The Korean racing community has returned from the long”Chuseok” holiday and racing is set to resume on the peninsula on Friday for the first time since the inaugural Keeneland Korea Cup and Sprint the weekend before last.
And it means the review of the weekend will now begin in earnest. Turnover held up remarkably well. It is very difficult for punters to handicap races such as the Sprint and the Cup with any degree of confidence given the wide range of backgrounds, surfaces and environments the horses’ past performances have taken place in. Yet they still put 4.3 Billion (US$3.9Million) and 4.8 Billion (US$4.3Million) Korean won through the windows in the Sprint and Cup respectively.
That was up on the corresponding races 8 and 10 from the prior week and indeed turnover on the whole day of 71.1 Billion Korean Won was also up on recent Sundays (67.8 Billion Won the previous week). In terms of attendance, 44,691 people came to Seoul Racecourse on Cup day compared with 38,130 the prior Sunday and just 33,941 the Sunday before that. A total of 124,986 people were either on course or in OTBs last Sunday.
Now the Cup was by no means the only reason for this. With the Chuseok holiday approaching many punters would have been in attendance knowing that a dark week was approaching.
The experience in Hong Kong over the past decade has been that domestic turnover on its international races is lower than that of normal races. The gap is narrowing which the Hong Kong Jockey Club attributes to local punters becoming more familiar with international racing through their inbound simulcasts and the HKJC looks on all three of turnover, attendance and brand exposure as being important.
Brand exposure was something there was plenty of last week, including in Hong Kong, where local punters were able to cash tickets on Super Jockey winning the Sprint. Six countries took the races live with others showing it on delay. KBS Sports, one of Korea’s major Sports channels devoted two hours to the races the following day. That’s in addition to the write-ups the races received around the world.
One reason why “internationalization” is so difficult is that results can’t be seen either quickly or – and this is a key one – expressed numerically in a way that makes it easy to measure progress or success. While some in KRA will probably feel that the investment made in the weekend (and it was not insubstantial) should have been reflected by a proportional increase at the betting windows, that doesn’t really tell the the whole story.
Having followed racing in this country for almost ten years now, last weekend was something I didn’t think I would be seeing in Korea for a very long time – if ever. Now is the time to build on it.