Seoul Racecourse

What Actually Happened At Seoul Racecourse Today

There are many words that can be used to describe Saturday’s events at Seoul Racecourse and most of them don’t have good meanings. Here is what actually happened.

Protesters crowd around the winning line attempting to get onto the track

Protesters crowd around the winning line attempting to get onto the track

Trainer An Byung Ki had a horse in race 2 called Argo Wisdom and a horse in race 3 called Little Angels. Jockey Kim Dong Soo was to ride both. At Seoul, jockeys weigh out an hour in advance of the race. This is especially important in the crowded early schedule on a Saturday. Argo Wisdom in race 2 was to carry 53Kg and Little Angels in race 3 had been assigned 51Kg.

Jockey Kim sat on the scales with two saddles and duly weighed out for both races. The best guess as to what happened next is that at some point after this, the saddle which ensured a carried weight of 51Kg somehow found its way onto the back of Argo Wisdom instead of Little Angels. And on his second career start, Argo Wisdom went on to win race 2 quite handsomely, paying dividends of 5.4 on the Pari-Mutuel. He had been second favourite in the race.

Naturally, no inquiry sign went up. There was no reason it would as the race was run cleanly. However, on weighing in, jockey Kim and his saddle were found to be 2.2Kg lighter than when weighed out. The rules are clear and they were applied. Argo Wisdom was disqualified and placed last while the 2nd place finisher Gangnamgul was promoted to 1st.

Riot police form their lines. They were not eventually deployed.

Riot police form their lines. They were not eventually deployed.

Although the disqualification was quickly announced once the weigh-in was complete, the first that many punters knew about it was when they went to collect what they thought were their winnings. When those winnings were not forthcoming, they were somewhat understandably, not amused.

It isn’t uncommon for punters to get angry and there was a genuine case for feeling aggrieved here, however, what happened next was something else. At betting windows across the racecourse – and no doubt at the OTBs – there was fury. The blameless tellers, as usual, bore the brunt. It was outside though where the significant action was taking place. A small but vociferous group gathered by the winning post and made clear their intention to disrupt the following race, runners for which were already at the starting gate.

Form guides, betting slips, pens and anything else that came to hand were hurled onto the track. They were followed by individuals climbing the fence and going out themselves. Security, lighter than in days gone, by was quickly overwhelmed and race 3 was abandoned.

Attention briefly turned to the pony race at Jeju and the Chair of the Stewards’ panel appeared on the Racecourse TV feed to explain exactly why Argo Wisdom had been disqualified.

Horses mill around prior to race 4 being officially abandoned

Horses mill around prior to race 4 being officially abandoned

The protestors were having none of it. Horses paraded for race 4 under a shower of vitriol, which was now taking on a life of its own, far beyond the usual anger at a DQ. Riot police arrived but they were unable to prevent a further set of incursions onto the track and it wasn’t safe for jockeys to bring their mounts past the grandstand.

Race 4 therefore went the same way as race 3. By this time, the overseas simulcast broadcast had begun and it wasn’t only domestic eyes watching.

Seven years ago, there were riots when a meeting was abandoned due to cold weather. The consequences to the Racing Authority, run as it is under the auspices of government, were dire. With no prospect of the protests subsiding, the rest of the meeting in danger and the potential for a full-scale riot on their hands if that happened, the Korea Racing Authority announced that bets would be paid out on the disqualified horse as a “goodwill” gesture to customers.

A KRA executive announces on the racecourse broadcast network that bets will be paid on the disqualified horse

A KRA executive announces on the racecourse broadcast network that bets will be paid on the disqualified horse

In the current context of racing here in Korea, the decision was an understandable one. The meeting was saved, the simulcast was saved and 30 minutes later, families were enjoying picnics by the winning line on what was a gorgeous (if dusty) spring day and we had some great racing later in the day. Daily turnover obviously took a massive hit – to the tune of approximately US$7Million for the two abandoned races – and that, perhaps even more so than the disturbances, is likely to be the focus of the inevitable political recriminations.

The alternative headlines after an abandonment of the meeting would have been too ghastly to contemplate. Mob rule prevailed today. The consequences of that may become clear in the weeks to come.

It started with a mistake. The rules were then applied but that wasn’t the end of it. The horse was called Argo Wisdom and a lot of wisdom is going to be needed in the fall out from today.

Inoue Debuts With A Winner

Veteran Japanese jockey Toshihiko Inoue made the perfect start to his time in Korea, scoring a victory on his debut at Seoul Race Park today.

The 47 year old has notched over 1500 winners in a career dating back to 1983 and comes to Seoul Race Park on an initial four-month license.

Inoue had six rides today and started off by scoring a shock second place in race 1 on 30/1 outsider Huimang Daejakjeon. His win came in race 7, when he drove home 7/1 chance Gigomamnjang by a neck in a tight finish.

Inoue joins fellow Japanese riders Makoto Noda and Mai Beppu at Seoul. Noda has had a tough time, landing 6 wins from 258 rides while Beppu – who has proved popular with the local trainers (not to mention certain top jockeys) has scored 13 from 236, including one today.

Down at Busan where the locals are generally more amenable to foreogn riders, Eiki Nishimura and Akane Yamamoto are both enjoying successful spells. Akane will be in Seoul on Sunday to ride Mister Park in the Grand Prix Stakes.

Inoue has a further five rides on Sunday.

Grand Prix Field Confirmed – Mister Park, Ace Galloper, Smarty Moonhak All Run

The final field for Sunday’s Grand Prix Stakes has been confirmed and there have been no drop-outs from the public vote result that was announced last week. Defending Champion Mister Park heads the field while likely main rival Ace Galloper also goes. American import Smarty Moonhak will become the first two-year old to contest the rest.

A full preview will follow but in the meantime, here’s the full list of runners and riders:

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – Sunday December 11, 16:35

1. Yeonseung Daero (KOR) [Creek Cat-Sensationalkris (Cryptoclearance)] Horse, 5, Busan (37/15/7/5) – Choi Si Dae2. Queen Of Rain (USA) [Lion Heart-Prosperous Move (Arch)] Filly, 3, Busan (13/4/2/3) – Song Keong Yun
3. Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska-Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] Gelding, 4, Seoul (17/13/2/0) – Cho Kyoung Ho
4. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones-Maderia M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] Colt, 2, Seoul (5/4/1/0) – Shim Seung Tae
5. Cheonnyeon Daero (KOR) [Creek Cat-Doneitmyway (Northen Flagship)] Colt, 4, Busan (27/7/14/3) – Park Geum Man
6. Tamna Ace (KOR) [Thunder Gulch-Eacape (A.P. Indy)] Colt, 3, Busan (12/9/2/0) – Kim Dong Young
7. Gippeun Sesang (CAN) [Behrens-Bellus (Saint Ballado)] Horse, 5, Seoul (40/4/4/4) – Choi Bum Hyun
8. Triple Sinhwa (KOR) [Capital Spending-Claudia’s Secret (Crafty Prospector)] Colt, 4, Busan (20/6/7/2) – Lee Sung Jae
9. Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park-Formal Deal (Formal Gold)] Gelding, 4, Busan (18/17/0/1) – Akane Yamamoto
10. Yodongjewang (KOR) [Field Asuka-Mary Wonder (Shahrastani)] Colt, 4, Seoul (14/5/4/1) – Moon Se Young
11. Jumong (USA) [Johar-Foreign Aid (Danzig)] Colt, 4, Seoul (24/8/4/4) – Jo In Kwen
12. Dongseo Jeongbeol (KOR) [Vicar-Rendexvous Bay (Wonderloaf)] Colt, 3, Busan (13/7/1/0) – Chae Gyu Jun
13. Gyeongkwaehanjilju (KOR) [Tapit-Cozzie Maxine (Cozzene)] Colt, 4, Busan (15/9/3/0) – Kim Nam Sung
14. Ace Galloper (KOR) [Chapel Royal-Explicitly (Exploit)] Colt, 4, Seoul (21/15/3/1) – Park Tae Jong

Thirty Years Of The Grand Prix

While other races may carry more prize money, in terms of honour and prestige, the Grand Prix Stakes is second to none in Korea. It’s a race that has had movies named after it and is, perhaps, the only domestic horse race to register in the national consciousness.

Mister Park - Defending Grand Prix Champion

Sunday sees the 30th edition of the race. It’s young in international terms, but in a country where the private ownership of racehorses – and therefore prize money and big Stakes races – go back less than two decades, it is positively venerable. With race fans invited to vote on which horses they want to see in the starting gate, it is the undisputed Championship race in Korea. There is no question of the best horses trying to avoid each other as there is nowhere else to go. In the Grand Prix, the best face the best.

This is because whereas the Classics are restricted to Korean bred entrants, the Grand Prix is open to all. Indeed in the previous 29 editions, home-bred horses have ended up in the winner’s circle just four times (including Mister Park who . Fillies or mares have won the race five times with Ka Shock Do taking back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991.

The origin of the winners also shows the change in influence on Korean racing. Throughout the eighties and nineties, the vast majority of horses imported to Korea were from the Southern Hemisphere. This is reflected by Australian or New Zealand breds winning thirteen of the first sixteen runnings, compared with just one American. Since the turn of the century, the majority of imports have come from the USA and American breds have won six out of the last eight editions.

As recently as 1999, a non-thoroughbred was triumphant. Saegangja was by the established sire Fiercely, however, his dam Chuk Je, was not in the studbook. That won’t happen again as year on year, Korean racing gradually becomes more mature.

Last year’s winner Mister Park is likely to contend favouritism for this year’s race with Ace Galloper (Chapel Royal), another born in Korea after his pregnant dam was imported. The breeding stock in Korea is getting better and better and so are the resulting racehorses.

This year, while a couple of big names sit out – Dangdae Bulpae didn’t get the the distance last year while the unbeaten Lion Santa’s connections also believe their colt is not a 2300 metre horse, there are still plenty of potential stories among the potential winners.

It could be defending champion Mister Park, the impressive Tough Win and Ace Galloper, gutsy Yeonseung Daero, the retiring Cheonnyeon Daero or the two-year old phenom Smarty Moonhak. Also Peter Wolsley becomes the first foreign trainer to saddle a horse in the race as his Gyeongkwaehanjilu takes his chance – if the others beat themselves on the first corner, he just may be the one to benefit.

On Sunday Mister Park will seek to join Dongbanui Gangja, Ka Shock Do and the great Po Gyeong Seon as double winners of the race. He’s also looking to maintain the longest consecutive winning streak in Korean racing history. He’s got a massive task on his hands to prevent a new name being added to the list of horses below who, for one year at least, can claim to have been the undisputed best.

2010: Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park – Formal Deal (Formal Gold)]
2009: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)]
2008: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)]
2007: Bally Brae (USA) [Yarrow Brae – Political Bluff (Unaccounted For)] – Also has two second places to his name, in 2006 and 2008.
2006: Flying Cat (KOR) [Western Cat – Flying Wood (Tapping Wood)]
2005: Subsidy (USA) [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)]
2004: Value Play (USA) [Mt. Livermore – Return Of Mom (Deputy Minister)]
2003: Tempest West (USA) [Silent Tempest – Westabout (Gone West)]
2002: Bohamian Butler (USA) [Patton – Circus Princess (Forli)]
2001: Tahamkke (NZ) [Dance Floor – Cantango (Danzatore)]- has gone on to become a moderately successful sire in Korea
2000: Cheolgeoun Party (KOR) [Big Sur – Party Paint (Acaroid)] – The only Korean bred filly to win.
1999: Saegangja (KOR) [Fiercely – Chuk Je] (non-thoroughbred)
1998: Sin Se Dae (AUS) [Avon Valley – Meroo Star (Starboard Buoy)]
1997: P’Ulgeurim (NZ) [Crested Wave – Evocative (Sea Anchor)]
1996: Hula-Mingo (NZ) [Broadway Aly – Zamatina (Zamazaan)]
1995: Dae Kyeun (AUS) [Northern Regent – Romantic Evening (Sunset Hue)]
1994: Ji Goo Ryeok (AUS) [Pine Circle – Perfect Choice (Lunchtime)] – The first year prize-money was awarded, Ji Goo Ryeok’s connections took home 50 Million won. This year’s winner will receive 212 Million, the same as last year but slightly down on 2008. The Korean Derby is worth in excess of 250 Million to the winner.
1993: Gi Peun So Sik (NZ) [Bolak – Belserena (Serenader)]
1992: Chun Pung (NZ) [Coral Reef – Little Jo] (non-thorougbred)
1991: Ka Shock Do (NZ) [Engagement – Nursery Rhyme (Namnan)]- With her second , she became arguably the greatest filly to run in Korea. In all, she won twelve of her thirteen starts.
1990: Ka Shock Do (NZ) [Engagement – Nursery Rhyme (Namnan)]
1989: Cha Dol (USA) [Mr Redoy – Honest’N Do Right]
1988: Wang Bang Wool (AUS) [Moon Sammy – Aqua Nymph (Crepone)]
1987: Cheong Ha (AUS) [Suliman – Pigalle Wonder (Exalt)]
1986: Po Gyeong Seon (NZ) [Danseur Etoile – Leonotis (Lionhearted)] – with twenty wins from twenty-five starts, he is, along with Saegangja and J.S. Hold one of the three
1985: Po Gyeong Seon (NZ) [Danseur Etoile – Leonotis (Lionhearted)]

* Although this is the 30th running of the Grand Prix, Korean racing records officially only go back to 1985.

* This is an updated version of a post that appeared on this blog in the build up to last year’s Grand Prix. And the year before and the year…etc.