Arguably the two strongest selling points of Korean racing, at least from an international punting perspective, are that the races start bang on time and favourites are extremely reliable. So naturally, with the card at Busan being broadcast across Australia for the first time on Sky Racing 1, the schedule went haywire and the vast majority of favourites went backwards.
On Fridays the thoroughbreds at Busan alternate races with the ponies racing on Jeju Island. Races from Jeju are simulcast back to the racecourses and OTB’s on the mainland. Any simulcast race is going to hold a huge amount (as in millions of dollars) in its pools and that means that any delays – a late scratching of a favourite or a stewards inquiry, for instance – can mean the next race at the other track being delayed by about five minutes to allow punters to collect their thoughts and enjoy a full betting period. It doesn’t happen very often. Even rarer is a false start. And a 20 minute delay.
Yet that is exactly what happened in Jeju race 1. The gates opened before all horses were ready. The flags went up and they were called back. The ensuing Stewards Inquiry and re-run delayed the rest of the cards at both tracks by a full 20 minutes. Heads were shaken and then scratched as nobody could ever remember this happening before. Fortunately, with only Korea and Singapore to show, Sky were in a forgiving mood and Busan did its best to reschedule the races so as to deliberately avoid too many clashes with its regular simulcast partners at Kranji. If anything, the revised schedule was an improvement.
As for the favourites, while the bankers at the bookends of the card, V Diva (Menifee) in race 1 and Perdido Pomeroy (Pomeroy) in race 10, did oblige the other eight races were fiendishly hard from a betting point of view with big competitive fields. All eight of those favourites went down.
Aside from Perdido Pomeroy getting back to winning ways following his first defeat on his fourth career start last month, standout performer was perhaps Saengil Gippeum (Parading), who stepped up in class but led from gate to wire to win race 8. That race was marred by two horses pulling up injured but it doesn’t detract from the performance of the three-year-old US import, who strode to a four-length win.
Shocks of the day came in race 3, where 100/1 Choegang Excellent (One Cool Cat) led home 290/1 Enter Way Queen (Exploit) for a barely credible 4000/1 exacta and in race 6 when Ikuyasu Kurakane threaded 80/1 shot Maruon (Honor And Glory), a 28-race maiden prior to today, through a crowded field to snatch victory. That’s racing. Aside from Kurakane, Pasquale Borelli would also be among the winners for the foreign contingent at Busan (although he would later suffer a fall) but trainers Peter Wolsley, Bart Rice and Thomas Gillespie drew blanks despite having some live prospects.
Overall it was a huge day for Korean racing. A few years ago, the idea of racing here being shown in a country such as Australia – even on one of the two days of the year there is no racing at home there – would have been utterly unthinkable. Today’s coverage, anchored expertly by Anthony Manton – a staunch friend of racing here for a number of years now – was another big step towards Korea joining the mainstream of racing.
Racing returns to Korea on Saturday when there will be a 12-race card at Seoul. There’s an Australian feel to that too as jockey Dean Holland makes his Korean debut in race 1. On Sunday there are big cards at both Seoul and Busan. Singapore and Malaysia will be simulcasting twelve races on Sunday while Sky Racing 2 in Australia will be showing three. Full previews of all twelve will be up here tomorrow.
We will be starting on time!