It is the year of change for horse racing in Korea. The racing calendar has been revamped, foreign ownership of racehorses has been approved (see bottom of this article) and now a new rating system is coming in.
Of all the changes, it is the rating system that has caused – and continues to cause – the most debate within Korean racing circles as what it means is that if Korean-bred horses are to win class 1 races, they will need to beat imported opposition.
The KRA believes this will raise the quality of Korean horses. Local breeders and some owners disagree.
Under the new system, every horse will be assigned a rating from 0-140 to accurately reflect their current ability. The rating will determine their eligibility for races and their handicap mark.
The ratings are for use in Korea only and are not intended to mirror what a horse’s international rating would be.
Over the past couple of months horses at Class 1 and Class 2 have already been receiving a monthly rating. This will now be rolled out to all classes.
The Current System
There are six classes in Korean racing (only five are used at Busan). Within each class, all races are further split into two categories:
– Domestic: Races restricted to Korean-bred runners
– Mixed/Foreign: Races open to both Korean and Foreign-bred runners.
Horses move up in class according to points earned for winning or placing in races and prize-money won. They can never return to a lower class, regardless of recent performance.
The New System
All horses will be assigned a rating which will determine which class they are eligible to run in. With the exception of some Stakes races, such as the Korean Derby, eligibility for all Class 1 and Class 2 races will be determined solely by their assigned ratings. The rating band for each class is as follows:
– All races at Class 1 and Class 2 will be open to both Korean-bred and Foreign-bred runners
– Some races at Class 3 and Class 4 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– All races at Class 5 and Class 6 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– Horse ratings may go up or down according to recent past performance. This means that a horse may move down in class as well as up.
On the subject of foreign ownership of racehorses, they will be allowed to buy up to fifteen horses, which is the same as local owners. However, unlike the locals, foreign owners must buy four Korean-bred horses for every foreign-bred horse they wish to import to Korea. This is one reason why it has been a slightly less controversial development than might otherwise have been expected.
Some of the first batch of foreign owners will be able to start purchasing at the 2-year-old sale on Jeju Island in March.