Seoul Racecourse Park
Seoul Racecourse Park is located next to Seoul Grand Park in the southern Seoul suburb of Gwacheon. To get there, take subway Line 4 to Seoul Racecourse Park station, leave by exit 1 or 2 and follow the crowd down the covered walkway to the track.
Gwacheon is Seoul Race Park’s third home. In the early part of the 20th century, races were held in Sinseol-dong near Dongdaemun. After the Korean War, a racetrack was constructed at Ttukseom on the north bank of the River Han, where “Seoul Forest” is currently located. Ttukseom was home to racing for 36 years, however, in 1988 the Olympic Games were held in Seoul and the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) was given the task of organising the Equestrian events. They purchased the site in Gwacheon and after the games, it was converted into a racetrack with the first race taking place in autumn 1989. The KRA’s website has a good section on the history of racing in Korea including a picture of the old Sinseol-dong race track and on the second floor of the Luckyville grandstand there is a small photo gallery showing the history of racing in Seoul.
The Track and Facilities
Races are held on an oval-shaped artificial sand-based track with a two furlong home straight. The track can accommodate around 80,000 people and has two main grandstands, the older “Happyville” near the winning line and the newer “Luckyville” which are joined together and cover the entire home straight. At one time, the track had a “Foreigner Lounge” but this was closed in 2010. There is, however, an information desk on the 1st floor of Luckyville for overseas visitors with services in English, Japanese and Chinese. They can also provide English language race-cards. Allocated seating is available in the Convention Hall on the 6th floor of Luckyville, however, day membership (at 10,000won) cannot be booked in advance and is operated on a first come first served basis and is usually taken up long before the first race – this area is usually used by those who come purely to bet and has the atmosphere of an off-track betting centre so is not recommended for a great raceday experience). Nevertheless, for the first-time visitor, a trip to the information desk should be the starting point of their day.
A new addition for 2013 is the “Beginners and Couples Zone” on the 1st floor of the Happyville Grandstand closest to the winning line. This provides an area with information desks and plenty of seating (although not with a track view) for newcomers to the track who wish to escape the somewhat frenetic atmosphere of the general areas.
A tunnel under the winning line leads to the centre of the track where there is a “family park” with facilities for kids – including a racehorse simulator. In the summer months, the park is a very popular picnic location and even in winter can offer scenic walking paths. There are betting areas in the infield as well as a “SandPresso” coffee shop and other refreshment stands.
Entrance to the track is 1,000 won by cash of T-Money card.
Food: There are a number of restaurants at the track. Here are a few of them:
Happy Zone Hansik Buffet – Happyville Grandstand, 2nd floor: Take a tray and walk down the line picking up whichever dish you like – most people pick up a plate of rice and two or three side dishes. Everything is there, bulgogi, baked fish, spicy pork, and every kind of kimchi imaginable. Expect to pay around 6,500 to 8,000 won for three side dishes with rice.
Food Myungga – Luckyville Grandstand, 2nd floor: Nice decor and accessible menu with pictures. Order at one counter and pick up when your number is flashed up on the screen. Serves Korean food. Recommended is the “Dolsot Bibimbap”, the “Yuk-gae-jang” and the “Myungga-Chongsik” which is a bowl of beef soup with a selection of side dishes. Prices are from 3,000 to 7,000. There are further Korean restaurants on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors of Luckyville.
Chinese Restaurants – Happyville Grandstand 2nd floor & Luckyville Grandstand, 3rd floor: Two Chinese restaurants serving Koreanised Chinese food. The “Ja-jang-myon” and and the “Zampon” are both acceptable. 5,000-6,000won and the Tang-su-yuk (sweet and sour pork) in Happyville at 7,000 won is very good.
Antennae Shop – Track Entrance: So named because of the satellite dish sending the pari-mutuel signal around the peninsula on the roof, part of this is a butcher’s shop but the rest is three stands – one selling Goobnae Grilled Chicken, another selling fried chicken and the third selling duck. The “duck dosirak” is particularly recommended at 7,000won. This place tends to get overlooked in the winter as you only pass it on your way in and way out. It’s an excellent choice for picking up something to eat outside in nice weather.
SandPresso – Infield Family Park: Sandwich store and coffee shop. Has good ice-cream in summer and is one of only only two places at the track to get a decent cup of coffee (leaving aside the ubiquitous 200won vending machines – it is coffee, but not instantly recognisable as such).
The other place where you can get a good cup of coffee is Marronnier Coffee which is located on the 2nd floor balcony in the entrance of the Happyville Chinese restaurant overlooking the paddock. From Spring to Autumn, they also operate a stand on the sun terrace accessible from the Food Myungga restaurant on the 2nd floor of Luckyville.
There are many other restaurants and snack bars dotted around the track and the convenience store chains FamilyMart and GS25 both have numerous outlets throughout the course.
Alcohol is not on sale (except in the Convention Hall area) and is not allowed to be brought onto the course. The buildings are all non-smoking although there is a lot of smoking done outside! Outside, the second and third floor Grandstand are non-smoking as is the paddock and by the rail. In April 2012, the entire track is scheduled to go non-smoking.
There are usually 11-12 races every Saturday and Sunday plus the opportunity to bet on at least two races from Jeju or Busan – in 2011 two races from Jeju are simulcasted on Saturdays and four or five from Busan on Sundays. Race distances vary between five furlongs (1000 metres) and eleven and a half furlongs (2300 metres). Highlights of the season include the Korean Derby in May, the Minister of Agriculture Cup in October, President’s Cup in November and the Grand Prix Stakes in December. See this page for a list of the top horses currently running at Seoul.
The English language form sheet available from the fourth floor information desk is detailed enough to give a general idea of which is the best horse in the race, however, for those looking for more detailed guides plus “expert” predicitions, it is a good idea to buy one of the many form guides that are available both inside and outside the track. Although all in Korean, it is easy to work out which horses they predict and the layout of the card is exactly the same as that used in just about every country. There are two types of guide available. First are ones with names such as “Ace”, “Speed” and “New World” which cost 1000 won and have the day’s card with predictions for each race. Second are the more detailed ones of which “Seoul Gyongma” and “Gyongma Munhwa” are the most popular, costing 4000 won and with a lot more background information for serious punters. As you come out of the subway station you will be greeted by a cacophony of sellers advetising their guides. If you buy from one of them, you are usually given a “signpen” to bet with. See this page for more information about how to bet.