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Pero Passes Triple Century

Djordje Perovic has reached three-hundred winners in South Korean racing. The milestone win came in race 2 at Busan last Saturday when the thirty-nine-year-old jockey partnered trainer Thomas Gillespie’s Sky More to a narrow photo-finish victory, becoming only the second foreigner to hit the triple-century.

“Sky More is still inexperienced and a little immature so he needed assistance throughout the race” said Perovic of the colt who was getting his maiden victory at start number four. “I expect Sky More to get better with more races.” Sky More is by Hansen and out of Korean Oaks winner Baekpa.

Perovic, known variously as “The Balkan Wolf” or “Serbian Frankie”, originally debuted in Korea in 2015 having previously ridden in Italy, where he is licensed, as well as his home country of Serbia and around Europe. He notched up Group winners in several countries as well as Jockey Premierships at the Italian tracks of San Rossore and Visarno, and even spent time on a short-term license on Japan’s elite JRA circuit, landing three winners from seventy-four rides in 2014.

During his first stint in the country, Perovic was based in Seoul where after enduring a testing start – it took thirty-five rides for him to break through and ride a winner – he quickly established himself among the top jockeys at the track. In 2017, he became the first foreign rider to win the Seoul Jockey Championship as he guided home 106 winners. They included Listed success on Clean Up Joy as well as his first Korean Group winner on Silver Wolf in the Ttukseom Cup.

After an extended time back in Europe, Perovic returned to Korea in late Spring of 2020, this time to be based at Busan but it was right in the middle of racing’s first COVID-induced shutdown. Racing did finally resume in June of that year but it was behind closed-doors and for Perovic, it was not the same as before. “My impression was like I am riding in trial races because races without audiences are not so exciting.”

Not that it seemed to affect his form as over the past year, Perovic has ridden sixty-three winners, second only in that time at Busan to You Hyun-myung with a win rate of 23.6% and finishing inside the top three on a remarkable 40.3% of his rides. Those wins included his first Korean Derby on Save The World in Seoul last August. “My favourite win is the Korean Derby, but all wins and horses are equally important and precious” he said. “Each win has its own grace. I would like to thank all the owners and trainers who believed in me and had trust in me and gave me their horses to ride.”

Japanese jockey Ikuyasu Kurakane holds the record for most wins by a foreign rider in Korea with 347 and while that figure is now within touching distance, Perovic has more fundamental ambitions. “The goal is to win many races in Korea and when I go back to my country to stay remembered by Korean people as a good person, sportsman and jockey.”

Round-Up: Morfhis Latest Star Defeated / Min Jang Gi Hits 500 / Yeongcheon Racecourse Progress / June Attendance Update / Dortmund on Insta

Morfhis became the latest big name horse in Korea to be beaten while giving away a considerable amount of weight under handicap conditions. Simjangui Godong was the beneficiary at Seoul last Sunday as Morfhis joined the likes of Blue Chipper, Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan in going down to defeat while conceding 8kg to his rivals.

Simjangui Godong (KRA)

With the current Covid restrictions on attendance plus the absence of online wagering, Korean racing’s income has been devastated over the past sixteen months. and with prize funds having dried up, there are currently no Listed, Stakes or Graded races. Therefore the only option to keep racing going for the top horses is to run handicaps and with the top rated horses putting the others out of the handicap scale, some huge weight imbalances have become inevitable.

Blue Chipper was beaten by a spritely Doctor Carson on May 2nd while later in the month at Seoul Tiz Plan ran 2nd to Brigadier General before the 2019 Korea Cup winner Moonhak Chief trailed home in 4th place behind Heuk Jeonsa. Over 1400M last Sunday, Mofhis gave it a good shot but at such a weight disadvantage was no match for Simjangui Godong, the 2020 Segye Ilbo Cup winner. Blue Chipper and Doctor Carson will meet again this coming Sunday with both declared for Busan’s class 1 event over 1400M. An apprentice jockey claiming 3kg has been booked for Blue Chipper this time.

Min Jang Gi (KRA)

In other news on the track, trainer Min Jang Gi reached the milestone of 500 career winners last Sunday. The trainer saddled Winning Dancer to victory in race 4 at Busan. Min, who took Success Story to the Dubai World Cup Carnival in 2016, is currently trainer of Blue Chipper.

Yeongcheon Racecourse Makes Breakthrough

More than eleven years after it was first announced and six years after it was initially due to open, work is finally set to get underway on Yeongcheon Racecourse, the nation’s third thoroughbred track. With the granting of a building permit this week, construction will now be allowed to begin.

Computer image of the planned Yeongcheon Racecourse

The much delayed project received a huge boost earlier this year when an extension to the Daegu subway line number 1 was announced in the 4th National Railway Network Construction Plan. This would include a stop within walking distance of the racecourse site, bringing mass transit to what is currently a hard to reach location. The latest scheduled opening date for Yeongcheon Racecourse, which will feature Korea’s first turf track, is now September 2024.

Busan Reopens To Customers But Jeju Closes Again

Punters were welcomed back to the Busan Racecourse as well as the city’s two off-track-betting locations last week as social distancing restrictions in the city were lowered to level “1.5”. However, Jeju Island, which saw over 1 Million flight passengers arrive during April with many more expected over the summer months, has accordingly raised its own level to “2”, the same level as Seoul and the surrounding regions, meaning that while racing can continue on Jeju, customers cannot attend.

That means that for the first weekend in June, seven locations are open, all with restricted attendance. They are Busan Racecourse (1,419 attendees permitted), Busan Dong-gu OCB (383), Busan Yeonje OCB (480), Gwangju OCB (919), Daegu OCB (505), Changwon (196) and Cheonan (634). All attendance must be pre-booked on the MyCard app.

Dortmund Joins Insta

Great Hill Farm, which stands new American arrivals Dortmund and Flashback, as well as locally bred stallion Magic Dancer, has joined instagram and has started posting regular pictures and English language updates about their star new import. Their instgram id is “greathillfarmnow”.

Round-Up: Blue Chipper & Tiz Plan Beaten, Jangsu Sales Results, 2020 Losses, Jeju Selections for Friday May 7

Both Blue Chipper and Tiz Plan met their matches at Busan and Seoul last weekend. While both were beaten by good horses, it was more the weight advantage they were giving away that saw the two (literal) heavyweights trail home 2nd in their respective features on Sunday.

With minimal income entering into the industry for more than a year now, there are currently no Listed or Stakes races races for the top horses to compete in. That means they need to take part in handicaps where they will, naturally be giving a lot of weight away. Blue Chipper conceded 9kg to the up and coming Doctor Carson (Hansen), who continued to burnish his reputation as he defeated the champion by a length over 1200M

It was a similar story at Seoul for Tiz Plan. He too was game but was unable to match the finish of Brigadier General (Tapit), an Australian-bred five-year-old, who came past him in the closing stages to score by three-quarters of a length. Both Blue Chipper and Tiz Plan received 2nd place prize money of 15 Million Won ((US$13,317), a far cry from what they would have expected to have been competing for in normal times.

The grim state of affairs was apparent Jangsu Breeze-up sale last week, one of the main Juvenile sales to take place on the mainland, where business was sluggish. Just thirteen of the fifty-three lots offered reached the minimum reserve price of 10 Million Won. Overall it was a slight improvement on last year but well down on the same sale two years ago in terms of numbers sold and in average price, with purchasers uncertain if and when their horses will ever be able to run.

The Testa Matta colt (Pic from screengrab of the sale feed)

The sale-topper was a colt by Testa Matta and out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Coulis De Fraises., bred by Nokwon Farm and bought for 60 Million Won by owner Park Cheol-geun. He fetched almost double the next best, an Old Fashioned filly out of Revereduction (by Revere).

Meanwhile, local media has been reporting that financial figures for Korean “Public” (i.e. government run) companies for 2020 are out and they are, to put it mildly, not good. The Korea Racing Authority swung from a 144.9 Billion Won (US$128.8 Million) profit in 2019 to a 436.8 Billion Korean (US$338.3 Million) loss in 2020 caused by a total collapse in wagering revenue after February. The loss surpassed that even of the Incheon Airport Corporation whose own Covid crisis saw a loss of 423 Billion Won last year.

Racing has been kept going at reduced prize money levels by using “Emergency Reserve” funds, However, local media has reported that these will be finally exhausted in July. Barring something unexpected happening, there seems little prospect on restrictions on attendance at the racecourses and off track betting sites being lifted to an extent that would allow a break-even point to be reached any time soon so it appears the only hope of saving the industry in any recognizable form lies in the legalization of online sales of betting tickets.

Racing continues though so let’s turn attention to the weekend where we will have the same schedule as recent weeks. Jeju will run a pony race meeting on Friday while Seoul and Busan will run thoroughbred-meets on both Saturday and Sunday. The only betting outlets open will be those in Jeju, Daegu, Gwangju, Changwon and Cheonan (advance reservation by My Card app required). Here are some selections for Friday’s Jeju Pony meeting:

Race 1: 7, 6, 2, 8

Race 2: 3, 8, 1, 4

Race 3: 5, 3, 9, 10

Race 4: 9, 6, 2, 4

Race 5: 8, 4, 7, 6

Race 6: 7, 2, 3, 9

Race 7: 7, 1, 12, 8

Race 8: 2, 11, 4, 8

Race 9: 7, 3, 8, 5

Race 10: 12, 3, 9, 2

Race 11: 12, 2, 3, 5

Race 12: 7, 1, 10, 9

Spectators Shut-Out of Busan Again, Daejeon OCB Permanently Closed – Walker Hill To Follow

Busan Racecourse will not be allowed to admit customers from this weekend as the city has raised its social distancing level to 2 from this Friday. Under level 2, sports venues are allowed to admit 10% of their seated capacity, however, just as in Seoul which has been at this level since the start of the year, the racecourse and the two off-course betting centres in the city, must close their doors completely. No coronavirus outbreaks had been linked to the track or OCBs since they reopened at 20% of seated capacity in February. Customers may attend the Jeju pony races on Friday but the Seoul and Busan meetings on Saturday and Sunday at both tracks will be behind closed doors.

The blow is compounded by the fact Daejeon Off-Track-Betting Centre closed for the final time last Sunday after twenty-one years of operation. The long planned closure had first been announced in 2017 after political pressure. With all branches in the Greater Seoul area currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, it leaves only Jeju Racecourse along with the branches in Daegu, Cheonan and Gwangju open for betting.

Local media reported that in addition to the closure Daejeon authorities had requested that the KRA, which owns the twelve-storey building in the city’s Seo-gu district, donate it to the City in order to make amends for the supposed damage that the presence of an off-track betting centre had caused its people over the years. According to media reports, local politicians and residents associations say that the educational and residential environment in the district had deteriorated because of legal betting taking place.

The KRA declined the request, citing the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the building will now be put up for sale through the state-run Korea Asset Management Corporation. Prior to 2020, the site generated an estimated KRW 20 Billion in local taxes for the city of Daejeon annually.

One solution to this problem, which is repeating itself up and down the country wherever there is an off-track centre, would be the legalization of online betting. Representative Yoon Jae-gap, a Democratic Party National Assembly member initiated a bill last year to legalize the sale of betting tickets online. In publishing figures last week showing that the KRA made a KRW 438.1 Billion loss in 2020, Rep. Yoon said that he believed the “countdown to the collapse of the industry has begun” with emergency funds set to be exhausted by the middle of the year.

The Daily Hankook Newspaper reported an official at the Ministry of Agriculture, under whose jurisdiction the KRA and racing falls, as saying that the Ministry recognized that in the long term the legalization of online betting may be necessary but that it would be difficult in the absence of a national social consensus and that any legislation shouldn’t be rushed. The online sale of lottery tickets has been legal since 2018.

In semi-related news the saga of foreign punting groups apparently winning too much in the local Korean pools has come up again. The Chosun Ilbo reports that on March 30th, the Board of Audit and Inspection found that in 2019, the win rate of foreign customers was significantly higher than that of Korean nationals. The Board noted that 89% of betting tickets purchased by foreigners were issued in the final five minutes of betting compared to 74% of purchases by Korean customers.

This was, the report says, made possible by being able to get bets on in large volumes as late as possible (the maximum per ticket bet is 100,000 – US$88 – and it is difficult for Korean punters to get on more than that per race). Accordingly, foreign punters’ dividend rate on 2019 was 121% of their investment compared with 72% for Koreans.

The “foreigner only” off-track-betting location at Walker Hill in Seoul, where the majority of the betting analysed by the Board of Audit and Inspection took place, has been closed since the start of the pandemic and will not reopen with the lease expiring within the next month and notice having been given.

Menifee Colt Tops Jeju March Sale

A Menifee colt out of Gemubit Mulgyeol (by Johannesburg) topped the first Korean sale of the year, the Korean Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association March Sale of Two-Year-Olds on Jeju Island last week.

Not the Menifee colt – but the photo that was released to the media from the sale – an Old Fashioned filly, who did not meet the reserve (Pic KTBA)

At these sales, there is a minimum reserve price of KRW 20 Million (US$18,416) and any horse which doesn’t reach that amount is automatically passed-in. At the March 23rd sale, 161 lots were offered of which 37 were sold for an average price of KRW 38.8 Million, better than the KRW 36 Million at the equivalent sale two years ago when 24 out of 132 lots changed hands.

The Menifee colt out of Geumbit Yeogeol fetched a sale-topping KRW 105 Million (US$92,723). Consigned by breeder Im So-yeon, he was bought by the DRM CITY Group. He already has a name, “Daemyung”. The same purchasers were also responsible for the second highest lot, a Take Charge Indy colt out of Friend of A Friend (by Crafty Friend).

Juveniles by Cowboy Cal were popular with seven selling on the day. Hansen and Old Fashioned were among other sires who had several meet their reserves.

There will be another smaller sale of two-year-olds at the end of April, this time at Jangsu on the mainland, before the second juvenile sale on Jeju in mid-May.

Heungbaragi Beaten / Medici Glory, A Pure Good Man Claim Class 1 Wins / Dolkong Trials

A week after Busan’s leading three-year-olds both suffered reverses, at Seoul on Sunday it was the turn of the capital city’s champion juvenile of last year to taste defeat for the first time. Yet just like Winner’s Man and Heat Yegam on the south coast a few days earlier, Heungbaragi produced an extremely encouraging performance and remains on course for whatever Triple Crown season ultimately ends up being offered.

There was certainly no disgrace in Heungbaragi being beaten by Raon Tough Man. The four-year-old ran 2nd to Save The World in last year’s delayed Korean Derby and was well-fancied in the Minister’s Cup before parting company with jockey Choi Bum-hyun on the second corner.

After a couple of mediocre showings, Raon Tough Man returned to something close to his best on Sunday, racing prominently throughout the class 3 1800M handicap before passing a tired Heungbaragi close to the line and go on to win by over two-lengths.

Heungbaragi was tackling two-turns for the first time and having never seen the back of a horse at any time in his previous four outings, it was no surprise when jockey Lee Joon-che took him straight to the front from gate 12. He would maintain his lead until just over half a furlong to go when Roan Tough Man proved too strong, but still had enough left to hold off a fast-closing pack and secure 2nd place.

A stablemate of Cheongdam Dokki, the Park Jong-kon trained Heungbaragi is by Old Fashioned and is the first foal out of Grand Marketing (by Marketing) who did her racing in Korea.

Both Seoul and Busan held Class 1 races at one-turn distances over the weekend. At Busan on Saturday, A Pure Good Man (by Simon Pure) saw off a tough field that included the likes of Ace Korea and Baengmunbaekdap to register his first every class 1 victory over 1200M. At Seoul a day later US-import Medici Glory (by Gemologist) was victorious at the same level over 1400M to pick up his fifth win in eleven career starts.  Medici Glory was one of four winners on the day for jockey Yoo Seung-wan.

In other Korean racing news, Dolkong, who won the Curlin Handicap at the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival, successfully trialed at Seoul Racecourse on Friday. Now seven-years-old, Dolkong had returned to Korea and won the Busan Mayor’s Cup and KRA Cup Classic before suffering a fractured sesamoid a week before the Grand Prix Stakes in late 2019.

Having been successfully treated, Dolkong returned to light training at the end of last year and made sufficient progress to take part in his first official trial. Under Antonio Da Silva, he was given an easy time in the 1000M heat, going back before running on well for 7th place in a fast time. Dolkong is officially now re-qualified for racing but isn’t expected to make his competitive return just yet.

Racing will return to Busan this coming Saturday and Seoul once more on Sunday. Mark Story, a US import by Currency Swap and winner of three from four before setbacks struck, is set to make his long anticipated comeback in Seoul’s Sunday class 2 feature race.

Betting Locations Open In Some Parts of Korea from Friday – Jeju Preview

With the Covid-19 social distancing level having being lowered to “1.5” in all areas except Greater Seoul, some betting locations are permitted to reopen to customers from Friday. Those locations are the Busan and Jeju Raceourses, plus the off-track betting centres in Busan, Changwon, Gwangju, Daegu, Daejeon and Cheonan. They will be allowed to admit up to 20% of their official capacity. Seoul Racecourse and all off-track locations in the Greater Seoul area (Seoul and Gyeonggi Province) must remain closed as the social distancing level remains at “2.0”.

Pony racing on Jeju will be first action that some punters in Korea will be able to have a legal bet on this Friday

This means that instead of all three tracks racing simultaneously on Friday, each track will get a day to itself. Jeju will race on Friday, Busan on Saturday and Seoul on Sunday. Seoul will not be allowed to admit customers but its races will be beamed for betting to the nine open locations in the south of the country.

To mark the re-opening, just for fun (and due to Busan and Seoul declarations having been held back until today), here’s a pony by pony preview of Friday’s 10 race meeting on Jeju Island.

Race 1: Class 6 (800M) Allowance / KRW 9 Million

1CHOOJEOKJA – 5th on three of four starts so far, latest behind Tamraingi. Fourth fastest time at the distance among these and that would be a good finish today.
2WAHEULGONGWON – First time starter. Went ok in trial behind Cheonmahwangje. Watching brief first-up.
3SAEBYEOKYANGGI – First-time starter. Nothing wrong in trial but was behind both Cheongmahwangje and Waheulgongwon.
4JANGTAUIBYEOL – 2nd and 3rd in two starts so far both at this distance in races with wildly differing paces. Should be on the early speed and goes close.
5TAMRAINGI – 2nd in both starts so far having led almost the whole way on both. Fastest time of any of these at the distance, should lead again and is the one to beat.
6SEUNGJEONSOSIK – Won a trial before debut but not made much of an impact in three starts since. Well back behind Tamraingi last time
7JEILBOMUL – Offered few clues when midfield on debut. Watching brief again today.
8YESONE – No worse than 5th in four starts so far. 2nd first-up following six months off in January and a place chance again here.
9CHEONGMAHWANGJE – Best looking of the three first-time starters having run 2nd in his heat. Can be competitive.
10TTUBEOGI – Mid position in both outings so far at this this distance, sticking to task both times. Maybe more to come.
Selections(5) Tamraingi (4) Jangtauibyeol (8) Yesone (1) Choojeokja
Next Best9, 10
Fast Start4, 5

Race 2: Class 6 (800M) Allowance / KRW 9 Million

1GWANGMYEONGWHANGJE – First-time starter. Well back in trial. Watching brief first-up.
2HEALINGSTAR – Last of ten on debut on November. The time was ok compared to some of the others but it was favourable conditions and he was a long way behind the winner. Fresh start today but plenty to find.
3YANGDAESAN – Had a couple of trials before coming from off the pace to run 4th on debut behind Jejumulyeol on January 8th. Can build on that today.
4JUNGMUNILLO – Improved to 6th on his second start to date.Time hardly fast but in this company can get closer.
5CHEONJITIME – 7th of ten in debut a long way behind a super winner. That was all the way back in August of last year so it’s a fresh start today.
6SOLDIER – Made all to win his trial and needs to be considered in weak company first up.
7JEONGUISILCHEON – Last of ten on debut behind Cheonjitime. Lots to find today.
8JEJUCHEOMDAN – 7th of ten on debut, not too far behind in a slow run race at this distance. Potential for improvement here.
9JEJUMULYEOL – 4th on debut before running 2nd, ahead of Yangdaesan on reappearance on January 8th. Fastest time of these and the likely favourite.
10SINCHEONJILJU – First-time starter. Went ok in his trial in an adequate time and can be in the minor money mix first-up.
Selections(9) Jejumulyeol (6) Soldier (3) Yangdaesan (8) Jejucheomdan (5) Cheonjitime
Next Best2, 4
Fast Start4, 6, 9

Race 3: Class 6 (800M) Allowance / KRW 9 Million

(more…)

Eoma Eoma Super at Seoul but Blue Chipper Upset on Busan Return

Eoma Eoma began 2021 the way he left off in 2020 with an easy Class 1 win over 1400M at Seoul, but Blue Chipper could only manage 5th place in his long awaited return to action at Busan as Mr. Afleet took out the feature race on the south coast.

Seoul’s feature class 1 event was essentially a Group race run under handicap conditions over 1400M. With Morfhis having taken out the SBS Sports Sprint last summer as well as a pair of full prize-money class 1 races, his rating had risen to the extent that he had to carry 60kg as was giving away 8kg to all of his prominent rivals.

Morfhis was game coming through late as usual to finish in 4th place, but he was always going to struggle to catch Eoma Eoma who, under Moon Se Young, led from gate to wire to score by three-lengths from Do Kki Blade in 2nd and Jjang Kong in 3rd.

For Eoma Eoma it is now six wins from eight starts and punters and fans alike will be desperately hoping that circumstances will allow he and Morfhis – along with the likes of East Jet – to clash at level weights for a big prize at some point this year.

At Busan, Blue Chipper was making his return to racing for the first time since running 3rd in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

It wasn’t to be for the now six-year-old who missed all of his five-year-old season after getting travel sickness on the way to the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Blue Chipper led out of the gate in the Mile-long Busan feature, which like the races at Seoul, was being contested for reduced prize-money, but started to tread water once they entered the home straight.

Mr. Afleet, trained by Peter Wolsley and ridden by Seo Seung-un, went on to win the race by four-lengths from Core Blade.

For Blue Chipper, who missed his planned final gallop earlier in the week due to heavy rain, a mile was always going to be a tough ask first up and so long as he pulls up without any issues, perhaps little should be read into his performance. There will hopefully be bigger things to come for him later in the year.

Blue Chipper Returns To Racing On Friday

After fifteen months off the track, Blue Chipper will return to racing on Friday afternoon at Busan Racecourse. The now six-year-old hasn’t competed since finishing 3rd behind Spun To Run and Omaha Beach in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

Blue Chipper returns to action at Busan on Friday

It’s all very different to how his homecoming was supposed to be as Blue Chipper lines up the favourite in what is a strong class 1 race handicap over a mile but which, due to the straightened circumstances that Korean racing finds itself in due to the Covid-19 pandemic putting a stop to legal betting, can only offer a KRW 28 Million (US$25,000) to the winner.

After his 3rd place in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, Blue Chipper returned briefly to Korea before being shipped to Dubai for a campaign at the 2020 World Cup Carnival. Calamity struck on arrival though with Blue Chipper diagnosed with shipping fever, something he would fail to shake off to the extent that he could race. It was June until he could get a flight back to Korea and after a spell at the Jansgu Farm, he returned to training just in time to see the pandemic halt local racing again.

Blue Chipper trialed up nicely in January and having had plenty of setbacks across his career, is accustomed to producing first-up. He is the track record holder over a mile at Busan and even if not 100% race ready, will be expected to dispatch a field containing the dangerous Doraonpogyeongseon, World Power and Mr. Afleet. Now in the stable of Min Jang-ki, he will be ridden by Serbian jockey Djordje Perovic.

No Stakes or Graded races have yet been confirmed this year in Korea but providing Blue Chipper comes through this test in good shape, it is thought likely that the Korea Cup , should it go ahead in September, would be the ultimate aim. He is not expected to be asked to travel overseas again.

The race is the concluding race 10 at Busan on Friday and is scheduled to jump at 3.20pm Korean time. The international simulcast will be from Seoul throughout February so the race will not be screened live either inside or outside of Korea. However, the race video will be uploaded within ten minutes of the conclusion of the race at the KRA’s official website and the “KRBC Race” YouTube channel.

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.