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Asian Racing Conference 2018 Preparations Step-Up

Preparations are well underway for the 37th Asian Racing Conference (ARC), which will be held in Seoul from May 13th-18th, 2018. 

ARC Logo

Under the supervision of the Asian Racing Federation, The Korea Racing Authority will be hosting the ARC, which has grown into world racing’s largest bi-annual get-together, for the 3rd time with delegates having most recently assembled in Seoul for the 30th ARC in 2005. Earlier this week, the organizing committee updated on preparations at the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA) annual conference in Paris.

The main Conference venue will be COEX in the Southern Seoul Business District although the week’s events will get underway at Seoul Racecourse on Korean Derby Day on the Sunday May 13th when in addition to Korea’s three-year-old showpiece event, there will also be a special ARC Commemorative Race.

There will be various Bureau meetings on Monday 14th before the Conference officially opens that evening. This will be followed by three days of Conference proper. Delegates may then join an optional tour of the KRA’s breeding facilities on Jeju Island on Friday.

Alongside the main conference, the 2nd International Forum for the Aftercare of Racecourses will also be held.

For more information and for “Early-Bird” Registration, which is available until December 31st, please see the following links:

Official site is here
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Korea Cup & Sprint 2017 – The Review

The 2nd Korea Autumn Racing Carnival took place at Seoul Racecourse over the weekend. There’s no need to re-tell what happened here as pleasingly, the race has received plenty of international coverage, save to say that Yutaka Take guided Graceful Leap to victory in the Sprint while in the Cup, London Town downed last year’s winner Chrysolite to make it a Japanese one-two.

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London Town and Chrysolite dominated for Japan in the Korea Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

On the track, London Town was simply sensational. He came in having broken the 1700M track record at Sapporo less than a month ago and absolutely dominated the Cup, taking well over a second off the Seoul 1800M track record in the process. Last year’s winner Chrysolite had absolutely no answer. That said, the Japanese pair finished a full 17-lengths clear of Papa Shot in 3rd and demonstrated just how good JRA horses, even those not quite at the very top, really are.

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London Town in the Korea Cup Parade Ring (Pic: KRA)

Graceful Leap’s Sprint win was naturally less emphatic but it was still convincing. Korean Triple Crown winner Power Blade ran a huge race in 2nd place and while he was never likely to be as inconvenienced as some others by the wide draw, one can’t help but wonder whether he would have got much closer had he been able to begin from a more favourable gate. Doraonpogyeongseon ran on very nicely too proving himself a real racehorse. In the Cup for Korea, while Champ Line put in a good run, ultimately it was all about Triple Nine as it so often is. He and Power Blade have turned into such good ambassadors for Korean racing that how to replace them when their powers begin to wane is starting to be an issue. But of course, that’s part of what makes racing so fascinating.

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Graceful Leap and Yutaka Take cross the line in the Sprint (Pic: KRA)

The performances of the two American-trained horses was one of the Carnical’s highlights. In the Sprint, The Truth Or Else was drawn in gate 1 but jockey Dylan Davis was forced off the rail and went wide to find a run. He closed very strongly for 4th place and a tidy prize that fully vindicated the decision of his enterprising connections to bring him. Trainer Kenny McPeek was a boisterous presence throughout the week and led his charge in the parade ring himself prior to the race. Picking up an even tidier prize was Papa Shot, 3rd in the Cup despite having to recover from some interference four furlongs out.

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Take returns to scale (Pic: Ross Holburt)

McPeek estimated that The Truth Or Else would be ranked around 20th in terms of sprinters in the United States and one wonders what one ranked even higher could achieve especially as the nature of the Sprint makes it by no means a race that JRA horses will automatically dominate. As for Papa Shot, he’s a very solid horse but no superstar but looks the kind of horse you’d love to own. Bill Nader, representing the man who does own him, Barry K. Schwartz, made the point before the race that Papa Shot had run at all sorts of tracks in the US and almost always gave a good account of himself. Those tough and grinding types can find their reward on the Seoul sand and while at 1800M, it would take something special to beat a JRA horse or a Hong Kong galloper that gets on with the track, a really top American horse might just be able to do it.

One disappointing note was the performances of the Hong Kong horses. With the races being beamed live to a busy Sha Tin, it was a pity that neither Lucky Year nor Circuit Land made any impact in the Sprint and Cup respectively. Circuit Land perhaps had some excuses having been prominent early but was then forced to check with four furlongs to go as a result of a poorly judged manouevre by Lee Chan Ho on Dynamic Jilju. However, Papa Shot was also disadvantaged by that incident and overcame it and jockey Nash Rawiller admitted his mount never really looked to be in the hunt. Meanwhile, Lucky Year didn’t get the start he needed and once the sand started flying, his race was over.

However, Super Jockey won the Sprint last year and both Circuit Land and Lucky Year appeared to pull up fine so hopefully the races will still prove attractive to Hong Kong connections in 2018.

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Graceful Leap (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was tough too for the French contingent. City Money unfortunately was scratched from the Sprint after picking up an injury between the airport and the racecourse on his way in. Meanwhile Skiperia and Nimr found life difficult in the Cup although Nimr’s 6th was by no means a bad performance. The enthusiasm that all connected with the horses brought, as well as the always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the weekthe always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the week and hopefully more French challengers will return in future.

Promising young Singapore-based trainer James Peters brought across Wimbledon for the China Horse Club. After showing prominently early on under Daniel Moor, he faded in the closing stages but reportedly pulled up fine.

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One thing that is evident is that despite being in just its second year, the Carnival is already establishing itself as an event in its own right to the extent that what happens in the actual races becomes almost secondary. Everyone knows about the track surface by now – it is what it is – and the atmosphere surrounding the whole week was extremely positive.  The travelling international press corps was larger than last year and within Korea, cable network KBS N Sports broadcast highlights of the races in a 75 minute show at 10pm on the day of the race and then repeated it in primetime at 8:20pm on Monday night. There is a feelgood environment about the event that is perhaps only possible with a relatively young race, enthusiastic connections and still a sense of the huge potential that could be realised in future years. That Keeneland go out on a limb to sponsor the race right on the very eve of one of their biggest and most important sales of the year, perhaps demonstrates this.

On to attendance and turnover.  Attendance was actually down on last year but there is a good reason for that. In 2016, the Korean “Chuseok” Thanksgiving holiday – one of only two weekends of the year with no racing – immediately followed the Carnival. Attendance always shows a spike prior to dark weeks as there is no opportunity for a legal punt for the next 12 days. As it was 39,910 paid ($2 each) to come through the gates at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday compared with in excess of 44,000 last year.

Wagering turnover on the day was also down but interestingly, both Cup and Sprint showed slight increases. The Sprint handled 4.37 Billion Won in 2016 to 4.39 Billion Won this time while the Cup went from 4.8 Billion Won last year to 5.12 Billion Won in 2017 and followed the regular pattern of turnover getting bigger as the day progresses (for obvious reasons, turnover on the final race of the day is always the biggest). Local punters find it very hard to handicap international races due to the form being hard to assess but with more familiarity, it appears Korean racegoers are now prepared to have a go.

Internationally, both races were simulcasted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and by Sky Racing in Australia. The Singapore Turf Club took the Sprint as did Malaysia while the entire day was available for betting at the Macau Jockey Club. In the USA, Sky Racing World distributed every race to  ADW’s. TVG Network broadcast both Sprint and Cup. Overall international turnover slightly exceeded domestic turnover (Hong Kong obviously accounting for the vast majority). Dubai Racing TV also screened both big races live.

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Laboum in the winner’s circle (Pic: Ross Holburt)

This is Korea. There needs to be progress year on year. Local assessments will probably focus on the dominance of the Japanese runners and that one fewer country was represented than in its inaugural year (the USA joined but the UK and Dubai didn’t send any runners this time). However, that should be countered by the sheer quality of London Town’s performance and also by the positive showing by the US runners. There’s a year to go until the next Carnival. The Korea Cup & Sprint have not yet come of age, but they are very much on the right course.

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).

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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.

Johan Victoire Makes Winning Start / Choegangja, Zentenary Labour At Kranji

Plenty went on over the weekend including business being as usual for the Korean runners in the annual KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore, Silver Wolf essentially wrapping up the Queens’ Tour after just two legs and French jockey Johan Victoire making quite the impression on his first weekend in the saddle at Seoul 

It was a good weekend for a foreign jockey to arrive in Seoul what with a number of the track’s leading riders such as Kim Yong Geun and Choi Bum Hyun being at Busan to ride in the KNN Cup, Djordje Perovic still being indisposed and an ongoing inter-union dispute leading some jockeys not to ride for certain stables.

It took Johan Victoire precisely one race to show what he was capable of, guiding debut-maker Icheon Ssal (Capital Spending) to victory in Saturday’s opening maiden. While the 30-year-old couldn’t add another winner from his seven further rides across the weekend, he did get a 2nd and a 3rd as well as plenty of admiration from onlookers. It looks like Victoire will be busy over the forthcoming weeks. Check out the report and pictures on the official site.

While Silver Wolf (Orotorio) put in quite a run at Busan to cruise to the KNN Cup in a time just 0.3 seconds outside the track record for a mile, the Korean pair in Singapore for the annual KRA Trophy at Kranji on Sunday fared less well. In fairness, to Zentenary, that he beat any horses at all is to his credit but Choegangja was undoubtedly disappointing, breaking adequately enough but quickly weakening and finishing a tailed-off last in the race which was won by Distinctive Darci.

Choegangja had gone into the race looking in peak condition, according to trainer Brian Dean, but came back reportedly fine but having suffered a heat-stroke. Perhaps there is something in that given that in his only two races in warm weather last year he came 3rd of 10 and last of 9, both at class 3 before re-appearing in the cool of November and going on to win five in a row, then missing the break and coming last when things warmed up this June. Anyway, the search goes on for a Korean horse to go to Kranji in June and make an impression. Maybe next year.

This weekend Busan takes its one-week summer vacation so only Jeju runs n Friday. Seoul and Jeju will run on Saturday and just Seoul on Sunday.

Choegangja & Zentenary Set for Kranji KRA Trophy

Two Korea-trained horses, Choegangja and Zentenary, are in Singapore for the annual running of the Korea Racing Authority Trophy which will be held over 1200M at Kranji this coming Sunday. As in previous years, the race will be broadcast live – without betting – at Seoul & Busan Racecourses during the local Sunday afternoon cards.

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Choegangja, on his way to victory last year, is in Kranji (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The Korean contingent has generally not found this race to be easy and this year looks set to be no exception as they face a strong local challenge attracted by the S$250,000 purse. Zentenary has drawn gate 1 while Choegangja will break from gate 8. Here’s the field (full card at the Singapore Turf Club website here):

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This year there’s no excuse for lack of local knowledge as both horses are in the care of Brian Dean, the former Singapore based trainer who has just finished up training in Seoul. Additionally, unlike previous runnings of this race, it was decided this time to put local Kranji-based jockeys on board the two horses and accordingly Oscar Chavez, who partnered El Padrino in his second Asia Challenge Cup at Seoul Racecourse in 2015, will ride Choegangja while Malaysian Kasim A’Isisuhairi gets the leg-up on Zentenary.

Choegangja (USA) [Silver Train – Sweet Sizzle (Distorted Humor)]

The pick of the two, he blossomed after moving to Brian Dean at the tail-end of his three-year-old season, winning five races in a row and moving from class 3 to class 1 in the process. He finally came unstuck when missing the break in the SBS Sports Trophy at the start of June, resenting the kick-back and ultimately finishing last but can be forgiven for that. A US bred, Choegangja was a $40,000 purchase from Fasig Tipton 2-year-olds in training sale in May 2015.

Zentenary (USA) [First Defence – Celestic (Sky Classic)]

A $30,000 buy from OBS 2-year-olds in training sale in 2013, the now 6-year-old has won 6 of his 31 starts with one of them coming at class 1, an all-the-way effort last Christmas Eve. He’s been up and down in six outings in 2017 with two 3rd places being the best including last time out on June 18th, over this distance of 1200M.

 

Brian Bows Out Of Seoul

Brian Dean has left Korea. The Australian trainer completed his time at Seoul Racecourse at the end of June.

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Brian Dean has left Seoul (Pic: KRA)

At the beginning of 2016, Dean was handed the questionable privilege of becoming the first foreign trainer to be licensed in Seoul.

Plenty had already been based at Busan, the newer of the two thoroughbred tracks in Korea since Peter Wolsley arrived 10 years ago, but while the capital track had been hosting international jockeys for almost a decade, no trainers had yet been licensed at the country’s principle venue.

After being officially licensed in March, Dean set about his business building up his stable and sent his first runners out to trial in April of last year. All three of his trial entrants that day won their respective heats. Putting horses in official barrier trials – something most trainers only do if they are required to have a horse re-qualify for racing (more…)

Apprentice Kim Deok Hyeon Wins On First Day

Not a bad start to his career for apprentice Kim Deok Hyeon. He made his debut on at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday with two rides and in the second of those, coolly produced 12/1 chance Samjung Tapit at the perfect moment to snatch victory.

Kim is one of three new apprentice jockeys at Seoul this year. The other two, Kim Hyo Jeong and Lee Dong Jin debuted last week and are awaiting their first successes.