Visiting Hansen – And Other Thoughts On The Korean Breeding Industry

Over the past few years Korea has become, if not a major player, at least significantly involved in the world bloodstock industry. That has resulted in a number of reasonably well-known stallions, principally from the United States, finding themselves in Korea. So what happens to them here?

Hansen at the KRA Jeju Stud Farm

Hansen at the KRA Jeju Stud Farm

The KRA began a domestic breeding industry in the 1990’s. Like most decisions here, it was done with realpolitik in mind. As a monopoly and a public company, the KRA is subject to the whims of the government of the day and as a result, needs to make itself as vital as possible to the nation.

That doesn’t just mean betting revenue – a casino with its mindless games of chance can do that – it also means jobs and support for the rural economy, something that had been neglected in Korea’s rush to development in the late 20th century.

The early breeding industry was haphazard. While the government was behind the idea, it simply gave subsidies for farmers to start breeding racehorses but offered no practical support as to actually how to breed racehorses. It was left to private farms such as Isidore to lead the way in bringing over foreign talent to oversee the breeding program.

Menifee, Korea's leading sire, walks in the rain

Menifee, Korea’s leading sire, walks in the rain

The KRA also set up its own Stud Farms, on Jeju Island and also at Jangsu on the mainland. At its peak, it stood about 30 stallions but has gradually been encouraging private farms to take over and now does not automatically replace pensioned or passed away stallions. It now only purchases marquee names; Hansen and Tiz Wonderful being recent examples.

Hansen's box at the Stud Farm - he was out in the paddock at the time

Hansen’s box at the Stud Farm – he was out in the paddock at the time

The KRA’s Jeju Stud Farm is nothing short of a five-star hotel for stallions. When not servicing mares, the select few are housed in spacious boxes or in their own private paddocks. On a recent Monday, only leading sire in Korea Menifee was in his box.

Hansen was not in his box. Nice nameplate, though

Hansen was not in his box. Nice nameplate, though

Now 19-years-old, Menifee has been in Korea since 2006. That’s about as long as me but I have a feeling Menifee understands Korean better than I do. His handler (wearing a Hansen baseball cap) calls his name and in Korean, asks him to come out of his box and stand to attention – which he does. He is perfectly happy to trot up and down outside in the pouring rain while the French TV crew (who I have tagged along with as designated um….drinker) filmed him.

Tiz Wonderful would not come up to say hello. Nice paddock though

Tiz Wonderful would not come up to say hello. Nice paddock though

The rest of the stallions are outside in their private paddocks where they spend most of their time. Walking out of the stables and into a typically idyllic Jeju scene, even three paddocks over, one horse stands out. Of course he is the easiest to recognize but he is also the only one who is standing right at the very edge of his paddock, waiting for visitors. He cranes his neck to see who might be approaching and jumps about to attract their attention.

Hansen is a remarkably sociable stallion. The day has been stormy and Hansen has been rolling in the mud. He looks more like a bedraggled pony than a Gotham Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner but he puts his head through the railings to be petted. “Do you remember me?” the lady from Equidia asks, “I met you at Churchill Downs four years ago”.

He probably doesn’t but he makes a good show of it, allowing himself to be absolutely fawned over, even by the hitherto alpha-male French cameraman who has only vaguely heard of him but who turns into a simpering fanboy in his presence. Like everybody else. “Hansen loves people and everybody loves him” explains the Stud Farm manager – who is still wearing the cap with Hansen’s name on it

Tiz Wonderful and Forest Camp – the latter a notably shy stallion who has been kicked about by more than a few mares in his time – would not be distracted from their grazing but One Cool Cat was friendly while Hawk Wing seemed positively delighted to hear some English spoken to him.

The KRA Jeju Stud Farm is the best known stallion station on Jeju but it is deliberately drawing down its influence. Ecton Park stands at Isidore Farm, a place which has over the years played a huge role in the development of agriculture in general as well as racing on Jeju. Colors Flying is at Taeyoung Farm while the likes of Whywhywhy, Simon Pure and new star Strike Again also stand privately.

Facilities at some private farms such as Isidore and Pegasus are first rate. Others are developing. At Triple Crown Farm, we visit the resting place of Mister Park, who won 17 consecutive races, including the 2010 Grand Prix Stakes. Right next to him, mares and yearlings are in high spirits.

KRA training centre in Jeju

KRA training centre in Jeju

The final stop on what is now a hungover tour of the island (“I love my job, but not today” says the cameraman after an introduction to Halla-San Soju in Seogwipo the previous evening) is Nokwon Farm. This farm received international attention a couple of years ago as the home of Worldly Pleasure, dam of American champion Game On Dude. Of course, once Game On Dude became successful, Worldly Pleasure was on a plane to Shadai but Nokwon remains one of Korea’s top private farms.

Nokwon is owned by the former Chairman of the Seoul Racehorse Owners’ Association, Chi Dae Sub. Mr Chi is surprisingly in residence and in welcoming mood when we drop by uninvited last Tuesday. He was still smarting over Ham Wan Sik’s ride on his horse Forty Cure in the Selangor Turf Club Trophy last Saturday. Ham stood up in the irons and seemingly started celebrating despite being beaten a full length by Moon Se Young on Raon Morris on the line. “I wanted to kill him” was Mr Chi’s succinct post-mortem on the race.

Eurosilver at Nokwon Farm

Eurosilver at Nokwon Farm

We tour the farm on the back of a souped-up golf buggy, driven by Mr Chi. Clinging on to the roof, it was better than an Everland roller-coaster. Nokwon stands several stallions, including the Japanese racehorse Testa Matta and the US import Eurosilver. The farm has developed a very efficient system for exercising yearlings and sees itself as a prototype for the development for Korean-run farms on Jeju.

Chi Dae Sub has been one of the few supporters of the KRA’s internationalization program among Korean breeders (which is presumably why we were taken to his farm) who almost unanimously opposed the new rating system that ended separate class 1 and class 2 races for Korean and imported horses. “Bring them all on. Nobody thought that Koreans could make cars or televisions or mobile phones, but we did” he said “The KRA says we are 10 or 20 years away, I say we can do it in 5; Let’s race them”.

Racehorses are not mobile phones but the likes of Isidore with Rock Band and Triple Nine this past weekend have shown that the quality is coming. Choegang Schiller winning the Asia Challenge Cup, albeit not Korean-bred, demonstrates that Korean trained racehorses can compete at a good level. We have an awful long way to go. But from breeding shed to winning post, Korean racing is doing what it can to go in the right direction.

Watch out once Hansen’s progeny make it to the track.

Follow all horses racing or breeding in Korea through the Korean StudBook.

For anyone who finds themselves on Jeju Island, the KRA Stud Farm is happy to welcome visitors.



  1. Why don’t you report
    Why didn’t Hensen serve no mares last year? Many American breeders would like to know, Why a US top juvenile wasted a year of serving? His yearlings were selling for US$250,000 at the last sales in US!

    Korean racing is 20 years behind. Look at last years Korean Triple Crown winners race in USA! Queens Blade and Never Seen Before, both have finished a mile LAST in the 3 races in USA.
    I like to see Rock Band race against Singapore 3 year olds. Hell finish last. He may win a race against lesser horses like in Macau
    Korean breeders are holding back Korean racing. They are 20 years behind. We have photos of the mistreatment of yearlings in top Korean breeding farms, that we’ll publish at website.
    This story is more propaganda by KRA and Alastair. What a lot of rubbish!

    1. that is not true. He bred 80 mares last year and the same number this year. I asked someone who was in partnership with dr. Hansen on several horses and that is the number that was told to Hansen’s owner.

      1. Hansen has 52 foals on the ground this year (that have been registered anyway) from his first crop in Korea. I know you would love it not to be the case, but it is.

        I like the new name, by the way.

  2. Jesse, Any Given Saturday and Tiz wonderful was sold last year and there are no news of them covering mares. The first crop of Hansen’s Korean has only began to be born, so of course how could they have a ballpark figure of the number of foals he’d sired. Take in example, Afleet again began his stud career in 2013, but there is only one crop listed for him.

    Leslie, you do realize that coolmore was the one who sold the horse. Not Dr. Hansen, for coolmore bought a controlling interest in his breeding interests and therefore, that is what they sold to the Korean stud farm, where he now stands.

    1. Ok. We look forward to KRA publishing the mares he covered.
      Hansen was NOT sold, so we don’t know why the names of the mares he covered are not published by KRA!
      Hansen looked in terrible condition when we visited him. We will publish photos of what condition he was in, as part of our story of breeding and mistreatment of yearling and horses in Korea in our website very soon.
      Why do you think so many stallions die in Korea?
      In 2013 there were 11 stallions that died in Korea.

      Dancing Surpass (IRE) – aged 23.

      Editor In Chief (USA) – aged 14

      Gamun Bobae (USA) – aged 9

      Kwaedo Nanma (KOR) – aged 15.

      Lazer Beam (USA) – aged 18.

      Lethal Instrument (USA) – aged 17.

      Nite Dreamer (CAN) – aged 18.

      Perfect Vision II (USA) – aged 18

      Pico Central (BRZ) – aged 11.

      Wanggol (AUS) – aged 6 before covering any mares.

      Wheels N’Wings (USA) – aged 14

      In 2014, 9 stallions died.

      Commendable (USA)

      Sharp Humour

      Revere (IRE)

      Al Naba (USA)

      Field Asuka (USA)

      Enlisted (USA)

      Big Swing (USA)

      Happy Jazz Band (USA)

      Turbulent Storm (USA)

      20 stallions died in 2 years in Korea. This is too many considering how many stallions are actually in Korea breeding scheme. Enough said!!

      1. they are horses first and foremost, and horses look for trouble. It’s what they do. 20 stallions ding isn’t a huge number, I am quite sure that there is double or triple that number of stallions dying in NA and elsewhere. Don’t forget that nearly a 1,000 horses die from colic alone, most probable half of those are highly sensitive TBs.

      2. KRA say they 108 registered stallions. That’s rubbish. 15 stallions cover 1200 of the 1400 mares available in Korea.
        20 stallions died in the past 2 years of the 108 registered, thats 20% stallions died in past 2 years.
        WHY?? Mistreatment!
        All will be exposed by our up-coming story

      3. Jesse, not a single one of those horses in the above pictures are anything but fat and happy. very rarely does a TB live beyond 25, sometimes younger. Majority of the horses you listed was close or right under that age limit.

  3. Ok. Wait till you see pictures, the true way private Koreans breeders (Farmers turned stud masters) treat yearlings. As well as, Korean trainers treat their horses behind closed doors.
    This website is KRA propaganda by a now KRA employee (a former school teacher). Doesn’t tell the truth about Korean racing.
    All foreigners in Korean racing knows that! trainers, jockeys, stablehands,

  4. Inventing stories? what story do you mean is not the truth? Im not going any further, look out for our story of misstreatment of yearlings and race horses in Korea. Incl evidence of a Korean trainer purposely break his horses’ leg with a weapon before a race, so the owner gets the US$30,000 insurance from KRA, when the horse break downs during a race. Hard to believe, but exists in Korea.

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