Month: February 2009

Secret Weapon Misses Again

Gang Gwon takes chance / Strong Hug makes it four from four
Secret Weapon was sent off as long odds-on favourite but once more failed to deliver. Instead, it was Gang Gwon who came through to take the honours in the main event at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Having failed to stay the trip in the Grand Prix race in December and running second to Top Point in a handicap last month, Secret Weapon was well placed throughout and hit the front under Park Tae Jong with a furlong to go.

The six year old had nothing in the tank, however, and Gang Gwon, Highteen and Lucky Mountain all passed him, Gang Gwon taking it on the line by a length and a half. Another six year old, it was Gang Gwon’s first win since December 2007.

Earlier, on a day when punters digested the news that Playing Politics, who so emphatically dominated his first attempt at class 1 last week, may never race again (of which more on Monday), US bred three year old Strong Hug [Strong Hope – Lady Dora (Lord At War)] put in a powerful performance to record his fourth straight win. With Moon Se Young on board, the colt always looked comfortable and outsprinted Tiffanyuikkum, another horse stepping up to class 2 for the first time, by two lengths.

In other races, there was a long overdue win for Taklamakan, the five year old scoring for the first time for over a year in the valuable race 10. While Moon Se Young managed two wins, Shin Hyoung Cheol was jockey of the day, landing an early treble with victories on Jisang Gangja in race 1, outsider Hwallyeok Plus in race 2 and the promising American import Red Trip in race 5. Red Trip [Trippi – Queen’s Ransom (Red Ransom)] had placed in three of his four previous outings.

It was a spring-like day at the track today and on what was the mildest day of the year so far, a large Saturday crowd made it to the races with the infield park attracting families for the first time this year. Tomorrow is expected to be slightly cooler but should still be dry and bright for the eleven race card which gets underway at 11:10. Busan has six races beginning at 12:30 while Jeju has ten with a 12:30 start.

Class 1 (Korean Bred) – Seoul Race Park – 1900M – Feb 28, 2009

1. Gang Gwon [Curia Regis – Bad Smart (Baederwood)] – Yoo Sang Wan – 15.2
2. Highteen [Mujaazif – Alittle Nostalgia (Nostalgia)] – Lee Gi Hwoi – 37.2
3. Lucky Mountain [Silent Warrior – Myeonggaheui (Revere)] – Choi, Beom Hyun – 10.4
Distances: 1.75 lengths/Head – 11 ran


Weekend Preview

Wepner debuts with nine rides / Dongbanui Gangja goes Sunday
It’s almost the weekend once again and Busan Race Park will get racing underway on Friday afternoon. South African jockey Martin Wepner will make his Korean debut in race 1 with the first of nine rides. Wepner will follow this on Sunday with a further three mounts on the six race card. In Friday’s feature race, Pick Me Up starts for the second time since returning from the US. On Sunday, Hwanggeumbit Taeyang will carry top weight in the feature handicap.

Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja headlines Seoul’s Sunday card and should be able to see off a field including K J Khan, Serendipper and Haengun Daewang. One race earlier, Love Cat will make a remarkably early step up to class 2 company. The three year old filly has won her last four and will go over the Derby distance of nine furlongs.

Saturday’s card at Seoul will see Secret Weapon look to get back into the Winner’s Circle. The six year old followed up his bad run in the Grand Prix with a second placed finish behind Top Point but ahead of Myeongmun Gamun last month and will give at least five kilos to field of twelve.

Busan Race Park

Friday February 27: Ten races, first post 13:00
Sunday March 1: Six races, first post 12:30

Seoul Race Park

Saturday February 28:Twelve races, first post 11:10
Sunday March 1: Eleven races, first post 11:10

Jeju Race Park will host nine races on Saturday and ten races on Sunday with the first going to post at 12:30 on both days and racegoers on the island will be hoping for better weather following last week’s abandonment for fog. Busan could have some rain on Friday but the forecast for Seoul is dry, bright and relatively warm all weekend.

Moon Se Young to Become an Ajosshi

“Se Young-a, Cho-Ket-ta!!” – “Se Young, I envy you” – punters shouted at Moon Se Young in the paddock at Seoul Race Park last weekend after the announcement that the Champion Jockey is to marry Seoul Race Park announcer Kim Ryeo Jin.

The Herald Business newspaper reported last Friday that the twenty eight year old Moon and twenty seven year old Kim will marry at the Racetrack’s Wedding Hall in April. The Herald noted that it will be the third marriage in the last two years of a high profile sportsman and a TV reporter following the marriages of footballer Kim Nam Il to Kim Bo Min of KBS and Baseball player Seo Jang Hoon to Oh Jung Yeon, also of KBS.

Kim Ryeo Jin joined the KRA’s broadcast department in 2007 and co-presents the weekly online preview show “Click Gyongma” as well as doing raceday announcements at the track. In a style perhaps more suited to the POPSeoul website, or as a pitch for a Korean drama, the Herald Business reports in detail as to how they met, the secret early stages of their relationship, how they fell out and how they made up over Moon’s win on Bally Brae in the 2007 Grand Prix. The report is in Korean but the link is worth clicking if only for the picture of the happy couple with the Champion Jockey wearing quite an amazing sweater.

Moon Se Young was also one of three jockeys featured recently on EBS TV’s show “Extreme Jobs”, which devoted two episodes earlier this month to jockeys at Seoul Race Park. Cameras followed three jockeys at different stages of their career. As well as champion Moon, veteran Kim Gui Bae and second year apprentice Boo Min Ho were followed at trackwork and in the weighing room on raceday. The two episodes (both in Korean but with some excellent footage) can be seen in full here.

South Africans Head to Seoul & Busan

Busan and Seoul will both have a new overseas jockey joining them from March. Martin Wepner arrived in Korea last week and will be based at Busan Race Park while fellow South African Stephan Swanepoel will ride at Seoul Race Park.

Wepner is 37 years old and has spent most of his recent career in Malaysia where he was Champion jockey in 2006. Swanepoel has ridden in Qatar as well as South Africa and Mauritius. Wepner arrived in Korea last week and may well make his racing debut this coming weekend. Swanepoel’s licence period begins on March 1. Joining Wepner at Busan will be three South African trackwork riders.

As has been written on this site before, overseas jockeys have struggled to establish themselves in Korea with Seoul in particular proving a tough place to ride. In 2008, South Africans Chris Taylor and Deryl Daniels both returned home after short stays. American Santos Chavez made his debut earlier this month, getting his first winner last weekend and is gradually picking up rides. Like Chavez, Wepner has a light riding weight so may find himself with more opportunities. With the worst of the winter now likely out of the way, both jockeys are joining at the ideal time to give themselves the best possible chance of making an impact.

Stephan Swanepoel recently gave a short interview to regarding his decision to come to Korea.

Mexicali Blues Lands Segye Ilbo

Good Day beats Tu Won / Symphony Sonata tuning up nicely
Mexicali Blues outsprinted her rivals to take the honours in the 8th Segye Ilbo Cup for Fillies and Mares at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. In an open betting race, the four year old started as second favourite and sat comfortably in the pack as old stager Why A Duck under Lee Shin Young set the early pace in the seven furlong race. Kim Ok Sung, completing a successful weekend following his win on Playing Politics yesterday, asked Mexicali Blues for an effort as the entered the home straight and as Why A Duck faded, they hit the front with a furlong to go.

Favourite Meni Cherry looked well positioned but failed to find a run and in the end it was the fast finishing Hwanggeum Dwaeji who proved the biggest danger, coming from the back of the field to the front in the straight. The line came soon enough though for Mexicali Blues to record the biggest of her five career wins to date. Angel Pegasus came in third.

Mexicali Blues, who finished fifth in this race last year, is owned by the Segye Construction Company. Although it took her seven races to break her maiden, once she did she won three in a row but, one more win aside, had struggled since moving up to class 2 races last summer while racing against mostly male opposition. Aside from Meni Cherry, who finished fifth, another filly to disappoint was the three year old Jangjagang who never featured, eventually coming in twelth.

In other races, Tu Won made the step up to class 1 racing, but the three year old gelding ran straight into an in-form Good Day, who made light of the six kilos he was giving his younger rival and outsprinted him in the straight to record his fourteenth win in his twenty first start. Second favourite Triple Seven was a further length and a half back in fourth. While beaten, Tu Won did enough to show he belongs in this company and his progress will be interesting to watch as the year goes on.

Another who is being closely watched is Symphony Sonata. By E. Dubai and out of the Dixieland Band mare First Violin during her short stay in Korea (and thereby qualifying as Korean bred), the colt only made his debut at the age of three, getting beaten by the highly rated gelding Something New. Winning his next start easily, he found the going similarly favourable in race 7 this afternoon, his first outing as a four year old, going wire-to-wire for an eased-down five length win over seven opponents.

In other races, two three year olds broke their maidens, both sent off odds-on favorites. The filly Born Revival in race 2 and the colt Badasin in race 4. Won Jung Il was the only jockey to record a double, taking race 3 on D Day and race 11 on Daechun.

At Busan Race Park, Ikuyasu Kurakane followed up his treble on Friday with a double today including taking the feature race on Shane Bob. Japanese jockey Kurakane moved from Seoul to Busan following countryman Toshio Uchida’s decision to take an extended break back home and is coming close to matching the remarkable Uchida’s success. The stand out result of the day at Busan, however, was a shock ten length win by 19.1 shot Orion’s Gold in race 3. The American import had only placed once in seventeen previous starts but led from start to finish and was well out of sight of the field at the end of the six furlongs.

Meanwhile, it was a frustrating day on Jeju Island as thick fog forced the late cancellation of all the day’s races at Jeju Race Park.

Seye Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – Feb 22, 2009

1. Mexicali Blues (USA) [Golden Missile – Golden Made (Allen’s Prospect)] – Kim Ok Sung – 5.0
2. Hwanggeum Dwaeji (AUS) [Langfuhr – Proudest (Sir Tristram)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 6.2
3. Angel Pegasus (USA) [Gold Case – Sahara Princess (Alphabet Soup)] – Ham Wan Sik – 5.7
Distances: 1.25 lengths/0.5 lengths – 14 ran



It’s Easy Playing Politics

Subsidy achieves the Billion / Seven Card sharp again / First win for Chavez
Playing Politics confidently strode into the top tier of Korean racing at Seoul Race Park this afternoon, romping to a five length wire to wire win in his first class 1 outing. It was a race that was notable too for a horse at the other end of his career as Subsidy battled on to a valiant third place to take his lifetime earnings to over KRW 1 Billion.

With Kim Ok Sung replacing the suspended Choi Beom Hyun on board, Playing Politics leapt out of the gate and straight into the lead. In the back straight, Moon Se Young brought Subsidy from the back of the field to the front, and it was these two who headed the pack going into the home straight. Playing Politics had never gone 2000 metres before but any questions there may have been about the four year old’s staying power were quickly dismissed as he sprinted to the line for an easy win.

Behind him, just as he had on his last outing, Subsidy looked ready to tie up at the furlong pole but this time, Moon Se Young managed to coax a final effort from the nine year old and, although Yodongseong came past, he managed to hold off odds-on favourite Baekjeonmupae to take third and his place in Korean racing history.

Playing Politics now has six wins from seven starts, a fourth place in the YTN Cup the only blot on his record since his debut last May. He won’t have the luxury of his rivals giving five kilos to him again in a hurry but the manner of his victory suggests there is much more to come. It was perhaps fitting that Playing Politics as a half brother of Subsidy’s long time rival Bally Brae (through their dam, Political Bluff) should be involved as Subsidy finally achieved the Billion. Out of his thirty four starts, the now nine year old Subsidy has been in the money thirty one times and although he no longer goes off as favourite, is still more than capable of mixing it with the best.

One race earlier, another four year old, Seven Card, put in an impressive performance as he too went wire to wire to land his first win at class 2 beating Grandzif and Daehyo by four lengths on the line. Seven Card goes onto five wins from nine outings. Much earlier in the day, improving three year old filly Chowon Dream broke her maiden, landing race 3 by five lengths.

It was a good day for Santos Chavez, the American jockey finding himself in the Winner’s Circle for the first time in Korea as he guided third favourite Dongbang Baksa to victory in race 2. The 47 year old Chavez appears to have made a favourable impression on punters and with any luck, the win will get him some more rides.

Also on a day of milestones, Chun Chang Ki saddled his first runner as a trainer in race 6. The former jockey was granted a trainer’s license earlier this month after battling the cancer that forced him to quit race riding over a year ago. Crown Champ was sent off favourite but never figured in a race won by Mo Yang Seong, a 106.0 outsider.

Racing returns to Seoul tomorrow when it is Segye Ilbo Cup day. The first of eleven races goes to post at 11:10 and the big race is at 16:45. Both Busan and Jeju Race Parks go to post at 12:30.

Class 1 (Foreign bred) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – Feb 21, 2009

1. Playing Politics (USA) [Outflanker – Political Bluff (Unaccounted For)] – Kim Ok Sung – 5.4
2. Yodongseong (USA) [Payne’s Bay – Copelan’s World (Copelan)] – Park Tae Jong – 6.8
3. Subsidy (USA) [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] – Moon Se Young – 9.9
Distances: 5 lengths/0.5 lengths – 11 ran


Weekend Preview

Segye Ilbo Cup / Subsidy, Playing Politics, Noubeau Riche
This weekend’s racing gets underway at Busan Race Park on Friday but it’s Seoul where the main action will be with the Segye Ilbo Cup headlining Sunday’s card. The seven furlong race, which in recent times has been for three year old fillies is this year open to older foreign bred filles and mares. A full field of fourteen will line up. Among them there will be only two three year olds, one of them being the well thought of Jangjagang. Also going and likely to be in contention are Meni Cherry, Mexicali Blues, U Seung Man Se and Angel Pegasus. The race is off at 16:45 (see below for full list of runners, form and riders).

Next up on Sunday, Good Day will head a class 1 field over 2000 metres in search of his fourteenth win. Out to stop him will be Tu Won, stepping up to the highest level for the first time and looking to bounce back from his third place in the New Year Commemorative race last month, which ended his six race winning streak.

Saturday also sees a summit meeting at Seoul as Subsidy will attempt to reach the billion won prize money mark for the third time. He’ll be up against it again as Playing Politics steps up to 2000 metres having been beaten only once in his six races to date. Also going is the New Zealand bred gelding Baekjeonmupae as well as Noubeau Riche who beat a number of this field, including Subsidy and Seongpacheonha last time out.

Busan Race Park hosts cards on Friday and Sunday and Jeju Race Park on Saturday and Sunday. Weather at Seoul is likely to be cold but just on the right side of freezing with a chance of snow. Busan will be a few degrees warmer with a chance of snow.

Busan Race Park

Friday February 20: 10 races, first post 13:00
Sunday February 22: 6 races, first post 12:30

Seoul Race Park

Saturday February 21: 12 races, first post 11:10
Sunday February 22: 11 races, first post 11:10

Segye Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – Feb 22, 2009, 16:45

1. Hwanggeum Dwaeji (AUS) (18/1/5/3) – Cho Kyoung Ho
2. Mexicali Blues (USA) (15/4/2/1) – Kim Ok Sung
3. Rising Winner (AUS) (21/2/2/2) – Yoo Sang Wan
4. Extreme Girl (USA) (28/0/4/2) – Lee Sang Hyuk
5. Ginny’s Delight (USA) (21/1/2/5) – Lee Joon Chel
6. Why A Duck (USA) (41/3/4/3) – Lee Shin Young
7. Jangjagang (USA) (7/2/1/2) – Park Tae Jong
8. Cheonsangcheonha (USA) (30/2/3/3) – Moon Jung Kyun
9. Beautiful Sky (AUS) (14/2/3/2) – Kim Young Jin
10. Angel Pegasus (USA) (10/3/2/0) – Ham Wan Sik
11. Exclusive Offer (USA) (17/3/2/0) – Park Eul Woon
12. Meni Cherry (USA) (9/3/0/2) – Kim Hyo Seob
13. U Seung Man Se (USA) (11/2/4/0) – Moon Se Young
14. Passage To Glory (USA) (16/3/2/1) – Jun Duk Young

What’s in Their Name?

Close readers of the results section may have noticed that three of the horses who placed in the first two races at Seoul yesterday all had the word “Girl” in their name. Filling out the placings around Wondergirl, Major Girl and Sand Girl were slightly more Korean sounding names such as Nagwon (which translates as “Paradise”) and Kkum Guerin (“Draw Your Dream”).

Racehorse names in Korea are a mixture of English and Korean – sometimes in the same name. Some names crop up more than others – “Jilju” is one such name, unsurprising as it translates to “Galloper” in English. Busan’s best horse, Areumdaun Jilju becomes “Beautiful Galloper” and Jilju Hara “Let’s Gallop”. Kkum or “Dream” is another, Kkumcheoreom is “Like A Dream” and Tiffanyuikkum becomes “Tiffany’s Dream”. Saerounbisul is “New Secret” and Saerounachim “New Morning”. Other words to frequently appear are Bongae (lightning), Teukgeup (Express), Bulpae (Unbeatable) and Dongja (Young Boy). Many grey horses have the word Baek for “white” in their name.

There appears to be no relation between a horse being domestically bred and having a Korean name or imported and having an English name – J.S. Hold was very much Korean and Dongbanui Gangja is American. In fact this website gets a lot of hits from orthographically challenged people googling for “Gangja”, which in this case is a variation of the word “Strength”. Dongbanui Gangja is one of those that doesn’t lend itself well to translation but the closest could be “Strength From the East”.

Some of the English names can be suitably elegant. Rainmaker and Ebony Storm were fine names for Classic winners in 2008. Others less so with Why A Duck and Max Is Cruisin keeping the names they had when imported. It’s not just the imports though as in the Winners Circle yesterday was Korean bred Free Woody (mercifully neither Hot Pink nor Erectus were in the field behind him).

On Jeju, almost all of the horses retain traditional Korean names which, shamefully is one of the reasons this site doesn’t type up Jeju’s results. However, there are plenty of horses such as Hanheolhwangbong and Chenmansonihaenbok at Seoul and Busan to keep the tongue twisted and the fingers busy. For purely selfish reasons, this correspondent would be quite happy for the rather blandly named Nice Choice to live up to his promise in the Triple Crown races later this year.

Not Lost in Translation…?
The names of some of Korea’s top horses seem to work equally well in English:
Myeongmun Gamun – Illustrious Family
Gaeseon Janggun – Triumphant General
Jeolho Chance – Perfect Timing (Ignoring the “Chance”)
Namchonuijijon – South Village King
Baekpa – White Wave
Baekgwang – White Light
*Most translations in this article are not literal but have been adapted to best fit their meaning.

Gaeseon Janggun Answers the Doubters

Nice Choice steps up / Free Woody drifts to victory
Gaeseon Janggun went a long way to showing that his dismal performance in December’s Owner’s Cup was a one off by beginning his four year old season in style at Busan Race Park this afternoon. Last year’s champion three year old who followed up close seconds in the KRA Cup Mile and Korean Derby by taking the final Triple Crown race, the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October was sent off at surprisingly generous odds and made his usual come from behind charge as the field entered the home straight, going away from the field to win by five lengths.

Second favourite Yeongung Manse, who was among six horses who finished ahead of Gaeseon Janggun in the Owner’s Cup took second. Relatively lightly raced, the win was Gaeseon Janggun’s fifth from twelve starts and raises the prospect of future showdown with Areumdaun Jilju, the horse one year his senior and currently recognised as Busan’s best domestically bred runner.

Up at a chilly Seoul Race Park there were no class 1 races but nevertheless an interesting day’s action. Nice Choice, winner of December’s Herald Business and 2008’s top two year old made his three year old debut and confirmed his status as a Triple Crown front runner by successfully stepping up to the Derby distance of 1800 metres with a business like victory in race 9.

With Cho Kyoung Ho replacing the suspended Moon Se Young on board, Nice Choice [Lost Mountain – Betty’s Rhapsody (Don’t Hesitate)] sat in the middle of the field throughout before outclassing his rivals in a strong final furlong to take a third consecutive win. Closest to him on the line was three year old filly Crown Carla who will also be one to watch later in the year.

The day’s most valuable race at Seoul saw Free Woody drift all over the track on the run in but the favourite still managed to secure a one length victory from Wig. Sitting out for the final day of his suspension, Moon Se Young will have a satisfied observer as none of his rivals for the Champion Jockey title managed to land a winner. Indeed Choi Beom Hyun will now sit out next week after he picked up a two day ban.

Class 1 (Korean Bred) – Busan Race Park – 1800M – Feb 15, 2009

1. Gaeseon Janggun [Duality – Diamond Star (Dixieland Band)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 2.7
2. Yeongung Manse [Sharp Appeal – Saratogasplash (Wild Again)] – Jo Chang Wook – 3.7
3. Gangjaui Beopchik [Fortitude – Crispy (Tax Collection)] – Chae Gyu Jun – 8.2
Distances: 5 lengths/1 length – 11 ran



Ugildongja Takes Chance as Namchonuijijon Stalls

Gangho takes it easy / Aria wins again
Ugildongja made the most of Namchonuijijon’s recalcitrance to land the feature at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Making his first appearance as a five year old, Namchonuijijon was backed into favourite but reared up in the stalls and then sat down. On being backed out of the gate, although there was no visible sign of injury, the vet ruled him out of the race as a precaution. With Namchonuijijon’s withdrawal, it was left to the horse who took turns with him playing second fiddle to J.S. Hold in 2007, Hwangnyongsaji, who took over as favourite.

When they finally got underway, Lucky Seven under Lee Sang Hyuk bolted into a five length lead and he would remain in front until deep into the home straight. Hwangnyongsaji had been well placed but failed to kick on when asked and it was Ugildongja under Ham Wan Sik who came down the rail to hit the front in the final furlong. He would hold on comfortably with Saebyeok Dongja and Natural Nine following in second and third. After three races out of the money, it’s a return to form for Ugildongja who takes his seventh career victory.

Earlier, Gangho made a walkover of race 5. The official margin of victory was eleven lengths but jockey Boo Min Ho never picked up his stick and began easing the colt around the furlong marker. Gangho [Peace Rules – Honor Delilah (Honor Grades)] goes two for two since his debut in January with a combined margin of twenty lengths. Although he has been in distinctly average company so far the American import looks to be a horse who could brighten up 2009.

Three year old filly Aria also took her second consecutive win but she had to battle to just edge out Guard Blue by a nose in race 7. Taking on and beating male horses, even at this stage of the season, has Aria as an Oaks possible come August. In other races, there was an rare dead heat as the judges failed to separate Haetbit Jangsa and Jebe at the end of race 8. Meanwhile, Baram Queen, fourth in last year’s Oaks landed race 9.

With Moon Se Young serving the first of a two day ban, Park Tae Jong revelled in champion’s absence, the veteran landing a treble. Cho Kyoung Ho also picked up two winners but Choi Beom Hyun only managed to take the last. Racing returns to Seoul tomorrow. There are also cards at both Busan and Jeju.

Class 1 (Korean Bred) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – Feb 14, 2009

1. Ugildongja [Dixie Dot Com – May Roses (Incinderator)] – Ham Wan Sik – 9.5
2. Saebyeok Dongja [Fiercely – Cheongpa (The Rogers Four)] – Shin Hyoung Cheol – 7.0
3. Natural Nine [Revere – C. Bop (Alydar)] – Oh Kyoung Hoan – 2.8
Distances: 1 length/1.25 lengths – 11 ran