Author: gyongmaman

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (June 20)

Racing got underway at Busan on Friday and the behind-closed-doors action moves to Seoul on Saturday with a 15-race card from 10:45 to 18:00. The ponies on Jeju will also resume. Here are the previews:

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Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

A field of twelve three-year-olds all having their first start will kick off proceedings as we return to Seoul for the first time in over four months. (5) GRACE QUEEN clocked a reasonable trial mid last month when running second. The filly coasted through the line nicely and wasn’t fully extended suggesting if she can find a few more lengths she will take some running down. The trial of (7) TEUNTEUNA was better than it looked to the naked eye. The Rock Hard Ten colt was beaten by a big margin but did clock a competitive time for this grade. Expect further improvement on the trial. (8) CAREER HIGH is worth considering in your selections. The Any Given Saturday filly ran midfield in her heat but ran through the line fairly, she will get the services of leading rider Moon Se-young. (1) GEORGE QUEEN won her trial but they dawdled early in the heat. The filly also hung out badly down the straight. She should be better for the run both physically and mentally.

Selections (5) Grace Queen (7) Teunteuna (8) Career High (1) George Queen
Next Best 2, 4
Fast Start 1, 5

 

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maidens here with five of the twelve making their belated racecourse debuts. We’re going to go with one of those first-timers, (6) WINNER QUARDRILLE. The Gold Allure filly initially won a trial in January and then went through another in April where she gave champion Silver Wolf a good workout, running home 2nd in a useful time and if she brings that form to the races today, she can win. Also showing ability in trials was Luigi Riccardi’s (7) CHOEGO CAMP, a front-running winner of her heat in March and with every chance of going well first-up under Johan Victoire. As for those with experience, (2) FIGHTING NOW is a bit of an enigma. He ran well for 2nd on debut last October which led to him being sent off at odds-on for his reappearance in November. He got a bad trip and ended up in 7th which we will forgive, but he didn’t exactly impress in a March trial either so while he evidently has some talent, caution is required. (11) BURNING POINT and (12) SONGAM PLAYER both have 3rd places to their names and both performed a little better in their respective recent trials, although both have drawn closer to the car park than the rails.

Selections (6) Winner Quardrille (12) Songam Player (7) Choego Camp (2) Fighting Now
Next Best 11, 8
Fast Start 3, 7, 8

 

 Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Twelve Korean-bred gallopers line up in the third event all looking for their first win. (10) THUNDER K looks one of the main chances. The chestnut finished fourth on debut in December last year in a handy two-year-old event. The colt trialled in April clocking a good time on a dry track suggesting he is ready to fire first up. (8) BANGJU showed some improvement at his second start in January. The Into Mischief gelding hit the line fairly to finish third behind Songam Tiz. Whilst not the strongest form line this race is of similar strength. (11) GANA PARK debuts after a solid trial effort to finish second. She was beaten five lengths in the trial but clocked 62.8 on a dry track which will see her competitive in this event. (3) BALBATU lines up for his third career start. The Hansen colt placed at his most recent run before the racing hiatus over 1000m. The chestnut passed a few in the straight hitting the line well suggesting he will appreciate the 1200m for the first time.

Selections (10) Thunder K (8) Bangju (11) Gana Park (3) Balbatu
Next Best 12, 6
Fast Start 10, 11, 12

 

Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old fillies only for this maiden. (6) GLORY FIGHTER was sent off the odds-on favourite for what was her second start in January. She took a bump at the start and then hung inwards late on ultimately finishing in 3rd place. She didn’t impress when trialing in April but didn’t do too much wrong either and can be given another chance today. A more impressive recent trailer was (10) BLUE K. She’s shown plenty of speed as well, especially when running 3rd on what was her most recent racecourse appearance last October. The engagement of Kim Yong Geun is a plus and she’ll surely be a big factor. (12) OLD BLADE is one of very few horses at Seoul not to have trialed during the shutdown. She put in two solid if unspectacular performances around the turn of the year registering a 4th and a 3rd and can aim to match or better that here. (5) CHEONGDAM YEOGEOL also did nothing wrong on her debut last December and can push on today.

Selections (10) Blue K (6) Glory Fighter (5) Cheongdam Yeogeol (12) Old Blade
Next Best 7, 9
Fast Start 1, 10

 

Race 5: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million 

An even group of maiden Korean-bred gallopers will face the starter in the fifth. The race record of (11) CLEAN HEART does not read all that well to date but his trial suggests there may be improvement to come. The Artie Schiller colt clocked 62 seconds flat on a dry track and crossed the line with some handy types. The three-year-old was pushed out but ran it out strong and with fresh legs looks to be some value over the 1300m first up. (5) SANARAE is the most experience galloper in the race with eight starts under her belt. She has just the one minor placing from the eight starts but it did come over this distance towards the end of last year. She trialled in reasonable fashion in May where she finished third but appeared green when running up the straight. She gets one of her easiest assignments to date. Korean punters have sent (6) HANSEN CHOICE to the gates numerous times at a short quote and done their money every time. With no betting in Korea this weekend it would salt in the wound if the chestnut was to get up. She showed little in her trial but has previously showed ability over the short course and hence she is being included on a place line. (12) TYCHE FIRE looks the interesting galloper engaged from an improvement point of view. The Indie Band colt finished well back on debut in February but his trial in May was solid considering he was off the track throughout and still clocked 62.3 seconds on a dry track. The draw will do him no favours but he could be one that improves. This is a hard race and the likes of (3) THE BEAST, (7) GOLDEN SWITCH and (9) BIANCA could fill a place without surprising.

Selections (11) Clean Heart (5) Sanarae (6) Hansen Choice (12) Tyche Fire
Next Best 3, 9
Fast Start 3, 5, 6, 8

 

Race 6: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Just the one first-timer starter amongst this field of maidens but he looks useful. (8) E STRIKE ran on well across two trials and 1400M should suit first up. Jockey booking a plus and he has claims to start his career in the best possible way. (11) TOP SEED has a 2nd place to his name at this distance already and he has looked well in two very solid trial performances during the hiatus. He’ll go back at the start so the wide draw is no issue and he’ll run through the line strongly. Also with experience of the distance and also untroubled by the wide draw is (12) THE DREAM. He finished 4th to Top Seed’s 3rd when they raced each other at this distance on early February and he can get close once again today. It looks an open race beyond those with perhaps (1) YAHO M J CAT and (2) HAPPY MONTH being best of the rest although there is a lack of speed engaged so if something like (4) SIN ROK, who has at least shown some ability from the gate, could get an easy lead, then he may go close.

Selections (11) Top Seed (8) E Strike (12) The Dream (2) Happy Month
Next Best 1, 3, 4
Fast Start 4, 11

 

Race 7: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million 

Some progressive types line up in the seventh on the card where there is a host of winning chances. (3) ICE PUNCH was flying before the Covid hiatus scoring a dominant six length victory over the 1200m, which they line up over once again in this event. The dapple grey then did everything right in a barrier trial in April when overcoming a wide gate working to the front and winning under his own steam. The colt looks ready to fire first up and gets the services of Seoul’s leading rider in Moon Se-young. (2) GREAT KHAN is another who broke maiden status just before the racing hiatus. The Menifee colt clocked a good time when winning by a clear margin over the five furlongs. The query (more…)

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (June 19)

After an almost four-month hiatus racing returns to Korea on Friday with a 15-race card at Busan from 11:30 to 18:00. Sadly with online betting still outlawed and with the authorities still not allowing people to attend professional sports in person, there is no legal way for loyal local racing fans to watch and wager on the races. The races are, however, simulcast overseas as usual. Here are the previews:

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Busan is back

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Twelve previously unraced three-year-olds get things underway and while we usually advise keeping a close eye on the local market for clues, with no local betting, none will be forthcoming. All have been through at least one trial though so we do have a few things to go on. (12) POWER GATE registered good times in both her trials although the filly was assisted on both occasions by wet tracks. It’s a top trainer/jockey combination and if they can overcome the wide draw, she surely figures. Speaking of jockey/trainer combinations, (11) SECOND WIND showed improvement across her pair of trials, also on similarly wet tracks and can go well first up today. From the inside gate, (1) ALPHA HEART should be on the early pace and can stick around at the business end. (3) CHEON SU HAENG and (7) CHEONMA HASEO also acquitted themselves well in heats while the pair of (2) INDY QUEEN and (9) SWEET BAND, both by President’s Cup and Grand Prix winner Indie Band are intriguing debutantes although their respective latest trials would suggest caution is needed first-up.

Selections (12) Power Gate (11) Second Wind (1) Alpha Heart (7) Cheonma Ha Seu
Next Best 3, 2, 9
Fast Start 1, 3, 9, 11

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 75 Million 

Nine two-year-olds will have their first start in the second event on the card. Trial times and perceived pressure have been reviewed in their qualifying trials and (9) WORLD CHEONSA looks one to follow on debut. The Hansen filly clocked a good time for a debutant when doing it under her own steam until ridden out by Kim Cheol-ho in the last half furlong. She qualified in 62.1 seconds on a dry track which should see her more than competitive in this event. (7) MAGIC DAERO managed to muster quickly in his trial after jumping away in average fashion. The Gyeongbudaero colt was somewhat green working up the Busan straight in his trial but he looks one that can improve with time. (3) TOP MATE clocked a good time for his trial but was ridden out hard by his rider. He should be able to position close-up from a handy drawn. (6) HAPPY WITCH was swamped late in her trial after tiring in the last furlong. If the is improvement with her she can run into the top four.

Selections (9) World Cheonsa (7) Magic Daero (3) Top Mate (6) Happy Witch
Next Best 2. 8
Fast Start 3, 7, 9

 

Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Maiden fillies only here with just three of the twelve having prior racing experience. Of those, only (12) MISS ROCKET offered any ability, running 5th of 12 over this distance in February. She backed that up by going well in a May trial and warrants consideration here. (2) STEEL HEART did nothing on debut but did show signs of improvement when trialing again a month ago. We have some sharp looking debutantes though. (5) FINAL PARTY looked every inch a racehorse when cruising to a trial victory over some experienced animals on May 8th. Top jockey You Hyun-Myung is aboard and if she brings that form to the races, she has winning chances. (7) ILNYEOM TONGCHEON was slightly slower but still impressive when making all to win a heat of her own back in March. She’ll be on pace from the start and can be a threat. Joining her on speed will be (4) ANGEL WIND who was similarly composed when running 2nd in her heat in April. Another big chance is (10) QUEEN VRONSKY who has mixed it well with experienced runners in two trials to date, running on very nicely for 3rd in a fast time in her latest heat in April. She’ll come from just behind the speed and debuting at 1200M may well suit. (9) SUSO TANK also is not to be overlooked.

Selections (5) Final Party (10) Queen Vronsky (4) Angel Wind (7) Ilnyeom Tongcheon
Next Best 12, 9
Fast Start 1, 4, 5, 7

 

Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

The three-year-old maiden gallopers line up in the fourth event where six of the twelve runners are on debut. There is plenty of interest around (1) MY QUEEN who trialed in impressive fashion back in March. The Tamna Ace filly had speed to burn early on in the heat before hitting the line with minimum urging. The filly is perfectly drawn to bounce out of the gates, sit on speed and take some running down. (3) YEONGGWANGUI SPEED had the one start back in December before the hiatus where he finished midfield behind Golden Winner who has subsequently proven to be a handy type. The colt was given a trial last month where he was one-paced through the line. He has run over the 1300m in fair style and is considered an each-way chance. (5) ALPHA STAR was disappointing on debut back in January when failing to beat a runner home. He trialed during the hiatus with his performance much better. He jumped well in the trial and sustained a good cruising speed He was not shaken up down the straight and clocked a fair time for this grade. (12) ECHO GOOD looks one to not discount entirely on her trial performances. We will know more about her after this event but keep her safe in your wider selections.

Selections (1) My Queen (3) Yeonggwangui Speed (5) Alpha Star (12) Echo Good
Next Best 8, 6
Fast Start 1

 

Race 5: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(10) GEUMA KAIROS has been well-backed in both his starts to date and while he struggled on debut in December, he was an improved 4th running on well on his February reappearance. He looked well in an April trial and the step up to 1400M may suit here. (3) JEMA TUJI has improved across three outings and ran a good 2nd on a wet track over 1300M in January. She wasn’t asked for much in his recent trial and she can go well first up today. So too can another filly, Thomas Gillespie’s (4) YEOWANGUI MISO. A solid 3rd at lengthy odds on debut, she ran well in a trial just two weeks ago and You Hyun Myung, who rode her in the heat, gets back aboard today. (6) HALEAKALA justified strong support when 2nd over a mile in January. She performed well enough in an April trial on a sloppy track and can be in the placing frame again. (5) JANGSAN MANGCHI is “full” brother to Derby Winner Ecton Blade and improvement is possible while (8) JEONSEOLUI BOSS is another firmly in the hunt in a competitive race.

Selections (10) Geuma Kairos (4) Yeowangui Miso (3) Jema Tuji (5) Jangsan Mangchi
Next Best 8, 6, 7
Fast Start 1, 4, 8, 10

 

Race 6: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

An even assembly of gallopers line up in the fifth where a case can be made for the majority of the field. The race looks difficult enough without the added complexity of the recent racing hiatus. (7) PERFECT JEWANG is the on top selection as he ticks two boxes, the first being he blew his rivals away in Class 6 company back in February winning by a substantial nine length margin. The second being he trialed in impressive time in April when clocking 60.9 seconds on a dry track and beat the second placed horse by five lengths. The time was one of the better figures for that particular set of trials. (11) GOOD THUNDER looks a winning hope in the open field. The Thunder Moccasin colt has proved himself beyond the 1000m multiple times, placing over 1200m last start and breaking maiden status over the 1300m two starts back. He handed in an average trial in April which was no gauge of his condition. He has been on speed at his past three race starts and it is likely that Lee Hyo-sik will look to cross shortly after the gates open. (3) HAEUNDAE THUNDER broke maiden status back in February at his third race start. The son of Strike Again has drawn ideally to allow Francisco Da Silva engage the same tactics as per when he won. The step up to the 1200m first up is the query. (5) BANJIUI MAGIC still looks for his first win but comes out of a strong three-year-old race where he was defeated by Barbarian, who looks to have some ability. With the lightweight on his back, the chestnut should be considered an each-way hope.

Selections (7) Perfect Jewang (11) Good Thunder (3) Haeundae Thunder (5) Banjiui Magic
Next Best 9, 8
Fast Start 2, 5, 7, 9, 11

 

Race 7: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

A really good looking race involving plenty of up and comers. (3) GREAT BOSS won on debut over 1200M in February and while it wasn’t an especially fast time on what admittedly was a slow-running track that day, he showed he’s got plenty of speed about him when recording a sub one-minute trial on May 30th. So long as he didn’t leave his race on the track that morning, he has strong claims today. So too does (7) NEW PROSPECT, a colt who appears well-named presently. He won at the second time of (more…)

The Long Road to Online Betting & The Prospects of Racing Returning in Korea

Over three months since racing in Korea was forcibly halted by the spread in the country of the Covid-19 epidemic and with racing around the world gradually getting back up and running, there is still no confirmed date for resumption. Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Agriculture (under whose jurisdiction the Korea Racing Authority falls) approved plans to begin operations on May 29 with an attendance cap of 10% of the average number of racegoers. Shortly afterwards, a rise in confirmed Covid-19 “clusters” in the greater Seoul area, first at a Coupang distribution centre in Bucheon and then a group of churches in Incheon, caused the Korean government to urge caution in the Capital area up to and including June 14th and the approval was rescinded. That now means an earliest restart of June 19th and that is only if the number of new cases falls – right now it is hovering bewteen 30-50 per day.

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A trial takes place at Seoul Racecourse during the shutdown – note the dividers by the rail for when racegoers finally return

One thing that does occasionally need to be made clear is that in Korea there has been no “lockdown” of any kind. Shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, hair salons etc have all remained open throughout, albeit with some of them (cinemas especially) seeing a dramatic decline in business. The only things forced shut were sports venues and churches (schools were already closed for holidays, however it is only in the past two weeks that some pupils have returned to their desks). Churches and sports facilities reopened at the beginning of May while the country’s professional baseball and football leagues began behind closed doors.

Racing has also continued its operations. Trackwork has carried on as have official trials with up to ten heats a day being run at Seoul Racecourse on recent Thursdays and Fridays.  Patience has generally been commendably high among participants, primarily due to a feeling of helplessness by all concerned. Everybody knows that racing can’t take place without punters on track because since 2009, there has been no facility for someone to have a legal bet from their home by telephone or on the internet, rendering racing behind closed doors for a sustained amount of time impossible.

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Inside the grandstands, most seats have been blocked off

Racing in Korea operates under what is known as the “KRA Law” (a somewhat misleading title as the KRA itself often has little influence on its content) and this particular document contains plenty of ambiguities; the “maximum betting limit” being perhaps the best (or worst) example. Therefore, when it became clear there was a market – illegal services having sprung up in the early 2000s – the “KNetz” service was introduced to allow punters to place their bets without having to physically attend the racecourse or an OTB.

Just over a decade ago, a small number of  politicians with a keen eye for a favourable headline, noticed that KNetz was therefore never formally legalised and launched a high profile campaign to get it shut down. As with many campaigns launched by publicity hungry politicians against publicity shy and quiet-life seeking civil servants, it was successful and in August 2009, KNetz was discontinued and live racing disappeared from local tv screens. In the years since, online gambling in Korea has thrived, just not of the legal kind – although the lottery, for some reason not seen as gambling, is allowed to sell tickets online – and Korea has become, along with Malaysia, the only major racing jurisdiction to be unable to offer its customers a safe and legal way of wagering from home.

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It’s the same in the parade ruing with only one in four seats left open

Moves have been afoot over the past few years to rectify this. The KRA has launched its “My Card” app for punters to download and place bets on but it comes with the major catch that currently it only works when connected to the KRA wifi at a racecourse or OTB. It does mean, however, that once the political will is there, the infrastructure is ready to go immediately. Currently “My Card”  accounts for approximately 30% of all turnover, a figure that is boosted by the fact that the popular Tierce (trifecta) bet type is available exclusively to punters on the app. Additionally the app features a league table for punters to find out how they match up against their peers as well as playing host to the annual Korea Handicapping Challenge, an event that prior to the shutdown, was this year set to be an official feeder contest for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge in the US.

Politically, numerous parliamentary hearings have been held with figures such as Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht Bresges among those who have made the trip to Yeouido over the years to impress upon lawmakers why a safe and legal avenue for online wagering is vital. Subsequently last November, a group of nineteen lawmakers led by Jeju Assembly member Kang Chang-il introduced the necessary legislation. It reached committee stage in February of this year, however it there ran into an impasse – the lack of “social concensus” – which could not be resolved before the dissolution of the 20th National Assembly in advance of April’s elections. As with all pending legislation it was therefore automatically abandoned.

The 21st National Assembly has just opened and it is essentially back to square one. Kang Chang-il didn’t run for re-election so the hope is that one of those eighteen others who put their name to the proposed bill, or a new lawmaker from an area such as Jeju that is heavily dependent on racing for jobs and tax revenue, will step up and re-introduce it. It is likely to happen but it will take time and it’s too late for it to have any mitigating impact on the current crisis.

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Lotteria has installed dividers at its tables

So right now the only way of getting racing up and running is if at least some spectators are allowed into the venues. This would have happened on May 29th with the KBO baseball league also having been poised to allow spectators in from the same weekend before the new infections in the capital area were discovered and paralysis set in again. Lots of work has been done at the racecourses to enforce the idea of “social distancing” with even the Lotteria outlet in the grandstand having erected dividers at its tables – something it has not been required to do at its downtown locations. Temporary structures have been built by the rails to keep punters apart and three out of every four seats in the grandstand have been blocked off. Anyone who does attend will need to scan a QR code from their phone in to enable swift contact tracing in the event of a positive test by a racegoer or participant.

As it stands, it does seem as though racing in some form will return on Friday June 19th. Attendance will be very limited and how enough turnover can be generated to keep the whole show on the road long-term will be the next challenge. For now, for the sake of the whole industry, the only focus is on finding a way to get back racing.

Take Charge Indy Colt Tops May Jeju 2YO Sale

The Korean Thorougbred Breeders’ Association hosted its first two-year-old sale of the year at the KRA’s sales complex on Jeju Island on Wednesday and it was a Take Charge Indy colt who topped the bidding.

(The entire sale can be viewed in the video above)

While in excess of 150 lots were offered, only 28 found buyers on the day, something which is not ususual at these sales as any horse which does not reach KRW 20 Million is passed in. The minimum price paid was KRW 20 Million with the average being KRW 39.8 Million.

Sale-topper was a Take Charge Indy colt out of Patti’s Sweet Song (Unbridled’s Song) consigned by breeder Kim Jung-cheol and purchased by the DRM City group for KRW 90 Million. DRM City, who own and race over a dozen horses at Seoul Racecourse including top sprinter Spring Back, were the most active buyers on the day scooping up four lots in all, including the second most expensive, a Gemologist filly out of Pied A Terre (City Zip) at KRW 82 Million.

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Take Charge Indy during his time in Korea

Completing the top three was a Distorted Humor colt out of Flamenba (Kingmambo), bought for KRW 80 Million by Boo Soo-sun, who races his horses at Busan.

Take Charge Indy, who was repurchased by American interests last summer after his progeny had performed better than expected at home, was the most popular sire with five of his juveniles selling.

The sale was held with bidders present in the saleroom albeit with due COVID-19 precautions in place.

Jeju 2YO Sales To Go Ahead May 12

Jeju Island, the centre of Korea’s thoroughbred breeding industry, will finally play host to its first sale of 2020 with the Korea Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Jeju May Sale of Two-Year-Olds takng place on the island on Tuesday May 12th.

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Jeju’s sales ring will see action for the first time this year on Tuesday

The May sale is usually Jeju’s second of the year, however, the planned March sale had to be scrapped due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Attendees will be temperature checked and required to wear facemasks.

A total of 151 juveniles will be offered at the sale, including thirteen by Take Charge Indy, who returned to the USA last summer.

April’s smaller Mainland Two-Year-Old sale did go ahead at Jangsu two weeks ago when twenty-two were sold with an Alternation colt out of Fictionality (by Tale Of The Cat) fetching the highest price at KRW 69 Million.

The Sale Catalogue can be found here.

As for when actual racing can take place, plans are at an advanced stage for a resumption before the end of May with all the major relevant authorities reportedly having come very close to giving approval. However, the recent “Itaewon Outbreak” has threatened to derail those plans.

 

Dae Kyeun: From Scone to Seoul

During the shutdown, our friends over at the Korea Racing Broadcast Channel (KRBC) have been posting videos about the careers of some of  the famous horses in Korean racing history. So we thought we would post them too along with some info about each one. First up is Dae Kyeun.

These days, the majority of racehorses in Korea are locally bred with most imports coming from the United States. Things were very different in the 1990s though. The domestic breeding industry was in its very early stages so most horses were imported. Not from the USA though. Instead, horses would be purchased in large numbers and flown over together from Australia and New Zealand – more than 300 in 1996 alone. Another difference back then was that horses were allowed to have raced already before coming to Korea – these days all imports must be unraced. One of those previously raced horses from th southern hemisphere was Dae Kyeun.

Not that he was called Dae Kyeun at home. The bay colt was foaled in November 1989 and was by Northern Regent – a Canadian-bred sire – and out of the Sunset Hue mare Romantic Evening. He was called Fond Farewell. It was under that name that he made seven starts in his home country throughout the course of 1992 at various country tracks in New South Wales. His solitary win was also his solitary paycheck as he picked up $2,900 for 1st place in twelve-runner Class 2 Handicap for 2-year-olds at Kempsey on April 25th, winning by a head. His local career would conclude that November when beating just one home at Scone.

Fond Farewell was sold, along with 150 others in 1993, to Korean interests and arrived in Seoul in June of that year. His new owner was Lee Yoon Ja and he was renamed  “Dae Kyeun” (the literal translation is “Confrontation”). He was placed in the care of trainer Choi Hye Sik, with whom he would remain for his entire career.

All seven of Fond Farewell’s Australian starts were on turf but Dae Kyeun quickly found his feet on the sand of Seoul. He made his Korean debut on September 25th in a maiden over 1200M under jockey Lee Sang-keun and while he was sent off as a slightly better than even-money favourite, he had to settle for 2nd, beaten half a length by another 1993 Aussie import N0-Rae-Go-Rak (previously called Young Legend and by a sire called Daring Young Man).

Following that minor setback Dae Kyeun warmed to his task and promptly won his next six races. He was ridden in the first five of these by Kim Tae-kyung, who is still riding at Busan, and in the last of them by Kang Byung-eun, who is now a trainer, also at Busan. That winning streak made him favourite for the Muganghwa Cup in May of 1994. He ran 2nd, beaten by New Zealand import Bo Eun. Bo Eun is notable in that he does not have a Studbook entry, meaning he was considered a “non-thoroughbred”. This wasn’t unusual for the time – another New Zealand import classed as non-throughbred was Chuk Je, who was the dam of early 2000s star Saegangja.

Dae Kyeun returned to winning ways immediately, rattling off three straight wins to enter the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes as favourite. However, punters would be disappointed once more as having worked to the front from the widest gate, Dae Kyeun threw in the towel in the final furlong, dropping back through the field to ultimately finish last of the fourteen, his worst ever finish and one of only four times in his career that he finished out of the money.

A year later in 1995 though, the Grand Prix would be his biggest triumph. Ridden for the only time in his career by Park Tae Jong and from a much more favourable draw, Dae Kyeun led every step of the way to record victory by a full eight-lengths on what was the first occasion the race was run over 2300M. The winner’s share of the purse was KRW 62 Million – which is about the same amount the winner of a regular Class 1 Handicap receives today.

That was perhaps the peak for Dae Kyeun. He kicked off 1996 with three straight wins including the Group 3 KRA Chairman’s Cup, a race which has since long since fallen by the wayside but suffered a late season injury and utimately missed out on the chance to defend his Grand Prix.

The inhury setbacks woujld continue over the next couple of years but when he did make it to the track, the quality was still there. He was only able to race four times in 1997, winning twice and five times in 1998, racking up three wins and as well as 3rd place to Sin Se Dae in the Grand Prix with Dae Kyeun on pace all the way around until Sin Se Dae, two years his junior, sprinted away in the closing stages. American import Wolf Silencer pipped a tiring Dae Kyeun for 2nd.

Injury-free, Dae Kyeun set about 1999 with aplomb, beginning the year with a four-race winning streak despite giving away significant weight on each occasion. However, he never again tackled a Group race, and at ten-years-old it was evident his career was drawing to it’s natural conclusion. Nevertheless, he still raced seven times in 2000, finishing in the first three on all seven occasions and winning three times. His final victory came over 1900M on Dcember 23rd, 2000, as an eleven-year-old, with old rival Sin Se Dae behind him. He ran for the final time in February 2001 and was officially retired that June.

In total, Dae Kyeun ran 49 times in Korea for 29 wins, 10 seconds and 5 third-place finishes. He won just shuy of KRW 600 Million in prize money. After retirement he was registered as a riding horse in September of 2001 and local media reported as of 2012 that he had died. Trainer Choi Hye Sik retired in 2012 having trained 703 winners from 6589 starters over a twenty-eight year career. Dae Kyeun was his only Group winner but he also trained the multi Listed winning mare Cheongpa, also in the late 1990s.

Park Tae Jong, who rode Dae Kyeun to victory in the Grand Prix is of course, still going strong while Dae Kyeun’s regular rider Shin Hyung Chul is also still riding at Seoul.

 

Obituary: Kim Bo-kyung

Kim Bo-kyung, one of the leading trainers at Busan Racecourse, died on Monday March 30. He was 43.

Starting out as a groom in 1998, Kim Bo-kyung worked for a number of stables first on Jeju Island and then from 2005 at the Busan Racecourse. He was ultimately granted a license to strike out on his own in 2018 and quickly established himself among the top tier of trainers at Busan.

In 2019, his first full year, Kim Bo-kyung finished in 6th place in the Busan Trainer’s Premiership, sending out 40 winners. His top three strike-rate of 30% was second only to perennial champion trainer Kim Young-kwan.

While he hadn’t yet saddled a winner in a Group race, Kim had one of this season’s leading three-year-olds, Breeders’ Cup runner-up Save The World, among his 33-strong team, one of the largest at the track.

Save The World provided him with his biggest win when scoring in the main Breeders’ Cup lead-up race in October last year.

A notice posted on the KRA’s Korean language website the week after his death paid tribute to Kim Bo-kyung’s “long term dedication and passion for horse racing”.

International crisis support helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

Korea: Shutdown Latest / Trial Updates

Korean racing is no longer alone in its COVID-19 induced shutdown with even the existence of online betting not enough to save tracks around the world from going dark as the pandemic spreads worldwide. The local shutdown was officially extended this past week and will now continue until at least April 5th.

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It would be a very pleasant surprise were this to be the last extension. While Korea appears to have handled its outbreak as well as any nation and the pace of new infections has slowed, a number of so-called “cluster infections” have continued to spring up. Not far from Seoul Racecourse, a church in Seongnam which ignored government advice to refrain from holding offline services, saw over 50 members of its congregation test positive for COVID-19 last week.

It is this fear that may impact on the ability of racing to return any time soon – especially as now, in a effort to bring the recalcitrant churches into line, Seoul City is threatening to pursue operators of “mass gatherings” for any costs incurred as a result of infections. With no online betting, racing in Korea requires a “mass gathering” in order to exist and absolutely nobody thinks that having 30,000 to 40,000 people gathering inside a racecourse of 10,000 people in an off-course building is a good idea at this moment in time.

As for online betting, a bill to make it legal has been before parliament for some time as with no legal alternative, overseas-based illegal sites have boomed in popularity in Korea. The infrastructure is in place and ready to go with bets placed through the KRA’s mobile app already accounting for approximately 30% of turnover on any given raceday. However, the app only works when connected to the KRA’s wifi network at the racecourses or the off-track betting branches. It is popular with punters as the tierce bet-type is only accessible online, while the government likes it too as it has to be connected to a bank account and a real-name provided.

Quick legalisation isn’t easy though, despite the loss of significant tax revenue (up to about US$20 Million for each week there is no racing) and also the success of Hong Kong and Japan in maintaining their turnover when racing behind closed-doors, which has been closely watched by observers here.  There are still many hurdles to be overcome if polticians, most of whom are instinctively against being seen to do anything that is seen to liberalize gambling, are to give the go ahead for the switch to be flipped and the app allowed to connect from punters’ living rooms.

For now, Korean racing still intends to return on Friday April 10th. For that to happen, there must be a drastic reduction in the infection rate and also the schools must re-open, somehthing that is currently pencilled in for Monday April 6th. If either of those things fails to happen, then racing won’t be re-starting.

In the meantime, trackwork has been continuing as have official barrier trials. Busan missed a week of trials due to a suspected COVID-19 case but started up again on March 14th, while Seoul has continued uniterrupted.

At Seoul a couple of big names have taken to the track in Friday trials. Global Captain ran out when favourite in a class 1 affair back in February, to the fury of punters, and was ordered to successfully complete two consecutive trials before being allowed to race again.

Global Captain is a winner of seven from twelve starts and at four-years-old, the Munnings colt is expected to be a major player in big sprint races later in the year, including the Korea Sprint. He’s going to have to re-qualify first though. While he succcessfully negotiated the first of during the first weeek of the shutdown at the end of February, it’s now back to the drawing board after he attempted the second on March 20th. While he won the five-furlong trial, stewards took a dim view of his antics rounding the turn and did not pass him.

There were no such problems for Tiz Plan. The Tiznow five-year-ols was a strong class 1 winner in January and was set to be sent off as favourite for the main event ont he day racing was abandoned in February. A winner of nine races from sisteen appearances, he is another who still has scope to improve and he looked to be maintaining his condition very nicely when comfortably coming hom in front in a trial last week.

Tiz Plan was ridden by Johan Victoire, who seems to have been mitigating the boredom of the shutdown by winning trials – the French rider has been on the horse crossing the line in 1st place in five of the twenty trials that have taken place in the capital since racing ceased. On March 20th, he partnered two for trainer Tony Castenheira, Nimui Hyanggi and Mighty Boom, both of whom have racing experience as well as Luigi Riccardi’s promising looking filly Choego Camp (Chapel Royal), who is yet to make her debut but may be one to follow if and when the season gets back up and running, having looked nuice and mature in her heat.

The first leg of the Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile, slated for April 5th at Busan won’t be run that day, but one of the potential contenders looked in excellent form in a trial on the south-coast last week. Touch Star Man (Testa Matta), dawdled in the early stages of a March 14th heat before openng up nicely under Jung Do-yun to run away from the rest of the field. The Kim Young-kwan trained colt is out of Menifee mare Useung Touch, who won the 2011 Korean Oaks and has won three of five starts so far.

Also not happening this year is the popular annual cherry blossom festival. Although presumably nobody has told the blossoms and they will still be coming out, the racecourse will not be open.

Roller Blade, Mark Story Impress In Seoul Trials

Racing might be shut-down in Korea for the time being as Coronavirus outbreak continues but two of the hottest three-year-old properties in racing here did meet on the track on Friday morning with Roller Blade and Mark Story stepping out in an official trial

Roller Blade (Officer) was champion juvenile in 2019 and had been slated to kick off his three-year-old campaign in the Sports Seoul Cup, the capital’s Classic trial, last week. That race was the first Listed or Stakes race to be lost to the virus and with Roller Blade not having competedsince his winning effort in the Breeders’ Cup at Busan in early December, it was time for a hit-out.

Mark Story (Currency Swap) is a US import and therefore not eligible for the domestic Classics. He has a perfect race record of three wins from three starts and looks an extremely exciting prospect, at least at sprint distances.

Both performed pleasingly and it was Mark Story who took the line three lengths in front of Roller Blade after an easy five-furlongs for both. The rest of the field was a further four-lengths in arrears.

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Mark Story leads Roller Blade to the line in heat 4 of Friday’s trials

While racing remains shutdown at a cost to the tax office of approximately US$20 Million per week due to remote wagering being illegal in Korea (making the behind closed doors model of Hong Kong and Japan impractical), trackwork and official trials are continuing as usual. Racing is currently cancelled through March 22nd and it seems as though the decision on whether to resume after that will depend on whether the schools do in fact go back on Monday March 23rd as is the current plan, should Coronavirus cases ease off in the meantime.

The Sports Seoul and Gyeongnam Shinmun Classic trials at Seoul and Busan have already been lost while next week’s Tokyo City Keiba Trophy and the SROA Chairman’s Cup, the latter the first Korean Group race of the year have also succumbed.  The next big race scheduled is the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan on Sunday April 5th.

Today Caps Korea’s Dubai Carnival With Solid 2nd in Curlin Stakes

South Korea’s presence at the Meydan carnival came to an end on Thursday night with three representatives lining up in the Curlin Handicap at international listed level.

Korea was looking for successive wins in the dirt feature, after Dolkong won the event last year for trainer Simon Foster and recently retired jockey Olivier Doleuze.

Trainer Kim Young-Kwan had Today and Baengmunbaekdap engaged in the race whilst Busan counterpart Thomas Gillespie had Great King entered in the 1 1/4m event.

Today, who had a favourable draw took up the running in the early stages of the event whilst Great King and Baengmunbaekdap were dealt torrid runs tramping three and four wide for the majority of the race.

At the three-furlong pole it was obvious that Today’s rider Fernando Jara had plenty of horse left underneath him, as it started to appear a two-horse race with US representative Parsimony presenting on the outside of him.

As Today and Parsimony straightened up for the run home, they were matching each other’s stride, before Parsimony started to edge clear and go on and win by just over two lengths.

Whilst Today finished second, Great King produced an admirable performance to finish sixth after a tough run and Baengmunbaekdap capitulated to beat one home.

It was a truly international event with Parsimony (U.S.), Today, Ambassadorial (U.K.) and race favourite George Villiers (South Africa) the top four finishing order.

The Curlin Handicap capped off the Dubai preparations for the trio who lined up in the event, whilst connections of Blue Chipper travelled the Korea Sprint winner to Dubai without him stepping foot on the track.

Blue Chipper was touted as Korea’s best chance for victory at Meydan, but a bout of travel sickness presented shortly after arriving.

The five-year-old was awaiting clearance from vet staff resulting in changes to his Dubai campaign, but ultimately ran out of time.

Connections are now expected to target the international Group Three features later this year, with connections potentially targeting the Korea Cup (1800m) after taking out the Korea Sprint (1200m) last year.