News

Grand Prix Stakes 2021 – All The Runners Preview

The temperature will be several degrees below zero and dusk starting to fall on Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon when Moonhak Chief bids to become the first horse since Dongbanui Gangja more than a decade ago to record back-to-back victories in Korea’s historically most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1-2300M). CLICK HERE FOR RACE-BY-RACE PREVIEW OF ALL SEVENTEEN SUNDAY RACES AT SEOUL & BUSAN.

Moonhak Chief won the Grand Prix 2 years ago (Pic: KRA)

With no race last season, it’s now two years since Moonhak Chief followed up his 2019 Korea Cup victory by scoring by a length and a half that December. Only two of the rest of that day’s field return, Cheongdam Dokki and the retiring Dongbang Daero, but a host of new challengers have arisen in the meantime, meaning Moonhak Chief is going to need to be at his very best if he is to retain his crown.

Peter Wolsley won this race with Bold Kings in 2016 and the Australian trainer saddles Mr. Afleet this time, fresh off his triumph in the KRA Cup Classic back in October. That’s day’s close runner-up Haengbok Wangja is another leading contender and given the way he was finishing in the Classic, may even start as the favourite.

The President’s Cup, the top race restricted to Korean-bred horses, has provided two winners in recent years with Indie Band in 2013 and Gyeongbudaero in 2015 and the 2021 winner Simjangui Godong also takes his chance, as does proven Group winner Tiz Plan.

Touch Star Man, who won two legs of last year’s Triple Crown series, will be attendance, representing trainer Kim Young-kwan, who has won the race five times.

The Grand Prix Stakes is race 8 on Seoul’s 10-race Boxing Day card. Here is a full run down of all sixteen runners:

1. CHEONGDAM DOKKI (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Elusive Gold (Strike The Gold)] – His 4th attempt at the race with his best being 2nd in 2018. An excellent winner at 1800M in October before a flat performance in the KRA Cup Classic. He then ran 5th to Moonhak Chief back at 1800M on November 27th. Only returned to work last week and while there is no doubting his quality, this looks a very hard ask. Great draw though.

2. GALLOP CURLIN (USA) [Curlin – Colona (Pulpit)] – Gets his chance following a good win over 1800M at class 2 level earlier this month when midfield and running on. Tactically versatile and well-drawn but this is a big step up into the unknown in terms of distance and competition.

3. MOONHAK CHIEF (USA) [Pioneerof The Nile – Tallulah Lula (Old Trieste)] – Winner of the last edition of this race two years ago having won the Korea Cup that September. Seventh in the Cup Classic but returned to the winner’s circle on November 27th comfortably scoring over 1800M although he did get spooked by the finishing line light and stopped very quickly. At his best he is the one to beat.

4. CRAZY CONTI (USA) [Constitution – Ghostly Darkness (Ghostzapper)] – Came from well back to run a strong 3rd over 2000M at Busan two weeks ago in his first start since September. Beaten by Mr. Afleet and Touch Star Man in the summer so there is form for him to overturn here but he may appreciate the distance.

5. GEUMA ACME (KOR) [Hongji – Ms. Travelin (Lycius)] – A super 2nd in the President’s Cup to Simjangui Godong, coming from off the pace. Yet to win at higher than class 3 is a concern when stepping into this company, but the additional distance can suit. Alan Munro, who rode him in his last three starts, rides Jjang Kong instead.

6. HUNCH (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Sergeant O-Rourke (Forestry)] – Wasted a great draw by blowing the start in the Cup Classic, won by stablemate Mr. Afleet, in what was his first start since August. He has won at class 1 over 2000M in a fast time though and with a clean getaway can be competitive but may not be ready to beat the elite just yet. Minor money chance.

7. JJANG KONG (USA) [Tizway – Carietta (Stephen Got Even)] – Runner-up to Cheongdam Dokki in October before running a 3rd in the Cup Classic when handy all the way and battling on to the line. He likes it race close to the lead, so the draw works out well. He’s stubborn enough to get the 2300M and it would be no surprise seeing him in the minor money.

8. HAENGBOK WANGJA (USA) [Daredevil – First Installment (Broken Vow)] –  up and comer having just been promoted to class 1 before running a great race in the KRA Cup Classic when on the pace and wide most of the way and momentarily leading at the 200m and coming again at Mr. Afleet the finish. It was a super effort, and plenty will back him to win here.

(more…)

Korean Derby 2021 – Horse-By-Horse Preview

The second leg of the delayed 2021 Korean Triple Crown takes place at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon when eleven runners go to post for the Korean Derby (KOR G1). CLICK HERE FOR THE REGULAR RACE-BY-RACE PREVIEW.

The top five placegetters from the first jewel in the Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan a month ago, all return including Heat Yegam, the all the way winner of what was by some margin, the fastest Cup Mile on record.

Heat Yegam has drawn barrier five and will be hot favourite to score again but Heungbaragi, Chief Indy, Mr. Indie and Winner’s Man all return in a bid to prevent the Take Charge Indy colt from going one step closer to emulating Power Blade and sweeping the Triple Crown. Local racing media in Korea is confident they won’t, with twelve out of fifteen racing publications placing Heat Yegam on top.

Moon Hyung-chul, representing trainer Bang Dong-suk, said after the barrier draw on Thursday that Heat Yegam is ready. “It’s his first time traveling to another track to race but he’s adapted well, he works well, and we don’t need to do very much with him. (The Derby) is an extra furlong but that shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

Heungbaragi put in a huge race in the Cup Mile, overcoming barrier fifteen to run on strongly. Trainer Lee Joon-chel, who actually rode him in his first few races before taking up his trainer’s license this summer, laughed wryly when he drew the widest gate. “My foreman says he is in as good a shape as he has seen him. When he won at 1800M he led all the way and that won’t be easy to do but there are many ways to win a race and we will just have to see what happens on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.”

Lee certainly knows about winning. In just forty-two starts since getting his license, he has already sent out eight winners.

Winner’s Man was sent off as second-favourite in the Cup Mile and tried matching Heat Yegam for speed early on, only to end up weakening for 5th. The Musket Man colt has though raced and won twice at the Derby distance of 1800M, whereas Heat Yegam goes further for a mile for the first time.

Kim Ji-min, representing trainer Choi Ki-hong, reckoned punters didn’t see the best of Winner’s Man at the KRA Cup Mile. “He has done well at 1800M before and while Heat Yegam was very good in the Cup Mile, I think Winner’s Man is going well now and we are looking forward to it. As for rivals: “Obviously Heat Yegam and Heungbaragi are very strong, but I was very impressed with Chief Indy at the Cup Mile, especially as he was first-up after a layoff; 3rd place was a really strong performance.”

The Korean Derby will be run over 1800M and is race 8 on Seoul’s Sunday card with a post time of 17:05 KST. Here is a full run-down of the field.

1. MR. INDIE [Indie Band – Candace Gold (Seeking The Gold)] – A winner of three from six including over this distance at class 4 level. In the KRA Cup Mile, he was ridden hard early to get a position settling on the fence in midfield. He stayed on the rails saving ground, into the straight and kept fighting in the straight to maintain a clear 4th in a strong run. The Wolsley stable is in fine form, Seo Seung-un stays aboard, and he can go close.

(more…)

Raon Fillies First & Pink On Top At Seoul & Busan

It’s becoming an unwelcome habit that we are posting these things days late, but it was a pair of “full” sisters ( I dislike that term, for some reason), who took top honours at Seoul and Busan last Sunday. Four-year-old Raon First took out Seoul’s Class 1 feature while a year here junior, Raon Pink won the Luna Stakes, the first leg of the 2021 Filly Triple Crown. Both are by Musket Man and out of the Southern Image mare, Pink Candy.

Raon First (Pic: KRA)

Raon First was a champion as a juvenile and has since gone on to establish herself at class 1 level, running 2nd to Dia Road in a Graded race for fillies and mares last year and finishing 2rd in her latest two, including behind Eoma Eoma. In all those races she had led, only to be taken down close to the line every time.

On Sunday though, Raon First would be no sitting duck. acing up and comers Legend Day and Carving Cross, among others, Raon First was drawn wide but instead of being ridden up hard to the pace, after being slightly slow away, Choi Bum-hyun in the saddle took a sit behind the lead and waited patiently. Choi made his move on Raon First at the top of the straight, punching through a gap with ease and the filly ran on to score by a length and a half in a fast time for the 1400M.

Outsiders Cupid Guy and Myeongpum Chukje chased Raon First home in 2nd and 3rd with Legend Day and Carving Cross both enduring poor days at the office and in the case of the latter especially, seeing their chances of qualification for any of the late season Stakes races diminishing. For Raon First it was seventh win in fourteen starts as she stakes her claim to succeed Dia Road as the top filly or mare in training in Seoul.

At Busan, younger sister Raon Pink was imperious in the Luna Stakes. Sent off as favourite in a sixteen-strong field of three-year-old fillies, who had thirty-six race victories between them coming in, Raon Pink jumped well and slowly worked to the lead and was comfortable in the pace she set. On the corner she slipped away and on straightening went well clear and was strong to the finish under Park Tae-jong. Jedi was 2nd and Smart Officer, who missed the break an excellent 3rd as Seoul fillies swept the top five finishing positions.

Raon Pink now moves on as favourite for the Korean Oaks, back at Busan over 1800M on November 14.

Jockey Lee Hyo-sik Targets Cup Mile Salute Before Obeying Marching Orders

The jockey game is a tough one where even at the best of the times, a rider can never be certain when or why he or she might be replaced on a good horse. It’s different this time for Lee Hyo-sik, who knows that even if he rides a flawless, winning race on leading KRA Cup Mile (1600M – KOR G2) contender Winner’s Man on Sunday, he won’t be aboard the colt in next month’s Korean Derby. That’s because by that time, he will be in boot camp beginning his eighteen months of mandatory military service.

Lee Hyo Siks in the Stakes race winner’s circle with King Socks 2 years ago

“Of course, I am a little disappointed that just when we finally have Stakes races back, I have to go,” Lee told in-house broadcaster KRBC this week. “But there is nothing I can do about it.” He then quipped “Maybe Winner’s Man will wait for me. He will still only be five-years-old when I come back.”

For now, Lee preferred to focus on the business at hand with his mount being one of the favourites in what is arguably the highest ever quality field for the opening leg of a Korean Triple Crown. “I believe in (Winner’s Man); his condition is similar to how it was at his last win. He has always been a mature horse and forward in his ability.”

Identifying Heat Yegam and Seoul raider Heungbaragi as the primary dangers among the sixteen strong field, Lee was able to reflect on the fact that he knows one of those rivals very well and sought to ease any pressure. “I have ridden both Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man. I think they are of similar ability but maybe Heat Yegam is slightly better right now.”

Heat Yegam, a winner of seven from eight and likely to be the betting favourite inside Korea, will be ridden by You Hyun-myung whose own military experience is long in the rear-view mirror, but he knows how his younger rival will be feeling. “He’s starting his military service next week so he will be very hungry to win.” You missed Heat Yegam’s latest two victories in August. “I was injured in August so Lee Hyo-sik rode him twice and won twice. He ran very well. Since I have come back, I have been working on getting my strength up for this race.”

On Heat Yegam’s readiness for the race, You Hyun-myung was confident. “I don’t really need to worry about the horse because the stable management is so good there isn’t very much the rider needs to do. We have galloped him, and he was good and fast. Our draw isn’t great, but others have worse.” On which horse he fears most, he was clear. “Winner’s Man is the most dangerous rival.”

It is by no means a two-horse race as the fact that the sixteen runners have no fewer than sixty-one victories between them heading in bears out. Five of those wins belong to Galaxy Road, so could he upset the favourites? “Yes,” according to trainer Kim Kil-jung. “We finished up the main training with him on Thursday morning and I was very satisfied,” Kim told KRBC. “It’s my first runner in a Triple Crown race so I’m excited, we’ve got a great draw and we can run well. (Jockey) Lee Sung-jae has ridden him a lot and I think his expectations are high too. We are well prepared, so we are confident.”

The Seoul challenge is headed by Heungbaragi. He may have been drawn wide but remains dangerous for trainer Lee Joon-chel, who rode him in his earlier races before taking over the training license this summer. Lee has made a super start to his career with eight wins from his first thirty runners.

Joining Heungbaragi in making the journey from the capital was Chief Indy, who will give Antonio Da Silva his very first ride at Busan, despite him having ridden in Korea for more than four years now. “Moon Se-young usually rides the horse but he had a fall last month, so I got the call three weeks ago and rode him in work and then a barrier trial. He seems to be a good horse and in good condition,” Da Silva said of the colt who has won his latest four. “On Sunday I hope we can show 100% of our ability. I know it is a strong race, he likes to sit behind the lead, I am not sure if the middle gate is good or not, but he is a good horse, and we can win.”

The theme of the strength of the race was echoed by Kim Yong-geun, who won the Cup Mile on eventual Triple Crown winner Power Blade in 2016 and is a former Busan Champion jockey now plying his trade in Seoul. “I’ve ridden in a lot of these races and usually there are just one or two standouts but not this time. There are the two big ones though (Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man), who look like class 1 horses already.” As for his own mount, Royal Road: “It’s going to be important to get a good racing position. Get a good start and be up with the pace. If we’re up there at the beginning of the straight, then we have a chance.”

Spot Flatter earned his spot with back-to-back wins at Seoul over 1400M and jockey Ham Wan-sik rides him for the first time. “(Alan) Munro usually rides him but he needed to be in Seoul this week, so I got the chance,” said Ham. “I think he is a good horse; the distance is good. We know there are some very good horses in this race and there will be a hot pace early. I won’t worry about. I will ride my own race and not get impatient.

Patience is something Lee Hyo-sik is going to need during his next year and a half in uniform. Whether he can play a role in helping Winner’s Man on the way to a Triple Crown will become clear on Sunday afternoon.

The KRA Cup Mile is race 5 at Busan on Sunday afternoon.

KRA Cup Mile 2021: Horse-By-Horse Preview

The 2021 Korean Triple Crown gets underway a full six-months later than originally planned with the KRA Cup Mile taking place at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. As a result of the delay, the depth of form is incredible with the full field of sixteen having collectively won sixty-one races between them already and all runners will go to post with some justifiable confidence. Last year the race was won by Touch Star Man, who went on to finish 5th in the Korean Derby before winning the final leg of the Crown, the Minister’s Cup Here is a run-down of the field:

Touch Star Man won last year’s KRA Cup Mile

1. SPOT FLATTER [Cowboy Cal – Palmetto Flatter (Flatter)] – Gets his chance after back to win wins over 1400M up to class 4 level in Seoul when sitting midfield and running on with both times good. He draws nicely draw and should get the trip, but this is a level up in difficulty for him.

2. MACH TITAN [Hansen – Send An Angel (Street Sense)] – Scorching winner at this distance at class 3 two starts back in a time that would have won every edition of this race to date. He did though run poorly at his latest start over 1800M three weeks ago, running very wide early before working hard to be on the pace but then finding the extended trip a bit much. Back at a mile he should be a different prospect and he is the big winner from the draw. He likes to sit handy and run on.

3. GALAXY ROAD [Afleet Express – How Bout Tonight (Proud Citizen)] – Winner of his latest three including last start when he overcame gate twelve to lead all the way over 1800M at class 4. He has the second fastest time among those who have tackled a mile and won at this distance when sitting handy and running on strong. May lead but there is plenty of other speed in this race. Placing chances.

4. MR. INDIE [Indie Band – Candace Gold (Seeking The Gold)] – Races for the first time since July when he ran out a comfortable front-running class 4 winner over 1800M. Twelve weeks off since then but he looked well when trialing up last week. Jockey Seo Seung-un won this race in 2014 and a bold showing is possible from a nice draw.

5. ROYAL ROAD [Afleet Express – Officer Lady (Officer)] – An all the way nine-length win at class 5 over 1700M put him on the radar for this although he was a touch disappointing when 3rd at class 4 over the same distance four weeks ago. He did have to contend with gate twelve that day and drifted wide on jumping before eventually finding the rail. He is better than that and can get an easier run from a better draw, but he is not in the first line of favourites here. Jockey Kim Yong-geun partnered Power Blade to victory in the race in 2016 on his way to sweeping the Triple Crown.

6. DONGJIN CHOEGANG [Officer – Pureun Miso (Malibu Moon)] – Untried at further than 1400M and his best form has been at 1200M, he come in following a narrow runner-up finish at that distance in a very fast time on a wet track on September 12th. It’s deeper waters today and despite Park Tae-jong, who won the race on Money Car in 2010, being engaged to ride, others are favoured.

7. WILD INDIE [Indie Band – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] – Yet to be out of the top two in five career starts, he won back-to-back races at this distance to be rapidly promoted up to class 4. On his first try at that level he ran 2nd over 1800M, sitting midfield and then running on strong. He has one of the strongest finishes in the race so don’t rule him out of passing plenty late on. Definite place chances.

8. CHIEF INDY [Take Charge Indy – City Splash (City Zip)] – He has won his last four starts including carrying 58kg to victory over 1700M at class 4 level. He hasn’t raced since June which may be a concern, but he looked well when winning a trial in mid-September. He will want to sit handy to the lead and run on and the jockey booking is a plus.

9. HEAT YEGAM [Take Charge Indy – Desert Heat (Mr. Prospector)] – Super horse who beat Winner’s Man when the pair were juveniles. Both have come a long way since and Heat Yegam enters following a strong of four victories up to Class 2 level when made all over 1200M on August 27th by seven-lengths. He was an eleven-length all the way winner on his only try at this distance which came at class 3 level in June in a fast time. His style is to get out in front and just go. If he gets the lead, he may be hard to catch. He’s the favourite, with jockey You Hyun-myung bidding for an unprecedented third win in the race.

10. TK BOY [Cowboy Cal – Indian Myeongun (Indian Charlie)] – Not likely to be among the top line of favourites but could be an interesting outsider. Has a fast finish on him and while he just missed out when 2nd over 1700M at class at his latest start, he has won well at 1400M, and he will be flashing home strong. May prefer it if it’s wet.

11. JERA [Musket Man – High Key (Menifee)] – A good winner two starts back at this distance at class 4 when he settled in midfield before taking the lead entering the straight. That was in May though and he was out of sorts in his latest race when having been in a prominent position early, he weakened to last in the straight. That makes him hard to have here but punters will always take note of jockey Lim Sung-sil climbing aboard in a big race.

12. WINNER’S MAN [Musket Man – Winner’s Marine (Volponi)] – A winner of seven races so far and he fairly bolted in by eight-lengths in class 2 company over 1800M when eased down at the 50M on September 12th. He has won at a mile and there should be no issue in dropping back today and while he will need some luck position-wise from his wide draw, he is race fit and is a big chance.

13. DOCTOR GIANTS [Cowboy Cal – Ms. Fool Proof (Not For Love)] – A fine 3rd over 1400M on September 17th, it was at class 4 level and while in four attempts at that class he has shown he is competitive he hasn’t looked like winning in it. Accordingly, in much deeper waters today, this appears to be a hard ask.

14. ONNURI JILJU [Officer – Onnuri Plaza (Touch Gold)] – Super consistent type who since a 4th place on debut, has finished no worse than 2nd in eight subsequent outings. That includes a runner-up finish to Mach Titan at 1400M in June and most recently, 2nd to the excellent filly Doctor Fappiano (who skips this to go for the filly Triple Crown, which begins next week) over 1800M at class 3. Times are very good, and he has a big race jockey aboard, so he is not to be dismissed, but he looks more a place line.

15. HEUNGBARAGI [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] – Top juvenile in Seoul last year, he could not have been more impressive on his latest start on September 12th when a runaway gate-to-wire winner by six-lengths over 1800M. He likes to lead though, and this barrier draw has done him no favours. Nevertheless, he will be in this a long way and a win isn’t impossible.

16. YUJEONG CHAMP [Forest Camp – Yujeong Yeojanggun (Warrior’s Reward)] – Back-to-back wins over 1400M in fast times at classes 6 and 5 allow him to take his chance here but he struggled behind Royal Road on his first go at class 4 level over 1700M on September 12th. That suggests this is going to be tough.

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.