Horse Racing

Three Jeju Jockeys & One KRA Official Arrested In Ongoing Corruption In Sport Investigation

Three jockeys and one racing official were arrested on Tuesday as part of the ongoing investigation into corruption in Korean Sport. All three jockeys had been riding in Pony races on Jeju Island.

The Prosecution alleges that the jockeys (who despite having earlier been banned and named by the KRA can, due to the Proseuction action, no longer be identified) accepted money, jewellery and “high-performance cars” from an organised crime syndicate in deals brokered by a “Kim” in exchange for providing inside information and, on occasion, slowing down horses in races.

The KRA official, a 37 year-old male identified only by his family name of “Jeong” was arrested for allegedly assisting the three.

Over the past year, professional football, baseball, volleyball and motor-boat racing have all been found to be in the grip of organised gambling rings manipulating results. Racing, with its explicit gambling component, has long suffered these scandals.

In football, the allegedly fixed results occurred mainly in the “Rush & Cash Cup”, a midweek tournament contested mainly by K-League teams’ Reserve teams, away from the scrutiny of television cameras and involving players not making very much money.

Similarly, the Pony racing on Jeju Island is conducted for much smaller prize-money than thoroughbred racing on the mainland and legal gambling handle is low and as a result, there is the possibilty for manipulations to go unnoticed.

Having said that, one high-profile Seoul jockey has been suspended for the past six months pending investigation into his conduct.

Racing in Korea has extremely strict rules with regards to inside information – to the extent that this blog is extremely careful when communicating with jockeys, trainers and officials – let alone in terms of fixing races. One or two jockeys get struck-off each year for offences that in other jurisdictions would receive a far more lenient punishment.

Given that the well-supported and Chaebol backed K-League was under the threat of closure earlier this year, the latest revelations are something that racing, already considered a pariah sport by many in Korea, can ill-afford.

* The story made the main nightly SBS TV News, complete with library footage from the track that is at least a decade old:

Mustang Queen Runs Wild In Irish Trophy

On a wild weather day in Seoul, Mustang Queen held off all challengers to win the Horse Racing Ireland Trophy.

Ham Wan Sik celebrates on Mustang Queen

Sent off as the 8/1 fourth favourite in the field of fourteen for the seven furlong Stakes race, Mustang Queen (Concept Win) was quickly towards the front. Taking the lead rounding the home turn, she never looked like giving it up as she ran on for victory by just over a length from favourites Imperial Star and Seungniuihamseong.

A four-year old filly, Mustang Queen was sixth in last year’s Korean Oaks at Busan, the only race in her career so far in which she finished out of the money. A class 2 win last month sent her into today’s race in good form and she duly recorded her fifth win from fourteen starts.

Ham Wan Sik on Mustang Queen in the HRI Trophy Winner's Circle

For jockey Ham Wan Sik, it’s a fourth career Stakes victory and comes just a week after he rode his 400th career winner.

The Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) Trophy has been a fixture on the Korean racing calendar for sixteen years now and is one of the longest running exchange races. The Irish authority also sends a jockey each year to participate in the International Jockey Challenge which this year will be held in August.

As ever – and unlike some other authorities who have exchange races here – officials from Horse Racing Ireland were on hand for the prize-giving ceremony. Indeed, HRI’s Mark O’Hanlon took to twitter later on to comment on the day.

The Horse Racing Ireland Trophy is one of several trophy exchange races held throughout the year

The KRA reciprocates by sponsoring a race in Ireland each year and it was in the Korea Racing Authority EBF Maiden at Leopardstown in August 2008 where a certain colt by the name of Sea The Stars recorded his first ever race win. It wouldn’t be his last.

In Korea there is a saying: “Kkot-Saem Chu-ui”, which roughly translates as the “The cold is jealous of the flowers”. It’s used when the dying winter season returns for one last hurrah, taking out the spring flowers in the process. Dawn broke in the capital this morning with brilliant sunshine. However, the wind quickly picked up and was up to gale-force at times.

Then a sudden blizzard arrived, with race 6 being run under floodlights in driving snow. Thirty minutes later, it was as if it had never happened with the sun out once again, the floodlights off and the snow melted.

The wind kept up though and all in all, it was one of the most unpleasant days at the track this winter. The cold certainly had its revenge on the spring flowers that the KRA has already planted around the track.

A quick blizzard covered the neighbouring mountains in snow

Sunday is another very big day, with the first Group race of the year in the shape of the Ttukseom Cup at Seoul. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Sunday March 25

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:45 including the Ttukseom Cup at 16:15
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:15 to 16:45 (Mister Park vs Dangdae Bulpae is race 7)

Weekend Preview: Tough Win Returns

Reigning Grand Prix Stakes champion Tough Win makes his 2012 debut in the pick of the action on a busy weekend of racing in Korea.

Tough Win takes the Grand Prix ahead of Mister Park (r) and Smarty Moonhak (l) Pic: Newsis

Now five-years old, Tough Win (Yonaguska) is making his first appearance since ending the record-breaking win-streak of Mister Park and downing the young upstart Smarty Moonhak in the finale to last season at Seoul Racecourse.

With 14 wins from his 18 career starts, Tough Win is one of the biggest stars of recent years and he will, as ever, be partnered by jockey Cho Kyoung Ho who is himself returning from a six-week injury lay-off.

Up against Tough Win will be Jumong (Johar) and the pair of them will be carrying significantly more weight then the rest of the field; Tough Win the maximum 63Kg and Jumong 60.5Kg.

Both have proved more than capable of dealing with these imposts in the past although should they have problems, Sing Sing Cat (D’Wildcat) and Mass Media’s Tea (Mass Media) could be outside picks to take advantage in the 1900 metre Handicap.

There’s plenty of other action to keep us occupied too on what is set to be the warmest weekend of the year so far (although that is not saying a whole lot), including Japanese jockey Narazaki Kosuke debuting at Busan as well as the first Stakes race of the year for the ponies on Jeju Island.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday March 16

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday March 17

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:20
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 18

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:15 to 16:40

Weekend Preview

We’re less than a month away from the KRA Cup Mile and while many of the contenders will have already had their final race before the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown, there’s still plenty to occupy us on the peninsula this weekend.

Filly Grand Teukgeup (Menifee) seeks her fourth straight win as she takes on the Cup Mile distance for the time on Friday afternoon.

Low-key racing but still a lot to see this weekend

She goes up against ten rivals one of whom, Baekho Janggun (Pico Central) could see himself added to the classic mix with a good performance.

Busan’s Friday feature sees old-timers Crafty Louis (Louis Quatorze) and Wonder Love (Wild Wonder), both of whom have been racing at Busan since the track opened in 2005, making their season-debuts. They will probably find the comparatively youthful six-year old Purely Spontaneus (Pure Precision) a bt too quick for them.

On Sunday at Busan, Tamna Ace (Thunder Gulch), with ten wins from fourteen starts, will be the one to beat in the feature handicap.

Up at Seoul, it’s very much a low-key weekend. The most valuable race is on Saturday afternoon when Magnifique (Menifee), who was less than magnificent in his last start, seeks to get back to winning ways in a nine furlong handicap. Former champion filly Love Cat (Creek Cat) is among nine rivals.

It’s been a reasonably pleasant week weather-wise, however, temperatures are set to drop a little for the weekend.

Friday March 9

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday March 10

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:20
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 11

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:15 to 16:40

Weekend Preview: Smarty Moonhak at Seoul, Classic Hopefuls at Busan

It’s March and there has been a definite spring-like feel to the weather on the peninsula over the past few days. On the track it’s set to be a big start to the month as Korea’s current hottest racing property, Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) makes his second appearance of 2012.

After dispatching two-time Grand Prix Stakes winner and former horse of the year Dongbanui Gangja by ten lengths in his last outing, the three-year old should have little difficulty seeing off a less than daunting class 1 field in Sunday’s 2000 metre feature handicap.

Moon Jung Kyun gets the mount on Smarty Moonhak

Smarty Moonhak will be carrying 59Kg and will for the first time be ridden by Moon Jung Kyun instead of previous regular Shim Seung Tae.

Best known for riding J.S. Hold to the Korean Triple Crown in 2007, Moon has taken over as stable jockey for trainer Ko Ok Bong with Shim moving to Kim Ho. As jockeys in Korea ride in their own colours instead of those of the owners, it will mean a slightly different look for the horse.

So long as the weight isn’t a problem few of his rivals seem likely to be.

On Saturday, Singgeureounachim (Exploit) headlines the feature race while top-rated three-year old filly Cheoneun (Forest Camp) goes over the Derby distance of 1800 metres in race 9.

Down at Busan, Friday sees Classic prospects Gyeongbudaero (Menifee) and Good Time (Yehudi), last year’s champion Juvenile, attempt the Derby distance for the first time in race 9.

There are co-features on Sunday. Aussie colt Jeonseong Sidae (Stromberg Carlson) headlines the first of these while both Peter Wolsley and Joe Murphy saddle contenders in the second in the shape of Pnata Rhei (Stormy Atlantic) and Ganghan Yeoja (Lethal Instrument) in the six furlong sprint.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday March 2

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday March 3

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:20
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 4

Seoul Race Park: 11 race from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:15 to 16:40

Weekend Preview: Segye Ilbo Cup

Xicar Heads Up And Comers

Stakes action returns to Seoul Race Park this weekend as a full field of foreign-bred fillies and mares contest the Segye Ilbo Cup.

Last year's Segye winner Kkakjaengi went on to win more Stakes races

The race sees a mixture of up and coming fillies along with mares who have reached class 2 level but have never quite managed to break through to the elite level of Korean racing. Last year’s winner Kkakjaengi went to become a multiple Stakes winner.

This year it is Aussie filly Xicar (Written Tycoon) who looks to be the one to beat. The three-year old has three wins and two seconds from her six starts and, with her wins coming at 1300M, 1400M and 1900M is a versatile and promising talent. Also among the up and comers are US filly Mighty Mammy (After Market) and lightly races four-year old Haengun Party (Broken Vow).

See below for a full list of runner and riders but first of all, here’s what’s happening when and where on the peninsula this weekend:

Friday February 17

Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:30 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday February 18

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:20
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday February 19

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:50 including the Segye Ilbo Cup at 16:15
Busan Race Park: 8 races from 11:50 to 16:50

Here’s a full list of runners and riders (Name [Pedigree], age, sex, (Runs/1/2/3) – Jockey:

Segye Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – Sunday Feb 17, 2011 – 16:15

1. Raonjena (USA) [Flower Alley-One Kid Act (Lemon Drop Kid)] 3 F (8/2/0/3) – Seo Seung Un
2. Blueband Mama (USA) [Purge-Meadow Bryte (Meadowlake)] 4 F (15/2/4/1) – Oh Kyoung Hoan
3. Winner Trophy (USA) [Wildcat Heir-Paintyourwagon (Pioneering)] 4 F (10/1/2/1) – Choi Bum Hyun
4. A Wanted Affair (USA) [Ten Most Wanted-Noble Affair (Melodisk)] 4 F (11/2/2/2) – Mai Beppu
5. Teukbyeolhwanhui (JPN) [White Muzzle-Western Edge (Woodman)] 5 M (22/2/1/5) – Jo In Kwen
6. Rockin Ruler (USA) [Peace Rules-Shar’s Smile (Peaks And Valleys)] 4 F (18/2/1/4) – Park Eul Woon
7. Worincheongang (USA) [Act Of Duty-Silver Path (Silver Buck)] 5 M (19/2/2/0) – Han Sung Youl
8. Wonderday (USA) [El Corredor-Alpine Ice (Forestry)] 3 F (4/2/1/0) – Lee Joon Chel
9. Mighty Mammy (USA) [After Market-Red Lifesaver (Victory Gallop)] 3 F (5/2/2/0) – Shin Hyoung Chul
10. Dangdae Jeonseung (CAN) [Put It Back-Diamond Heirloom (Pembroke)] 3 F (4/1/1/1) – Lee Gi Hweoi
11. Haengun Party (USA) [Broken Vow-Dutch One’s Storm (Stormin Fever)] 4 F (7/3/1/0) – Ham Wan Sik
12. Golden Socks (USA) [Dehere-Final Flag (Northern Flagship)] 4 F (12/1/3/3) – Moon Jung Kyun
13. Fortunata (USA) [Eurosilver-Eleanor’s Song (Seattle Song)] 5 M (23/2/1/4) – Kim Ok Sung
14. Xicar (AUS) [Written Tycoon-Grand Jewel (Brocco)] 3 F (6/3/2/0) – Park Tae Jong

Viva Cat Among The Classic Hopefuls

Viva Cat Impressive at Seoul / Eiki Bows Out with a Winner / Murphy Scores

We’re less than two months away from the KRA Cup Classic, the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown, and while the weather remains cold, things are starting to heat up in the three-year old ranks.

Viva Cat saunters to victory at Seoul this afternoon

While Busan’s Gyeongbudaero (Menifee) remains most people’s early pick for Classic glory, each week others are staking their claim. At Busan on Friday, Good Time (Yehudi) won by a visually impressive nine lengths over a mile but today at Seoul, it was the turn of Viva Cat (Creek Cat) to show why he should be taking the trip down south in early April.

Sent off as favourite against a field containing only older horses, Viva Cat was a comfortable length-and-a-half winner in a fast time over 1700 metres. The colt has now won five of his six starts while Gyeongbudaero has been beaten on both of his attempts at further than seven furlongs, albeit in slightly better company.

With the likes of Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire) and Cheoneun (Forest Camp) recording important wins last week, the signs so far are good for this year’s three-year old crop being more competitive than the disappointng one last year.

Down at Busan, hot favourite Tamna Ace (Thunder Gulch) scored a routine victory in the feature handicap to take his record to en wins from fourteen starts. Joe Murphy’s top rated horse Deep Desire (Jump Start) was a disappointing last in that race but there was success earlier for the American trainer as his filly De Bora (Dehere) broke her maiden in race 1.

It was Murphy’s second win of what, given that he only had seven successes in the prvious eighteen months, is looking an ever more promising 2012. Murphy himself ascribes the new positive feeling in his barn to having had an Australian trackwork rider join him in January which has made communication in training much easier. Whatever the reason, his runners are ones to follow over the next few months.

Finally at Busan it was a day of farewells for Japanese rider Eiki Nishimura. The 36-year-old completed his second stint at the track today and bowed out with a winner, partnering 3/1 shot Camilla (Menifee) to victory in race 2. Popular with just about everybody, Eiki scored a total of 13 winners from 109 rides in his four months here.

He previously rode 38 winners during 2009, including winning that year’s KRA Cup Classic on Sangseung Ilro. He will be missed.

* Next weekend, we have Stakes action at Seoul in the shape of the Segye Ilbo Cup for foreign bred fillies and mares. As ever, we’ll have all the build up here on Thursday.

Kim Gui Bae – Rare Visit To The Winner’s Circle Thirty Three Years After His First

Korea’s oldest professional Sportsman – except for a few veteran golfers – was back in the Winner’s Circle at Seoul Race Park today. However, in recent years, winning has been an all too rare experience for veteran jockey Kim Gui Bae.

Winner Again: Kim Gui Bae

Today, partnering 23/1 outsider Haetal (Volponi) in race 8, Kim produced his horse for a late run to sweep past odds-on favourite Something Good (Forest Camp) to score victory by just over a length.

It was the 49 year old’s first win of 2012. He scored seven wins in 2011 and the same number the year before. If past history is anything to go by, he’s unlikely to exceed that figure this year; those two years were his most successful out of the past twenty.

When Kim Gui Bae turned professional as a teenager in April 1979, President Park Chung Hee was in the final year of his authoritarian regime (Park would be assassinated in October that year) and horse racing in Korea was almost a different sport to what it is today. There was no Stud Book, no private ownership of horses and the pari-mutuel odds were still calculated manually for each race.

Kim Gui Bae started his career well and, throughout the 1980’s, was one of the top jockeys at the old Seoul Racecourse at Ttukseom. His biggest win came in 1986 on Po Gyeong Seon [Danseur Etoile-Leonotis (Lionhearted)] as the great New Zealand bred gelding captured his second consecutive Grand Prix Stakes. Kim rode him to six of his twenty career victories.

On that day, the jockey can’t have imagined that twenty-five years later, he would not only still be riding, but also still searching for a second Stakes win. Kim himself points to Seoul Racecourse moving from Ttukseom to Gwacheon in 1989 as being the moment his career changed for the worse. Indeed, he’s only ridden just over fifty winners at the new track over the past 23 years.

Blurry: Korean racing photography wasn't so great back in the days when Kim Gui Bae won the 1986 Grand Prix on Po Gyeong Seon

In an interview for the KRA in 2010, Kim said he never made the adjustment from racing clockwise at Ttukseom to anti-clockwise at Gwacheon. It seems a rather incredible, not to mention disappointing, excuse but the figures certainly agree with him.

Over the years his opportunities have slowly died up as new jockeys come through. When asked why he kept going instead of making more of an effort to pass the trainers’ exam and move into the barn (something which is also likely to be too late now), he simply replied that it is because he “enjoys riding.”

Despite this, Kim Gui Bae is not a jockey that punters avoid (and there are some). He can generally be relied upon to get a horse its best possible finish and its odds don’t drift because he’s riding it. Over his career, his win rate is 8.4% and longevity has made him popular; today he was welcomed back to the winner’s circle by a small group of old-time punters.

Of the current jockeys, only Park Tae Jong, Shin Hyoung Chul and Jung Pyeong Soo also rode at Ttukseom and Kim has at least eight years on all of them. While the newest generation of jockeys are undoubtedly better, there will be those who will be sad when the familiar racing colours of these four (Korean jockeys race in their own colours) disappear from the Korean track forever.

* Today’s feature race was won by second favourite Real Victor (Biwa Shinseiki-Hyunmo), scoring his second class 1 victory of the year.

* Yesterday at Busan, Lion Santa (Lion Heart-Santa Fe Strip) got back to winning ways after losing his unbeaten record at the end of last year. The four-year old US import took a two length win in the feature race and now has ten wins from eleven starts.

Sunday February 12

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 8 races from 11:50 to 16:40

Weekend Preview

Lion Santa, Cheonun Head Cards

It’s been another chilly week in what has been the coldest winter anyone in Korea can remember, however, just like last week, temperatures look set to rise up to around the freezing point this weekend meaning there is no better place to spend it than at the racetrack!

It's set for another cold and bright weekend at Seoul

At Busan on Friday, Lion Santa (Lion Heart) is the main attraction. The four-year old, whose connections shunned the Grand Prix Stakes only to see him beaten in what should have been a routine handicap and in the process, lose his unbeaten record on his tenth start. However, he will be favoured to get back to winning ways in the mile-long feature race.

Sunday’s big race on the South Coast is headed by Tamna Ace (Thunder Gulch), who has nine wins from his thirteen career starts. Also on show on Sunday is filly Geumdda (Officer) who, like Lion Santa, shockingly lost her unbeaten record last time out. She’s up against Peter Wolsley’s filly Perfect Jilju (Paradise Creek) who herself has four wins from her last five starts.

Up at Seoul it’s a bit of a low-key weekend but it still should be a fascinating two days of racing. The capital’s feature race is on Saturday as Nonghyup Stakes winner Cheonun (Ft. Stockton) heads a full-field of fourteen going over 1900 metres.

On the Triple Crown trail there are a few promising three-year olds to look out for. At Seoul Viva Cat (Creek Cat) goes in race 9 on Sunday, looking for his fifth win from six starts while down at Busan Good Time (Yehudi) and Predict (The Groom Is Red) both go in race 9 on Friday.

Friday February 10

Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:30 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday February 11

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:20
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday February 12

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:10 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 8 races from 11:50 to 16:40

Heavy Work For Mister Park While Wolsley Trains A Treble

Singgeureounachim, Jigeum I Sungan, Cheoneun All Win At Seoul

Reigning Horse Of The Year Mister Park made his season-debut at Busan Race Park this afternoon and, despite carrying a restrictive 62Kg on his back, galloped to his eighteenth career victory on his twentieth start.

Winners Again: Mister Park and Akane Yamamoto

Punters ignored the fact that Mister Park was becoming the first horse to be assigned the new top weight – two kilos more than the previous high for allowance races – and sent the 2010 Grand Prix winner off as long-odds on favourite.

Coming out of the gate quickly under Japanese jockey Akane Yamamoto, Mister Park latched onto early pacesetter Boulougne and the two led the field by some distance until they entered the home straight.

As Bolougne weakened, there seemed a nervous moment as Mister Park found himself in front and momentarily seemed to go sideways. he recovered, however, to take victory by a length and a half from Hidden Messenger (Al Naba).

It was comfortable enough but Mister Park was slow in the straight and if he faces better horses while carrying this amount of weight, he may be more vulnerable this year.

With Akane riding Mister Park to victory and Eiki Nishimura also amongst the winners, it was a good day for Busan’s foreign contingent. However, the Japanese pair would be eclipsed by trainer Peter Wolsley’s achievements as the Australian sent out three horses – all maidens – and returned with three winners.

Treble: Peter Wolsley (Pic: Herald Media)

The first came in race 1 as Aussie bred gelding No More Ahead (All Bar One) took victory. This was immediately followed by debut-maiing Cheongchun Bulpae (Milwaukee Brew) in race 2 while another first-timer Nuri Geotap (Prime Timber) completed the treble by winning race 5.

Wolsley is well-known for being an expert at placing his horses to give them the best shot of winning within the restrictive Korean racing class system and today was the perfect example of it. His barn now has three more winners in it and it looks set to be another good season for him. Former stable jockey Park Geum Man partnered all three winners.

Up at Seoul, one of last year’s underachievers Singgereounachim (Exploit) made no mistake in the feature race, holding off determined challenges from Mr. Rocky and Andy’s Runner to record a narrow victory. The colt was third in the Korean Derby last year and could be set to finally live up to his potential this year.

Speaking of the Derby, we are exactly two months away from the first Classic of the season. Today, a colt and a filly who are expected to be involved in the KRA Cup Classic down in Busan at the beginning of April, were in action.

Both of them were trying their luck around two turns of the Seoul track for the first time and both of them were successful. First up was the colt, Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire). Against a weak field, he was sent off the odds-on favourite and he cruised to an eight length win over 1700 metres.

Cheoneun and Park Tae Jong hold off King Fighting and Jo In Kwen at Seoul

Two races later and a step up in class, things were tougher were Cheoneun (Forest Camp) who went off as the 3/1 second favourite. She put in an impressive performance. Under Park Tae Jong, she made all and held off a strong challenge from favourite King Fighting in the final furlong to claim her fifth win in seven starts.

While she’ll need to get quicker if she’s to compete in the Classics, she’ll be one to watch out for as the road to the Triple Crown starts to really get going in the forthcoming weeks.