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 short section on the history of Korean racing.
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) is operated on a first come first served basis and on Sundays especially, 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. There are also reseved seating areas on the 5th floor and a “Premium” area called the “Pegasus Lounge” on the 6th floor (day membership 35,000won). Again, on Sundays these are usually full very early but ask at the information desk for more information,
Entrance to the track is 2,000 won by “T-Money” card or “CashBEE” transportation card only. One time entrance cards can be purchased from ticket machines at the entrance and friendly staff are on hand to assist if needed. Credit cards can’t be used for entrance or for betting although they can be used in the restaurants .
A new addition 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 really 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.
Food: There are many many restaurants at the track. They do tend to get quite busy on Sundays during breaks in the Seoul races when the screens are showing Busan so if you want to relax and take your time, it’s a good idea to pick a Seoul race to miss. On Saturdays they are generally quite quiet. Here are a few of them:
Delacourt Cafeteria – Hansik Buffet- Happyville Grandstand, 2nd floor: One of two locations on the track branded “Delacourt” 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 7,000 to 9,000 won for two side dishes with rice. (As of February 2015, this one is closed for remodelling).
Delacourt Cafeteria, 1st Floor Luckyville: The 2nd “Delacourt Cafeteria”, this has more of a food court feel with three outlets sharing one seating area. One serves Korean style Chinese food “Jjamppong” being the most popular, another serving pork cutlets and another doing standard Korean food. Order from the pictures on the way in, and then wait for your number oto appear on the screens.
Chinese Restaurants – Happyville Grandstand 2nd floor & Luckyville Grandstand, 3rd floor: Two more Chinese restaurants serving Koreanised Chinese food. The “Ja-jang-myon” and and the “Zampon” are both acceptable. 6,000-8,000won and the Tang-su-yuk (sweet and sour pork) in Happyville at 8,000 won is very good.
New York Hotdogs: Exactly what it sounds like, this hotdog stand is located next to the Beginner and Couple Zone on the 1st floor of Happyville.
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 300won vending machines – it is coffee and rather addictive too – 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 “Toran Toran” Korean restaurant on the 2nd floor of Luckyville.
Snapsnack – 1st floor Happyville: A new addition in summer 2014, this is the only place outside of the convention hall and Owners’ Lounges where you can get a beer. Also serves Pasta and simple Korean style bar food.
There are many other restaurants and snack bars dotted around the track and the convenience store chains 7/11 and GS25 both have numerous outlets throughout the course.
Alcohol (beer only) is only on sale in the Snapsnack Restaurant and is not allowed to be brought onto the course. The buildings are all non-smoking. Outside, is also non-smoking except for some small areas.
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 2014 three to four races from Jeju are simulcasted on Saturdays and six 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.