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[Weekender] Korea’s horse racing industry goes global

Racehorses sprint for the finishing post at Seoul Racing Park in Gwacheon. (KRA)
Racehorses sprint for the finishing post at Seoul Racing Park in Gwacheon. (KRA)

In recent years, Korea’s horse racing industry has gained the spotlight from the global market. The nation’s racehorses have been exported to other countries including Malaysia and Macau, and Korea also held its first international race with Japan last November.

The state-run Korea Racing Authority said it exported broadcasts of the race to Singapore for the first time in Korea last December. The KRA signed a deal with Singapore Turf Club to air the grand prize race at Seoul Racing Park.

“This is a pilot project of simulcasting between the two countries which will take place this year,” a KRA official said. “The project will draw at least 2.2 billion won with 2 to 3 percent royalties from betting prices.”

Korea’s horse racing industry was not so thriving until the 1980s. The industry had to rely on imported, low quality horses because of the high prices to buy good breeding horses in the private sector.

In 1991, KRA invested a large sum in importing good breeding stallions to allow crossbreeding with mares in Korea free of charge. This helped the nation breed its own racehorses, create a new market and save foreign currency.

KRA’s stallions include Menifee, an American thoroughbred racehorse that competed in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing 1999, which was purchased for 3.7 billion won ($3.5 million) in 2006. So far, a total of 40 stallions have been bought for 53 billion won.

KRA adopted DNA analysis technologies to select the best stallions.

“The analysis we developed is designed to identify whether stallions are talented by nature or acquired abilities by learning,” KRA official Kim Mang-ul said. “As genes are the most important factors for leading sires, we are trying to select horses with good genes.”

The analysis technologies can also help to match stallions good at long distances with mares good at short distances. This can make up for the two horses’ weaknesses.

The efforts to produce leading sires have led to the overall improvement of the industry. Since 1994 when the first stallion was brought to the nation, the speed record of Korea’s horses has shortened by an average 0.14 seconds per kilometer each year.

KRA earned 7.8 trillion won in its sales of pari-mutuel tickets in 2012, accounting for 42.9 percent of the total gaming industry and holding seventh place in global rankings.

By Shin Ji-hye (
catch table
Korea Herald daum