American trainer faces big hurdles in South Korea

by | 01.09.2012 | 10:15am

The Los Angeles Times profiles Joseph Michael Murphy, a trainer from the U.S. who has spent the past two years trying to make it in the South Korean racing industry.  The country's racing culture is famously resistant to outsiders – as Murphy has discovered.  He's won just seven of 150 races, even as the Korean Racing Authority is encouraging foreign horsemen to infuse much-needed new blood into the industry:

“He attributes his rocky start not just to cultural protectionism and a powerful jockeys union, but also to language barriers. He's talkative, gets in people's faces, but struggles to learn the Korean track vocabulary that will allow him to become one of the boys.”

“Instead, he is questioned — over how he cracks horses' leg joints before races or consults an equine dentist, for instance. On the other side, the South Koreans are unable to explain why workers hang fish heads for luck over stable doors or throw salt on a horse's rump before races, saying that's just how things are done here.”

Murphy remembers an owner telling him: “This is a Korean horse. It doesn't understand Western ways.”

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