Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (September 23)

It’s an overcast but dry Saturday morning in Seoul. There are 12 races from 10L45 to 18:00:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

3rd on debut on August 12th, (2) PALDO DAERO returns to action here with a good draw and excellent chance of making the breakthrough. He should be on the early speed with (3) SHARP KAYLAN, a little less impressive but still competent enough on his own debut three weeks ago. Sharp Kaylan finished 6th that day, one place behind (1) SPECIAL DREAM and that one too looks likely to make progress here under Antonio Da Silva. (5) BEST MAID is a little more experienced and comes in following back to back 4th place finishes.

Selections (2) Paldo Daero (1) Special Dream (3) Sharp Kaylan (5) Best Maid
Next Best 12, 4
Fast Start 2, 9

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Twelve unraced two-year-olds go round for the first time here and impressive trial winner (6) CALLIOPE is set to start the favourite. The gelding looked good when making all in his heat and if he brings anything like that to the track, he’ll be hard to beat. The only others that really stood out in trials are (7) MUSA and (11) ALL OF ME, both of whom were quick. Moon Se Young’s presence aboard (9) CHEONGDAM QUEENS is also likely to be of interest to some punters.

Selections (6) Calliope (7) Musa (11) All Of Me (9) Cheongdam Queens
Next Best 1, 3, 12
Fast Start 6, 7, 9, 11

Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(10) SISPUMA WINNER has come up short when well backed before but if it’s ever going to be his day, it’s today. His 2nd place last start when beaten five lengths over 1700M means that any type of placing today will result in him being put up in class and he’s more likely than not, to bow out of the bottom level a winner. The others will need an uptick in form to beat him. (8) JIGONG JILJU was 3rd in a similarly average contest last time and can repeat while (3) CHAMPION GOLD hasn’t done much in his latest couple but showed good promise in his first two. (5) HAPPY HONEY and (7) BEAUTIFUL ASIA others who could improve.

Selections (10) Sispuma Winner (7) Beautiful Asia (3) Champion Gold (8) Jigong Jilju
Next Best 5, 4
Fast Start 3, 7, 9, 12

Race 4: Class 6 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Only four of these have raced at the distance before but handily for us, they all went in the same race on August 26th. (1) FIRST RUNNER came out the best of them that day, coming 3rd and there’s no reason why he can’t be the first runner home today, likely from on the early speed. (6) DONGSEO GADEUK was 5th that day, just under three lengths back and she could well prove to be the main danger here. The other two who went that day, (3) UJU BADA and (12) SOKBO ONGJU didn’t impress so we’ll look to the ones coming up in trip to find more challengers. (5) MORE RICH could help the champion jockey (more…)

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Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (September 22)

The weekend’s racing gets underway on Friday with 10 races at Busan from 11:30 to 18:00. Let’s take a look at them:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Bart Rice’s (8) THUNDER DOME has put in a couple of encouraging performances so far and was superior to a couple of these when running 3rd last start on September 1st. He is very much the one to beat here. One of those behind him last time was (3) HAEDONG YEOGEOL. That was a slightly disappointing showing from one who has shown ability and she can get closer today as indeed could the other one, (4) CHOEGOREULHYANGHAE. However, it may be that (7) B.K. MASTER, who has had an interrupted career so far but did ok on his return from a length absence a month ago, turns out to be the main threat.

Selections (8) Thunder Dome (7) B.K. Master (3) Haedong Yeogeol (4) Choegoreulhyanghae
Next Best 9, 12
Fast Start 4, 5, 12

Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Nice and competitive race here and the three main contenders actually raced each other last time on September 1st. (10) PINK BLUE came out on top that day, an improved 4th on what was just his second career start and we’ll side with him. He’s started slowly in both races so far so that is a slight concern but so long as he doesn’t leave too much to do, he can win this. (8) BEONKWAE JANGGUN was 6th that day but has already recorded 2nd (more…)

Sunday Seoul & Busan: Race-By-Race Preview (September 17)

It’s Sunday! It’s Soeul & Busan! The capital has 11 races from 10:45 to 18:00 while at Busan there are 6 from 12:40 to 17:05. Here are the previews:

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Three debut-makers but it’s the most experienced among the others, (8) FANTASTIC QUEEN, who gets the nod. She was 2nd over this distance on August 20th and should have too much. (3) CHOWON YEOJEONSA and (6) JEONSIN MUKYANG haven’t shown much yet but may be a little more progressed at this stage than the rest although (4) CONKER did show improvement last time. The debut-makers can’t really be backed first-up but at a push, you’d take (7) MACH SEUNGNI as being most likely to run well. 

Selections (8) Fantastic Queen (4) Conker (3) Chowon Yeojeonsa (6) Jeonsin Mukyang
Next Best 2, 7
Fast Start 3, 4, 8

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Tricky one here but (6) SIMON RICH perhaps has the edge. He wasn’t too far away when running 4th of eight over this distance two weeks ago and turns around quickly here. He should be on the early pace. (2) MAGGIEUI CHUEOG also improved last time albeit in weak company and can go well once more while (4) SHUMA and (1) C.K. QUEEN should also be in the hunt.

Selections (6) Simon Rich (2) Maggieui Chueog (4) Shuma (1) C.K. Queen
Next Best 5, 7
Fast Start 5, 6

Seoul Race 3: Class 5 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

Big field and any number of prospective winners. (3) YEOKJEONUI SUNGAN was beaten six-lengths by a good winner over this distance on August 20th and just about gets the nod here. She’ll need a good start though. (2) NAMWON QUEEN and (7) RAON MAKER are also likely to be away quickly and can go close while an intriguing entry is (12) BARIME CAMP. She got her maiden win at 1300M at the end of July and steps back in trip (more…)

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (September 16)

There are 12 Saturday races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00. It’s a beauiful sunny morning in the Korean capital so come racing! Here are the previews:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(1) CHEONGUN ILHO was a decent 5th on her first start back following six months out in August and she can get her maiden breakthrough here. (8) PYEONGCHON CROWN was a solid 4th on debut on July 30th and can build on that today while (3) WONDERFUL LUCKY and (5) ACE TROPHY both look to have scope for improvement.

Selections (1) Cheongun Ilho (8) Pyeongchon Crwon (3) Wonderful Lucky (5) Ace Trophy
Next Best 6
Fast Start 1, 5, 8

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Interesting contest here. (3) REBECCA and (10) MR. KING have both had a few near misses but remain maidens after plenty of starts. They should both be close but of the two, it’s Rebecca who looks to have the stronger claims of getting one in the win column today. They may, however, both find themselves beaten by (9) BROWN BOMBER. He showed promise on debut, finishing 6th of 12 at this distance four weeks ago and should have come for it. (6) FIRST QUEEN and (7) BIG AURORA are others in the frame.

Selections (9) Brown Bomber (3) Rebecca (10) Mr. King (6) First Queen
Next Best 7, 2
Fast Start 3, 5, 7

 Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

 (7) FIORE was just beaten a nose on what was her second career start over 1300M on August 19th. She’ll be strong favourite to score here in this all-juvenile race. Her main threat may come from a first-time starter. (4) THE JIJON was a smart trial winner in August and looks nicely in here first-up.  (3) WILD DRAGON also looked promising in trials and looks an interesting first-timer while (2) OPI WINTER has every chance of building on a reasonably encouraging debut in a valuable race at this distance on August 20th.

Selections (7) Fiore (2) Opi Winter (3) Wild Dragon (4) The Jijon
Next Best 1, 5
Fast Start 3, 4

Race 4: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million 

Stepped back to the minimum trip today, (8) BAEKSAN YEOWANG can get on the early speed and stay on to get her maiden win here over distinctly average opposition. (6) HIGH STAR was 2nd in an even weaker race than this last time and could get close while (more…)

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (September 15)

After last week’s excitement it’s back to more mundane matters this weekend. Racing gets underway at Busan on Friday with 10 races from 11:30 to 18:00. Here’s the race-by-race summary:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Tricky little opener and (9) BOLD RULES showed enough in her 3rd place on her debut to suggest that she won’t be sticking around at the bottom level for very long. She can get to the front from the outside gate here and can win. (6) STAR LINE was an improved 2nd on what was his third outing a month ago and can match that today while (1) QUEEN OF CAPTAIN and (5) SILVER LINE can also build on by no means poor debuts. 

Selections (9) Bold Rules (6) Star Line (1) Queen Of Captain (5) Silver Line
Next Best 3, 2
Fast Start 1, 5, 9 


Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 55 Million

Six of the eleven race for the first time here and it’s one of them, (1) CHRISTIANO who is the pick to score on debut. He was quick in trials and could well have too much today. Also impressive in trials was (5) DIVIDE WIND. He’s trained by Kim Young Kwan and is therefore sure to be well-backed first-up. Of the experienced ones, both (10) SMART DANCER and (11) ISLE CAT put in promising runs on their debuts and can build on them here.

Selections (1) Christiano (5) Divide Wind (11) Isle Cat (10) Smart Dancer
Next Best 6, 3
Fast Start 1, 4, 5, 7

 Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

 He’s not been too far off in his latest three and (1) HAENGUN STORY is very much the one to beat here. He should be on the early speed and can go all the way. (7) TONGHAP BULPAE and (3) JANGHAN JILJU ran 3rd and 4th when they raced together at this distance (more…)

Korea Cup & Sprint 2017 – The Review

The 2nd Korea Autumn Racing Carnival took place at Seoul Racecourse over the weekend. There’s no need to re-tell what happened here as pleasingly, the race has received plenty of international coverage, save to say that Yutaka Take guided Graceful Leap to victory in the Sprint while in the Cup, London Town downed last year’s winner Chrysolite to make it a Japanese one-two.

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London Town and Chrysolite dominated for Japan in the Korea Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

On the track, London Town was simply sensational. He came in having broken the 1700M track record at Sapporo less than a month ago and absolutely dominated the Cup, taking well over a second off the Seoul 1800M track record in the process. Last year’s winner Chrysolite had absolutely no answer. That said, the Japanese pair finished a full 17-lengths clear of Papa Shot in 3rd and demonstrated just how good JRA horses, even those not quite at the very top, really are.

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London Town in the Korea Cup Parade Ring (Pic: KRA)

Graceful Leap’s Sprint win was naturally less emphatic but it was still convincing. Korean Triple Crown winner Power Blade ran a huge race in 2nd place and while he was never likely to be as inconvenienced as some others by the wide draw, one can’t help but wonder whether he would have got much closer had he been able to begin from a more favourable gate. Doraonpogyeongseon ran on very nicely too proving himself a real racehorse. In the Cup for Korea, while Champ Line put in a good run, ultimately it was all about Triple Nine as it so often is. He and Power Blade have turned into such good ambassadors for Korean racing that how to replace them when their powers begin to wane is starting to be an issue. But of course, that’s part of what makes racing so fascinating.

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Graceful Leap and Yutaka Take cross the line in the Sprint (Pic: KRA)

The performances of the two American-trained horses was one of the Carnical’s highlights. In the Sprint, The Truth Or Else was drawn in gate 1 but jockey Dylan Davis was forced off the rail and went wide to find a run. He closed very strongly for 4th place and a tidy prize that fully vindicated the decision of his enterprising connections to bring him. Trainer Kenny McPeek was a boisterous presence throughout the week and led his charge in the parade ring himself prior to the race. Picking up an even tidier prize was Papa Shot, 3rd in the Cup despite having to recover from some interference four furlongs out.

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Take returns to scale (Pic: Ross Holburt)

McPeek estimated that The Truth Or Else would be ranked around 20th in terms of sprinters in the United States and one wonders what one ranked even higher could achieve especially as the nature of the Sprint makes it by no means a race that JRA horses will automatically dominate. As for Papa Shot, he’s a very solid horse but no superstar but looks the kind of horse you’d love to own. Bill Nader, representing the man who does own him, Barry K. Schwartz, made the point before the race that Papa Shot had run at all sorts of tracks in the US and almost always gave a good account of himself. Those tough and grinding types can find their reward on the Seoul sand and while at 1800M, it would take something special to beat a JRA horse or a Hong Kong galloper that gets on with the track, a really top American horse might just be able to do it.

One disappointing note was the performances of the Hong Kong horses. With the races being beamed live to a busy Sha Tin, it was a pity that neither Lucky Year nor Circuit Land made any impact in the Sprint and Cup respectively. Circuit Land perhaps had some excuses having been prominent early but was then forced to check with four furlongs to go as a result of a poorly judged manouevre by Lee Chan Ho on Dynamic Jilju. However, Papa Shot was also disadvantaged by that incident and overcame it and jockey Nash Rawiller admitted his mount never really looked to be in the hunt. Meanwhile, Lucky Year didn’t get the start he needed and once the sand started flying, his race was over.

However, Super Jockey won the Sprint last year and both Circuit Land and Lucky Year appeared to pull up fine so hopefully the races will still prove attractive to Hong Kong connections in 2018.

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Graceful Leap (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was tough too for the French contingent. City Money unfortunately was scratched from the Sprint after picking up an injury between the airport and the racecourse on his way in. Meanwhile Skiperia and Nimr found life difficult in the Cup although Nimr’s 6th was by no means a bad performance. The enthusiasm that all connected with the horses brought, as well as the always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the weekthe always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the week and hopefully more French challengers will return in future.

Promising young Singapore-based trainer James Peters brought across Wimbledon for the China Horse Club. After showing prominently early on under Daniel Moor, he faded in the closing stages but reportedly pulled up fine.

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One thing that is evident is that despite being in just its second year, the Carnival is already establishing itself as an event in its own right to the extent that what happens in the actual races becomes almost secondary. Everyone knows about the track surface by now – it is what it is – and the atmosphere surrounding the whole week was extremely positive.  The travelling international press corps was larger than last year and within Korea, cable network KBS N Sports broadcast highlights of the races in a 75 minute show at 10pm on the day of the race and then repeated it in primetime at 8:20pm on Monday night. There is a feelgood environment about the event that is perhaps only possible with a relatively young race, enthusiastic connections and still a sense of the huge potential that could be realised in future years. That Keeneland go out on a limb to sponsor the race right on the very eve of one of their biggest and most important sales of the year, perhaps demonstrates this.

On to attendance and turnover.  Attendance was actually down on last year but there is a good reason for that. In 2016, the Korean “Chuseok” Thanksgiving holiday – one of only two weekends of the year with no racing – immediately followed the Carnival. Attendance always shows a spike prior to dark weeks as there is no opportunity for a legal punt for the next 12 days. As it was 39,910 paid ($2 each) to come through the gates at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday compared with in excess of 44,000 last year.

Wagering turnover on the day was also down but interestingly, both Cup and Sprint showed slight increases. The Sprint handled 4.37 Billion Won in 2016 to 4.39 Billion Won this time while the Cup went from 4.8 Billion Won last year to 5.12 Billion Won in 2017 and followed the regular pattern of turnover getting bigger as the day progresses (for obvious reasons, turnover on the final race of the day is always the biggest). Local punters find it very hard to handicap international races due to the form being hard to assess but with more familiarity, it appears Korean racegoers are now prepared to have a go.

Internationally, both races were simulcasted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and by Sky Racing in Australia. The Singapore Turf Club took the Sprint as did Malaysia while the entire day was available for betting at the Macau Jockey Club. In the USA, Sky Racing World distributed every race to  ADW’s. TVG Network broadcast both Sprint and Cup. Overall international turnover slightly exceeded domestic turnover (Hong Kong obviously accounting for the vast majority). Dubai Racing TV also screened both big races live.

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Laboum in the winner’s circle (Pic: Ross Holburt)

This is Korea. There needs to be progress year on year. Local assessments will probably focus on the dominance of the Japanese runners and that one fewer country was represented than in its inaugural year (the USA joined but the UK and Dubai didn’t send any runners this time). However, that should be countered by the sheer quality of London Town’s performance and also by the positive showing by the US runners. There’s a year to go until the next Carnival. The Korea Cup & Sprint have not yet come of age, but they are very much on the right course.

Keeneland Korea Cup & Korea Sprint 2017: Full Preview & Race-By-Race Guide To Seoul & Busan (Sunday September 10)

Korea’s biggest day of racing of the year takes place at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday with the 2nd runnings of the Keeneland Korea Cup & Sprint. Ten overseas-trained runners are in the Korean Capital for the two races which have a combined purse of approaching $1.5Million. 10 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 11:55 to 17:00. Here is a full preview of the two big races and below a race-by-race guide to all 16 contests taking place in Korea on Sunday.

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Chrysolite won the Korea Cup in 2016 and seeks to defend his title today (Pic: Ross Holburt)

 

Seoul Race 7: The Korea Sprint (KOR G1) 1200M / KRW 700 Million

With the withdrawal of France-trained City Money, there are just four overseas contenders. If the trophy is to be Hong Kong bound once more then it’s up to LUCKY YEAR. The Danny Shum-trained 6-year-old arrives in Korea having rounded out last season at home with a very good win in the Sha Tin vase over this distance in May. It was the kind of run, getting very close to the early pace, that would be ideal here and he’s got the perfect draw, coming out of gate 4, to do it. It won’t be easy for him to get to the lead though. Nash Rawiller rides.

Japanese-trained horses haven’t tended to have the best of luck in Korean Sprint races but GRACEFUL LEAP, a solid dirt-track horse in the JRA and with Yutaka Take making his Korean debut in the saddle, must be respected. Likewise THE TRUTH OR ELSE, who becomes the first US-trained horse to run in Korea, can’t be completely ruled out coming out of gate 1. Kenny McPeek’s 5-year-old won the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park April and subsequently performed well at Churchill Downs in the early summer. While his closing style may not be in his favour here, he has adapted very well and it’s not impossible.

The final visitor is Singapore-trained WIMBLEDON, who represents the China Horse Club, and he won’t be without backers. He’s a consistent type with the only question mark being how he takes to the sand track – though usually a turf horse, he did run well on the Kranji polytrack over this distance earlier this year.

The leading Korea-trained contenders, POWER BLADE and PERDIDO POMEROY drew the two widest gates but that may not actually be the calamity it first seems. Power Blade wasn’t likely to lead anyway while Perdido Pomeroy, who led this race last year, is so quick out of the gate that he will probably still get to the front along with BEOLMAUI KKUM. Last year’s Triple Crown winner and place-getter at the Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting, Power Blade was 4th in the Korea Cup last year and drops back to this distance for the first time in a long time but he enters in top shape and looks to have every chance. He can defy the track and win from behind.

PERDIDO POMEROY himself is in much better form than when he was 5th behind DORAONPOGYEONGSEON in the SBS Sports Sprint here at the same distance in June. DORAONPOGYEONGSEON got up late to win that race in a three-way photo finish and is nicely drawn in gate 2. SILVER WOLF probably wants further but there’s no denying she’s in great form while GASOKBULPAE could be the wildcard. He briefly held the track record for this distance last month and if he gets the lead, anything can happen.

As for the rest, TOHAMSAN is in good form but this is stiff for him while the trio of DROP THE BEAT, HAEYA and OPEN THE SKY all remain relatively unexposed. Drop the Beat especially turned in two eye-catching performances recently and could make for an interesting outside prospect. ZENTENARY on the other hand, is overmatched.

Selections (14) Power Blade (4) Lucky Year (7) Graceful Leap (15) Perdido Pomeroy
Next Best 10, 13, 6, 2, 1
Fast Start 3, 5, 9, 11, 15

 

Seoul Race 8: The Korea Cup (KOR G1) 1800M / KRW 1 Billion

Twelve months ago CHRYSOLITE absolutely romped home to win the first ever running of the Korea Cup by as many lengths as his jockey chose. He returns here as likely favourite to retain his crown.

Chrysolite has been lightly raced since then but comes in here with a win and two 2nd places from his three 2017 outings and he is the one to beat. There is a chance though, that he won’t get it all his own way. The race set up beautifully for him last time with a good draw and an early leader going too fast. The draw is not quite as ideal this time and the others will be very aware of him but nevertheless, if you beat Chrysolite, you are likely to be the winner. Yutaka Takes comes to Korea for the first time specifically to ride him.

The only one drawn wider than Chrysolite is LONDON TOWN. He was very impressive when breaking the 1700M track record at a sloppy Sapporo a month ago and could well be his compatriot’s biggest danger.

Any Hong Kong-trained horse warrants respect and that certainly includes CIRCUIT LAND. After recent near misses on firmer ground at Sha Tin it’s possible that he could be one of those horses who gets on well with the deep sand of Seoul. Under Nash Rawiller, he’s firmly in the hunt.

NIMR and SKIPERIA are both trained in France with the former looking to have the better claims although Skiperia has looked well in work. The US representative is the Linda Rice-trained PAPA SHOT, who spent the summer running creditably at Belmont Park and Saratoga and despite perhaps needing to find a bit to compete with the horses from Hong Kong and Japan, he can give a good account of himself.

As for the Koreans, last year’s 3rd place-getter TRIPLE NINE returns once more. Except for an always unlikely tilt at the Godolphin Mile, he ran well at the Dubai World Cup Carnival but has come up short on two starts back in Korea since. Both times he took just a little too long to get properly into gear. If jockey Lim Sung Sil can get him stoked up in time, a money finish is possible. CHAMP LINE saw a winning streak of five come to an end behind Triple Nine in July. He’s been off since and we’ll give the Thomas Gillespie-trained colt another chance today.

SHAMROCKER goes well too but does look overmatched against the visitors while since returning from a long spell out injured, BOLD KINGS hasn’t been quite the same horse he was when winning the Grand Prix Stakes, Korea’s most prestigious non-international race as a three-year old. Rounding out the field, DYNAMIC JILJU is a decent handicapper and could well opt to lead but is up against it here.

Selections (11) London Town (3) Circuit Land (10) Chrysolite (6) Triple Nine
Next Best 5, 1, 4
Fast Start 1, 7

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Competitive opener but (6) BULHUUI SEUNGJA looks to be the standout. She generally starts well, has a 3rd and a 2nd to her name and the champion jockey on board. The main danger is (2) JUNGJEON MAMA, who has been a rather one-paced 4th on both her outings to date but has shown enough to suggest she can beat plenty of these. While (10) (more…)