There’s a very good write-up on Brisnet about Feel So Good’s victory at Calder Racecourse in Florida last week when he became the first Korean bred horse to win a race outside of Korea. The article quotes Ko Byung Un of the Korea Racing Authority as saying:
“…even though Feel So Good is a Korean horse, we had him in the U.S. since he was young, and the horse learned to race here and was taught by American trainers…I think maybe we found out that the problem is not the horse.”
That’s not exactly news to anyone who’s been watching Korean racing over the last few years although for a KRA official to come out and say it in such explicit terms is unusual.
Having invested shrewdly in the past few years, the stallion stock in Korea is very solid and improving all the time. The broodmares that they get to cover are also, while not among the world’s elite, more than adequate and certainly the equal of those who foal the cheap American imports that arrive here aged two and then regularly run faster than the homegrown talent.
The idea of “Internationalization” is resisted by many in the industry in Korea for understandable reasons but it is necessary. It’s necessary not only for the sake of the sport but also because of the precarious position that racing – as one of very few legalised gambling options in the country – occupies.
Korean governments are nothing if not impulsive as recent policies attempting to “ban” public drinking (practically the national sport here), internet pornography and Sunday opening of supermarkets have shown. All of them were ill thought out and ended up being unworkable, however, it seems only a matter of time until legal gambling finds itself targeted to an even greater extent than it already is.
Some in the KRA realise this and are eager to make the racing industry, already a major employer, bankroller of Korean agriculture and charity fundraiser – not to mention tax payer – a source of national pride.
It’s difficult to get very excited about Feel So Good [Ft.Stockton – Courting Dreams (Eastover Court)] winning a midweek maiden claimer at Calder. If Dangdae Bulpae had been trained in the US, he could be winning Stakes races. However, the fact that he’s done it is important and sends a big message to those training young horses in Korea that we need to be achieving more. We have a captive audience of hundreds of thousands every weekend but we can’t stand still. And to be fair, most realise this.
Feel So Good has already entered quarantine in preparation to return to Korea. On arrival he’ll be sold to a private owner to begin his domestic racing career. In pictures he looks bigger and stronger than other Korean bred horses his age. With plans to set up their own training centre in Ocala, the KRA is considering making Feel So Good only the first of many to spend the early part of their life outside of Korea.
There is one potential downside to Feel So Good’s win at Calder. As one trainer pointed out at the weekend, he was almost certainly running on Lasix. Like the vast majority of racing jurisdictions outside the US, raceday medication is banned in Korea and hopefully the KRA doesn’t get any foolish ideas.
Hopefully they won’t and if Feel So Good can finally put to rest the idea of “this is a Korean horse, it doesn’t understand western ways”, then the experiment will have been more than worth it.
* Thanks to @KeeneGal on twitter for the link to the Brisnet article.