Seoul Horseracing, Sunday 12th December 2010

With Christmas approaching I decided it was about time for another visit to the horseracing at Seoul Racetrack. It had been about seven months since I’d last attended a meeting there and in the absence of any football I thought it would give me something to do. I wasn’t in any kind of rush to arrive as the racing goes on for about seven hours and my boredom threshold is more in tune with the English system of horseracing where you get six or seven races spread over about three and a half hours rather than a dozen or so taking up twice the time.

With that in mind I got there just after half past twelve, with the first three races on the card having already been completed. It was free to get in again and although a lot of people were still arriving there seemed to be quite a sizeable crowd already inside.

View towards the Grandstand

I’ve already explained how it all works at Seoul races in earlier posts, so I’ll just tell you the stuff that was different on this occasion. I’ll start with the temperature. It was bloody freezing, well below zero. I watched each of the races from outside, but I popped back into the Grandstand to warm up as soon as the horses passed the winning post.

Main Grandstand

Something I did notice during this visit that I hadn’t spotted before was a classroom where a couple of women explain how betting works to any racegoers who weren’t sure of the best way to get rid of their wages. I was surprised by how full the room was for the fifteen minute sessions as everyone at the track looked as if they had been calculating the return on an each-way treble since they were at primary school. It was cold outside though, so I could only assume that a few of them were in there purely because they fancied a sit-down in the warm.

"Back the horse that's just had a dump."

There was also what appeared to be a bit of a protest, although I’m not sure what it was against. A handful of young people were carrying banners and wearing horses heads. Maybe handful is the wrong term. Would the wearing of the horses heads make them a herd? Anyway, they were protesting about something, waving their banners in the parade ring and by the trackside railings. They did it all very politely though.

It was all a little bit odd.

I got to watch a couple of races under floodlights too. It gets dark at about five-ish this time of year and although I hadn’t planned to stay until the end, the prospect of the floodlights kept me there a bit longer than I would have stayed if it had been light. I did ok with the betting too, with five wins from the eight races that I watched live and the three from Busan that were shown on the big screen.

Night racing.

As I made my way out I passed the blokes who were picking up discarded betting tickets from the floor in the hope that they might just mitigate their losses. There is that much hawking up of phlegm in Korea, particularly somewhere like the races, that the throat clearing and spitting becomes a constant background noise. I don’t think I’d want to pick up a discarded ticket from the floor even if I could see at a glance that it was a winner. Further on at the subway, there was some sort of find the lady game taking place on a mat spread onto the floor. I watched it for a bit before catching my train and saw plenty of people stopping and making a pretty good effort to get rid of their remaining cash.

So, that was the races, but as this is quite a short write-up I’m going to tell you what I had for my tea a couple of days later. They have a dish over here called Sannakji and I’d been keen to try it for a while. It is sometimes described as live octopus but I think that’s pushing it a bit, although I’ve no medical training and wouldn’t really know what the form is for determining the exact time of death in cephalopods.

Anyway, what happens is, you go to a restaurant that serves Sannakji and immediately before your plate is set on the table an octopus is taken from the tank and cut up with a pair of scissors. When the plate arrives moments later the sections of leg, and lets be honest, an octopus is pretty much all leg, are still wriggling. They kept on wriggling when we ate them for the full three-quarters of an hour that it took us to clear the plate.

I didn’t take any photos but there are plenty on the internet, like the one below, although I suppose video would have been the best way to record the wriggling.

We got a bit more salad with our Sannakji.

It was a bit weird to be honest, as if the bits of leg knew what they were doing. Occasionally one of them would make a run for the edge of the plate, whilst others were quietly trying to sneak under the salad. When I put them in my mouth the suction cups would latch on to my tongue, the roof of my mouth or even the backs of my teeth. We were warned to chew them thoroughly to prevent them blocking an airway or organising a rave in your large intestine.

It was certainly an unusual sensation when they were wriggling inside my mouth. I don’t think I ever ate earthworms as a kid, but I imagine it would be quite similar. Worms would probably be a bit grittier though and you wouldn’t have the fun of the suction cups.  Anyway, if you like your seafood raw and you were partial to the odd packet of Space Dust as a kid, then I’d recommend having Sannakji for your tea.

2 Responses to “Seoul Horseracing, Sunday 12th December 2010”

  1. Cogstar Says:

    For one minute I thought it said seahorse racing, now that would be worth writing about.

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