Month: March 2010

Weekend Preview

Bally Brae at Seoul, Sangseung Ilro at Busan

Both Bally Brae and Sangseung Ilro will be bidding for back-to-back wins on Sunday as the two star names headline the feature events at Seoul and Busan respectively. Bally Brae put in a commanding performance to see off Baekjeonmupae, three years his junior, back in February to claim his first win in nearly a year. However, the younger horse will be back on Sunday, this time carrying two kilos less than Bally Brae and with another half a furlong to run. Bally Brae will also have to do without the services of regular jockey Moon Se Young, who misses the weekend through suspension.

Sangseung Ilro, last year’s KRA Cup Mile and Derby heroine, has always been fragile but she was back in the winner’s circle for her first run as a four year old in January and now, after two months of rest, she’s back in the Busan feature on Sunday. She’ll be giving at least three kilos to the rest of the eleven strong field – all bar one of whom are male.

Also at Busan on Sunday, highly rated young US imports Aju Joa, Scit Scat Cat and Useung Geotap face each other in the Busan Ilbo Cup race over seven furlongs.

Friday March 19

Busan Race Park: 10 races, first post 12:00, last 18:00
Jeju Race Park (Pony racing): 9 races, first post 13:30, last 17:30

Saturday March 20

Seoul Race Park: 12 races, first post 11:20, last 17:40
Jeju Race Park (Pony racing): 9 races, first post 12:10, last 17:10

Sunday March 21

Seoul Race Park: 11 races, first post 11:20, last 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races, first post 12:40, last 16:30


Busan Re-Opens After Park Jin Hee Laid To Rest

Suicide note blamed competition and treatment by trainers

Busan Race Park will re-open on Friday, the first time since the suicide of jockey Park Jin Hee last week. A funeral service for Park took place at the track on Tuesday.

Earlier in the week, Park’s handwritten suicide note was made public. In it, she wrote of the stress she was under following a lean year, but also singled out the harsh treatment she felt she had received from trainers – naming one in particular (the name was redacted from the released copy of the note).

This is an issue that is well-known in Korean racing circles. Many are shocked to witness the way in which trainers interact with jockeys at trackwork, at race-trials and after races. Extreme verbal abuse is accepted as the norm and an authoritarian culture dominates. Some ascribe it in large part to the fact that it has always been that way. Today’s trainers were jockeys ten or twenty years ago and went through the same thing. Instead of ending it, they feel as though the roles have reversed and finally it is their turn.

This is something that has surprised visiting overseas jockeys (and indeed visiting trainers) and has contributed to some of them leaving soon after their arrival, including some from countries not known for its trainers refraining from jockey chastisement. The local jockeys do not like it, but accept it and indeed, it would be wrong to say that all trainers behave in the same way. They do not. Meanwhile, Stewards do their best to intervene when they can – as seen in this report from February– but what they see is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg.

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) has said that it will respond to the tragedy by taking steps to improve working conditions for jockeys. However, the KRA, while ostensibly administering racing, has very little power over what actually happens. That power lies with the licensees and the Unions. Of the licensees, the Trainers are Kings. For all the strength of the Jockeys’ Union against the KRA, they cannot stand up to the trainers.

The tragedy has appeared in the mainstream Korean media over the past week, including the the English language Korea Times.

While according to the Times, Korea’s poisonous “netizens” have turned their bile onto the KRA’s homepage, the online racing community has paid its own respects this week. See tributes from Korean bloggers Shaka and Chulgigi. Chulgigi has put together a number of galleries of Park Jin Hee in happier days which can be viewed at his website here.

Notably there is a picture of Park with Lee Myoung Hwa, the jockey who also committed suicide in Busan in 2005. It is a stark fact that of the eleven Korean women granted jockey licenses, two have now taken their own lives.

Included in Chulgigi’s tribute is a music video Park appeared in for the Korean band SoBangCha. The video is also on YouTube:

Northern Ace Back in Classic Pack?

Northern Ace showed no signs of being any the worse for a six month lay-off as he picked up where he left off last August at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Just as in his only two outings to date, the colt required nothing more than to be pointed in the right direction to easily see off the rest of the class 4 field. The margin of victory was thirteen lengths without him even being asked to run.

Whether he is back in the classic picture remains to be seen. The first jewel of the Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile, is just three weeks away and it may be, like with Nice Choice last year, Seoul’s best horses again skip the Busan leg of the Crown. Regardless of what comes next, the very fact that he is back is good news for race fans across the peninsula.

Northern Ace capped four winners for Moon Se Young

On a day when there was still a sense of shock in the air following the events of 48 hours ago in Busan, Moon Se Young was the undoubted star. He suffered a bad fall on the same day of Northern Ace’s last run. If it hadn’t happened, he would surely have won last year’s championship. Today he took a big step towards regaining it with four wins in total.

There were co-feature races, one for domestic horses and one for overseas bred horses. In the domestic event, Triple Seven, got the better of Good Day by a length, while in the overseas race, Bold Magic scored his first class 1 win in eleven attempts. He overcame K J Khan and favourite Obaek Yechan to win the ten furlong race by a convincing two and a half lengths.


Busan Cancelled Following Park Jin Hee Death

Seoul goes ahead as planned / Suicide Note reported found

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA), has confirmed that Sunday’s scheduled card at Busan Race Park has been cancelled following the apparent suicide of jockey Park Jin Hee. After no jockeys arrived for trackwork on Saturday morning, official race trials were cancelled and with no-one in the mood for racing, the decision was made to abandon activity at the track until next weekend.

Meanwhile, several local media outlets are reporting that a suicide note was found in Park’s apartment. Written on two sides of A4 paper, the note detailed the extreme stress that Park was suffering following a difficult year which had only yielded one winner; the problems she was now facing in even getting rides and the hardships that resulted from this. The note reportedly also said that she could no longer cope with the intense competition she faced as a jockey.

There was a solemn mood over Seoul Race Park today as racing went on. In light of the news from Busan, several jockeys were released from their riding engagements. One of those was Lee Ae Li, who trained with Park at the KRA’s Jockey Academy. The two women gained their professional licenses on the same day, September 13, 2002, as they became only the third and fourth Korean women in history to qualify as professional jockeys.

Racing at Seoul on Sunday will go ahead and the Busan track will be open for simulcasting from Seoul. The race program has been amended slightly at Seoul. The first race is at 11:20 and the last at 17:30.

Jockey Park Jin Hee Commits Suicide

Korean racing was in shock and mourning this evening with news from Busan that popular lady jockey Park Jin Hee had been found dead in her apartment on Friday.

According to the Sports Chosun, Park did not appear for the first of her scheduled rides at Busan’s Friday meeting and didn’t respond to calls. Officials raised the alert and police discovered her hanged at her home late on Friday afternoon.

Park Jin Hee, who was 28 in February, turned professional in 2002 at the Seoul Racecourse. She relocated to Gyeongnam Province when the Busan Racecourse opened in 2005. Over her career, she scored 38 winners from 651 rides. She was the top female rider on the Korean peninsula in 2008 and represented Korea in the Invitational Lady Jockey Challenge at Busan in 2009.

It is the second such tragedy at Busan following newly licensed jockey Lee Myoung Hwa’s decision to take her own life in 2005. Lee had been battling stress and depression.

Today’s big race at Busan was won by Beukgeukseong – a horse on whom Park won five times.

Park Jin Hee 1982-2010

Weekend Preview

Northern Ace is Back

It’s been a full six months of setback after setback but on Sunday, Northern Ace, possibly the most exciting two-year old of last year finally reappears at Seoul. On his debut, he broke J.S. Hold’s five furlong track record leaving Ace Galloper – a horse who has developed into one of Seoul’s brightest three-year olds – trailing far behind.

His next run came a month later when he cantered away from a woefully outclassed field over six furlongs. That was on August 29. Earlier that day jockey Moon Se Young, who was set to ride him, suffered an injury that would keep him out until December and Cho Kyoung Ho took the mount. Few realised then that the champion jockey would be back on the track before the likely champion juvenile.

Northern Ace was due to face Seonbongbulpae in the Herald Business in early December but racing was called off at the last minute due to a frozen track. When the event was rescheduled for the following weekend he, along with several others, didn’t appear.

There’s a little longer to wait though until we find out if Northern Ace is anything like the horse he threatened to be last year. He goes in the very last race of the weekend at 6pm on Sunday.

Racing gets underway at Busan on Friday although the biggest race at the Southern track is on Sunday when Crafty Louis will put in an appearance. Saturday sees a low-key day of racing at Seoul while Sunday has co-features with Mighty Runner and the recently returned to form Good Day – a horse with fifteen wins from twenty-three outings to his name – among those in action.

Friday March 12

Busan Race Park: 10 races, first post 12:00, last 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races, first post 13:30, last 17:30

Saturday March 13

Seoul Race Park: 12 races, first post 11:20, last 17:40
Jeju Race Park: 9 races, first post 12:10, last 17:10

Sunday March 14

Seoul Race Park: 11 races, first post 11:20, last 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races, first post 12:40, last 16:30

Exploit Colt Heads Jeju Sale

An Exploit colt, out of the mare Telegraph Road (Royal Academy) fetched the biggest price at this week’s two-day Jeju two-year old sale. Since arriving in Korea in 2006, Telegraph Road has had two foals reach the track and both of them – Blue Pin and Northern Ace – have shown talent.

The Exploit colt that topped the Jeju sale - Photo: Jeju Today

The bidding for the Exploit colt started at KRW 20 Million and the hammer finally came down at KRW 116 Million, a record for these sales (KRW 1131=$1). The successful bidder was Busan Racecourse based owner Choi Won Ho.

Others to attract big money was a Vicar colt out of Carson City Dancer (Carson City) who was sold for KRW 95 Million and a Thunder Gulch colt out of Escape (A.P. Indy) going for KRW 80 Million. The biggest amount paid for a filly was the KRW 70 Million a daughter of Menifee out of the New Zealand bred mare Monster (Waikiki Star).

Jeju Today covered the event (in Korean) and Chulgigi has a complete table of all purchases (in Korean). As ever, full details on all horses in Korea for both racing and breeding can be found online in the Korean Studbook. meanwhile, Fallight has a number of official appearance videos by Korean based stallions on his Youtube channel.