Bookmark and Share
Moon has landed at Kranji
Michael Lee

Moon Se Young is finally in town.


Before you think the latest K-Pop sensation is here to spark another mass hysteria among the ladies at Kallang, this one has pitched in at Kranji.


He is also slightly shorter but not any smaller in stature – and if he scores, it will be more with the uncles than the aunties.

Moon Se Young and wife Kim Ryeo Jin take in their new home for the next three months.

Moon is a jockey, and not any jockey from the Land of the Morning Calm, Hyundai and kimchi. He is their eight-time champion jockey (2008, 2010 to 2016).


As famous as a Joao Moreira in Hong Kong for instance, or Yutaka Take in Japan or Ryan Moore in England. You get the drift.


The 35-year-old South Korean was granted a three-month licence by the Singapore Turf Club back in February. Since work permits take a month of Sundays to get ironed out these days, you know it’s sorted when you can spot a new person of slight build from a mile – normally during trackwork – walking around in plainclothes, looking all wide-eyed and a little lost.


Moon was first seen on Tuesday morning at Kranji along with his wife Kim Ryeo Jin (a racing TV presenter in Seoul), ex-Kranji now Seoul-based trainer Brian Dean and his interpreter Nell Lee.


One thing that struck the most about the 1,400-odd race winner (including six at Group level) was his confidence.


“I came to Singapore because I wanted a new challenge. I’ve been riding in Korea for a long time and have achieved a lot there, and it was time to try something new,” said Moon.


“For a start, I got three months and I’m very grateful to the Singapore Turf Club for the opportunity. If things work out, I would of course like to extend my stay here.


“I’ve ridden in Macau where I rode seven winners in 60 rides. I also rode in Malaysia and Japan at invitational races, but I want more international experience and Singapore is the next stop I wanted to ride in.


“Though I know Singapore show Korean races, we don’t get to see Singapore races but I do follow on the internet what is happening. I know some of the jockeys here like Manoel Nunes and Benny Woodworth, but that’s about it.


“Of course, Brian has spoken to me about the racing here. I do ride for Brian a few times, but we’ve yet to get a win, only a few seconds and thirds; that’s because he doesn’t give me enough rides!”


Korean racing is one of the emerging racing nations in this part of the world, but for outsiders, most remember it for one idiosyncrasy – its deep sand track, at both Seoul and Busan.


Can we therefore expect Moon to be more at home on Polytrack? He rubbishes the idea straightaway.


“It’s true we race only on sand in Korea, but I’ve ridden on turf overseas. It’s not a problem for me,” said the first Korean jockey to be granted a long-term licence in Singapore (other than those who rode for one day at the Korea Racing Authority Trophy meeting in the last two years).


“Besides, we race in the same direction as Kranji, anti-clockwise. It’s not the turf track that I’m worried about, I’m sure I can adjust to that quickly, it’s the different training tracks you have here.


“Back home, we have only one track. I will need to understand the different speeds and pace we work on the different tracks during trackwork.


“Other than that, I’m really looking forward to my next three months riding here.


“I can’t wait for my first day at trackwork tomorrow. Ricardo Le Grange will be giving me some horses to ride.


“Unfortunately, I came too late to ride at the two meetings this weekend. All the bookings were already done today as tomorrow is a public holiday, but that’s okay.”


Aware that Singaporeans are more exposed to Australian, South African and European jockeys, Moon, who counts the Group 1 Grand Prix Stakes in 2007 (Bally Brae) and Group 1 Korean Derby in 2012 (Jigeum I Sungan) as his two biggest acclaims, said to expect his own brand of riding in months to come – and it is not Gangnam style.


“I like Japanese jockey Masayoshi Ebina and I do watch Joao Moreira in Hong Kong a lot,” he said.


“But I don’t copy them. I have my own style – Moon style.”