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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

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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.

Heungbaragi, Heat Yegam Claim Juvenile Wins / Racing To Continue Under Raised Distancing Levels

This year’s juvenile crop got a rare opportunity to run for a big prize at both Seoul and Busan on Sunday with the Jeju Governor’s Cup prize split into two heats and run as what would have been the second leg of the Juvenile Series, both of them over 1200M.

At Busan there were only eight runners but still plenty of intrigue as Winner’s Man and Heat Yegam put their 100% records on the line. While Winner’s Man was favourite, it was Heat Yegam, under You Hyun-myung, who prevailed, leading gate-to-wire for a four-length victory. Winner’s Man was 2nd with Good Socks a further nine-lengths in arrears in 3rd.

Heat Yegam [Take Charge Indy – Desert Heat (Mr. Prospector)] is from the first of what will ultimately be three Korean crops by Take Charge Indy. He’s the third foal from his dam to race in Korea – the other two have both won races but Heat Yegam looks significantly better than either of them.

Up at Seoul the equivalent race attracted a full field of fourteen, including the first five home in August’s Rookie Stakes. Choegangyeongcheon, who only debuted the day before the Rookie, was sent off slight favourite but reared in the gates prior to the start and while passed fit to run, was never a factor.

Instead it was Rookie winner Heungbaragi who made light work of the widest draw to hit the front early and run on for an eye-catching two-and-a-half length win. Super Champion came home in 2nd place with the filly Jedi in 3rd.

Heungbaragi [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] moves on to three wins from three starts. He is the first foal out of his dam, who did her racing in Korea. He could well be a career-defining horse for veteran jockey Lee Joon-chel.

With Busan having joined Seoul under “Level 2” social distancing rules, both tracks were devoid of spectators over the weekend. Only Jeju Racecourse and four provincial OTBs were able to accept a limited number of customers and accordingly, with the exception of the juvenile races, there was reduced stakes money all around (and horses will not be penalized by the handicapper for their successes or otherwise).

It was feared that the government may raise the level to 2 for the entire country on Sunday afternoon but instead they settled on maintaining the Seoul and Busan levels while raising the rest of the country to 1.5. This means that weekend racing can continue but there will be changes.

Only Jeju will race on Friday while Seoul and Busan will both race – with truncated cards – on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Seoul will conduct its card first with Busan immediately following while this will be done in reverse on Sunday. Races will continue to be run for reduced Stake money. The only places which will be open for spectators and betting are the Jeju Racecourse and the Daegu and Daejeon Off-Course Betting centres. Attendance at all three will be limited to 20% of capacity.

Take Two: Limited Number of Spectators To Be Admitted To Korean Racecourses From Friday

A second attempt at admitting a small number of racegoers to Korean racecourses and off-track betting centers will begin this weekend. Permission was previously granted in late July for a partial reopening but was rescinded one day before the scheduled start date.

Could closed-door racing finally be coming to an end?

While new COVID-19 cases in the country continue to hover between 50-120 per day, Korea nevertheless lowered its social distancing guidelines to the lowest level in mid-October as it seeks to manage the virus while enabling parts of the economy that have been shuttered, to reopen.

Fans were immediately admitted to football, baseball and basketball stadiums. Two weeks of attendance at those sports have now passed without incident and permission remains in place for a partial re-opening of the racecourses.

From Friday, up to 20% of the average attendance will be permitted to enter the Seoul, Busan and Jeju Racecourses while 10% of capacity will be allowed at Off-Track Betting Centers (OCBs). The exception is the OCBs at Bucheon and at the Walker Hill in Seoul, both of which will remain closed for the time being.

All seating will be allocated and punters must make a reservation one day in advance using the “My Card” betting application. No walk-up admission will be available at either the racecourses or OCBs. Masks will be mandatory.

It it goes ahead it will mean that Friday’s card at Jeju will mark the first legal betting on horse racing in Korea since February 22nd. Only horse owners were permitted to enter the track during the behind-closed-doors summer meeting. Permission was granted in late July for a partial reopening but was rescinded one day before the planned start.

This weekend, racing will be conducted at Jeju on Friday, Busan on Saturday and Seoul on Sunday for the same reduced prize money that has been raced for at the closed-doors Friday meetings over the past two weeks. Thoroughbred races will be run only over 1200M, 1400M and 1800M. It is hoped that a more normal schedule, as well as international simulcasting, will be permitted from one week later.

Morfhis Downs Dokki Blade, Eoma Eoma To Upturn Sprint Ranks In Shock SBS Win

Morfhis  swooped late to score a stunning victory in the SBS Sports Sprint at Seoul, diving home to deny Do Kki Blade and Eoma Eoma under a fine steer from jockey Johan Victoire.

SBS Sports Sprint 2020

Morshis gets up to debu Do Kki Blade and Eoma Eoma in the SBS Sports Sprint

Busan Ilbo Cup top two Do Kki Blade and Gaon Champ renewed hostilities disputing the lead in the early stages of the six-furlong G3 race, the second leg in the 2020 Korea Sprint Series.

Gaon Champ would quickly capitulate at the top of the stretch and it seemed upstart Eoma Eoma would pose the only threat to Do Kki Blade. That was to reckon without Morfhis whose stunning late show saw him duck inside to snatch victory at the death by a head.

Morfhis is a five-year-old American bred gelding by Stephen Got Even and and out of the Rubiano mare Chinchilla. He was a $150,000 purchase from the OBS 2017 Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds. The win was his eighth in twenty-three runs and takes him on to career winnings of KRW 739 Million. For jockey Victoire it was his second Korean Group win following his success on Dolkong in last year’s Busan Mayor’s Cup while it was a first for trainer Lee Gwan-ho.

The win was notable on a number of fronts. Morfhis, who up until now was seen as a solid dependable class 1 campaigner with a strong finish who specialises at seven-furlongs, now finds himself in the top echelon of Korean sprinters and a serious contender for September’s Korea Sprint (should that race take place).

It also provided the rare sight of a top level Korean sprint race by a horse coming from well off the pace. While Doraonpogyeongseon, who won this race in both 2017 and 2018, was by no means a front-runner, he would usually emerge from a relatively handy position. Two furlongs out on Sunday, Morfhis was still in 11th place.

While beaten, Do Kki Blade confirmed his place among the elite and still has every chance of going on to claim the overall Sprint Series win but another big story coming out of the race was the emergence of Eoma Eoma. The three-year-old entered the race having not had to face a serious challenge in three prior outings yet despite drawing an unfavourable gate, only went down by less than half a length on the line after an excellent ride by Song Jae-chul.

Gaon Champ and Simjangui Godong both had off-days but will be expected to bounce back while the ever awkward Global Captain missed the start before running on well. At their best, all three can be winning chances in future feature races.

The calendar may now be up in the air for all these horses. The Seoul Racehorse Owners’ Association Trophy was originally supposed to be the first leg of the Sprint Series in March. It is now tentatively scheduled for August 23rd. Then there is the Korea Sprint itself, still scheduled for September 13th.

Whatever happens in terms of the schedule, there is plenty to look forward to with these sprinters.

Some Spectators to Return To Korean Racecourses This Week

++Update – As of Wednesday afternoon, the re-opening to spectators has been postponed for at least one week++

For the first time since February, some spectators will be admitted to Seoul, Busan and Jeju Racecourses from this Friday, July 24th. Numbers will be limited and attendance is only possible by pre-booking using the KRA’s “My Card” application. Off-track betting locations will remain closed for at least another two weeks.

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Seoul Racecourse has been ready for weeks

The reopening is in line with public facilities in the Seoul area such as libraries and museums, which have begun reopening from this week. Korea’s other main wagering outlet, track cycling, will also open its doors again this weekend.

Since the resumption of the sport on June 19th, racing has been held behind closed doors and with the country not allowing online or telephone betting, there has been no legal outlet for wagering. Owners have been allowed to attend since the restart and have been betting in small amounts.

Admission will only be available to users of the My Card application and must be pre-booked through the app the day before the race meeting. Attendees will need to pass a health screening on arrival at the track, along with verification of identity and contact details to enable contact-tracing if necessary. Seats will be pre-assigned with the grandstands at all three racecourses having been reconfigured to allow for distancing. The maximum permitted attendance is approximately 10% of the usual number.

Cheongdam Dokki Monsters YTN Cup Rivals In Record Busting Romp

For the second time in a month, Cheongdam Dokki savaged his rivals over 2000M at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday, claiming an easy win in the G3 YTN Cup and in the process broke Dongbanui Gangja’s eleven-year-old track record for the distance.

Just four weeks after his dominant victory in the Herald Business Cup and facing a largely similar set of opponents, Cheongdam Dokki was always set to be a prohibitive favourite in a race which served as the second leg of the “Stayer Series”. And just as he did in the Herald, he stamped his authority on the race right from the start, crossing from gate eight under jockey Park Tae Jong and straight into the lead.

At his best, Cheongdam Dokki’s cruising speed is so superior to his local rivals at least in the absence of Moonhak Chief – that there was never a danger of him doing too much too soon and being caught. Instead he continued to run away from them, recording a nine-length winning margin on the line and taking six tenths of a second off the mark set by Dongbanui Gangja in the Owners’ Association Trophy in June 2009.

Behind Cheongdam Dokki, Tiz Plan and Shamrocker came home 2nd and 3rd in a repeat of the Herald Business trifecta. Buhwarui Banseok ran 4th.

The final leg of the Stayer Series is the G2 Busan Mayor’s Cup which is currently scheduled for August 16th at the slightly shorter distance of 1800M. All being well, Cheongdam Dokki would then likely be pointed to the Korea Cup on September 13th, the KRA Cup Classic on October 11th and then conclude his year taking another crack at a race that so far eludes him, the Grand Prix Stakes.

A six-year-old American-bred gelding by To Honor And Serve and out of Elusive Gold (by Strike The Gold), Cheongdam Dokki has now won 15 of 29 career starts for prize money of just over KRW 2.8 Billion.

Bart Rice Reaches 200 Not-Out At Busan

A field of ten will face the starter at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday in the YTN Cup but of them only two will have made the trip up from Busan. Both of the southern raiders for the Group 3 test, Buhwarui Banseok and Rock Hard Seven, are trained by Bart Rice, who earlier this month saddled his 200th Korean winner.

Bart Rice

Bart Rice arrived in Korea in late 2013 having trained in South Africa, and sent out his first runners in January of 2014, making an immediate impact as his first Busan starter, Gyeongnam Sinhwa, came home an 8/1 winner. He quickly built up an impressive strike rate, something he has managed to maintain over the subsequent years and brought up his 100th winner in May of 2017.

The latest milestone for Rice arrived on July 3rd when first-time starter Mr. Fusion took out race 3 at Busan under jockey Seo Seung-un wearing the colours of owners Isidore Farm, leading from the gate and winning by ten-lengths on what was his very first start. It was a win that surprised his trainer as much as anyone.

“He (Mr. Fusion) hopefully is above class 6 but to be honest I didn’t expect him to win” Rice told KRBC. “He’s inexperienced and I thought he would need the race, but he managed to get to the front and then didn’t have any kickback”.

As for the double-century, Rice was understated. “For me it’s been a long time to get the 200 winners. I would have liked it to be a little bit faster than that but we’re happy we’ve done it. We try to be as professional as we can in my stable and appreciate the owners’ support”.

Rice may be yet to saddle a Group winner in Korea but he has taken out a number of valuable races and has sent horses from his stable to run in both Singapore and Dubai. He currently lies in 4th place in the Busan Trainer’s Premiership in what has been an interrupted 2020 racing season.

With horses such as the pair who race in Seoul on Sunday as well as the progressive Ssonsal, who won his first class 1 race last weekend and holds an entry to the SBS Sports Sprint later this month among his forty-three strong string, Rice is putting together a formidable looking team.

“I don’t really have a plan” Rice said when asked of his future goals. “We just try to get as many wins as we can. When we get to three hundred we will celebrate but I don’t really have a plan” he continued before paying tribute to his staff in what has been a challenging year. “We didn’t race for a long time but my staff always seem to be happy and bubbly and they’ve done a good job.”