Three Korean horses who ran in the KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore on Sunday touched back down at Incheon Airport this afternoon.
The two Busan horses; Gamdonguibada and Nobody Catch Me, will stop off at the quarantine centre at Jangsu Stud & Training Farm in Jeolla Province, while Seoul-based Cheon Gu has gone straight back to the Seoul Racecourse which has its own quarantine facilities.
As for the race – the S$250,000 KRA Trophy – the horses did ok. Nobody Catch Me was 6th, Cheon Gu 9th and Gamdonguibada 11th in the twelve-strong event with the pack finishing together.
There had been some mildly silly talk in the local racing media here – not exactly discouraged by trainer Kim Young Kwan – about the possibility of one of the Korean horses actually winning the race. However, those of us who were hopeful of a decent performance, but still had nagging fears that they may be left behind in a race that was restricted to Singapore-trained horses with a rating of 90 or lower, were re-assured.
As it was, Cheon Gu led out of the gate and into the home-straight before tiring and being passed. Gamdonguibada, a little predictably for a miler dropping down to six furlongs, took a while to get going and never really fired. However, the pleasant surprise was Nobody Catch Me. Few had given him much chance of beating anything but he finished strongly on the outside to get up to 6th place, just over four lengths behind the winner.
That winner was the modestly-named Super Winner (Kaphero). Super Winner’s jockey, Soo Khoon Beng (more often known as KB Soo) has plenty of history with Korea having had a short stint at Busan in 2008 before returning and winning the Seoul International Jockey Challenge in 2012. Manoel Nunes, who also particiapted in that 2012 event, rode My Lucky Strike (Charge Forward), to 2nd place.
The race was beamed back live to racecourses and OTBs in Korea, the first time for an overseas race. While no betting markets were offered, a good number of the 40,000 crowd at Seoul Racecourse seemed to take an interest. It is to be hoped that those punters will start pushing for an opportunity to watch more overseas racing and for the necessary change in the law to allow legal betting on it. One or two races from places such as Singapore would be an ideal addition to either a Friday card at Busan or a Sunday mixed card.
There are many hurdles still to clear before that can become a reality but getting last Sunday’s race onto Korean screens means the first of those has been successfully navigated. The more exposure there is to high quality overseas racing, the better it will be for development here.
In some ways the result was a good one in that the horses did well enough to mean there is no reason to feel discouraged or embarrassed. And equally, they didn’t do well enough for anybody here to think the job is anywhere near done and there is no need to improve.
The next big event is just a little over a month away in the shape of the Asia Challenge Cup, for which the first nomination stage is this Friday. Nominations are expected from Singapore and Japan while a quarantine protocol has just been concluded in time with the UAE, however, it may be a little too late to get horses racing under that flag this time. The ACC is an invitational race but the KRA Cup Classic, held the same day, is also open to overseas runners this year.