Korean Rating System Gets Major Overhaul

Korea’s rating system, introduced last year, has received its first annual check-up. And after a review which began last September, a major overhaul has been administered with completely new rating bands to take effect from February.


More finishes like this, please! Actually, this was the Weight for Age Grand Prix last year (Pic: KRA)


The new bands are narrower – and lower. All horses currently racing have had their ratings adjusted accordingly. Every horse currently at class 1 has been dropped 20 points, while those in class 2 to 5 have been adjusted on a proportional scale. As before, class 6 will be for new and unrated domestic bred horses. The before and after looks like this:


Another development is that allocated weights in handicap races at Class 5 and above will include a reduction in weight for 2 year-olds and 3 year-olds as follows:


Additionally, fillies and mares in handicap races will receive a reduction in weight of 2kg.

All Korean-bred horses will start at class 6 and first time winners will generally be allocated a rating of 27 and placed in class 5. Horses who register more than one placed finish at class 6 and show form may also be eligible to be rated and move up to class 5.

As before, imported horses will start at class 4. They will receive an initial rating of 42.

This looks a promising development, especially if it enables horses to go down as well as up – the rarity of this being the main issue with the original system – and the figures seem more in line with most international systems but the proof, as ever, will be out on the track.

There are over 100 horses at class 1 at Seoul, with around 60 at the same level at Busan. Beolmaui Kkum is the top rated horse in Korea following his win last Sunday but his rating now is 115, compared to his previous 135. Here is the full list of class 1 horses at Seoul and at Busan.

One interesting angle to watch over the next couple of months could be any in-form fillies or mares; they’ll now get an allowance in handicaps and keeping a keen eye on them may be a prudent course of action for punters.

Gyeongbudaero Set To Lead Korean Racing Into New Era

Last weekend saw the end of any class 1 and class 2 races restricted to Korean bred horses. From now on, it is all against all at the highest level. And the nation’s best locally-bred horse, Gyeongbudaero, is immediately sent out to take on the challenge of the imports at Busan on Sunday.

Leading the line: Gyeongbudaero (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Leading the line: Gyeongbudaero (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The Korea Racing Authority’s decision to no longer set aside some class 1 & 2 races for domestic horses only has been controversial but is intended to eventually improve the quality of the locally bred horses. Every horse is now assigned a rating which will determine which class they can race in so to win the big money, they will need to beat imported horses.

At Busan, they’ve already been doing just that for quite some time. The likes of Mister Park, Dangdae Bulpae, Yeonseung Daero and latterly Indie Band and Gyeongbudaero have been the track’s main stars over the past few years. All were Korean bred and all took on and beat the imports. Among the current top ten rated horses at the track, five are Korean bred and five imported.

At Seoul, it is a little different. Asked to name the best horses from recent years, names likely to come up are Tough Win, Dongbanui Gangja, Smarty Moonhak and going back a couple of years further, Bally Brae and Subsidy. All were American bred. J.S. Hold and Myeongmun Gamun may get mentioned but they never managed to beat the imports and neither did  Jigeum I Sungan, who only ran in an open race one time. In fact, the mare Top Point is the only one who readily springs to mind. Only two of the current top-ten rated horses at Seoul are locally bred.

Beating all-comers: Dangdae Bulpae

Beating all-comers: Dangdae Bulpae

This is simplistic but perhaps helps illustrate one reason why there is more resistance to integrated racing in the capital. While there are class 1 and class 2 races scheduled for Busan this weekend, the KRA has already abandoned the ones it had planned for Seoul after the Owners’ Association made clear its members would not be making any entries. Indeed there is still a threat that this unofficial boycott may extend to all races in the capital. We will know at 4pm on Thursday.

This is unlikely but even if everything goes ahead as planned, one casualty has already been Friday and Saturday’s overseas simulcast. In the event of a large-scale cancellation of races at Seoul, the Busan race schedule could be amended. With that uncertainty, the KRA decided to cancel the simulcast as a precaution and at an early stage in order to allow overseas partners maximum time to secure races from elsewhere.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of its implementation, the change is one that needs to happen. Racing here must become more competitive and sterner tests for locally bred horses are essential in achieving this. For all the many things it can be questioned about, the KRA’s commitment to the breeding industry here isn’t one of them as is shown by its continued investment in better and better stallions. The Triple crown races will continue to be restricted to Korean bred horses.

That brings us back to Busan’s Sunday feature. Gyeongbudaero will be making his first appearance since winning the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December and will be top weight in the 2000M handicap. Fittingly, there will be six Korean bred horses and six imported horses in the starting gate. Also among the Koreans is Gumpo Sky, who has won two consecutive class 1 races and faces imports for the first time.  Among those imports is Cheonji Bulpae, the 6th highest rated horse at Busan as well as Spring Gnarly who is unbeaten in seven starts since returning from a year’s layoff last May.

It makes for a fascinating contest for both the punter and the sportsman. If this is the kind of race we can look forward to on a regular basis, the change is surely one for the better.

Korea’s New Rating System Explained

It is the year of change for horse racing in Korea. The racing calendar has been revamped, foreign ownership of racehorses has been approved (see bottom of this article) and now a new rating system is coming in.

Yeonseung Daero - (Pic: KRA)

Yeonseung Daero usually ran against foreign opposition. In future he will be the rule, not the exception – (Pic: KRA)

Of all the changes, it is the rating system that has caused – and continues to cause – the most debate within Korean racing circles as what it means is that if Korean-bred horses are to win class 1 races, they will need to beat imported opposition. 

The KRA believes this will raise the quality of Korean horses. Local breeders and some owners disagree.

Under the new system, every horse will be assigned a rating from 0-140 to accurately reflect their current ability.  The rating will determine their eligibility for races and their handicap mark.

The ratings are for use in Korea only and are not intended to mirror what a horse’s international rating would be.

Over the past couple of months horses at Class 1 and Class 2 have already been receiving a monthly rating. This will now be rolled out to all classes.

The Current System

There are six classes in Korean racing (only five are used at Busan). Within each class, all races are further split into two categories:

Domestic: Races restricted to Korean-bred runners
Mixed/Foreign: Races open to both Korean and Foreign-bred runners.

Horses move up in class according to points earned for winning or placing in races and prize-money won. They can never return to a lower class, regardless of recent performance.

The New System

All horses will be assigned a rating which will determine which class they are eligible to run in. With the exception of some Stakes races, such as the Korean Derby, eligibility for all Class 1 and Class 2 races will be determined solely by their assigned ratings. The rating band for each class is as follows:

Ratings table








In Summary:

– All races at Class 1 and Class 2 will be open to both Korean-bred and Foreign-bred runners
– Some races at Class 3 and Class 4 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– All races at Class 5 and Class 6 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– Horse ratings may go up or down according to recent past performance. This means that a horse may move down in class as well as up.

On the subject of foreign ownership of racehorses, they will be allowed to buy up to fifteen horses, which is the same as local owners. However, unlike the locals, foreign owners must buy four Korean-bred horses for every foreign-bred horse they wish to import to Korea. This is one reason why it has been a slightly less controversial development than might otherwise have been expected.

Some of the first batch of foreign owners will be able to start purchasing at the 2-year-old sale on Jeju Island in March.

Beolmaui Kkum Heads January Ratings

Beolmaui Kkum remains the top-rated horse in Korea being pushed up one point following his Class 1 victory on Sunday. The latest Korean ratings, which were published on Monday, has the US-bred 5-year-old one point ahead of Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero.

Gyeongbudaero's Grand Prix Stakes win wasn't quite enough to see him to the top of the ratings. He is though, the top Korean bred horse  (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Gyeongbudaero’s Grand Prix Stakes win wasn’t quite enough to see him to the top of the ratings. He is though, the top Korean bred horse (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Wonder Bolt is Seoul’s top horse and is up two points following his Grand Prix Stakes win although he was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday. He is now 7 points clear of his nearest rival in the capital. New entrants at the top of the list at Seoul include Clean Up Joy, who was 4th in the Grand Prix Stakes, while at Busan Success Story comes in following two dominant victories over the past month.

Dropping off the list is Indian Blue, who has been retired ready for the 2015 breeding season.

Seoul Top 30
Busan Top 30

For the first time the ratings, which are for domestic use only and are not intended to be compared to international ones, have been expanded to include all horses down to class 5. The ratings are one of a number of changes which have not been universally popular among some stakeholders – principally trainers. For now though, while there will always be disagreements between connections, punters and the handicappers, they are if nothing else, providing a talking point.

Ladies’ Day Preview: Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup – Punters Try Out New Ratings

It’s Ladies’ Day at Seoul Racecourse this Sunday. The capital’s champion filly or mare will be decided in the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup. And while punters are encouraged to wear red, the race will be one of the first opportunities for them to try out Korean racing’s new “rating” system.

Cheonnyeon Dongan won the Donga Ilbo Cup last year - She'll have a different jockey on this week but should be favourite for the Gyeonggi Governor's Cup

Cheonnyeon Dongan won the Donga Ilbo Cup last year – She’ll have a different jockey on this week but should be favourite for the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup

For many years, Korean racing has been divided into 6 classes (5 at Busan due to there being fewer horses there) with horses receiving a fixed number of points for winning and placing and moving up the classes. There is no facility to move back down in class. Under the new system, all races will be reviewed and a horse assigned a new rating after it – if it is low they can go back down in class (more on that and its implications over the next couple of weeks).

The new system has started this month for horses in the existing class 1 only with a base rating for the top-level of 100. This Sunday, the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup – a Korean Group 3 race for Korean-bred fillies and mares – is one such race that has a rating for all entrants. However, to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to choose between them!

Here is a rundown of the runners and riders with [Pedigree] Age (Runs/1st/2nd/3rd) Rating – Jockey

Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – Sunday October 26, 16:35

1. Pinot Noir [Capital Spending – Neungnyeokchungman (Pacificbounty)] 4 (14/4/4/2) – 103 – Park Hyun Woo
2. Mighty Forever [Yankee Victor – Redmarina (Sea Of Secrets)] 6 (38/3/6/4) – 101 – Lee Hyeok
3. Bukdaepung [Exploit – Half Fare (Half Term)] 5 (21/6/2/0) – 101 – Lee Dong Kug
4. Choichoro [Concept Win – Eunbiryeong (Mujaazif)] 6 (32/6/2/4) – 104 – Moon Se Young
5. Chowon Yeoje [Forest Camp – Navigation (Big Sur)] 5 (33/5/7/7) – 105 – Ikuyasu Kurakane
6. Chiming Vicar [Vicar – Chiming In (Fasiliyev)] 5 (29/6/2/1) – 101 – Choi Bum Hyun
7. Cheonnyeon Dongan [Ecton Park – Honeycakes (Hennessy)] 4 (16/8/2/3) – 113 – Seo Seung Un
8. X File [Exploit – Dorothy Dee (Woodman)] 5 (26/5/2/9) – 101 – Moon Jung Kyun
9. Full Moon Party [Vicar – Platinum Wildcat (Forest Wildcat)] 5 (23/7/0/5) – 102 – Yoo Seung Wan
10. Bongamsa [The Groom Is Red – Halla Yeoje (Technology)] 5 (38/4/5/2) – 101 – Jung Pyeong Soo
11. Chongal Gongju [Vicar – Isis (Didyme)] 5 (30/3/9/2) – 102 – Kim Hye Sun
12. Dangchan Miso [Concept Win – Chuwol Jasin (Road Of War)] 5 (38/6/2/3) – 101 – Lee Go Hweoi

So there you have it, the ratings say Cheonnyeon Dongan wins this one. And really, she should.

Here’s what’s happening when and where on what is forecast to be a very pleasant autumn weekend:

Friday October 24
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday October 25
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday October 26
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

It's Ladies Day At Seoul this Sunday

It’s Ladies Day At Seoul this Sunday