(By Avalyn Hunter)
Korea--an international power in Thoroughbred racing and breeding? Well, it hasn't happened yet, but the country's young breeding program has taken its first step toward internationally competitive by producing its first U. S. winner. The historic event took place September 6, when Korean-bred Feel So Good triumphed by seven lengths in the third race at Calder. The race itself was only a maiden claiming event, but it was nonetheless a milestone and one that the Korean Racing Association hopes signals better things to come.
Horse racing in Korea actually dates back to the early 1920s, but in recent years, Korean horsemen have been busily acquiring American stallions, among them grade I winners Vicar, Yankee Victor, Commendable, Volponi, The Groom Is Red, Menifee, Pico Central, Whywhywhy, Officer, Ecton Park, and Peace Rules. While none of these horses were setting the world alight as stallions prior to export, that's still a pretty fair amount of racing talent that has boarded the plane to Seoul. Koreans also have been active buyers of both racing prospects and broodmares, making significant inroads at venues in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
In their acquisitions, Korea is following in the footsteps of Japan and Turkey, where breeders used imported horses with talent and pedigree to upgrade their own stock. Japanese-bred horses have won grade/group I events in North America, Europe, Australia, Dubai, and Hong Kong, and it looks to be only a matter of time before Turkish-bred horses not only can take on European invaders in the annual racing festival at Istanbul, but will be able to take their form abroad.
A son of the grade III-winning (and grade II King's Bishop Stakes-placed) Cure the Blues horse Ft. Stockton out of U.S. stakes-placed Courting Dreams, by Eastover Court (a Seattle Slew half brother to the good Maryland sire Two Punch), Feels So Good is now headed back to Korea, where he will be sold for further racing in his native land. He isn't likely to be mistaken for a great horse any time soon, but he has provided encouragement to an entire nation's horsemen, and that in itself is no small achievement. And if he encourages Koreans to continue buying American bloodstock, he will have benefited the American Thoroughbred industry as well--not a bad legacy for an "ordinary" maiden winner.