Holland has spent the past six weeks there, and despite the threats from the North that there is a major risk to the safety of foreign nationals, he has no plans to make a hurried evacuation. The most likely date for any nuclear tests is 15 April, which marks the birthday of Kim Il-sung, the founder and first President of North Korea.
The jockey, who is based in Busan, at the southern end of the Korean peninsular, is the first European to have a licence there. In contrast to all other racing I know of, rather than horses running in the colours of their owner, in Korea each jockey has his own colours, in Holland’s case, a rather fetching shade of mint green.
Holland, now 40 years old, explained that circumstances in England led to him trying his hand elsewhere. He said, “I just needed a change. I wasn’t really letting anybody down, I didn’t have a stable job and I wasn’t retained by an owner. So the time was right and I decided to come out here.”
He has already shown he has got to know one horse very well. On his first day of riding at the end of February, he partnered Raon Boss, but the pair trailed in last but one of 14 runners. On Sunday, they were in action again, in the first of this season’s Korean Classics, the KRA Cup Mile. Informally, it’s the 2,000 Guineas. I watched a video of the race, and whilst I couldn’t follow the commentary at all, I could follow Holland’s progress by picking out his colours. Raon Boss was closing in on race winner Sting Ray at the end, finishing four lengths down in second place.
As to his safety, Holland isn’t worried. He said, “I know about the warning (for foreigners to leave) but I’m not bothered about that, and the embassy in Seoul is not too concerned. I’ve got CNN on now and, as we speak, it is just propaganda because they want to damage the economy in terms of investment and firms that operate here.”
I hope, for his sake, that he’s right.