Month: January 2009

Weekend Preview

Season Debuts for Dongbanui Gangja, Myeongmun Gamun, Pick Me Up
A host of big name horses will take to the track this weekend as racing returns after the Lunar New Year break. Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja makes his first appearance of 2009 at Seoul Race Park on Sunday and will be giving four kilos to Brilliant Knight, the gelding with five wins from his first six starts stepping up in class. On Saturday, Myeongmun Gamun, the top Korean bred horse at Seoul also makes his season debut, going head to head with Secret Weapon who’ll be looking to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Grand Prix.

Down at Busan, Pick Me Up will run for the first time since returning from the US. The seven year old will carry top weight in the feature handicap on Friday, a race that also features last year’s Derby winner Ebony Storm.

Busan Race Park
Friday January 30: 10 races, first post time 13:00
Sunday February 1: 6 races, first post time 12:30

Seoul Race Park:
Saturday January 31: 12 races, first post time 11:10
Sunday February 1: 11 races, first post time 11:10

Jeju Race Park will host 9 races on both Saturday and Sunday.

Reforms as Regulator Still Hovers

KNetz to go but Trifecta comes to Korea / 2009 the year of the Filly & Mare
Last September, this site wrote about the National Gaming Control Commission (NGCC) and its attempts to essentially outlaw gambling in Korea. At the time, racing was seemingly very much under threat with the KRA collecting signatures in support of its fight against the commission and the Gangwon Land casino – the only casino open to Korean citizens – admitting it feared the worst as its share price plummeted. The apocalyptic scenario that some were discussing back then seems to have been averted for the time being, but it is with regulation very much in mind that a number of changes have been made to the 2009 racing season.

The NGCC is sticking by its main goal. That is, it wants to see the total amount wagered on all forms of gambling limited. The figure it has set is KRW 14 Trillion per year (around US$13 Billion). This applies to racing, casinos, the lottery, track cycling and motor boat racing. As the economic situation has worsened, however, the commission seems to have accepted that these legal forms of gambling are not necessarily the problem. Instead it is illegal gambling which, while always common in a country where the maximum legal amount you can bet on a horse is $80, according to anecdotal evidence is rapidly on the increase and the NGCC’s focus would be appear to be shifting towards this area rather than to legal betting on racing.

So far, the NGCC’s only tangible impact upon racing has been to order the KRA to shut down its internet and mobile “KNetz” betting service. Additionally, in response to the regulatory threat, the KRA has chosen to run four fewer days of racing in 2009, a total of 33 less races than last year. While the KRA’s own aim to get the KRW 100,000 single bet limit increased may be very much on hold, these seem small prices to pay compared with what was envisaged back in the autumn.

At the same time, the KRA is aiming to get as much of that KRW 14 Trillion spent at the track instead of on the lottery as possible. From April, a sixth type of bet is going to be available as the Trifecta finally arrives in Korea. It is expected that there will be a marketing campaign aimed at current lottery players advising them of the far better odds – not to mention fun – that the trifecta will offer, will be launched.

On the racing side of things 2009 sees some changes too. Primarily there is going to be a much greater focus on fillies and mares. In 2008, just 2% of races were designated for female horses. This is to rise to 10% this year – essentially one race per card. Perhaps even more significantly, the amount that owners are permitted to spend on imported horses has doubled to $40,000 – but only for female horses. This threshold, in place to protect the local breeding industry, has been a major impediment to getting quality horses onto the Korean track and encouraging trainers to raise their game and produce better horses. The final racing change for 2009 is that the minimum number of starters for Stakes races has been reduced from seven to five.

Overall, there is still a threat. It is entirely possible that for political reasons, the deeply unpopular government may decide to suddenly introduce legislation to ban all gambling. For now, however, it seems as though the KRA will reluctantly take its medicine, in the form of the KNetz ban, and get on with things. Indeed, track turnover is predicted to rise by 13% this year. Even though the Korea Times chose to portray this as a sign of a “Depression trauma” society, it seems we can look forward to the 2009 season with optimism that we can concentrate on what’s happening on the track, rather than off it.

Pick Me Up Entered at Busan

Recently home from his vacation in the United States, Pick Me Up is a possible starter at Busan Race Park this coming Friday. The now seven year old gelding spent the autumn at Maryland’s Fair Hill Training Center racing three times at Laurel and Delaware Park and predictably not making much of an impact, trotting round at the back of the field all three times. Pick Me Up is one of twenty one early entries for Friday’s feature, a nine furlong handicap. Among them are two of 2008’s Classic winners in Derby winner Ebony Storm and KRA Cup Mile winner Rainmaker, now recovered from the injury he sustained in the Minister’s Cup.

Also entered next weekend is Golding, one of twenty eight possibles for Sunday’s Busan feature. The field for both races will be narrowed down to fourteen by Wednesday. Up at Seoul, we could see a season debut for Dongbanui Gangja. The Grand Prix winner is pencilled in to take on Brilliant Knight, winner of five of his six starts, over ten furlongs next Sunday.

* In other news from Seoul, the KRA have added another overseas jockey to their roster. No details have been released as yet as to his identity, except the family name “Santos”. More information when we get it.

Weekend Preview – Happy Lunar New Year!!

There’s no racing across the peninsula this weekend as Koreans prepare for the Lunar New Year holiday – or “Soellal” – which falls on Monday. The break couldn’t have come at a better time as the next couple of days are expected to be the coldest of the winter so far with temperatures having already dropped to -9 and expected to bottom out at -12 on Saturday.

The extended public holiday lasts until Tuesday and is one of the two main Korean holidays – the other being “Chuseok” in Autumn – that racing, along with the rest of the country, shuts down for. Things will be back to normal next weekend with Busan Race Park the first to host a card on Friday January 30.

Good Day For Seonju Jangsu

Seonju Jangsu produced a sparkling final furlong to find herself back in the Winner’s Enclosure for the first time since 2006 in the feature race at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Hot favourite Good Day led for the first nine furlongs of the ten furlong race, but when it came to the business end of the home straight, the top weight had nothing left to give and it was the seven year old mare Seonju Jangsu who led outsider Dalgane and perennial placer Nujindo through, Seonju Jangsu winning by four lengths on the line.

Winning three of her first five races back in 2005, Seonju Jangsu never really lived up to that early promise finishing eighth in the Oaks that year. Since then, while regularly finishing in the money, victories have been scarce. For Good Day it was another unexpected setback and the five year old is now without a win in four outings having gone off as favourite on all those occasions.

In Busan’s feature, Gyeoncheonsa notched her second straight win to continue her recent renaissance under trainer Peter Wolsley. The mare, who was off the track for a year and a half before returning in mid 2008, held off the fast finishing Cherokee Morn for a half length win.



Wait Goes On for Subsidy

Noubeau Riche takes advantage / New Kaiser, Event beaten
As the field entered the home straight, it looked as though Subsidy was going to take his career earnings through the Billion Won mark with a win in this afternoon’s big race at Seoul Race Park. Having sat just behind the leaders for most of the mile and a quarter race, Moon Se Young shifted the gelding off the rail and into a gap, then asked him to go. Uncharacteristically, there was no response from Subsidy. Meanwhile, third favourite Noubeau Riche grabbed the lead and, in a tight finish, held off Haengun Daewang and Serendipper to take the win.

It was Subsidy’s third failed attempt at achieving the Billion figure and, in finishing sixth, equalled his worst ever placing in his five year career in Seoul. For now Myeongmun Gamun remains the only horse at the track to have over a Billion Won in the bank and Subsidy, the nine year old son of Mr Prospector, must wait a little longer. Meanwhile Noubeau Riche, entering his five year old season takes his record to seven wins from thirteen outings.

On a day which began with temperatures well below zero and with yesterday’s snow still on the ground but gradually got warmer until it was a positively tropical three degrees above, there weree defeat for three year old Derby possibles New Kaiser and Event. Coming off the back of four straight wins, Event made step up from seven to nine furlongs and, after leading through the first three turns, didn’t stay and faded to last. New Kaiser, unbeaten in two previous appearances also led early on in his race over seven furlongs but similarly faded from view in the straight.

Aside from the defeat on Subsidy, Champion jockey Moon Se Young was back in form landing his first treble of the year with wins on Urim in race 5, Wipungdodangdang in race 8 and Towering in race 12. Park Tae Jong also managed three with Shine in race 1, Hero Interview in race 3 and Daehyo in race 10. Racing returns to Seoul at 11:10 tomorrow, with Busan and Jeju underway at 12:30.

Class 1 (Foreign bred) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – Jan 17, 2009

1. Noubeau Riche (USA) [Beau Genius – Cozy Cafe (Future Storm)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 4.2
2. Haengun Daewang (NZ) [City On A Hill – Anne of Avon (Honor Grades)] – Yoo Sang Wan – 12.3
3. Serendipper (AUS) [Danewin – Coppelius (Pleasant Colony)] – Park Tae Jong – 7.8
Distances: 0.5 lengths/0.5 lengths – 9 ran


Weekend Preview – Subsidy Goes for the Billion

Subsidy will take his second crack at breaking the Billion Won career prize money mark when he goes in Saturday’s feature at Seoul Race Park. The nine year old Subsidy [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] needs only to finish in the first five to reach the landmark figure. In his thirty two race career, the gelding has only been out of the money twice, with eighteen wins to his name. Champion jockey Moon Se Young gets the ride in the 2000 metre handicap, which comes under orders at 17:15. Out to stop him is a field of nine including Noubeau Riche (12runs/6 wins) and Haengun Daewang (27/9).

Sunday’s big race at Seoul features Good Day (19/13) heading the weights and giving at least three kilos to the rest of a twelve strong field featuring Nujindo and old stager Flying Cat. Busan puts on cards on Friday and Sunday. Friday’s feature will see Yongdu Baram face off against Boryeong Bulbit while Sunday’s card has four of its six races open to overseas bred horses.

Busan Race Park

Friday January 16: 10 races, first post time 13:00
Sunday January 18: 6 races, first post time 12:30

Seoul Race Park

Saturday January 17: 12 races, first post time 11:10
Sunday January 18: 11 races, first post time 11:10

Jeju Race Park will hold pony racing on Saturday and Sunday with nine races and a first post time of 12:30 on both days. While temperatures in Seoul have been below freezing for exactly a week now, the weekend should see things getting better with temperatures between 5-9C. Busan will be even warmer but both tracks could see rain on Sunday.