While Hyosik Lee’s three-month stay in Tamworth is about to come to an end, no one at the Sue Grills stable will be forgetting the Korean apprentice jockey anytime soon.
Lee has been apprenticing with Grills for a touch over 10 weeks and has helped the Tamworth trainer to one of her best starts to a season “probably ever”.
The hoop, from Busan in South Korea, has ridden five winners and claimed eight places for Grills including a second on Fading Mist in Moree on Friday.
“He’s a good rider and he brings a lot of experience,” Grills said of Lee who has six wins in total while racing in Australia.
“He’s had 400 rides and ridden 50 winners back home.”
Lee linked up with Grills through Alex Roh who is an agent for the Korea Racing Authority and helps find jockeys placements in Australia through the Korean Apprentice Jockey Program.
Lee’s success was instant – with a double in Grafton Which was his first meeting in Australia – despite the many challenges he faced.
First off was the tracks. Lee said he raced on sand in Korea compared to turf over in Australia.
However, the big one was the language barrier.
Lee said it impacted on his learning, work and social experiences but despite this he has relished the trip and plans to take all he has learned back to Korea to share with other apprentices.
“Hyosik has greatly appreciated this opportunity to travel to Australia for study and gain work experience during his stay,” Roh, who translated for Lee, said.
“He enjoys the Australian way of life and feels comfortable with the culture even though his English is not of a high standard.”
The other big difference for Lee was the more laid-back nature of Australians.
“Hyosik also conveyed that he found the trainers and race stewards more supportive and encouraging than those in Korea,” Roh said.
“He said in Korea apprentices are put under pressure to perform and afraid of making a mistake due to being reprimanded.”
On return to Korea, Lee will continue as an apprentice until June next year when he is required to complete compulsory military service for a period of 26 months.
But before any of that happens, the apprentice will race at Tamworth on Tuesday in the NAB Melbourne Cup Day Races.
He’s down for five rides – three of which will be for Grills.
Drawn to You, Inafernanika and Cedee Prince will be the Grills’ only horses racing on the day as she tries to add to her 13 wins for the season.
Grills said it’s probably her best start to a season every and puts it down to the staff.
“That’s the main thing – having good staff,” Grills said.
“I’ve got three good trackwork riders. That makes a huge difference and there’s a few nice horses around.