Seoul racecourse: not bad for a first try at an international meeting
By Robin Gibson 3:47PM 13 SEP 2016
BEFORE the internet, in the media stone age, end-of-season international thrills were pretty well restricted to the Arc and, for night owls, the Breeders’ Cup. But in recent decades a kind of Moore’s Law Lite has come into force and things have spiralled.
Look at Sunday. Not only is it Irish Champions Weekend again, but Korea (southern division, though it adamantly bills itself Korea) has shouldered in with new international races, the Keeneland Korea Cup and Sprint. After this, it’s the Arc and Champions Day, then the Melbourne Cup, the Breeders’ Cup, the Japan Cup and Hong Kong.
No-one’s saying some of these events didn’t exist before the internet, but the connected, shrinking world has had an effect. Our actual view remains limited by eyesight but our virtual horizons are boundless and international competition has become common. Plus it’s a lot easier to get a bet on in the middle of the night in your living room.
It’s possible some newer races could flare, sputter and die. There are only so many big names and the runners at Seoul today are no superstars. But as Laura King (@LauraKingDXB) points out, attracting runners from the UAE, Japan, Singapore, France, Britain and Ireland is “not bad for a first try at an international meeting”.
Korea’s online efforts are impressive, despite the Korea Cup being, like R&B artiste Tweet (yes), a tricky name for SEO. There’s a football cup that takes up a lot of space, and the Korea Cup All-Style Karate Championship and some sort of bowling event also outrank the horseracing. Even the obscure Starbucks Korea Cup-Aholic page on Facebook does.
This is an interesting page if you translate the posts, which are concerned with swapping cups and mugs: “To learn more not a bear 4 Cards. Date-Palm Warbler Woodland Wibble. 5 – a number. Woodland have a mask change bear – a deer got 4 . . .”
On it goes, addictively, in the style of a draft lyric by Bjork, but unfortunately nothing to do with Korean racing. Find that at korearacing.live, a non-official but fully thorough site.
It’s backed by prolific tweeting from Alastair Middleton in the name of Korea Racing (@korearacing) and Jo Kim (@krapresenter) under the banner of KRA International. They have been kranking up the excitement all week with tons of pictures, video clips and tweets.
Korea’s racing is well served: the KRA’s official effort is at race.kra.co.kr. Under its somewhat naff ‘LetsRun’ logo you can find the now mandatory marketing slogan: ‘Life & Love with KRA’. Why not? It’s a thought.
Racing in the big K has come some way since 2012 when one ‘imported’ trainer was quoted on the site thus: “This is a Korean horse. It doesn’t understand Western ways.”
Whatever happens, you have to give credit for its presentation as a truly international dust-up. Can this be said of Irish Champions Weekend?
Two years ago the site (irishchampionsweekend.ie) was enthusiastic but patchy.
Well, the ‘Events’ tab still says ‘About Event’, which remains abrupt. Like it’s been translated from Korean. But there are improvements: racecards that no longer look like weightsheets from Walthamstow in 1996 and attractive competitions, including one for Champion Hat (another strange term, making it sound like the hat might have actually climbed on to your head).
It doesn’t scream internationalism but then, as Alan Sweetman pointed out, it’s not that international yet. How about the others?
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (prixarcdetriomphe.com) Still impressive, if slightly austeritified. Translations have improved; punters no longer vibrate. However, the infographic, claiming one billion viewers (but not on Channel 4) for the big race, proclaims the race a “worldwilde [sic] event”. Internationalism: 4 (out of five).
Champions Day (britishchampionsseries.com) A juggernaut, presenting the entire series by category. Confidence, built up over the years, that no-one is paying attention, lets the designers stretch and shine. Champions Day itself claims the “best horses and jockeys from across the globe”.
Anything’s possible, but is it a truly worldwilde event? Great video showing Ryan Moore teach Michael Owen to ride a machine. Internationalism: 3.
Melbourne Cup Carnival (flemington.com.au) “Internationally renowned” but, despite the overseas challenge, a bit parochial. A sprawling site; focus on dressing up and having a right shindig. There’s an app to help you chat and walk around. Internationalism: 2, but it doesn’t matter.
Breeders’ Cup (breederscup.com) Do Longines sponsor everything now? You half expect to get home and see their logo projected on your front door with a 30-second countdown. Another mature site.
Winning feature is the contenders tab, with horse profiles race by race. The BC really understands how to build up. Internationalism: 3.5
Bit early for the Japan Cup and Hong Kong, isn’t it? We’ll come back to them when the jumps season gets going.