Busan Horseracing, Sunday 3rd February 2013, 12.50pm

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After completing my visits to all of the top-flight basketball venues the previous day, it was time to tick off my third and final Korean racecourse. I’d been to Seoul races a few times and also had a great afternoon at Jeju a couple of years ago watching grown men ride tiny horses that would have looked more at home giving kids a ride at the seaside. That just left Busan.

After the basketball I met up with my mate Alan for a curry and a few beers in the area around Sasang Bus Station. It was a lot busier than I’d anticipated and there seemed to be far more options for eating and drinking than the Texas Street area next to the KTX station where I usually find myself.

I stayed in a motel across the road from the bus station. There were lots of them and I picked the V Motel, one street back from the main road. As Jen wasn’t with me I was looking forward to being able to turn the room temperature to something colder than the sauna setting that we usually have. Unfortunately the combination of all-day drinking and my lack of technical skills meant that it remained a constant twenty nine degrees Centigrade all night. If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d somehow managed to activate some flashing disco lights in the bathroom that I couldn’t turn off. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep that I’ve ever had.

The V Motel, Busan. Nice and warm.

The V Motel, Busan. Nice and warm.

The racecourse in Busan is over to the west of the city. I could probably have taken a taxi but I’d forgotten how to say it in Korean. There isn’t a subway at the track so it was a case of taking a bus from Jurye subway station on Line 2.

There's the racecourse, over to the left.

There’s the racecourse, over to the left.

There are a few free shuttle buses ferrying people to and from the races. The one I got left from Exit 8 of Jurye Station. I was quite fortunate really as I’d only been there for a couple of minutes when it arrived. I’m not sure how frequently they run although I think they are on a constant loop so perhaps it just depends upon the traffic. It was mainly old people on the bus, the odd one or two with what I presumed was a grandchild in tow. Once settled into their seats most of them got straight on with studying the form and working out their bets.

Shuttle bus to Busan Races.

Shuttle bus to Busan Races.

It was only a fifteen minute drive to the track and then a thousand won to get in once there. It was quite similar to Seoul with a main stand that was more like an airport terminal building and then a variety of family activities towards the middle of the track.

There were six races on the card, interspersed with that day’s racing from Seoul being shown on big screens. In reality there wasn’t a lot of difference between watching the Seoul and Busan racing until the horses got into the final hundred metres or so, prior to that everyone watched the big screen anyway.

Mind you, it did strike me as a slightly strange that I’d travelled three hundred miles to watch a race on a big screen that I could have watched live twenty minutes away from my flat in Seoul.

"C'mon Dobbin"

“C’mon Dobbin”

I suppose for the Busan races you do get the opportunity to observe the horses in the flesh as they make their way around the parade ring. In the first race of the day I thought I’d make my selection based on how well they clip-clopped around before the start. It’s what all the pro-gamblers do I’m told.

Four legs good.

Four legs good.

Having picked the likely winner I went to put my bet on. They don’t have proper bookies here, just the tote, and having chosen your horse you fill in a lottery style slip to indicate which racecourse, race, your selection, win or a place and your stake. I got everything right apart from the stake and after handing over the slip and ten thousand won I was given my betting ticket and nine thousand won change.

So, instead of the modest six quid I’d planned to risk, I’d actually bet sixty pence. Even worse when I checked the odds the horse was trading at 1.3. If it were to win then I’d make three hundred won profit. That’s about twenty pence.

I went outside to watch the race in the fresh air, or not so fresh air actually as everyone seemed to be smoking, and of course it won. When I collected my winnings the woman behind the counter seemed very pleased for me. Unfortunately I don’t know the Korean for “Don’t spend it all at once” but I’d like to think that was the gist of her comment.

The seats outside.

The seats outside.

A couple of races later I took the opportunity to nip under the home straight and see what was going on in the middle of the track. There’s a kiddies play area and further along a park with seating for picnics, a lake and the odd bit of artwork to distract you from the horses. Whilst there were plenty of families in the first area I was the only person wandering around the inner track further away. If you like to avoid the crowds and aren’t too bothered about seeing one of the big screens then that would be a quiet place to watch the races unfold.

The view over the lake towards the grandstand.

The view over the lake towards the grandstand.

I’m not sure how many people were at the track but it had to be a good few thousand. All the levels of the main grandstand were packed and there were plenty of people outside despite the cold. I’m surprised that more cities don’t have a racetrack. Every small town seems to feel the need to have a football/athletics stadium, sometimes more than one, despite not necessarily having an actual football team. Perhaps there aren’t enough horses to support more courses as I’m sure that there would be enough punters.

More studying of form.

More studying of form.

My initial success was the only one that I had all day and every subsequent bet I made went down. Perhaps I need a better selection technique than peering over people’s shoulders at racing papers in a language that I can’t understand.

I think mine was the one at the back.

I think mine was the one at the back.

I called it a day straight after the penultimate race just in case there were long queues for the shuttle buses. There weren’t though and I just hopped onto the first one I saw regardless of its destination. My gamble that it would stop at a subway station paid off, although it did take about an hour from wherever it stopped for me to reach Busan KTX Station. Despite my losses it was a good day, trips to the races invariably are.

One Response to “Busan Horseracing, Sunday 3rd February 2013, 12.50pm”

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