By Hans Ebert
After the facile win of Hong Kong’s eight-year-old dirt specialist Super Jockey last weekend in the inaugural running of the US $700,000 Group 1 Korean Sprint, one cannot help but think that this could be the the start of a beautiful friendship and greater “diplomatic” racing ties between the HKJC and the Korea Racing Authority (KRA).
HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, pictured below, wasn’t making a token gesture by attending the event. If betting on it, we’d say he was endorsing, supporting and cementing a partnership with the KRA with an eye towards the future.
As for the win of Super Jockey, ridden with supreme confidence by the very popular Mauritian Magician Karis Teetan, the Tony Millard-trained galloper was in a class of his own. In fact, Teetan, now known as Seoul Brother Number 1, had to look over his shoulder a number of times to see where the rest of the field was. Nowhere in sight, baby.
Apart from all this- and let’s not forget the win of Japan’s Chrysotile ridden by Joe Fujii in the US$900,000 Keeneland Korea Cup- one must applaud the KRA. Just as Psy appeared out of nowhere with Gangnam Style alongside the commercial accessibility of K-Pop, South Korea is suddenly becoming the racing jurisdiction to watch- the little engine that could. It still has a long way to go to become anything approaching Hong Kong and Japan, but one cannot ignore their efforts to make last weekend’s race meeting as best as they possibly could with, in some areas, especially their filming of the races- even the creative ways in which the numbers of the horses in the running appeared on television and their newly installed monster of an in-field screen- being far more helpful to television audiences and on-course racing fans than what is presented in more mature racing markets. God is in the details, people.
As for its first truly international race meeting on the weekend, at least one high profile and struggling content provider in Melbourne should do itself a favour and see how well the racing in Seoul was presented- and by still very much novices to the marketing of the sport. And to those racing executives in the land down under who dismissed this event that attracted participants from seven countries as irrelevant, well, it only proves that there exists a thin line between arrogance and ignorance. Add short-term thinking somewhere in there.
Yes, there’s a long way to go and some major obstacles to overcome before there can be turf racing, but the international Go button has been pressed and there’s a youthful exuberance to the way the KRA and its forward-thinking Chairman Hyung Myun-Kwan are looking at the present and future of the sport and forging a strong partnership with its big brother in Hong Kong. With strong commingling figures from the simulcast of Sunday’s race, bet on it growing faster than expected.
Along with a Korean-themed promotion later this season to tie in with the running of the Korea Racing Authority Trophy, and, of course, more servings of K-Pop, we’re predicting a greater presence of out of the box Gangnam Style thinking and K-Racing on Happy Wednesday nights at Happy Valley Racecourse. Add to this, more technological breakthroughs in how horse racing can be showcased and enjoyed by longtime racing fans and total newcomers to the sport. Now, let’s dance with Psy.