Month: March 2015

What Actually Happened At Seoul Racecourse Today

There are many words that can be used to describe Saturday’s events at Seoul Racecourse and most of them don’t have good meanings. Here is what actually happened.

Protesters crowd around the winning line attempting to get onto the track

Protesters crowd around the winning line attempting to get onto the track

Trainer An Byung Ki had a horse in race 2 called Argo Wisdom and a horse in race 3 called Little Angels. Jockey Kim Dong Soo was to ride both. At Seoul, jockeys weigh out an hour in advance of the race. This is especially important in the crowded early schedule on a Saturday. Argo Wisdom in race 2 was to carry 53Kg and Little Angels in race 3 had been assigned 51Kg.

Jockey Kim sat on the scales with two saddles and duly weighed out for both races. The best guess as to what happened next is that at some point after this, the saddle which ensured a carried weight of 51Kg somehow found its way onto the back of Argo Wisdom instead of Little Angels. And on his second career start, Argo Wisdom went on to win race 2 quite handsomely, paying dividends of 5.4 on the Pari-Mutuel. He had been second favourite in the race.

Naturally, no inquiry sign went up. There was no reason it would as the race was run cleanly. However, on weighing in, jockey Kim and his saddle were found to be 2.2Kg lighter than when weighed out. The rules are clear and they were applied. Argo Wisdom was disqualified and placed last while the 2nd place finisher Gangnamgul was promoted to 1st.

Riot police form their lines. They were not eventually deployed.

Riot police form their lines. They were not eventually deployed.

Although the disqualification was quickly announced once the weigh-in was complete, the first that many punters knew about it was when they went to collect what they thought were their winnings. When those winnings were not forthcoming, they were somewhat understandably, not amused.

It isn’t uncommon for punters to get angry and there was a genuine case for feeling aggrieved here, however, what happened next was something else. At betting windows across the racecourse – and no doubt at the OTBs – there was fury. The blameless tellers, as usual, bore the brunt. It was outside though where the significant action was taking place. A small but vociferous group gathered by the winning post and made clear their intention to disrupt the following race, runners for which were already at the starting gate.

Form guides, betting slips, pens and anything else that came to hand were hurled onto the track. They were followed by individuals climbing the fence and going out themselves. Security, lighter than in days gone, by was quickly overwhelmed and race 3 was abandoned.

Attention briefly turned to the pony race at Jeju and the Chair of the Stewards’ panel appeared on the Racecourse TV feed to explain exactly why Argo Wisdom had been disqualified.

Horses mill around prior to race 4 being officially abandoned

Horses mill around prior to race 4 being officially abandoned

The protestors were having none of it. Horses paraded for race 4 under a shower of vitriol, which was now taking on a life of its own, far beyond the usual anger at a DQ. Riot police arrived but they were unable to prevent a further set of incursions onto the track and it wasn’t safe for jockeys to bring their mounts past the grandstand.

Race 4 therefore went the same way as race 3. By this time, the overseas simulcast broadcast had begun and it wasn’t only domestic eyes watching.

Seven years ago, there were riots when a meeting was abandoned due to cold weather. The consequences to the Racing Authority, run as it is under the auspices of government, were dire. With no prospect of the protests subsiding, the rest of the meeting in danger and the potential for a full-scale riot on their hands if that happened, the Korea Racing Authority announced that bets would be paid out on the disqualified horse as a “goodwill” gesture to customers.

A KRA executive announces on the racecourse broadcast network that bets will be paid on the disqualified horse

A KRA executive announces on the racecourse broadcast network that bets will be paid on the disqualified horse

In the current context of racing here in Korea, the decision was an understandable one. The meeting was saved, the simulcast was saved and 30 minutes later, families were enjoying picnics by the winning line on what was a gorgeous (if dusty) spring day and we had some great racing later in the day. Daily turnover obviously took a massive hit – to the tune of approximately US$7Million for the two abandoned races – and that, perhaps even more so than the disturbances, is likely to be the focus of the inevitable political recriminations.

The alternative headlines after an abandonment of the meeting would have been too ghastly to contemplate. Mob rule prevailed today. The consequences of that may become clear in the weeks to come.

It started with a mistake. The rules were then applied but that wasn’t the end of it. The horse was called Argo Wisdom and a lot of wisdom is going to be needed in the fall out from today.

Namhae Daewang Owns The Silverware At Seoul

Namhae Daewang ran out the 17/1 winner of the first Graded race of the year in Korea, the Owners’s Association Trophy at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Namhae Daewang stands to attention in the Owners' Trophy winner's circle

Namhae Daewang stands to attention in the Owners’ Trophy winner’s circle

Truth be told, while this may have been a Group 3, it was a weak race, with class 1 at Seoul really struggling from a lack of talent at the moment, especially in the domestic bred ranks. Not that the huge crowd in attendance in the early Spring sunshine seemed in the slightest bit bothered about that.

And they were rewarded with a good race. Betting favorite Haemaru failed to make any real impresson on the race as Ganghae set the early pace in the six furlong sprint with Best High and old campaigner Gumanseok in close attendence. Namhae Daewang, on the other hand, had settled at the back of the field and had plenty to do as they entered the home straight.

Under jockey Lee Joon Chel, Namhae Daewang did it in style, flying home down the outside to take the line just over half a length clear of Ganghae with Gumanseok edged out into 3rd.

Five-year-old Namhae Daewang now has 7 wins from 26 career starts. For jockey Lee, it was his biggest career win to date with victory in the listed Segye Ilbo Cup his only previous visit to the Stakes winner’s circle.

Seoul Racehorse Owners’ Association Trophy (KOR GIII) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – March 15, 2015

1. Namhae Daewang (KOR) [Commendable – Caramel Candy (Awesome Again)] – Lee Joon Chel – 17.7, 3.3
2. Ganghae (KOR) [Didyme – Ocelot (Catrail)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.8
3. Gumanseok (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Lee Sang Hyeok – 2.8
Distances: 0.75 lengths / Head – 14 ran

Saturday at Seoul had seen a couple of notable events. Jockey Moon Se Young notched his 1,100th career winner and would end the weekend on 1,103, while the in-form Kim Hye Sun rode three more winners over the weekend. However it was the mount of one of the up and coming jockeys that caught the eye.

Under Seo Seung Un, Daegunhwang (Menifee-Lusi Pond) cruised to his 4th consecutive victory in dismissively easy fashion. This time it was over 1700M abnd he looks one to watch pver the next few months.

Naturally, Busan has its own up and comers too and US import Champ Line (Curlin) got his 5th win in 6 starts on Friday afternoon while it was the turn of domestic bred Summit Myeongun (Menifee) to impress on Sunday afternoon.

Summit Myeongun was ridden by Kim Yong Geun, who rode a treble on both Friday and Sunday. In Sunday’s feature race he gave Spring Gnarly (Master Command) a powerful ride to close late and win by just over a length. Spring Gnarly has won 8 of 11 starts.

In contrast to Seoul, class 1 at Busan is now very tough. However, the rules which up until now has prevented horses switching between the two racecourses are being relaxed and it would be no surprise to see some heading up the Gyeongbu Expressway permanently in the near future.

Weekend Race Times

It’s been a cold week in Korea but it’s set to be mild for the first big Stakes race of 2015, the Owners’ Association Trophy at Seoul on Sunday.

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Run in May last year, the Owners’ Cup has switched places this year on the calendar with the Ttukseom Cup. The latter will form the first leg of the “Queens’ Tour” series.

A full field of 14 will line up for the 1200M race including Heukgisa and Gumanseok. It is the culmination of another busy weekend on the peninsula.

Here’s what’s happening when and where (click for racecards):

Friday March 13
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 11.40 to 18.00 (full preview of simulcast races 4-10)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13.25 to 17.20

Saturday March 14
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 10.50 to 18.00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12.20 to 17.20

Sunday March 15
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10.50 to 18.00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12.45 to 17.30

Success Story Keeps Winning At Busan

Sucess Story made it three wins in a row with an assured performance in Sunday’s feature race at Busan.

The 4-year-old was a late-comer onto the Triple Crown trail in 2014, running only in the final leg, the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October. He finished 4th that day behind Never Seen Before and returned to the capital a month later for the President’s Cup, when he could only manage 10th behind Gyeongbudaero.

Since then Success Story (Peace Rules) is unbeaten. Sent off as favourite for Sunday’s class 1 handicap, he led from gate-to-wire, with jockey Jo Sung Gon only needing to point and steer as Success Story eased to a three-length win. Fellow Korean-bred four-year-old Gumpo Sky was 2nd with perennial trier Ghost Whisper getting up for 3rd.

The win was the 6th of the weekend for Jo Sung Gon. Earlier the jockey had added to his four Friday winners by guiding Cheonji Park (Ecton Park) to a similarly easy win, The three-year-old from the Peter Wolsley stable maintained his unbeaten record with victory by just under two lengths over 1400M in race 4.

There is depth in the ranks at Busan now in contrast to Seoul where the weekend’s class 1 was a rather lackluster race won by second favourite Unbeatable (Eddington), a solid enough campaigner but not one to get the pulse racing.

Nevertheless it is to Seoul where attention will turn this coming weekend with the running of the first major Stakes race of the year in the shape of the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy. Gwanggyo Bisang, winner of last month’s Segye Ilbo Cup is set to be among those involved.

Rafale Downed As Goliath Marine Wins Again At Busan

Highly rated 3-year-old Rafale slumped to defeat as trainer Peter Wolsley and jockey Jo Sung Gon cleaned-up at Busan on Friday.

While he was always going to be favourite, Rafale (Colors Flying) was sent off at impossibly short-odds for the 1900M class 2 handicap and while he looked well-placed entering the home straight, it was second-favourite Goliath Marine (Volponi) who sprinted away from the field to claim his 3rd win from his last 4 starts. Rafale, who was 2nd in last year’s Seoul Breeders’ Cup and was an easy winner when tried around two-turns for the first time in January, came home 4th.

Goliath Marine was the 4th winner of the day for Australian trainer Peter Wolsley, who returns to the tope of the trainer’s championship as a result. Earlier, he’d sent out Happy Hana (Biwa Shinseiki) to win race 5 and Choedae Gangja (Didyme) to win race 6 before his up and coming import Different Dimension (Into Mischief) landed a 3rd win in 3 career starts in race 10.

Lee Hee Cheon rode Choedae Gangja but the other three were all ridden by Jo Sung Gon and Jo would also get four winners on the day with a perfectly timed ride on Morning Hwiparam (Everydayissaturday) in race 8. Jo showed his quality in the saddle by bringing the gelding from last to first through a crowd of horses in the home straight, stealing victory on the line by the narrowest of noses.

Wolsley wasn’t the only foreign connection at Busan among the winners yesterday. Nozomu Tomizawa rode favourite Daejiui Jilju (Admire Don) to victory in race 3 while his fellow Japanese rider Masa Tanaka scored in race 7 on Triple Nine (Ecton Park). From the Kim Young Kwan stable, Triple Nine has now won three of his four starts to date.

Racing returns to Busan on Sunday when Success Story, Ghost Whisper, Cheonji Bulpae and Gumpo Sky all feature in the main handicap.

TV News Trains Sights On Racing

It wasn’t the best of weeks publicity wise for Korean Racing. The highest profile instance was last Sunday evening when one of the country’s most-watched TV news magazine programs, MBC TV’s “Sisa Magazine 2580”, produced a 15-minute segment on the KRA’s new race plan and specifically the objections to it from breeders, owners and trainers.

Those objections centre around the removal, with the exception of some Graded and Listed events, of separate races for domestic-bred horses at class 1 and class 2 level coupled with the raising of the limit that can spend on importing racehorses (now up to $50,000 for colts and geldings and no limit at all for fillies) and the potential impact of this on the domestic breeding industry.

A lack of consultation and the perceived high-handed way in which it was introduced came in for strong criticism during the program.

Additionally, the program alleged that messages left on the KRA’s “voice of customer” section in support of the new system were posted from computers with IP addresses belonging to the Authority itself, (internet commenters pretending to be somewhere or something they are not has become a somewhat hot issue in Korea over the past couple of years following some high profile political cases). While it is not 100% impossible that these were punters in the Seoul Racecourse Internet Cafe expressing their admiration of the Authority, viewers will have drawn their own conclusions.

The MBC program came one day after cable channel JTBC, was among media outlets reporting that a jockey, described as being a “20-year veteran” was under investigation for allegedly accepting money in exchange for providing information to illegal gambling interests. As a criminal investigation is underway, the jockey in question can’t be named in Korea for legal reasons.

There was some good coverage too; a video went viral in Korea of a horse used to pull tourist carriages being beaten by its owner (caution, link shows distressing scenes). The KRA tracked down the horse and rescued it. All good, however, the goodwill generated by that episode will likely have been lost over the week.

All in all, is is good to get back to racing this weekend.

Weekend Race Times

No time for a full preview this week but as usual, there’s plenty going on over the weekend.

Shyould be a little warmer this week

Shyould be a little warmer this week

Ghost Whisper, Cheonji Bulpae and Gumpo Sky will all be in action at Busan on Sunday while up-and-coming 3-year-old Rafale is in Friday’s feature.

Sunday sees a class 1 at Seoul with Big Curlin among the entries. Full racecards and Raceday Info here, while here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday March 6
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:25 to 17 :20

Saturday March 7
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:00

Sunday March 8
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00