According to KRA Executive Director for Racing Yangtae Park, the aim is for both races to achieve International Group 3 status by 2019 and Group 2 status by 2022.
“Following our recent promotion to Part II of the International Cataloguing Standards on the 1st of July, we were delighted to present the inaugural Keeneland Korea Cup, the most valuable race ever to be run in Korea,” said Park.
“Over the coming years, we plan to build this event into one of the top weekends of international racing in Asia. Racing in Korea is developing quickly and through the Keeneland Korea Cup we hope to give our racing fans the opportunity to see high-quality international racing here in Seoul and also demonstrate our commitment to the racing world to internationalizing Korean racing,” he said.
With Keeneland as main sponsors, the KRA achieved their goal of hosting two international races with substantial prize money that would be open to invited runners from a number of countries. The Keeneland Korea Cup had seven international entries, who competed for K¥1,000,000,000 (US$911,498), while the seven internationals in the Keeneland Korea Sprint competed for K¥700,000,000 (US$637,704).
Hosting these international races did not come easily and the KRA have worked tirelessly in establishing quarantine protocols with a number of countries over the years. By 2016 quarantine protocols had been established with Japan, Singapore, the UAE and Hong Kong, while substantial progress has been made on protocols with the EU. This enabled the 14 international contenders to compete in Seoul without any quarantine issues.
The new isolation stabling complex, built in 2015, functioned well, and the feedback from the trainers and handlers of the international runners was very complimentary. The isolation stables accommodated horses from Singapore, Japan, France, UK, Ireland and the UAE during the International Festival.
With large crowds in excess of 45,000, the atmosphere at the inaugural Festival was vibrant and lively, with many families attending. The emphasis at Seoul is on family entertainment, especially for the younger generation and hence the KRA is in the process of opening a new infield racing theme park named Whinny World.
The KRA are confident that hosting such Festivals will lead to an overall improvement in Korean racing, which in turn will pave the way for their eventual inclusion in Book I.
International media from several countries attended the International Festival. The two main races were broadcasted on television by KBS Sports channel on the Korean Broadcasting System, the national public broadcaster of South Korea.
The races were also simulcasted live to six countries, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau and UAE and provided in recorded videos to three other countries, Japan, UK and France.
This coverage is important in order to promote Korean racing and it will benefit the growth of the sport in the long term.
There are still challenges ahead for the KRA, such as the prohibition of racing advertising by the government and the quality and depth of the sand track at Seoul. With Korean racing still in a developmental stage when compared to the likes of Hong Kong and Japan, such obstacles can be expected.
The KRA are, however, driving the process forward and with a turnover figure in the region of $6,7 billion and solid on-course attendance, there is no doubt that they will succeed in the long term.
For the record, Hong Kong trained Super Jockey delivered a superior performance to secure victory in the KOR G1 Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m, sand).
Hong Kong’s first horse to race in Korea soon became the first to triumph as he took the inaugural edition of the race.
Japan dominated the day’s other feature, the KOR G1 Keeneland Korea Cup (1800m, sand), with the Kanichiro Fujii-ridden Chrysolite drawing clear from compatriot Kurino Star O to land the race. Local galloper Triple Nine was third.