Take Charge Indy Colt Tops May Jeju 2YO Sale

The Korean Thorougbred Breeders’ Association hosted its first two-year-old sale of the year at the KRA’s sales complex on Jeju Island on Wednesday and it was a Take Charge Indy colt who topped the bidding.

(The entire sale can be viewed in the video above)

While in excess of 150 lots were offered, only 28 found buyers on the day, something which is not ususual at these sales as any horse which does not reach KRW 20 Million is passed in. The minimum price paid was KRW 20 Million with the average being KRW 39.8 Million.

Sale-topper was a Take Charge Indy colt out of Patti’s Sweet Song (Unbridled’s Song) consigned by breeder Kim Jung-cheol and purchased by the DRM City group for KRW 90 Million. DRM City, who own and race over a dozen horses at Seoul Racecourse including top sprinter Spring Back, were the most active buyers on the day scooping up four lots in all, including the second most expensive, a Gemologist filly out of Pied A Terre (City Zip) at KRW 82 Million.

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Take Charge Indy during his time in Korea

Completing the top three was a Distorted Humor colt out of Flamenba (Kingmambo), bought for KRW 80 Million by Boo Soo-sun, who races his horses at Busan.

Take Charge Indy, who was repurchased by American interests last summer after his progeny had performed better than expected at home, was the most popular sire with five of his juveniles selling.

The sale was held with bidders present in the saleroom albeit with due COVID-19 precautions in place.

Jeju 2YO Sales To Go Ahead May 12

Jeju Island, the centre of Korea’s thoroughbred breeding industry, will finally play host to its first sale of 2020 with the Korea Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Jeju May Sale of Two-Year-Olds takng place on the island on Tuesday May 12th.

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Jeju’s sales ring will see action for the first time this year on Tuesday

The May sale is usually Jeju’s second of the year, however, the planned March sale had to be scrapped due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Attendees will be temperature checked and required to wear facemasks.

A total of 151 juveniles will be offered at the sale, including thirteen by Take Charge Indy, who returned to the USA last summer.

April’s smaller Mainland Two-Year-Old sale did go ahead at Jangsu two weeks ago when twenty-two were sold with an Alternation colt out of Fictionality (by Tale Of The Cat) fetching the highest price at KRW 69 Million.

The Sale Catalogue can be found here.

As for when actual racing can take place, plans are at an advanced stage for a resumption before the end of May with all the major relevant authorities reportedly having come very close to giving approval. However, the recent “Itaewon Outbreak” has threatened to derail those plans.

 

Dae Kyeun: From Scone to Seoul

During the shutdown, our friends over at the Korea Racing Broadcast Channel (KRBC) have been posting videos about the careers of some of  the famous horses in Korean racing history. So we thought we would post them too along with some info about each one. First up is Dae Kyeun.

These days, the majority of racehorses in Korea are locally bred with most imports coming from the United States. Things were very different in the 1990s though. The domestic breeding industry was in its very early stages so most horses were imported. Not from the USA though. Instead, horses would be purchased in large numbers and flown over together from Australia and New Zealand – more than 300 in 1996 alone. Another difference back then was that horses were allowed to have raced already before coming to Korea – these days all imports must be unraced. One of those previously raced horses from th southern hemisphere was Dae Kyeun.

Not that he was called Dae Kyeun at home. The bay colt was foaled in November 1989 and was by Northern Regent – a Canadian-bred sire – and out of the Sunset Hue mare Romantic Evening. He was called Fond Farewell. It was under that name that he made seven starts in his home country throughout the course of 1992 at various country tracks in New South Wales. His solitary win was also his solitary paycheck as he picked up $2,900 for 1st place in twelve-runner Class 2 Handicap for 2-year-olds at Kempsey on April 25th, winning by a head. His local career would conclude that November when beating just one home at Scone.

Fond Farewell was sold, along with 150 others in 1993, to Korean interests and arrived in Seoul in June of that year. His new owner was Lee Yoon Ja and he was renamed  “Dae Kyeun” (the literal translation is “Confrontation”). He was placed in the care of trainer Choi Hye Sik, with whom he would remain for his entire career.

All seven of Fond Farewell’s Australian starts were on turf but Dae Kyeun quickly found his feet on the sand of Seoul. He made his Korean debut on September 25th in a maiden over 1200M under jockey Lee Sang-keun and while he was sent off as a slightly better than even-money favourite, he had to settle for 2nd, beaten half a length by another 1993 Aussie import N0-Rae-Go-Rak (previously called Young Legend and by a sire called Daring Young Man).

Following that minor setback Dae Kyeun warmed to his task and promptly won his next six races. He was ridden in the first five of these by Kim Tae-kyung, who is still riding at Busan, and in the last of them by Kang Byung-eun, who is now a trainer, also at Busan. That winning streak made him favourite for the Muganghwa Cup in May of 1994. He ran 2nd, beaten by New Zealand import Bo Eun. Bo Eun is notable in that he does not have a Studbook entry, meaning he was considered a “non-thoroughbred”. This wasn’t unusual for the time – another New Zealand import classed as non-throughbred was Chuk Je, who was the dam of early 2000s star Saegangja.

Dae Kyeun returned to winning ways immediately, rattling off three straight wins to enter the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes as favourite. However, punters would be disappointed once more as having worked to the front from the widest gate, Dae Kyeun threw in the towel in the final furlong, dropping back through the field to ultimately finish last of the fourteen, his worst ever finish and one of only four times in his career that he finished out of the money.

A year later in 1995 though, the Grand Prix would be his biggest triumph. Ridden for the only time in his career by Park Tae Jong and from a much more favourable draw, Dae Kyeun led every step of the way to record victory by a full eight-lengths on what was the first occasion the race was run over 2300M. The winner’s share of the purse was KRW 62 Million – which is about the same amount the winner of a regular Class 1 Handicap receives today.

That was perhaps the peak for Dae Kyeun. He kicked off 1996 with three straight wins including the Group 3 KRA Chairman’s Cup, a race which has since long since fallen by the wayside but suffered a late season injury and utimately missed out on the chance to defend his Grand Prix.

The inhury setbacks woujld continue over the next couple of years but when he did make it to the track, the quality was still there. He was only able to race four times in 1997, winning twice and five times in 1998, racking up three wins and as well as 3rd place to Sin Se Dae in the Grand Prix with Dae Kyeun on pace all the way around until Sin Se Dae, two years his junior, sprinted away in the closing stages. American import Wolf Silencer pipped a tiring Dae Kyeun for 2nd.

Injury-free, Dae Kyeun set about 1999 with aplomb, beginning the year with a four-race winning streak despite giving away significant weight on each occasion. However, he never again tackled a Group race, and at ten-years-old it was evident his career was drawing to it’s natural conclusion. Nevertheless, he still raced seven times in 2000, finishing in the first three on all seven occasions and winning three times. His final victory came over 1900M on Dcember 23rd, 2000, as an eleven-year-old, with old rival Sin Se Dae behind him. He ran for the final time in February 2001 and was officially retired that June.

In total, Dae Kyeun ran 49 times in Korea for 29 wins, 10 seconds and 5 third-place finishes. He won just shuy of KRW 600 Million in prize money. After retirement he was registered as a riding horse in September of 2001 and local media reported as of 2012 that he had died. Trainer Choi Hye Sik retired in 2012 having trained 703 winners from 6589 starters over a twenty-eight year career. Dae Kyeun was his only Group winner but he also trained the multi Listed winning mare Cheongpa, also in the late 1990s.

Park Tae Jong, who rode Dae Kyeun to victory in the Grand Prix is of course, still going strong while Dae Kyeun’s regular rider Shin Hyung Chul is also still riding at Seoul.

 

Obituary: Kim Bo-kyung

Kim Bo-kyung, one of the leading trainers at Busan Racecourse, died on Monday March 30. He was 43.

Starting out as a groom in 1998, Kim Bo-kyung worked for a number of stables first on Jeju Island and then from 2005 at the Busan Racecourse. He was ultimately granted a license to strike out on his own in 2018 and quickly established himself among the top tier of trainers at Busan.

In 2019, his first full year, Kim Bo-kyung finished in 6th place in the Busan Trainer’s Premiership, sending out 40 winners. His top three strike-rate of 30% was second only to perennial champion trainer Kim Young-kwan.

While he hadn’t yet saddled a winner in a Group race, Kim had one of this season’s leading three-year-olds, Breeders’ Cup runner-up Save The World, among his 33-strong team, one of the largest at the track.

Save The World provided him with his biggest win when scoring in the main Breeders’ Cup lead-up race in October last year.

A notice posted on the KRA’s Korean language website the week after his death paid tribute to Kim Bo-kyung’s “long term dedication and passion for horse racing”.

International crisis support helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

Korea: Shutdown Latest / Trial Updates

Korean racing is no longer alone in its COVID-19 induced shutdown with even the existence of online betting not enough to save tracks around the world from going dark as the pandemic spreads worldwide. The local shutdown was officially extended this past week and will now continue until at least April 5th.

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It would be a very pleasant surprise were this to be the last extension. While Korea appears to have handled its outbreak as well as any nation and the pace of new infections has slowed, a number of so-called “cluster infections” have continued to spring up. Not far from Seoul Racecourse, a church in Seongnam which ignored government advice to refrain from holding offline services, saw over 50 members of its congregation test positive for COVID-19 last week.

It is this fear that may impact on the ability of racing to return any time soon – especially as now, in a effort to bring the recalcitrant churches into line, Seoul City is threatening to pursue operators of “mass gatherings” for any costs incurred as a result of infections. With no online betting, racing in Korea requires a “mass gathering” in order to exist and absolutely nobody thinks that having 30,000 to 40,000 people gathering inside a racecourse of 10,000 people in an off-course building is a good idea at this moment in time.

As for online betting, a bill to make it legal has been before parliament for some time as with no legal alternative, overseas-based illegal sites have boomed in popularity in Korea. The infrastructure is in place and ready to go with bets placed through the KRA’s mobile app already accounting for approximately 30% of turnover on any given raceday. However, the app only works when connected to the KRA’s wifi network at the racecourses or the off-track betting branches. It is popular with punters as the tierce bet-type is only accessible online, while the government likes it too as it has to be connected to a bank account and a real-name provided.

Quick legalisation isn’t easy though, despite the loss of significant tax revenue (up to about US$20 Million for each week there is no racing) and also the success of Hong Kong and Japan in maintaining their turnover when racing behind closed-doors, which has been closely watched by observers here.  There are still many hurdles to be overcome if polticians, most of whom are instinctively against being seen to do anything that is seen to liberalize gambling, are to give the go ahead for the switch to be flipped and the app allowed to connect from punters’ living rooms.

For now, Korean racing still intends to return on Friday April 10th. For that to happen, there must be a drastic reduction in the infection rate and also the schools must re-open, somehthing that is currently pencilled in for Monday April 6th. If either of those things fails to happen, then racing won’t be re-starting.

In the meantime, trackwork has been continuing as have official barrier trials. Busan missed a week of trials due to a suspected COVID-19 case but started up again on March 14th, while Seoul has continued uniterrupted.

At Seoul a couple of big names have taken to the track in Friday trials. Global Captain ran out when favourite in a class 1 affair back in February, to the fury of punters, and was ordered to successfully complete two consecutive trials before being allowed to race again.

Global Captain is a winner of seven from twelve starts and at four-years-old, the Munnings colt is expected to be a major player in big sprint races later in the year, including the Korea Sprint. He’s going to have to re-qualify first though. While he succcessfully negotiated the first of during the first weeek of the shutdown at the end of February, it’s now back to the drawing board after he attempted the second on March 20th. While he won the five-furlong trial, stewards took a dim view of his antics rounding the turn and did not pass him.

There were no such problems for Tiz Plan. The Tiznow five-year-ols was a strong class 1 winner in January and was set to be sent off as favourite for the main event ont he day racing was abandoned in February. A winner of nine races from sisteen appearances, he is another who still has scope to improve and he looked to be maintaining his condition very nicely when comfortably coming hom in front in a trial last week.

Tiz Plan was ridden by Johan Victoire, who seems to have been mitigating the boredom of the shutdown by winning trials – the French rider has been on the horse crossing the line in 1st place in five of the twenty trials that have taken place in the capital since racing ceased. On March 20th, he partnered two for trainer Tony Castenheira, Nimui Hyanggi and Mighty Boom, both of whom have racing experience as well as Luigi Riccardi’s promising looking filly Choego Camp (Chapel Royal), who is yet to make her debut but may be one to follow if and when the season gets back up and running, having looked nuice and mature in her heat.

The first leg of the Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile, slated for April 5th at Busan won’t be run that day, but one of the potential contenders looked in excellent form in a trial on the south-coast last week. Touch Star Man (Testa Matta), dawdled in the early stages of a March 14th heat before openng up nicely under Jung Do-yun to run away from the rest of the field. The Kim Young-kwan trained colt is out of Menifee mare Useung Touch, who won the 2011 Korean Oaks and has won three of five starts so far.

Also not happening this year is the popular annual cherry blossom festival. Although presumably nobody has told the blossoms and they will still be coming out, the racecourse will not be open.

Roller Blade, Mark Story Impress In Seoul Trials

Racing might be shut-down in Korea for the time being as Coronavirus outbreak continues but two of the hottest three-year-old properties in racing here did meet on the track on Friday morning with Roller Blade and Mark Story stepping out in an official trial

Roller Blade (Officer) was champion juvenile in 2019 and had been slated to kick off his three-year-old campaign in the Sports Seoul Cup, the capital’s Classic trial, last week. That race was the first Listed or Stakes race to be lost to the virus and with Roller Blade not having competedsince his winning effort in the Breeders’ Cup at Busan in early December, it was time for a hit-out.

Mark Story (Currency Swap) is a US import and therefore not eligible for the domestic Classics. He has a perfect race record of three wins from three starts and looks an extremely exciting prospect, at least at sprint distances.

Both performed pleasingly and it was Mark Story who took the line three lengths in front of Roller Blade after an easy five-furlongs for both. The rest of the field was a further four-lengths in arrears.

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Mark Story leads Roller Blade to the line in heat 4 of Friday’s trials

While racing remains shutdown at a cost to the tax office of approximately US$20 Million per week due to remote wagering being illegal in Korea (making the behind closed doors model of Hong Kong and Japan impractical), trackwork and official trials are continuing as usual. Racing is currently cancelled through March 22nd and it seems as though the decision on whether to resume after that will depend on whether the schools do in fact go back on Monday March 23rd as is the current plan, should Coronavirus cases ease off in the meantime.

The Sports Seoul and Gyeongnam Shinmun Classic trials at Seoul and Busan have already been lost while next week’s Tokyo City Keiba Trophy and the SROA Chairman’s Cup, the latter the first Korean Group race of the year have also succumbed.  The next big race scheduled is the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan on Sunday April 5th.

Today Caps Korea’s Dubai Carnival With Solid 2nd in Curlin Stakes

South Korea’s presence at the Meydan carnival came to an end on Thursday night with three representatives lining up in the Curlin Handicap at international listed level.

Korea was looking for successive wins in the dirt feature, after Dolkong won the event last year for trainer Simon Foster and recently retired jockey Olivier Doleuze.

Trainer Kim Young-Kwan had Today and Baengmunbaekdap engaged in the race whilst Busan counterpart Thomas Gillespie had Great King entered in the 1 1/4m event.

Today, who had a favourable draw took up the running in the early stages of the event whilst Great King and Baengmunbaekdap were dealt torrid runs tramping three and four wide for the majority of the race.

At the three-furlong pole it was obvious that Today’s rider Fernando Jara had plenty of horse left underneath him, as it started to appear a two-horse race with US representative Parsimony presenting on the outside of him.

As Today and Parsimony straightened up for the run home, they were matching each other’s stride, before Parsimony started to edge clear and go on and win by just over two lengths.

Whilst Today finished second, Great King produced an admirable performance to finish sixth after a tough run and Baengmunbaekdap capitulated to beat one home.

It was a truly international event with Parsimony (U.S.), Today, Ambassadorial (U.K.) and race favourite George Villiers (South Africa) the top four finishing order.

The Curlin Handicap capped off the Dubai preparations for the trio who lined up in the event, whilst connections of Blue Chipper travelled the Korea Sprint winner to Dubai without him stepping foot on the track.

Blue Chipper was touted as Korea’s best chance for victory at Meydan, but a bout of travel sickness presented shortly after arriving.

The five-year-old was awaiting clearance from vet staff resulting in changes to his Dubai campaign, but ultimately ran out of time.

Connections are now expected to target the international Group Three features later this year, with connections potentially targeting the Korea Cup (1800m) after taking out the Korea Sprint (1200m) last year.