Weekend Race Times

After a weekend off for the Lunar New Year holiday, racing returns to Korea with cards at all three tracks.

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It’s been a mild but overcast week in Seoul

No big races but plenty of big fields and plenty to keep us occupied and there is, of course, no more romantic place to spend Valentine’s Day than at the track. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Click here for English racecards

Friday February 12
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday February 13
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday February 14
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 13:00 to 17:00

Korean Rating System Gets Major Overhaul

Korea’s rating system, introduced last year, has received its first annual check-up. And after a review which began last September, a major overhaul has been administered with completely new rating bands to take effect from February.

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More finishes like this, please! Actually, this was the Weight for Age Grand Prix last year (Pic: KRA)

 

The new bands are narrower – and lower. All horses currently racing have had their ratings adjusted accordingly. Every horse currently at class 1 has been dropped 20 points, while those in class 2 to 5 have been adjusted on a proportional scale. As before, class 6 will be for new and unrated domestic bred horses. The before and after looks like this:

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Another development is that allocated weights in handicap races at Class 5 and above will include a reduction in weight for 2 year-olds and 3 year-olds as follows:

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Additionally, fillies and mares in handicap races will receive a reduction in weight of 2kg.

All Korean-bred horses will start at class 6 and first time winners will generally be allocated a rating of 27 and placed in class 5. Horses who register more than one placed finish at class 6 and show form may also be eligible to be rated and move up to class 5.

As before, imported horses will start at class 4. They will receive an initial rating of 42.

This looks a promising development, especially if it enables horses to go down as well as up – the rarity of this being the main issue with the original system – and the figures seem more in line with most international systems but the proof, as ever, will be out on the track.

There are over 100 horses at class 1 at Seoul, with around 60 at the same level at Busan. Beolmaui Kkum is the top rated horse in Korea following his win last Sunday but his rating now is 115, compared to his previous 135. Here is the full list of class 1 horses at Seoul and at Busan.

One interesting angle to watch over the next couple of months could be any in-form fillies or mares; they’ll now get an allowance in handicaps and keeping a keen eye on them may be a prudent course of action for punters.

66/1 Global Fusion Stuns In Segye Ilbo Cup

The 2016 Principal Race program got underway at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon and the majority of punters were left frustrated as 66/1 chance Global Fusion emerged the winner of the six furlong Segye Ilbo Cup.

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Global Fusion in the Segye Ilbo Cup winner’s circle

On a bright but chilly afternoon in the Korean capital, Seonbong was sent off as a warm favourite but while he wasn’t too far off the early pace, which as expected was set by Kim Dong Soo on Always Winner, he would fail to be involved at the business end of the race.

Always Winner would battle on well but while the well-backed Power City would come with a late run, quicker than them all would be Global Fusion. A 7-year-old gelding, Global Fusion hadn’t visited the winner’s circle since the New Year’s Commemorative race all the way back in 2013.

Under Yoo Seung Wan, Global Fusion broke from gate 7 and settled towards the rear of the 12-strong field. Still in eighth place entering the home straight. His finish though was too strong as he passed first Magic Dancer and finally Always Winner close to the line.

It was a seventh win in total for Global Fusion and for jockey Yoo Seung Wan, his 2nd Segye Ilbo Cup, having partnered Indian Blue to victory three years ago (when the race was  for fillies).

Segye Ilbo Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – Jan 31, 2016

1. Global Fusion (KOR) [Menifee – Morning Red Sky] – Yoo Seung Wan – 67.6, 8.9
2. Always Winner (KOR) [Creek Cat – Halla’Teukgeup] – Kim Dong Soo – 6.6
3. Power City (KOR) [Archer City Slew – Power Bull] – Park Tae Jong – 1.6
Distances: Neck/3 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Magic Dancer 5. Forty Cure 6. Seonbong 7. Geomtan 8. Long Speed 9. Royal Star 10. Lion Star 11. Yaho Sky Cat 12. Portray

At Busan on Sunday afternoon, Beolmaui Kkum, for some time ranked as the number one horse in Korea, returned to the track for the first time in over six months in winning fashion. The six-year-old beat Gamdonguibada and Cowboy Son in a high class 1400M race in track-record-equaling time.

Segye Ilbo Cup: Runner-by-Runner Preview

The deep freeze has lifted -at least temporarily – and big race action returns to Seoul on Sunday with the first principal race of the season in the shape of the Segye Ilbo Cup.

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Seoul hosts the first big race of the season on Sunday

Twelve will line-up for the 1200M Listed racewith the likes of Seonbong, Power City and Yaho Sky Cat expected to head the betting market. The Cup is race 8 of a 10-race card at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday. There is also a live card at Busan.

English language racecard here.

Full rundown of the runners and riders below:

Segye Ilbo Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – Jan 31, 16:00

1. Power City [Archer City Slew-Power Bull] 5 G (16/9/2/1) – Park Tae Jong
He won three in a row last summer, including the Ilgan Sports Cup. He was then off until the start of this month when he ran 6th behind Seonbong and Geomtan, a run which he should have come on for. He didn’t get forward that day although he finished well enough and should be more prominant here. One of the favourites.

2. Forty Cure [Field Asuka – Sunrise] 5 G (20/5/3/2) – Yuri Takahashi
An outsider, he was relocated from Busan last summer and has a best of 2nd in five starts in Seoul. 9th in the race behind Seonbong on January 3rd, he will need to find plenty here.

3. Always Winner [Creek Cat – Hallat’eukkeup] 4 G (14/4/3/2) – Kim Dong Soo
Well beaten by Seonbong over 1000M in Octboer, he followed up with a 3rd and a 2nd at class 2 both over 1700M. Likely to go forward early but others will be favoured here.

4. Royal Star [Eternal Champion – Royal Champion] 4 F (12/6/2/0) – Nicola Pinna
Nicola Pinna has proven to be a big-race jockey since arriving here and he has an outside chance. Royal Star was a class 2 winner at 1000M in December and while she will need to improve in this company, she can go well.

5. Seonbong [Duality – Megabuck Gal] 4 C (16/6/6) – Lee Joon Chel
Strong claims to be favourite, he won class 2 races at 1000M and 1800M and comes in following back to back 2nd places at class 1. He beat four of his rivals here last time out and can beat them again.

6. Yaho Sky Cat [Peace Rules – The Relentless Cat] 4 G (7/4/1/0) – Djordje Perovic
One on the up, he comes in following three consecutive victories, all of them at 1400M and all of them comfortable. He is yet to race at higher than class 3 so this is a big step-up in terms of opposition but there’s no reason to suggest he will be out of his depth and he will be backed.

7. Global Fusion [Menifee – Morning Red Sky] 7 G (35/6/3/6) – Yoo Seung Wan
An outsider, it’s been a long time since the most recent of his six career wins. Lots of class 1 experience but nothing in his recent form to suggest he can make an impression on this.

8. Geomtan [Ft. Stockton – Alchan Useung] 6 G (33/6/4/8) – Lee Hyeon Jong
He was 3rd behind Seonbong but ahead of Power City last time on what was his first attempt at class 1. Prior to thathe was a solid class 2 winner over 1400M. He’s finished strongly on both his last starts and can be looking to find the money here.

9. Lion Star [Exploit – Oakmart] 4 C (13/4/4/1) – Jo Sung Gon
He has the fastest time of any of these at this distance, achieved when romping home on his most recent start at the end of November. He didn’t have much to beat that day and this is a big step up but he will look to get to the front straight from the gate and could be an interesting outsider.

10. Portray [Ft. Stockton – Miss Impromptu] 5 M (19/3/5/3) – Shin Hyoung Chul
She ran 2nd to the promising OS Hwadap over 1000M in November and generally isn’t too far away. Others should be quicker here though.

11. Long Speed [Commendable – Speed Bag] 6 H (30/5/5/3) – Lee Hyeok
A stablemate of Forty Cure, he was last among the five of these who raced each other on January 3rd. He may once again find this field a little challenging.

12. Magic Dancer [Forest Camp – Wildly Magic] 6 H (24/10/4/2) – Ham Wan Sik
The venerable Magic Dancer isn’t quite the horse he once was and has struggled to make an impact since relocating from Busan. The drop back too this distance though could be very interesting. He likes to lead and flew through a barrier trial on New Year’s Eve before being 5th a week later over 1800M. He can’t be ruled out.

The Seoul track is extremely dry at the moment and will be so tomorrow as well. Temperatures are set to be on the chilly side with highs around 0C. Which is still a vast improvement on last week.

At Busan, the feature race is a class 1 event over 1400M and features a number of big names. Gamdonguibada, Beolmaui Kkum and Cowboy Son are among thirteen runners.

Round-up: Yoo Mira Goes Down Under, Doraon Hyeonpyo, Clean Up Cheonha, Perovic, Success Story, ARC

Plenty happening on and off the track over the past week. Doraon Hyeonpyo and Clean Up Cheonha were both impressive winners last Sunday, there has been plenty of follow-up to Success Story’s decent 3rd place in Dubai last week and Korea has been well-represented at the ongoing Asian Racing Conference in Mumbai.

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Yoo Mira was 2nd in the Arabian race at Caulfield on Tuesday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

We’ll start though in Australia and rather unusually in the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship race at Caulfield on Tuesday. We don’t mention You Mi Ra very often on these pages but the jockey (riding as “Mina You”) managed to finish 2nd in the race, which as won by Dutch jockey Cindy Klinkenberg. Thanks to Ross Holburt for the heads-up and the picture.

On the track in Korea last weekend, stand-out performances came from Doraon Hyeonpyo and Clean Up Cheonha, who won class 1 events at Seoul and Busan respectively. Doraon Hyeonpyo (Colors Flying) had won at class 1 for the first time at the end of December but despite carrying significantly more weight this time, was once more a dismissively comfortable winner in the Sunday’s Busan feature. It wasn’t a strong race but the manner of his victory suggests there is plenty more to come.

Clean Up Cheonha (El Corredor)at age 5, also seems to be on the up. The US import was 2nd in the KRA Cup Classic last August and 5th in the Grand Prix Stakes in December. On Sunday, carrying 60kg over 2000M, he beat his Cup Classic conqueror Chief Red Can and eight others by two lengths to record his eighth career victory.

It was a bitterly cold weekend across the peninsula with conditions at Seoul especially being extreme as temperatures dipped to -14C on Sunday morning. Jockeys have a tough job at the best of times but their fortitude on Sunday was impressive to say the least.

Speaking of jockeys, Djordje Perovic reached another landmark in his impressive sojourn in Korea. The Serbian rider guided home his 50th Seoul winner on Sunday, taking the very last race of the weekend on City Hunter for trainer Lee Shin Young. The victory moved Perovic into the top ten all-time foreign jockey list here.

Success Story’s solid 3rd place at Meydan last Thursday has finally reached the Korean mainstream media. While the racing press (and the popular tabloids) covered it at the weekend, the national broadcaster KBS put it on their national news bulletin on Monday. Video here. Success Story is likely to race again in Dubai in the second week of February although things are a little less certain for Cheongu, the other Korean horse at the carnival.

Finally, Korea is being widely represented at the Asian Racing Conference in Mumbai this week. The KRA’s Seungho Ryu (who seems to get just about everywhere these days) delivered a talk on quarantine protocols while Chief Marketing Officer Ben Heo spoke about addressing racing’s not inconsiderable image problem in Korea. Racing Director Yangtae Park probably generated the most interest though, using his presentation to formally announce the $1M Korea Cup which will be run at Seoul Racecourse in September and according to Andrew Hawkins at the South China Morning Post, is already attracting interest.

Racing returns to Korea this weekend with the first big race of the season, the Segye Ilbo Cup, at Seoul on Sunday.

Success Story Runs Brave 3rd At Meydan

There were no hard-luck stories this time. Success Story led from the gate and while passed in the closing stages, battled on for a gutsy 3rd place at the Dubai Carnival meeting at Meydan on Thursday night.

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Success Story (white silks on the rail) gpes to the early lead under Tadgh O’Shea in this dodgy screen-grab of Dubai Racing TV

In what always looked a very open race, Success Story, who was sent off at 10/1 in the UK betting markets, got away to a good start and under a tremendous ride by Tadhg O’Shea, was able to set a pace to his liking.

Success Story would lead the field of fourteen into the home straight and to the furlong pole only to see 9/2 chance Top Clearance and 11/2 American Hope close strongly down his outside to best him in the closing stages.

Under the urgings of O’Shea, the five-year-old would not be beaten out of the places though and held on for a very very good 3rd. He was two and a quarter lengths behind the winner on the line and a length ahead of fourth-placed Mind That Boy.

If there was a feeling of “what-if?” after Cheongu had some bad luck at the start and then lost a shoe in running when recording a creditable enough 5th of 8 on his own Dubai debut two weeks ago, this time there can be no such thoughts.

While only 3rd in what wasn’t the strongest race there’ll ever be, the result is no doubt a special moment for those who took him there. It also vindicates the decision of the Dubai authorities who took a chance on allowing the two relatively unknown Korean horses to travel.

Watts Village won in Japan in 2013 on a night that won’t be forgotten by those who saw it. However, with all due respect, that was an invitational race on a Tuesday night at Ohi. This was Thursday at Meydan, in a race open to horses from all over the world. Furthermore, Success Story (Peace Rules) is Korean-bred as well as trained. The result should serve as an incentive for Korean racing – from the breeding shed to the racetrack – to redouble its efforts to improve. Not many owners in Korea can share a top three placing with Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum and Godolphin but Lee Jong Hun just did, surely others will want to as well.

Plans for both Cheongu and Success Story are unconfirmed. Cheongu was originally set to be entered again next week but that may not happen. If Success Story comes out of the race in good condition and a suitable race can be found, he will get another chance.

All we could really have asked for before they went is for them to look like they belonged there. Success Story did that and more tonight.

Success Story Faces Fourteen In Dubai

Success Story is set to face fourteen rivals when he makes his Dubai World Cup Carnival debut at Meydan this Thursday evening.

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The five-year-old will run in race 6 on the card, the “District One Mansions” 1600M Handicap on the dirt at 9.55pm local time (2.55am Friday in Seoul). Success Story will break from gate 4 and will be ridden by Irish jockey Tadhg O’Shea.

The race looks a very competitive event with some up and comers as well as some very experienced winners among the fifteen-strong field. Carrying 57kg, Success Story finds himself right in the middle of the handicap and faces a stern test. Click here for the racecard from the Emirates Racing Authority.

Success Story has been inconsistent in winning 10 of 18 starts to date. His jockey got a sore neck on his most recent start though:

Success Story gets a mention in Katherine Ford of Equidia’s piece on Korean racing at Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. Read it here.

In other news on what has been a bitingly cold few days in Korea – the cold snap is expected to last through the weekend with temperatures down at lows of -15C which should make racing fun for all concerned – the 2016 race plan, which will take effect from February, has been published.

As expected, the rating system will be adjusted (a work that has been in progress since last September) while two new race series; a Juvenile Triple Crown and the intriguingly named “Triple Tiara” are also included as well as final details for the International Weekend which this year will take place on September 10/11 with a new Million Dollar Korea Cup the highlight. More on all this over the Lunar New Year break.