Month: January 2021

Moonhak Chief Downs Tiz Plan On Return

Moonhak Chief, 2019 Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner returned to racing for the first time in just shy of a year at Seoul Racecourse on Friday afternoon. And it was a winning return too as the former Horse of the Year downed a hot class 1 field including the star of last summer Tiz Plan, by a full six-lengths.

Moonhak Chief dominated the Korea Cup in September 2019 before a disappointing showing behind Dolkong in the KRA Cup Classic a month later. He would return to form in the Grand Prix Stakes in December before opening what promised to be a glorious 2020 season by beating Cheongdam Dokki in early February just as the pandemic was taking hold.

Moonhak Chief was on the sidelines with a tendon injury while Cheongdam Dokki and the emerging Tiz Plan dueled for big purses over the abbreviated summer racing season but showed he hadn’t lost a step on his Friday return.

A field containing Moonhak Chief, Tiz Plan and the great – if fading – mare Silver Wolf, probably deserves better than to race at 5pm on a Friday afternoon in a deserted racecourse with no betting or live broadcast for a 1st prize of 28 Million Won (US$25,000). Such is Korean racing’s lot these days with customers no nearer being allowed back on track and the Government no nearer budging on allowing online betting.

Coming out of adjoining gates for the 2000M test, Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan came together at the start and under Johan Victoire, Tiz Plan seized the early initiative tracking leader The Gumpu. Once in the back straight though, Moon Se Young moved up a gear on Moonhak Chief and once the Pioneerof The Nile entire took command of the race, the result was scarcely in doubt.

Tiz Plan ran on well but could only get within six-lengths of Moonhak Chief while Tony Castanheira’s The Gumpu ran on for an excellent 3rd. Silver Wolf ran a creditable 5th of twelve but was a full thirteen-lengths behind the winner.

For Moonhak Chief it’s a thirteenth win from twenty-three starts. There will be other days for Tiz Plan and Cheongdam Dokki will surely have a say at some point as well. Then there is Blue Chipper, who may well make his return in a similarly underfunded race at Busan next Friday. Will they get to face each other with a suitable purse on the line with a suitable crowd watching and punting on them at any point? With a legislative lifeline looking ever more unlikely, just as it was a year ago, that will be up to the virus.

  • During January, with all three tracks racing simultaneously on Fridays, the Busan races have been available for international simulcast. With the Seoul coronavirus situation stabilizing a little as well as hopefully the temperature being a little warmer making race times less susceptible to changes, it will be the Seoul races (where there are 15 across the day, rather than the 10 at Busan) which will be broadcast overseas in February). Somewhat amusingly, it means that we have missed Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan this week and could well mean we miss Blue Chipper next week!

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 29)

As usual racing in Korea is confined to Friday this week with all three of Seoul, Busan and Jeju hosting cards. At Seoul, Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner Moonhak Chief returns to action and he runs straight into Tiz Plan in the 2000M class 1 feature on what is set to be a bitterly cold day in the capital – just for good measure, the great mare Silver Wolf is among the twelve lining up too. However, the Seoul meeting will have no attendance and no betting so we will once more focus on Busan, where there are 10 races from 10:4o to 15:20 and which will be available on international simulcast:

Korea Cup winner Moonhak Chief is back but he faces Tiz Plan at Seoul on Friday

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Only four of these three-year-olds have raced before. Of those four, (4) RAON THE POWER is the clear pick having won on debut on December 12th with a front-running performance. It was no surprise as he had previously looked sharp in a trial and due to the reduced prize money on offer that day, he gets another crack at class 6 here with every chance of winning again. None of the others with previous experience really caught the eye although (10) GOSUUI POWER didn’t run badly and could improve second up here. That leaves the first-timers and a couple did well in their trials. (6) COOL GUY registered the fastest time when running 2nd in his heat back in October. He showed good speed out of the gate and can challenge for the lead early here. (5) NEW FIRE and (11) GLORY KING are others who looked well in their respective hearts and have every chance of being competitive first-up.

Selections(4) Raon The Power (6) Cool Guy (5) New Fire (11) Glory King
Next Best10, 9
Fast Start4, 5, 6, 10, 12

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies only here. (5) JILJU MANYEO was a very solid winner on debut at this distance on December 5th having previously blitzed a trial. She gets another crack at the level today under a similarly light weight and has every chance of scoring again. (12) NEW LUX is another who gets another chance at this class having won at start number five a month ago. The wide draw shouldn’t be too much of a problem as she doesn’t need to lead and she looks to have solid claims to go close again. (3) HANHYEOLMA has been getting closer across six starts so far culminating in a runner-up finish on December 6th. Djordje Perovic takes the mount today and she has strong claims to continue her positive run of form. (7) HAPPY WOMAN hasn’t shown much in the way of speed so far but has a 4th and a 2nd from two starts and should be in at least the placing frame.

Selections(5) Jilju Manyeo (12) New Lux (3) Hanhyeolma (7) Happy Woman
Next Best8, 1
Fast Start3, 4, 5, 10

Race 3: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(8) CATCH THE VICTORY broke through at start number three on December 12th, making all to win comfortably over 1200M. He tackles this distance for the first time – although so do all but one of these – and he has every chance of being successful again. (6) SKY MORE ran 2nd to Catch The Victory on debut last month. He finished six-lengths in arrears but should have come on for the run and can get closer today. (10) B.J. KING was a good winner on December 12th too, also over 1200M. He can come off the pace here and should be a significant factor. There are others with promise too. (4) WONDERFUL BOBCAT was 4th on debut behind B.J. King and should come on for that run while (7) TWO TWO CARLTON is the only one on the race who has previously tried 1400M. He did rather well at it as well, with a much improved 3rd place and he can aim to match that today.

Selections(8) Catch The Victory (6) Sky More (10) B.J. King (7) Two Two Carlton
Next Best4, 11
Fast Start6, 8

Race 4: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 32 Million

(6) MR. FUSION got his maiden win over this distance on debut back in July last year and has followed up with three very solid showings at this class, beating three of these when 3rd last time out on December 12th. He is giving weight away but he seems to have a bit of quality and he could win again here. (7) CHOEGANG SSONSAL looks a big danger. He got his maiden win over 1300M in November before following up with a 2nd place at 1400M on December 12th and he looks nicely in to go close again today. (1) CHEONNYEONUIYAKSO races for the first time since last February. He made all to win a trial two weeks ago, looking sharp and can go well first-up today. (5) STRONG MIND and (12) NUMBER ONE STAR are others who look firmly in at least the placing hunt.

Selections(6) Mr. Fusion (7) Choegang Ssonsal (1) Cheonnyeonuiyakso (12) Number One Star
Next Best5, 8
Fast Start1, 6, 7

Race 5: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 42 Million

(5) NICE ONE came from slightly off the pace to score his third win in five starts at class and distance on December 12th beating a few of these in the process. All of his wins have come at this distance and staying under a nice light weight today, he has every chance of another. (2) FASHION KEY has been very consistent, finishing no worse than 5th across his nine starts to date. He drops back in trip here but well into contention. Loads of others have placing chances. (7) SINBIHAN YEOIN is inconsistent but does have the fastest time at the distance among these and could be considered for improvement. (1) BAENGNYEON SIDAE and (9) LUCKY NUMBER ONE are others who should be in the hunt.

Selections(5) Nice One (2) Fashion Key (1) Baengnyeon Sidae (7) Sinbihan Yeoin
Next Best9, 3
Fast Start3, 5, 9

Race 6: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 32 Million

Fillies and mares only here. (1) ULTRA PHOENIX was a touch disappointing when 6th of fourteen at class and distance on December 6th. That was a better race than this and she did beat a couple of today’s rivals though. Two starts back she was a class and distance winner and she has strong claims here. (5) KINGS LANDING enters with a 3rd and a 4th from her latest two. She’s likely to be ridden on pace here and should be going close. (4) CHEONNYEONUI GIL was a good 3rd first-up in November over 1300M. She’s not raced since and while she remains a maiden, expect her to be running on strong late and she can place again. The rest of them are going to need to show an upturn in form with (2) DOCTOR MAX perhaps the most likely to have a say in the placings.


Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 22)

The behind closed-doors Covid-Relief racing continues in Korea with Seoul, Busan and Jeju all hosting simultaneous cards on Friday. We’ll focus on the Busan card which is available on international simulcast with 10 races from 10:40 to 15:30. The feature is a heavyweight clash over 1400M as Today races for the first time since running 2nd in the Curlin Handicap at last year’s Dubai Carnival. He’s not going to find it easy either as he faces the up and coming Ssonsal.

Today races for the first time since running 2nd in the Curlin Handicap in Dubai last February. He runs straight into Ssonsal at Busan

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Tricky little filly maiden to begin with where just four of the twelve have raced before. (2) ARTIE’S GAL was well supported in November having won a trial in a fast time. She led for much of the way around over 1200M before running out of petrol and finishing 3rd. She can be given another chance today. (12) B.K. POWER similarly led in his latest two races only to end up 2nd and 3rd over 1000M and 1200M respectively. The draw is not ideal here but if he can overcome it, then he has a fair chance of finishing on top this time. (1) BARAM GONGJU didn’t really catch the eye in three appearances, the most recent of which was in February of last year. She did though look well when leading all the way in a December trial and we can expect improvement today. Among the first-timers there aren’t really any standouts. (3) DOCTOR FAPPIANO and (6) STARLIGHT registered the best trial times and can be expected to go well first-up here.

Selections(2) Artie’s Gal (12) B.K. Power (1) Baram Gongju (3) Doctor Fappiano
Next Best6, 10
Fast Start 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 12   

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(7) MIRACLE SON won at start number three on December 6th, coming from just off the pace to prevail by four-lengths at this distance. He gets another crack at the same level today and while he is carrying an extra 1.5kg, he can win again. There are a couple of credible challengers though. (12) ECHO RUSH may not have win to his name but he recorded a faster time over this distance in similar conditions when 2nd on December 5th having briefly led in the home straight. He has the wide draw to contend with but if he can get up close relatively early then he has claims. So too does (8) LUCAS SUN. He was a little bit slow off the mark last start on his first try at today’s distance but rallied well for 3rd place and today’s jockey booking catches the eye. (5) DAMYANG JEWANG is another in contention having returned from five months out to run 2nd at this distance in December. He’s drawn well to get on the early speed and should be a factor at the business end too.

Selections(7) Miracle Son (12) Echo Rush (8) Lucas Sun (5) Damyang Jewang
Next Best2, 10
Fast Start1, 5, 12

Race 3: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

This is a tricky one. The only previous winner is (10) BABY LINE who broke through at start number four on December 5th. That was over 1200M and he was ridden a touch more patiently than he had been in his opening three efforts. The additional trip may suit. (8) GOLDEN KAISER was a long way behind a good winner when 3rd on debut at the end of November. He should have come on for thee run and has claims to go closer today. (11) DIVINE QUEEN and (2) KING OF JOY came home 3rd and 5th when they raced each other over 1200M on December 5th. They are the only pair to have previous experience over this trip and both have at least placing chances today. (4) MIDNIGHT QUEEN ran 5th to Baby Line last start but in all three of her outings to date, she has run on well late and may appreciate the opportunity of more distance today. (1) THE FIRST FACTOR too has shown some ability and can’t be ruled out.

Selections(10) Baby Line (8) Golden Kaiser (1) The First Factor (11) Divine Queen
Next Best2, 4, 5
Fast Start5, 10

Race 4: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(2) TOP OF KOREA is a winner of two from three so far including his latest which came at this class and distance on December 12th. He’s drawn well to get close to the early speed and with less weight on his back than last time, he is favoured to score again. He faces a few useful ones though. (9) QUEEN UP was 6th behind Top Of Korea in that race but she was racing for the first time since January and evidently needed it. She can improve today. (7) BARAMEUI KKUM beat three of these on his way to class and distance 3rd on December 5th, running on strong and he too can have designs on at least a place again. (10) GOBLIN was well back in that race but he was first-up and today carries 4.5kg less and can improve. (1) WONDERFUL KING and (11) DOCTOR KHAN are also better than their respective latest appearances suggest.

Selections(2) Top Of Korea (7) Barameui Kkum (10) Goblin (9) Queen Up
Next Best1, 11, 6
Fast Start1, 2, 12

Race 5: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 42 Million

Fillies and mares only here. Both (1) ILNYEOM TONGCHEON and (4) MY QUEEN have done their best work – and scored their victories – at 1400M. They both step back in trip today and find themselves amongst a competitive field. That said it would be no surprise were they to end up battling for top honours. Both are front runners and of the pair, My Queen is marginally favoured to prevail. (3) YEONGGWANGUI TIME has the speed to beat them both as she showed when winning at class and distance last October. She was slowly away from a dreadful gate in her only start since but still rallied for 5th. Much better drawn today, she should be a big factor. (2) QUEEN MARVEL IJI is also capable of running a competitive time and can be aiming for a place while (6) MY TIZ GEM and (12) HANBIT YEONGGWANG are among others in the frame for a money finish.

Selections(4) My Queen (1) Ilnyeom Tongcheon (3) Yeonggwangui Time (2) Queen Marvel Iji
Next Best6, 12
Fast Start1, 3, 4

Race 6: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 32 Million


Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 15)

After last weekend’s sub-zero and then some unpleasantness, the temperature has warmed up significantly in Korea where once more, all three tracks will run Friday cards at the same time. There is no local attendance or betting. East Jet and Alan Munro renew their successful partnership in Seoul’s feature but once again we will focus on Busan (10 races from 10:35 to 15:15) which is available on international simulcast in the usual places.

East Jet goes at Seoul but we’ll focus on Busan (Pic: KRA)

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

A maiden to kick things off with eight of the twelve racing for the very first time. Of the ones with experience, (5) FIRST EDITION is set to be favourite. Having impressed in his trial, he was well fancied first-up on November 20th but having led for much of the way, ultimately finished a rather well-beaten 2nd. Nevertheless, he’ll be favourite again today and should get things right this time. None of the others with experience caught the eye so we’ll turn to the first-timers. (7) FIRST CHOICE first trialed up all the way back in May of 2019 and after a string of setbacks finally makes it to the track. She registered the quickest trial time and goes straight into contention. (6) WONDERFUL JAZZ didn’t offer too many clues in his heat but did nothing wrong and given the stable, he will be backed first-up. (2) S.L. KING and (9) GEUMBIT SKY similarly looked well in their respective heats.

Selections(5) First Edition (7) First Choice (9) Geumbit Sky (6) Wonderful Jazz
Next Best2, 12
Fast Start5, 9

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(2) JEONGMUN POWER led from gate to wire on debut to record a very smart looking win over this distance. He gets another crack at class 6 here and has every chance of repeating from a good draw. It looks to be between Jeongmun Power and another previous winner, (11) MACH TITAN. He made his breakthrough at start number two and it was a similar all the way performance in a decent time in October. That encouraged connections to take a chance in Busan’s top juvenile race at the end of November and while he couldn’t get close to Heat Yegam or Winner’s Man, he did finish 4th in a reasonable time and back in shallower waters today is a real threat. (10) MONEY BAG improved on his second start in November and the booking of Seo Seung-un catches the eye. (12) TOP ADELE did nothing on debut last July but looked better when trialing up on Chirstmas Eve and gets a fresh start here.

Selections(2) Jeongmun Power (11) Mach Titan (10) Money Bag (12) Top Adele
Next Best3, 8
Fast Start2, 10

Race 3: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies (and one mare) only for this maiden. (7) LOOKING CAT improved on what was her second career start on December 6th. She ran on well for 5th and may appreciate the chance to get a bit of extra distance today. (10) LADY LOVE has been a touch one-paced across her two starts so far but she did improve in the latest of them and shapes to be a factor here. Also improving second up was (2) BAEDARI ICON, who came from off the pace to run a few down for 3rd place over 1200M and is another who may find the extra furlong suits. (1) NEW GLORY DAY led on her debut a month ago before weakening to 5th and may be fitter for that run today. (3) KKOTMURI is another who hasn’t shown much in the way of speed but also hasn’t done too much wrong in two starts so far and can improve here. There is just one debut-maker and in such company (6) FLAT BABE merits consideration after an adequate enough trial.

Selections(7) Looking Cat (10) Lady Love (2) Baedari Icon (1) New Glory Day
Next Best6, 9
Fast Start1

Race 4: Class 6 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Uncharted territory here with all twelve tackling a mile for the first time. (2) ACE DAY is a half-brother to Today, a winner of eleven races in Korea who has also placed in visits to Singapore and Dubai. For his part, Ace Day was an all the way winner on debut over 1200M before making a very slow start on his return to action at the end of November, giving himself far too much to do and ultimately finishing 2nd. The step up in trip should be fine and he can win here. (7) TRIUMPH KING ran a solid 2md on debut on December 12th. He ran on well and should also be able to cope well with the mile. Those two look the clear standouts with everything else needing to show improvement. (1) ROCK HARD DANCER hinted at some ability when running on well behind Ace Day last start while (6) DAEHO PYEONGJEONG showed a bit of promise in his first two starts before losing his way a little. The change in distance may be good for him too.

Selections(2) Ace Day (7) Triumph King (1) Rock Hard Dancer (6) Daeho Pyeongjeong
Next Best5, 11
Fast Start2, 7

Race 5: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 32 Million

Fillies and mares only here. (5) GREY ANGEL has won both her two starts so far, running on well both times to score by handsome margins at this distance. Today she has to step up in class for the first time but the task should be well within her ability and she has solid claims again. (9) MAJOR PUNCH beat four of these on her way to a solid 2nd place at class and distance on November 27th. That came following a poor performance two starts back but she is a class and distance winner and can be in the hunt again today. (7) GEUMA BONNY was a good winner on debut back in August and while she could only manage 4th on her November return, this looks a bit easier and she has claims. It’s a similar story with (8) NAMDO QUEEN who ran on well for 4th on her second start having won on debut. (4) BODE BLADE and (12) ACHIM BIT are others in at least the placing hunt.


Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 8)

The 2021 racing season gets underway in much reduced form on Friday with cards planned at all three racecourses. It is possible the weather may intervene in the Seoul meeting with Friday’s morning temperatures set to dip as low as -16C. We’ll focus on the Busan meeting anyway which has 10 races from 10:35 to 15:15. There is no local admission or betting but the races will be on international simulcast. Here are the previews:

The snow has been cleared off the track at Seoul but it remains bitterly cold

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Twelve three-year-olds here all of them going round for the very first time. So it’s to the trial videos we head to try and make head or tail of it. (10) APRIL QUEEN beat three of her rivals here when trialing on December 12th. She led early in the heat that day before ending up in 3rd place. The draw isn’t ideal here but she looks to have solid claims. (5) BAEDARI CHOEGANG and (1) FANTASTIC LEADER came home 4th and 5th respectively in the same heat, both running through the line well and should be able to make an impact first up here too. The fastest time any of these recorded in trials was by (4) SECRET MAGIC. She went around tidily enough and while she didn’t really quicken, she stuck to her task well and looked to have plenty of running in her. Among the others, (2) BLACK ROMANCE also looked well enough in his heat beating a couple of the others who go here while (7) JILPUNG KOREA did nothing wrong either.

Selections(10) April Queen (4) Secret Magic (5) Baedari Choegang (2) Black Romance
Next Best1, 7
Fast Start3, 7, 10

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies (and one mare) only here. (4) MARK ACE is already a winner but gets another crack at what is ostensibly a maiden race because it fell during the reduced stakes racing period. She returned in November to run 3rd, admittedly well back behind a good winner but showed enough again to suggest that in this company she is going to be very dangerous. He will sit on or close to the early speed. (12) PEACE BAEK has the fastest time of these at this distance albeit recorded in very different conditions last August. She maintained her form well on two outings in October and November and despite the gate, looks a big danger here. (3) COLOR WIND and (5) SEUNGNI QUEEN both come in following 3rd place finishes in their respective latest starts and should be in the hunt for places as well. (7) QUEEN VRONSKY was a touch disappointing over 1400M last start but should be better dropped back in trip here.

Selections(4) Mark Ace (12) Peace Baek (7) Queen Vronsky (3) Color Wind
Next Best5, 6
Fast Start4, 8, 9, 11

Race 3: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

A pretty ordinary maiden here. (2) ENDLESS RUNNING has only raced the once and did quite well, leading for much of the way around before ultimately coming home 4th over 1300M. From gate 2, he’ll be on pace again and can go all the way. (12) CHEONMA HASEO has been knocking on the door for a while with three 4th place finishes including his latest which was at today’s distance in November. The widest gate shouldn’t be an issue and he should be up there. (11) YEONGGWANGUI TEUKGEUP’s name is too long to fit fully into the English race card. He did though beat a couple of these on his latest outing and has previously registered a semi-competitive time at this distance so should be in the hunt today. (8) RAPTOR MAN has the fastest time of these at this distance and is also the only one to have a runner-up finish to his name and he shapes to be competitive here. The wildcard is (7) CHEONMA BRAVO who last time out looked like he needed a bit further and can improve under Ioannis Poullis today.

Selections(2) Endless Running (12) Cheonma Haseo (8) Raptor Man (7) Cheonma Bravo
Next Best11, 6
Fast Start2, 6, 8

Race 4: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 32 Million

After finishing 4th on debut, (1) ONNURI JILJU made all to score second-up over this distance on November 11th. He won by a full sixteen-lengths in a fast time and while he is up in class here, he has to be favoured to prevail once more. (5) ALPHA AGAIN actually beat Onnuri Jilju on what was the latter’s debut as they came home 3rd and 4th in October. Alpha Again then dropped back to 1000M to blitz the field for his maiden win. Up in class, he’s never been worse than 4th and will challenge Onnuri Jilju for the early lead. If he gets in front it may get interesting. (10) HAPPY WIND is also up in class following a maiden win at this distance. In her case it came at start number seven but it had been coming after a couple of near-misses. She probably has a bit too much to find on the other two fancies but should have the beating of most of the rest. (4) EAGLE STAR is already a class and distance winner. He was only ordinary when stepped up to 1400M last start but should be better today and carries next to no weight at all. (6) NORTHERN DREAM and (11) QUEEN OF ADELE are among others with placing claims in what is a tasty looking race.

Selections(1) Onnuri Jilju (5) Alpha Again (10) Happy Wind (4) Eagle Star
Next Best6, 11
Fast Start1, 5, 12

Race 5: Class 4 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 42 Million

Intriguing little race this with a couple of promising first-timers mixing it with some established winners. One of only three Korean bred runners in the race, (9) QUEEN OF THE WORLD is a winner of three from eight so far. She found herself unsuited and overmatched in the Korean Oaks over 1800M last August but in her only run since, she dropped back to this distance to record an all the way win in November in a good time for the level. Based on that performance, she is the one they need to beat with a good apprentice taking some weight off. (8) SONIC KING IJI is also a class and distance winner having scored last November before running 2nd three weeks ago. You Hyun-myung returns to the mount today and he has every chance. Of the others with experience, (2) CHEONNYEONUI QUEEN, with only one start so far, looks to have potential to improve but there are a couple of live looking debut-makers. (6) MY BABY GIRL won her trial in good fashion a month ago. The Python filly ran through the line strong and this should suit first up. (12) SNYDER has been through three trials dating back to last July. The Paddy O’Prado colt led for much of his latest heat in December recording a fast time in 2nd place and with the services of Franco Da Silva can overcome the wide draw to go close.


Tentative Return To Racing Eyed For Friday

Following a three-week shutdown, declarations have been taken for the first Korean race cards of 2021. All three tracks at Seoul, Busan and Jeju are set to race behind closed-doors on Fridays only, beginning this Friday, January 8.

There will be no local betting and prize money will be at a reduced level although greater than that of the previous behind closed-doors racing in mid-December. There will be fifteen races on each card at Seoul beginning at 9am while there will be ten at Busan with a 10:35am start. The Busan cards will be available for international simulcasting.

New Coronavirus cases have hovered around the 1,000 mark daily for the past three weeks although there have been some signs of the situation stabilizing. The government opted not to adopt the so called “toughest curbs” which would have closed “non-essential” shops and would have also precluded any kind of racing, even behind closed doors. Instead it restricted social gatherings of greater than four people. With the racecourse being a workplace, racing as well as other professional sports, can take place with no spectators.

Adding woes to the industry’s plight, there has been little progress on lawmakers’ efforts to pass the online gambling bill with it continually being delayed at committee level meaning many in racing are becoming increasingly resigned to there being no betting – and therefore no income to the industry – for months to come.

With betting continuing to be shut down, three off-track betting centres which have their leases coming up for renewal will close permanently. These are the ones in Bucheon, Daejeon and the “foreigner-only” facility at the Walker Hill in Seoul.

In a further measure, horses purchased overseas after November of 2020 will not be able to be registered to race in Korea in 2021. With owners not buying at domestic sales to any extent during last year’s shut down, there is currently an oversupply of young horses with uncertain futures. It is hoped that the temporary registration restriction, while undoubtedly narrowing Korean racing’s horizons, will encourage owners to take these horses and help mitigate significant potential welfare issues.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the forecast morning low temperature in Seoul this Friday morning is -19C with a high of -11C. The Busan card should be ok with the temperature predicted to be a comparatively tropical -2C at the time of the scheduled first race.

Previews of the Busan races will appear on the site tomorrow.