We’re just a few days away from the start of the 2012 racing season so there’s just time to look back at some of the big events in Korean racing in 2011, selected not necessarily in order of importance:
Mister Park Breaks the Record – In the US there was Rapid Redux. In Korea in 2011 there was Mister Park. In fact they would probably give each other quite a good race. In September, he surpassed Po Gyeong Seon and Saegangja, horses who have almost mythical status among Korean racing fans, with whom he was tied on fifteen wins, to claim the all-time record. He would extend his streak to seventeen before coming unstuck in an epic Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December.
Some of the shine was taken off when connections avoided going for the record in the Busan Metropolitan but regardless of this – and regardless of his defeat to Tough Win in the Grand Prix – Mister Park has done something no horse has been able to do in Korea before. For that, he is this blog’s Horse Of The Year.
Jang Chu Yeol Rides Winners in the USA – It shouldn’t really be a big story but it is. Young Korean jockeys at Seoul are getting better and better and most now get sent overseas for a short spell to expose them to different riding styles. Some have been to South Africa and some to Australia.
Jang Chu Yeol went to the USA and in November, rode 2 winners at Charles Town, the first Korean jockey to do so. Despite taking those two months out, Jang finished eleventh in the Seoul championship, one place behind…
Kim Hae Sun – Third year jockey Kim Hae Sun looks well set to become the first Korean female jockey to break through to the elite level, riding an impressive 29 winners in 2011. Now comes the difficult bit as she has ridden out her weight allowance and now will be competing on equal terms with the best in the weighing room. Part of Kim’s success has come with a certain new trainer, which brings us onto the next entry…
Lee Shin Young – Last year she made this list by being the first Korean woman to earn a trainer’s licence. In 2011, she took control of her own barn and by the end of the year had landed 8 winners from her 51 runners, with Kim Hae Sun riding the majority of them.
Shin Woo Chul trains 1000 winners – The veteran trainer leads the all-time list and scored his 1000th winner in 2011. Fittingly it was Tough Win who got him the milestone victory and it was the same horse who crowned a wonderful year for him by winning the Grand Prix Stakes in December.
The KRA gets a new Chairman – Kim Gwang Won came to the end of his term in September this year and, after a delay of two months, was replaced by Jang Tae Pyeong. A career civil servant, the 62-year-old Jang joins a KRA that has been treading water recently. While former Chairman Kim was popular in some quarters, he leaves behind problems. The new track at Yeongcheon (a ridiculous place for a racecourse) is running into regulatory trouble, as is a KRA Plaza in Seocho in Seoul. Chairman Kim tried hard but Chairman Jang will need to try harder.
Korea Exports Racehorses – Three Korean bred racehorses were exported to Malaysia in October reflecting the rapid development made by the local breeding industry.
Champ – The racing movie starring Cha Tae Hyeon and very loosely based on the story of champion racemare Luna was released in September. Unlike last year’s “Grand Prix” it was a good watch and even has a cameo from South African Martin Wepner at the end riding the real Luna. Unfortunately, an on-set accident involving a horse cast a long shadow over the production.
Sires – The battle for leading sire went down to the last day of the season and was eventually won by Exploit. Just behind were Menifee and Vicar. With Forest Camp strolling the freshman sire list and with Ecton Park foals about to start racing, next year looks like it’s going to be very interesting.
A Two-Year-Old Comes Third In The Grand Prix – The Smarty Jones colt Smarty Moonhak was beaten on his debut but won his next four in a canter, including the Turkey Jockey Club Trophy. He was billed as the future of Korean racing. The first two-year-ol to ever run in the Grand Prix Stakes, in finishing third, just behind Tough Win and Mister Park, Smarty Moonhak showed that he’s very much the present of Korean racing.
Smarty Moonhak, Mister Park and Tough Win were the biggest names of 2011 but they were joined by the likes of Yeonseung Daero, Dangdae Bulpae, Cheonnyeon Daero, Gwangyajeil, Useung Touch, Ace Galloper and Dongseo Jeongbeol – Stakes winners all. Lion Santa went nine races unbeaten at Busan while Khaosan gave Peter Wolsley his first Stakes winner. The great Bally Brae kept on winning into his ninth year while the equally great Baekgwang was retired.
Of course, only a small minority of horses who make it into this blog and indeed into the winner’s circle. Racing would not run without them and it is worth taking a moment to remember the contribution that the likes of Charming Girl, Haneulcheoreom, Perfect Love and all the other old-stagers make. Some have good owners, some do not. Jang Tae Pyeong would do well to pay more attention to this area in 2012.