Korean Racing Arrives At USA ADW’s This Weekend

Korean racing takes another step forward in terms of worldwide accessibility this weekend with American punters being able to legally bet the races for the first time after the KRA entered into a distribution agreement with Sky Racing World. The first meeting to be covered will be Busan on Sunday August 6 (evening of Saturday August 5 in the USA).


Local Korean Promotion of the races going into the USA

So far over 70 wagering outlets, including most of the major Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) companies, have signed up to offer betting on the Korean races. As commingling is still not allowed in Korea, bets will go into a sepearate pool operated by PGI International (a joint venture between Phumelela Gold International and Tabcorp Europe).

Every Korean raceday (Friday, Saturday & Sunday) is scheduled to be shown with races that take place up until 17:30 Korean time being on offer for wagering. The races will be streamed live on Sky Racing World’s website with the coverage, as it is for SRW’s Australia, New Zealand and South Africa pictures, geo-blocked outside North America.

This Sunday, the first 11 races of the bumper 15-race Busan card will be shown.

For more information see Sky Racing World’s Website here.

Sun Strong Too Strong In Sports Chosun / Punters Land Big Tierce Wins

Sun Strong ran out the winner of the Listed Sports Chosun Cup at Seoul Racecourse this past Sunday, another big race winner for the track’s Champion jockey Moon Se Young. 

Sun Strong, a 4-year-old colt, was sent off as the pre-race favourite and got the better of Gasokbulpae, 2nd favourite and early pace-setter, in the closing stages.

Sports Chosun Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – June 19, 2016

1. Sun Strong (KOR) [Volponi – Strategic Reward (Bold Revenue)] – Moon Se Young – 2.8, 1.5
2. Gasokbulpae (KOR) [Psychobabble – Honey Bee (Pro For Sure)] – Kim Hye Sun – 1.8
3. Super Tank (KOR) [Gold Money – Make Mine Minnie (Honor And Glory)] – Yoo Seung Wan – 1.7
Distances: 0.75 lengths / 2 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Cosmos King 5. Haetbinna 6. Special Star 7. Kaeon 8. Taesan Cheonji 9. Gangja 10. Forever Daemul 11. Argo Asset

Sun Strong, a 4-year-old colt, was sent off as the pre-race favourite and got the better of Gasokbulpae, 2nd favourite and early pace-setter, in the closing stages.

In other news, the new tierce (trifecta) pool has made quite an impact already since its introduction last week. Despite only being available on the mobile betting platform, it has quickly become the fourth most popular pool behind quinella, trio and exacta.

On Sunday, the pool saw it’s first big dividend winner as Thomas Gillespie’s Lion Park, a 70/1 chance led home a top three in race 1 at Busan that yielded a return of 20,601.6. A total of 35 punters successfully picked the winning combination; three of them wagering 1,000 won while the rest staked amounts between 100 and 500 won.

Those three, who placed their bets at three different off track locations in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, turned their 1,000 won into 16,059,500 won (after tax).

The tierce pool will remain restricted to mobile betting only for the time being but is expected to receive a general launch later in the year.

Tierce Betting Makes Solid Mobile Debut

The tierce, or trifecta, made its debut in Korean horse racing wagering this past weekend and this new bet type, the seventh to become available on all races in the country, made an immediate impact, despite the pool initially only being accessible through the KRA’s mobile betting application. 


Tierce odds for one of the very first races to offer it last Friday at Jeju

By Sunday’s final race at Seoul, the Tierce was accounting for 4.3% of the total turnover, higher than Win, Place and Quinella Place pools. The Quinella remains the most popular pool with the Trio (first three in any order) a close second, followed by the Exacta. Overall turnover remained similar to the previous week. The fact that the Tierce will, for the time being, not be available to cash bettors, looks set to provide a major shot in the arm to mobile betting.

Mobile betting has had a predictably shaky start. Despite the name conjuring up images of people having a bet from home on their smartphones, like in a normal jurisdiction, this isn’t the case. Since the regulator ordered the closure of the “KNetz” telephone betting service in 2009 (essentially handing the monopoly in off-course betting to illegal operators), the Authority is only permitted to accept bets on course or at its OTBs. The App therefore can only be used when the device on which it is installed is connected to the”LetsRun Free” Wi-fi connection.

Despite heavy investment in what is a very impressive and user-friendly app (there will be a foreign language version) packed with information, as well as an excellent new lounge at Seoul especially for mobile betting, take-up has not been high and mobile turnover had been declining slightly since its launch. Since April, at least one simulcast race from Jeju Island on Fridays and Saturdays has been designated “mobile only” with no cash bets accepted, however, most punters have looked on those races as opportunities to take lunch or a coffee break.

It’s understandable that punters have resisted. With the regulator wanting all bets to be tracked and to eventually be linked to a bank account with a real name, in a country where gambling – despite being hugely popular – carries a major social stigma, it is seen by many as an unwelcome intrusion into privacy. It also prevents any circumventing of the rules on the maximum betting limit (which can easily be done simply by visiting more than one betting window or terminal before the race), something that is a challenge for both punters and no doubt the Authority alike.

However, the Tierce and its high dividends compared to Stake, is always going to be an attractive bet and it’s a pool that punters will want to play into. Eventually it will be expanded to cash betting too, most likely towards the end of this year. For now though, the signs are that it could be the game-changer that mobile betting has been seeking.

Foreigner Only OTB Opens At Walkerhill In Seoul

The long-planned OTB exclusively for foreign customers has now been established at the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel & Casino in Eastern Seoul. 


The entrance to the Walkerhill CCC

The facility opened this month and has its own subsection on the KRA’s website here.

In addition to the three racecourses at Seoul, Busan and Jeju, the Korea Racing Authority already operates 30 off track betting centres across the country. Formerly called KRA Plazas, they were rebranded as LetsRun CCC in 2014 (CCC standing for Culture Convenience Center ). Along with the rebranding, a full scale renovation program has been rolled out across the branches, turning the majority into assigned seating  venues with various levels of pricing and comfort.

While this has significantly reduced attendance at some venues – such as Yongsan in Seoul which remains the scene of local resident and church group protests since its relocation – turnover has actually increased with the nicer environment being more conducive for betting.


The general seating area at Walkerhill CCC prior to opening

Additionally, as the name suggests, further emphasis has been placed on the  community uses the facilities are put to on non-race days. However, one thing the OTBs, be they plazas or CCCs, have never been is especially welcoming towards foreign visitors; this blog has heard plenty of tales about curious foreign visitors and those simply wanting to have a bit of a punt, of being turned away by suspicious security guards.

Now no longer and most importantly, with it being a partnership with the Walkerhill, whose foreigner-only casino comes under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism rather than the Ministry of Agriculture.


Private room at Walkerhill CCC

The facility is in the Walkerhill Hotel & Casino Complex at Achasan in eastern Seoul near Gwangnaru Station on subway line 5. It will be open on racedays for betting on racing from Seoul, Busan and Jeju. The CCC comprises a general seating area as well as private rooms and a cafeteria. Memberships are available. For more information see the website.

Gambling Figures Show Korean Racing’s Challenge In Face Of Competition, Regulation

The government last week released figures showing that overall legal gambling in Korea rose slightly in 2014 but that gambling on horse racing was down by 0.7%.


Punting was slightly down at the races in 2014

Legal betting on horse racing with the KRA amounted to 7.6 Trillion Won (about US$6Billion) in 2014, which remained by far the largest individual share in a betting market worth 19.8 Trillion Won.

Other traditional Korean forms of gambling such as track cycling and motor boat racing suffered falls too while there were significantly fewer bullfighting festivals in the south of the country last year which almost wiped out that particular odd sector of the market.

The Sports TOTO, which enjoys far easier access than racing, being available in convenience stores and allows players to predict results of sporting events at home and overseas, showed strong growth as did Gangwon Land Casino, which saw revenues increase by almost 10%.

Gangwon Land, in the countryside three hours east of Seoul, is currently the only casino in the country where Korean citizens are permitted to play. There are numerous “foreigner only” casinos but their growth was static last year, with the Korea Herald pointing out that this was due to the largely Chinese clientele being subject to stricter anti-corruption rules which kept some former high-rollers away from the tables.

National Gaming Control Commission figures

National Gaming Control Commission figures

Racing is not in competition with the foreigner only casinos, however, recently there have been a number of cases of large casino groups offering significant investment in various regions but only if the government changes the law and allows Koreans to bet in them.

Most recently, the Korea Times reported on the Las Vegas Sands Corp. making what the paper described as a “sly offer” to build a 5 Trillion won casino and resort in Busan – on the condition that Korean citizens can enter. The newspaper went on to note that Busan Mayor Suh Byung Soo likes the plan and has called on the government to revise the laws.

It is hard to imagine many traipsing over the one bridge out of town to the Busan Racecourse in all weathers if that happens. And if Busan can have all that juicy tax revenue from a casino, why can’t Daegu or Daejeon? Or Incheon?

The trouble is that the government has no money and needs to find some. Racing is a huge contributor to the public purse and also plays a significant role in keeping the agriculture sector going, through its various support programs for rural communities. The racecourses have successfully positioned themselves as attractive destinations for families and young couples (Saturday’s mini-riot aside) as anyone who visited the racecourse prior to 2010 and then visits again today will confirm.

This doesn’t make much revenue but it is vital if the Sports TOTO generation are to ever come racing. It also provides a very safe way of legally gambling.

That’s all well and good but if the bottom line is falling then eventually the government is going to look elsewhere. Furthermore the family and young couple aspect stands to be undermined if the government goes ahead with making it compulsory for anyone wishing to have a legal bet to register for an electronic card that will track their spending.

So if that couple on their date at the track wants to bet a couple of dollars to show, they are going to need to register. One can imagine how young Eun Ji’s mother is going to react when she comes across her university age daughter’s gambling card while cleaning her room. Probably best to date at the cinema.

More to the point – and the point that all of the legal gambling operators have been making to the government – is that many bettors will not sign up for an Electronic Card. But they won’t stop betting. They will just find alternatives which don’t require a card and probably dont pay tax either. At least not to the government.

As we head into the second quarter of 2015, the challenges for Korean racing are not only on the track.

Busan Friday Selections

Eleven races at Busan today with the first at 11:40 and the last at 18:00. No class 1 events but plenty to get stuck into. It’s been a long time since we did our “wine and winners” on here but someone asked if we could start again (minus the wine):

Race 1: 4, 8, 5, 9
Race 2: 4, 3, 1, 6
Race 3: 9, 2, 4, 1
Race 4: 8, 5, 2, 3
Race 5: 4, 5, 3, 6
Race 6: 2, 1, 4, 6
Race 7: 5, 6, 4, 1
Race 8: 7, 9, 12, 2
Race 9: 1, 4, 3, 7
Race 10: 13, 11, 2, 10
Race 11: 2, 1, 13, 4

Most of those will be favourites so you’ll not get rich but hopefully not too poor either.

Racing will return to Busan on Sunday. Seoul runs cards on both Saturday and Sunday.

Round-Up: Fujii Has Surgery, Korean Horses Back From US, Yongsan OTB Controversy Rumbles On

Lots to catch up on…

Lets Run

Joe Fujii underwent surgery on his broken shoulder on Monday. Fujii fell heavily coming out of the gate in race 4 at Busan last Sunday, breaking his scapula. While he was originally hopeful of being back within 6 to 8 weeks, a visit to a Seoul specialist confirmed the need for an operation which is likely to keep him out for between 3 to 4 months. The Japanese rider hopes to be back in time for either the Busan Owners’ Cup or the President’s Cup at Seoul.

Speaking of falls, Park Tae Jong, is currently sidelined from a bad one suffered a month ago. “President” Park is currently on 1881 winners, by far the most of all time by a Korean jockey. However, he could be about to have company in the “Thousand Club” after Moon Se Young’s victory on Yeongsan II on Sunday took the 33-year-old to 987.

Three Korean horses arrived back from the United States last week and will go through a Seoul sales ring in a few days time. Gangnam Camp, Seoul Bullet and Better Than You have spent the past 17 months in Ocala training and, more recently racing. None of the three actually managed to win a race Stateside.

Gangnam Camp managed a 2nd place from his 7 starts while Seoul Bullet secured one 3rd place from his 4. Better Than You, however, was unplaced in all of his 4 starts. Seoul Bullet did achieve the rather dubious honour of getting himself claimed at one point though.

2013 Minister’s Cup winner Major King, who had been racing fruitlessly in the North-East US for the past few months, joined them on the flight home, however, last year’s Derby and Oaks winning filly Speedy First remains in the US.

Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the long-running dispute over the relocation of the KRA’s off-site betting Plaza in Seoul’s Yongsan district. The new plaza finally opened amid tight security and vehement protest at the end of June and the dispute – originally started by the fact that the new Plaza is a block closer to a school than the old one – has now become something of a political football between governing and opposition parties.

Counter protests by Unions with interests in the racing industry have also taken place at the site with the most memorable banner being one imploring the other side to “Please Stop Insulting Racing Fans”, a reference to the ongoing campaign against the Plaza which has, among other things, sought to link the presence of Plazas with a rise in sex-crimes.

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

While the KRA has been busy producing glossy videos on the history of the Plazas and the community facilities they provide on non race-days, playing those videos at Seoul Racecourse seems somewhat like preaching to the converted. It’s certainly unlikely to change the minds of the anti-Plaza campaign which has raised a petition with 50,000 signatures calling for the Plaza’s closure.

Best to finish on news from the track and this coming Sunday sees the Busan Metropolitan City Mayor’s Stakes – colloquially known as the “Summer Grand Prix”. It’s been the lowest key build-up to the Metropolitan since Seoul horses became eligible to run a few years ago although the expected presence of the likes of Oreuse, Gamdonguibada, Cheonji Bulpae, Cowboy Son and Indian Blue among others, should make for an interesting race. We’ll start the full previews later this week.

Round-Up: “Let’s Run”, Daily Double, English Form, Track-Rider Op Story Goes Global

Much as I don’t like doing “Round-Ups” I’ve been busy lately and am a long way behind. I also don’t like writing in the first-person on this blog so without further waffle, here are some things that have been happening:

As a wise man rcently said, You Run, I'll Bet...

As a wise man rcently said, You Run, I’ll Bet…

Anyone who has visited Korean race courses over the past couple of months will have noticed that the KRA has been making subtle hints that we may wish to call the organisation “Let’s Run” from now on. Quite why is anybody’s guess but the rebranding is now almost complete and the pliant local Racing media are dutifully referring to the Racetracks as “Let’s Run Park”. Like it or not – and anything that removes the words “Racing” and “Racecourse” is questionable – it’s here to stay.

On to gambling matters and Busan Racecourse – sorry, “Let’s Run Park Busan”
– is taking the first tentative steps towards “exotic” betting as it introduces a “Daily Double” from June 27. In Korea, laws literally need to be changed before any new bet type can be introduced so it isn’t going to be operated through a pool but instead through a lottery. Punters will have to choose the winners of the last two races on the card on each Friday. If they get them correct, they win access to a draw to win a guaranteed KW 10 Million.

Recently, punters have been leaving the Busan track early on a Friday (due to its dreadful location half in Gimhae and half in Busan and connected to Busan City by only one bridge next to which an awful lot of construction is going on right now) and handle is down on the last two races. Seoul, despite having no transportation issues, is likely to follow suit with this kind of activity soon and with any luck, it could be the first step towards getting regular multiple race betting.

Also in gambling news, things are getting easier for English-speaking punters here as the KRA is making full and comprehensive past performance information for all meetings at Seoul available for free download from its website. The move is designed to coincide with the start of regular simulcast broadcasting which starts next week.

Finally, the story of the Korea Racing Authority doing right by a track rider taken seriously ill at Busan in April has made the American Bloodhorse magazine. Khayalethu Jeyu, one of 11 South African work riders at the southern track, was rushed to hospital by KRA ambulance after experiencing severe headaches while riding work.

Upon hearing of the discovery of several imminently life-threatening tumors, the KRA stepped in and paid for his treatment. Read the full story here.

Maximum Stakes Race Field Size Rises To 16

There is a big change coming in Korean racing as the maximum number of horses that can take part in a race is set to rise to 16.

They'll need two more spaces for Stakes races

They’ll need two more spaces for Stakes races

For many years, no more than 14 runners could start in any one race, however, from 2013, that number has risen to 16 for Stakes races with the intention that from 2014, the new higher limit will apply in all races.

Punters are already using the new betting slips which can accommodate 16 runners in a race

Punters are already using the new betting slips which can accommodate 16 runners in a race

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) has already introduced new betting slips in order to cope with the change and it is possible that next Sunday’s Ttukseom Cup at Seoul Race Park, the first leg of the “Queens’ Tour” series of races that will decide the Champion filly or mare of the year, will be the first opportunity for punters to see the new system in action.

There are still 18 entrants left in the Ttukseom Cup and while in previous years, this would need to be whittled down to 14, this time only 2 will be forced to miss out.

Field sizes in Korea are generally quite healthy. No race can have fewer than seven declared starters and the mean average number of runners is 11. It is very rare for Stakes races to have fewer than 10. The Authority hopes that the increase will result in more attractive pari-mutuel odds for punters as well as more opportunities for owners to enter Stakes events.

Seoul Trainer Suspended Under Integrity Laws

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) confirmed on Thursday that trainer Kim Myoung Guk has had his license suspended after being placed under investigation for alleged breaches of Korean racing’s very strict integrity laws.

Although the details of the alleged offences were not made public at this time, these kind of charges generally relate to the illicit passing on of information that hasn’t been made available to the public.

Kim Myoung Guk has been training since 1995 and has saddled 370 winners from 4597 runners. He won Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes with Flying Cat in 2006 and has sent out the winner of the Sports Chosun Cup on two occasions. The Owners’ Trophy and JRA Trophy are also among the big races he has won.

Kim currently has 17 horses in his barn, an average size for Seoul, although he had yet to send out a winner this year.