Day: October 19, 2009

FAFFing About in Parliament

Golf, Karaoke and Illegal Race-calls all feature in Racing’s Day at the Auditors

Monday saw top KRA officials make the journey to the National Assembly building in Yeouido, Seoul where, as part of the Ministry of Farming, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (FAFF), it was their turn to appear in front of lawmakers as part of the annual National Assembly audit.

During the three week audit, all government departments come under scrutiny with 500 administrative sections covering everything from the Army to the Tourist Board having to appear to answer questions. It’s an event widely criticised in Korea as being little to do with serious audit and more to do with political showboating.

Indeed it often turns out that way. In the past, politicians have arrived for the Defence Department audit wearing army fatigues and staged a target practice exhibition before the questions, while others decided to cut off the power while the Korean Electrical Power Corporation (KEPCO) was being grilled so that executives could see what it was like to work by candlelight.

The Korea Times commented last year that generally all officials need to do is either “beg, bribe or entertain the parliamentarians” to get through another year. The same paper did grant, however, that if nothing else, the audit period was good for “slapstick funnies” on the National Assembly TV channel.

Chairman and CEO Kim Kwang Won headed the KRA delegation. Sadly, Kim did not show up wearing racing silks and carrying a whip. Here’s a brief summary of some of the issues that were raised by lawmakers:

* Like any audit, the main purpose was to check what the KRA was doing with its money. Especially what it shouldn’t be doing. The KRA overtime payments to staff were criticised – around 4 Billion won ($3.6Million) was allegedly paid during the audit period. This was also noted in the last audit.

* Rep. Kang Seok Ho of the ruling (and perhaps appropriately named) Grand National Party, raised the issue of “improper Golf Club memberships” purchased by the KRA to the value of KRW 1 Billion as well as KRW 100 Million put on corporate credit cards at various Karaoke bars and “Saunas”. Rep. Kang condemned the expenditure as “violating every civilized subject of public sentiment” given the ongoing recession.

* Rep. Kang Ki-Kap of the Democratic Party is generally good value at any National Assembly event. Opting to neither fight, nor smash anything up today, he instead chose to focus on illegal gambling. Given that racing on TV has now been outlawed, Kang wanted to know what the KRA was doing to counter the supposed problem of illegal live commentaries of races from the track to private gaming houses.

* The appointment of a former close advisor to President Lee Myoung Bak during his election campaign to what some see as a grace and favour position within the racing authority, came under attack

* Regulatory issues were also covered. Breakfast TV news reports had speculated that the KRA would be strongly criticised over its progress in meeting guidleines laid down by the National Gaming Control Commission (NGCC). The matter was raised with criticism for the way the KRA has pushed ahead with its promotion of Off Track Betting locations (or KRA Plazas) with the NGCC requiring that by 2013, 50% of all money wagered is done so at the track – currently it stands at 30%.

How much fall-out there is from the audit session will become clearer later in the week but overall, there was little new on the regulatory front – and sadly even less on the comedy front.

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Leading Sire Race Neck And Neck

With the Classics out of the way it seems a good time to check on the leading sires race. And with Sangseung Ilro taking two legs of the Triple Crown and finishing third in the final one, Concept Win’s offspring are locked in a tight battle with those of Didyme to reclaim the title he last won in 2006.

Concept Win [Manila – Conveniently (In Reality)] has been in Korea since 1997 and was leading sire in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Didyme has ruled since then, with sheer numbers of winners rather than big race stars, giving him a slight advantage as we head into the tail end of the season. With just over two months to go, Didyme leads by just 40 Million won ($35,000) with Revere a further 100 Million Won behind.

What remains remarkable about Didyme, however, is his win rate – with 63 wins from 438 starts he has a win percentage of nearly 15% compared to 8% for Concept Win (43 wins from 500 starts). While Sangseung Ilro has accounted for over 600 Million Won of Concept Win’s earnings, Didyme’s top earner, Areumdaun Jilju, has made just 150 Million won. With the talent spread around, it looks as though it’s going to be three years running for Didyme.

Leading Sires in Korea 2009 (As of October 19)
Name/Pedigree/Earnings (Korean Won)/Chief Earner/Win Rate

1. Didyme (USA) [Dixieland Band – Soundings (Mr. Prospector)] – 2,379,790,000 – Areumdaun Jilju – 14.4%
2. Concept Win (USA) [Manila – Conveniently (In Reality)] – 2,331,894,000 – Sangseung Ilro – 8.6%
3. Revere (IRE) [Dancing Brave – Bint Pasha (Affirmed)] – 2,243, 940,000 – Pangpang – 8.4%
4. Ft. Stockton (USA) [Cure The Blues – Tai The Devil (Tai)] – 1,897,778,000 – Namdo Jeap – 9.5%
5. Social Charter (USA) [Nureyev – Aunt Pearl (Seattle Slew)] – 1,739,596,000 – Natural Guy – 8.1%

Volponi has been the best performer so far out of eleven first crop sires (albeit with just two wins) and is sixth overall in the list of sires of two year olds.

Full details can be found at the Korean Studbook.