The most expensive imported racehorse in Korean history has arrived at Seoul Racecourse. The filly, by Henny Hughes and out of the Cape Town mare Cape Discovery, was purchased by owner Oh Ho Kuk at the OBS Spring Sale of Two-year Olds in Training in Florida this April. Having cleared quarantine, she arrived at the track earlier this month.
The filly, who remains unnamed, was the fastest under-tack in the lead-up to the sale, posting a time of 9.8 seconds for 1 furlong – considerably faster than anything has ever run in Korea. According to The Bloodhorse, family members include G2 winners Unbridled Energy and Heart Of Joy and G3 winners Inexplicable, Midnight Cry and White Mischief.
The filly is by far the most expensive purchase made by a Korean buyer since the price cap for imported fillies was removed on a trial basis earlier this year. The cap, which existed to promote the local breeding industry, had been increased in recent years from $20,000 all the way up to $70,000 before being removed completely in order to provide not only a better standard of racehorse but also to improve the breeding stock. Great news for OBS and others who already see the lower end of their sales propped up by Korean buyers but also, the Korea Racing Authority hopes, for the nation’s own breeders.
The cap remains on colts and geldings, however, with the breeding industry here now sufficiently developed in terms of facilities and well stocked with an ever-improving standard of stallion, the KRA believed that the time was right to remove the cap for fillies for racing (mares imported solely for breeding purposes had never been subject to the cap). To encourage the import of quality fillies, the “Queens’ Tour” of valuable Stakes races was introduced this year.
The KRA wants Korea’s breeding industry to develop to such an extent that ultimately the country becomes a net exporter of racehorses. Last year, several horses were sold to Malaysia and ultimately Korea, like every other country in the region (and most of the world) has its eye on China as an export market if and when they begin importing horses.
Of course, on the track the challenge remains for these expensive fillies to be able to live up to their potential as Korean training remains significantly below international standards. The Henny Hughes filly has been sent to the barn of Choi Bong Ju who, although 49, has only been training since 2007 after retiring as a jockey. Choi told the media that he “doesn’t feel a burden” in being put in charge of the star newcomer. Likewise owner Oh has insisted – publicly anyway – that his trainer is under no pressure. We will see.