From Pick Me Up To Queen’s Blade: It’s Time To Change

A few years ago, I wrote an article with the title “What have we learned from Pick Me Up?” If one definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, then it must be concluded that more than six years on, the answer to my question is “not a lot”.

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Bring her home: Queen's Blade wins the 2014 Korean Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Last year an unfit Speedy First and an out of sorts Major King, Korean Classic winners both, spent the spring and early summer in the United States, each getting humiliated three times, before coming home. That three times is important as, for some reason, all these years later, the Korea Racing Authority still picks up the bill if a horse goes to the US and runs three times. A couple of years previously, Oaks winner Baekpa did the same.

This past Saturday, the 2014 Korean Derby winner Queen’s Blade was entered in a six-furlong race for fillies and mares at Pimlico. I’ll not post the video but she was left in the gate at the start and never featured, ending last by some considerable distance. Inevitably she will race twice more to get the subsidy.

If we were learning something from this, it wouldn’t be so bad but we’re not. We already know that four-year old Korean horses who have been going non-stop since their debuts nearly two years ago will not be competitive in US racing. We also know that if a horse was expected to perform well in Korea this year, it would not be sent overseas.

Similarly, we know that Korean bred horses who go to the US when young can be competitive. As someone once said, “maybe  the problem isn’t the horse”.

We also know that when sent overseas at the right time and to the right race, Korean trained horses can compete – Watts Village winning the Interaction Cup at Ohi in 2013 proved that.

In the original piece about Pick Me Up, I wrote about the strange practice of sending a Korean horse halfway around the world in order to try and assess the strength of Korean bred horses, when there are plenty of imports racing in Korea, but only allowed to run in segregated races. The start of the rating system, whatever its critics may say, is finally addressing that.

In a year where Korea hopes to become recognised by IFHA as a Part II country, a second Derby winner in as many years going to the States and not even looking like a racehorse, is potentially damaging to the international perception of racing here.

If an owner wishes to take their horse themselves to race in the USA, then the very best of luck to them. Support though should focus on getting our best horses to Singapore in July, to Tokyo in late autumn and to Dubai early next year and also encouraging them to take on the visitors in the Ttukseom Cup, KRA Cup Classic and Asia Challenge Cup.

It’s time to do things differently.

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