history of the Plazas and the community facilities they provide on non race-days, playing those videos at Seoul Racecourse seems somewhat like preaching to the converted. It’s certainly unlikely to change the minds of the anti-Plaza campaign which has raised a petition with 50,000 signatures calling for the Plaza’s closure.

Best to finish on news from the track and this coming Sunday sees the Busan Metropolitan City Mayor’s Stakes – colloquially known as the “Summer Grand Prix”. It’s been the lowest key build-up to the Metropolitan since Seoul horses became eligible to run a few years ago although the expected presence of the likes of Oreuse, Gamdonguibada, Cheonji Bulpae, Cowboy Son and Indian Blue among others, should make for an interesting race. We’ll start the full previews later this week.

New Year Begins With Impetus

It’s got one of the most cumbersome names in the calendar but the New Year’s Commemorative Race lived up to its reputation of being a tough punting prospect as 9/1 shot Impetus landed 2014’s first big prize at Seoul Race Park.

Impetus and Park Tae Jong return to scale after winning the New Year's Commemorative race

Impetus and Park Tae Jong return to scale after winning the New Year’s Commemorative race

Now 4-years-old, Impetus (Exploit) came in to the race having won 4 of his previous 13 starts and was 6th most favoured by punters.

Under jockey Park Tae Jong he hit the front coming off the final turn and fought off the determined challenge of favourite Bulkkot Daewang, who finished quickly on the rail, by a neck.

In other news on what was a long 14-race opening day in the Korean capital, we saw our first dead-heat of the year as the judges failed to separate Space Gun and Speed King at the end of race 10.

One race earlier, we also unfortunately saw the first heavy fall of the year as jockey Ahn Hyo Ri was unseated from her mount on the final turn. Ahn required hospital treatment but horse was unhurt and continued without his rider.

New Year Commemorative Race – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – January 4, 2014

1. Impetus (KOR) [Exploit – Miss Stravinsky (Stravinsky)] – Park Tae Jong
2. Bullkot Daewang (KOR) [Pico Central – Hwaju (Joindre)] – Cho Kyoung Ho
3. Daejangjeong (KOR) [Menifee – Ledge (Kris S.)] – Lee Sang Hyeok
Distances: Neck/2.5 lengths – 14 ran

Sunday January 5
Seoul Race Park: 10 races from 11:00 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:50 to 17:30

Gwanggyo Bisang Romps To Stakes Double

Gwanggyo Bisang cruised to a Stakes double at Seoul Race Park today, adding to his Munhwa Ilbo Cup with a 10 length victory in the Ilgan Sports Cup.

Park Tae Jong and Gwanggyo Bisang in the Ilgan Sports winners' circle - with a little help from members of Nine Muses

Park Tae Jong and Gwanggyo Bisang in the Ilgan Sports winners’ circle – with a little help from members of Nine Muses

Sent off the narrow favourite, Gwanggyo Bisang (Menifee) was always prominent among the 13-strong field and, under veteran jockey Park Tae Jong, never looked like being caught as he eased away from his rivals in the home straight.

Second-Favourite Heukgisa (A.P.Dancer) ran on for 2nd while the talented but lightly raced and injury prone K-Tap (Menifee) returned a creditable 3rd.

As a gelding, Gwanggyo Bisang was ineligible for the Triple Crown races this year. He has now won 7 of his 8 starts and enters class 1 racing as the highest ranked 3-year-old at Seoul. Having won at distances from 1000 metres to 1800 metres, he looks set to among the contenders for big honours later this year.

Ilgan Sports Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – September 15, 2013

1. Gwanggyo Bisang (KOR) [Menifee – Touch Upon (Touch Gold)] – Park Tae Jong – 2.1, 1.2
2. Heukgisa (KOR) [A.P.Dancer – Mansumugang (Half Term)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 1.6
3. K-Tap (KOR) [Menifee – Summit Party (Ecton Park)] – Jang Chu Youl – 3.7

Distances: 10 lengths/1 length – 13 ran

Earlier at Seoul there was a 3rd win in 4 starts for well-thought of 2-year-old Persian Wangja (Ghostzapper). One of very few Canadian-breds in Korea, he suffered his first defeat last time out at the hands of Fly Top Queen in the Singapore Turf Club Trophy. Today, he ran in a comfortable 2-length winner over 7 furlongs and is one to keep an eye on.

Down at Busan, having secured his 200th Korean winner last week, Australian Peter Wolsley trained his 201st today, saddling his stable star Cheongchun Bulpae (Milwaukee Brew) to win the feature “Mister Park Memorial Race” by a neck. A 4-year-old gelding, Cheongchun Bulpae now has 10 wins from 17 starts.

Happy Chuseok! From Dal Shabet

Happy Chuseok! From Dal Shabet

Racing now takes a weekend off for the “Chuseok” (Korean Thanksgiving) holiday. Punters were not impressed to find that the KRA had not supplied gifts for them as is customary at this time of year. However, given that top Korean girl-groups “Dal Shabet” and “Nine Muses” were both in attendance, we will forgive them.

Seoul International Jockey Challenge 2013: The Home Team

We’ve already taken a look at the jockeys who will be visiting Korea to make up the Rest Of The World team in this weekend’s Seoul International Jockey Challenge, now it’s time to examine the home team.

Moon Se Young

Moon Se Young

Moon Se Young: The reigning champion jockey at Seoul, Moon has won just about every big race going in his 12-year career to date including the Korean Derby and Grand Prix Stakes.

Second on the all-time Korean winners’ list with nearly 900 wins. Earlier this year, Moon spent a successful 3 months riding in Macao and despite giving his rivals such a head start, is already up to 3rd in the 2013 championship at home

Park Tae Jong

Park Tae Jong

Park Tae Jong: The only jockey to have ridden more winners than Moon Se Young, Park is also perhaps the only jockey to be known by the wider Korean public.

In his 26 years in the saddle, he’s ridden nearly 2,000 winners (from just 11,000 rides) and has won pretty much all there is to win in Korea. Korean Oaks aside, if he’s not won it, no-one has.

Jo In Kwen

Jo In Kwen

Jo In Kwen: One of the new generation of jockeys who benefitted from the KRA’s improved training during the last few years, Jo In Kwen debuted in 2008 and currently leads the 2013 standing with 62 winners.

Only three Stakes wins to date but very talented and is expected to go on to become one of the dominant jockeys of the next decade in Korea.

Seo Seung Un

Seo Seung Un

Seo Seung Un: He burst onto the scene in 2011 riding 2 winners on his debut weekend. He then went to the USA for further training, riding 2 winners in the process. He participated in the Asia Young Guns Challenge in Macao last year.

Seo rode out his apprentice claim in a Korean record time and, while yet to secure the really big rides, currently lies 2nd in the 2013 championship.

Jo Sung Gon

Dangdae Bulpae and Jo Sung Gon will look for a 2nd consecutive Busan Metropolitan

Jo Sung Gon: Busan’s champion jockey will travel to Seoul for the event and when he comes to the capital, Jo Sung Gon usually wins. That’s because he’s usually partnering Dangdae Bulpae, who’s won more Stakes races than any other Korean horse.

He won’t be on him this time but Jo is considered by some observers to be the most talented local jockey at either Seoul or Busan and is currently running away with the 2013 Busan championship.

Yoo Hyun Myung

Yoo Hyun Myung

Yoo Hyun Myung: Another Busan jockey completes the home team. Yoo Hyun Myung won the Grand Prix Stakes on Mister Park at Seoul in 2010 and has been consistently among Busan’s top riders for the last few years. He comes into the event in good form.

All jockeys will compete in four races over the weekend, culminating in the YTN Cup on Sunday evening. Rides will be allocated by a draw which will take place at Declarations on Thursday afternoon at Seoul Racecourse.

Worth The Wait? Fly Top Queen Wins Again

Fly Top Queen, the most expensive racehorse ever imported into Korea, made her second racecourse appearance and coasted to her second easy win at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Fly Top Queen coasts to victory at Seoul

Fly Top Queen coasts to victory at Seoul

The 3-year old filly was sent of the long odds-on favourite for the class 4 race over 6 furlongs and jockey Park Tae Jong never moved as he guided Fly Top Queen to a 6-length triumph.

Fly Top Queen [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] was imported to Korea last year after being bought for $225,000 at Ocala. Suffering setback after setback she finally made it to the racecourse a month ago. So far, she’s been worth the wait.

Gwanggyo Bisang & Park Tae Jong Win Munhwa Ilbo Cup

Gwanggyo Bisang, a 3-year-old gelding, cruised to victory in the Munhwa Ilbo Cup at Seoul Race Park today.

Gwanggyo Bisang and Park Tae Jong in the Munhwa Ilbo Cup Winner's Circle

Gwanggyo Bisang and Park Tae Jong in the Munhwa Ilbo Cup Winner’s Circle

Geldings are ineligible for the 3-year-old Classics. If they were, Gwanggyo Bisang (Menifee) would surely have been a leading contender. He came into the race today with 5 wins from 6 starts at a variety of distances and, after sitting towards the back of the field during th early stages, he made short work of passing the whole lot to win by just under 3 lengths. K Tap (Menifee), a Derby also-ran was 2nd with the promising Heukgisa (A.P.Dancer) in 3rd.

It won’t be long until we see Gwanggyo Bisang in class 1 action and his is a name to look out for later in the year.

While it was a first visit to the Stakes winner’s circle for Gwanggyo Bisang, for his jockey it was anything but. Park Tae Jong has won more races than any other rider in Korean history – he’s closing in on 2,000 – and is one of only 3 jockeys still riding who first qualified for their license at the old Ttukseom Racecourse.

The 47-year-old Park’s first Stakes win came in the now discontinued Mugunghwa Cup in 1992 and with the exception of the Oaks, has won every big race in Korea. He may win a few more on Gwanggyo Bisang.

Munhwa Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – July 14, 2013

1. Gwanggyo Bisang (KOR) [Menifee – Touch Upon (Touch Gold)] – Park Tae Jong – 4.5, 1.9
2. K Tap (KOR) [Menifee – Summit Party (Ecton Park)] – Moon Se Young – 2.4
3. Heukgisa (KOR) [A.P. Dancer – Mansumugang (Half Term)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 1.9

Distances: 2.5 lengths/Neck – 14 ran

* Next week sees the start of what is perhaps the highlight of the Korean racing year – four weeks of evening racing. During that time, the first race at Seoul will be around 2pm with the last around 9pm.