Esmeraldina’s Ttukseom Cup win was the top story of the weekend, but there was plenty of other action going on too.
Down at Busan, the feature race of the weekend was somewhat overshadowed by events at Seoul 30 minutes previously but it ended in another Japanese success as Masa Tanaka rode 8/1 shot Ildeung Hanghaesa to victory.
4-year-old Ildeung Hanghaesa (Ecton Park), who beat second-favourite Dynamic Dash by 4-lengths, was winning for the 5th time in total and the first time at class 1. As for Tanaka, the Japanese rider has started a countdown to his 100th Korean winner and is now on 72.
In addition to the Ttukseom Cup, there was class 1 action at Seoul too and it was a return to the winner’s circle for the first time in over a year for one of the stalwarts of the track, Singgeureounachim. The 7-year-old was sent off at odds of 35/1 but under apprentice Kim Dong Soo (which got him a 2kg weight allowance) he ran on for victory by just under a length from joint-favourite Best Run. It was a 10th career win for Singgeureounachim (Exploit) on his 50th career start.
Earlier on Sunday at Seoul, jockey Djordje Perovic, who has impressed a number of observers in his short time here so far, got his first Korean winner.
On a weekend which saw attendance at both KBO baseball and K-League football matches drop by 40% due to public fears over the MERS virus (or as Yonhap News ever so slightly melodramatically put it, South Korea is currently “an ailing nation in the grip of a deadly virus”), it was inevitable that racing was going to suffer too.
As it was, while the infield family park was nearly deserted, betting turnover was also down on Sunday to an average KRW 4.1 Billion per race from KRW 4.4 Billion per race last week. It was the lowest of the year so far. Online betting is illegal in Korea and the legal telephone betting service that was previously offered was forcibly shut down by the government a few years ago.
You have to physically go to the track or an OTB if you want a legal punt. The MERS panic is a demonstration of one of the deficiencies of that policy and no doubt the illegal bookies were cheering it all the way to the bank.