Grand Prix winner – and therefore Champion Korean Racehorse of 2010 – Mister Park, was born in Korea. However, he belongs to a group of horses that are considered neither fully Korean nor Foreign-bred. The reason is that while he has spent all his life in Korea, his dam (mother) Formal Deal was imported to the country while pregnant. Formal Deal was bought by the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) for $30,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in 2006 and arrived in Korea the following January. When she went through the sales ring, she was in foal to stallion Ecton Park. And that foal was Mister Park.
While Korean buyers are restricted by law to spending a maximum of $20,000 on a colt at an overseas sale, they may spend up to $40,000 on a filly or broodmare. The thinking behind that is to protect and promote the domestic breeding industry; and buying a mare in foal in theory gets a racehorse as a bonus. Those foals are considered to be Korean bred and are eligible to run in any race in Korea with the exception of the three-year old Classics; the KRA Cup Mile, Korean Derby, Oaks and Minister’s Cup. Being a gelding, Mister Park was doubly unqualified for those races.
It makes sense. Young racehorses imported to Korea don’t generally have superior pedigrees to those sired domestically. There are some good sires in Korea – certainly good enough to produce foals to match those available for $20,000 at two-year old sales in the USA. However, there remains a significant advantage to being broken-in and initially trained overseas. It is for this reason that the KRA has for some time, been seriously considering setting up a training centre in Ocala, Florida.
Mister Park’s Grand Prix win, only the fourth by a horse listed as Korean-bred in twenty-nine runnings of the race, is therefore something of a triumph for domestic racing here. Even more so in that his sire, Ecton Park, who had long been popular with Korean buyers, had been finally purchased by the KRA last year and is now standing at the KRA’s Jeju Stud Farm. Sadly, there will be no reunion with Formal Deal.
Formal Deal [Formal Gold – Green Noble (Green Dancer)] born in 2000, made her racing debut as a three-year old at Woodbine Racecourse in Toronto in 2003, finishing a rather inauspicious fifth of seven over seven furlongs. She ran another seven times – five at Woodbine and twice when shipped down to Fair Grounds in Louisiana – before finally being successful, in what turned out to be her final race at Woodbine on August 4, 2004. She was retired with career figures of nine runs, one win, one second, and three third place finishes.
Two years later and in foal to Ecton Park, she would go through the sales ring in Keeneland and be bought by the KRA. Sadly, her time in Korea was brief. She gave birth to Mister Park in March 2007 and later that year was covered by stallion Sakura Seeking but no foal resulted. Then, tragically, in 2008 she was struck down by colic and died in July that year.
Known in Korean as “Po-In-Ma” those horses sired elsewhere but born in Korea have long accounted for many of the competitors in the upper echelons of racing here. Among current the current elite class are the mare Top Point (Tom Cruiser) and colt Ace Galloper (Chapel Royal). More significantly, at both Seoul and Busan, the outstanding two-year olds of the year came from this category. In the capital Magic Party (Artie Schiller) has won three of her four races, including the Gwacheon Cup, while down at Busan another filly Bulkkot Gisang (Langfuhr) has cruised to five wins from five starts.
It’s early days but perhaps one of them could go on to emulate Mister Park a year from now.