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.