In late October, the KRA approved the use of pacifiers for the first time. Pacifiers, a closely knit mesh placed over the eyes, have a number of purposes. Firstly, they are intended to do what their name suggests and pacify an otherwise excitable horse as it needs to concentrate much harder to see where it is going. The other main reason for their use is that they can reduce the effect of kickback on dirt with horses who resent it as well as reducing the number of eye injuries suffered. They have opponents, however, who claim that impeding vision is dangerous and indeed although the vast majority of racing jurisdictions permit pacifiers, they are often banned in wet weather as mud can accumulate.
The first to take advantage of the rule change was Peter Wolsley, the only foreign trainer currently training in Korea. Wolsley fitted Gyeongcheonsa with pacifiers in the feature handicap at Busan on November 14 and the five year old mare went on to record her first win since 2006. Thirty minutes later in the next race, another of Wolsley’s horses, Khaosan, came from last to second in the stretch, missing out on victory by a head, also wearing pacifiers. The following week, Cherokee Morn, another five year old mare who had been in dismal form in 2008 since moving up to category 1 races, was fitted with pacifiers, and duly ran into second place at odds of 163.1. It remains to be seen if their use will catch on but right now, it is certainly worth checking the race card closely to see if there will be any first-time pacifier wearers.