Month: March 2009

Namchonuijijon Set to Defend Ttukseom Cup

Namchonuijijon will look to retain the Group 3 Ttukseom Cup in Seoul’s biggest race of the season so far on Sunday April 12. Going up against him, in a surprise entry, could be stablemate and 2008 Horse of the Year, Myeongmun Gamun.

The Ttkuseom Cup is named to commemorate the old Seoul Racecourse at Ttukseom on the north bank of the River Han. Ttukseom was the sole home of Korean racing from immediately after the Korean War in 1953, until the opening of the new Seoul Race Park at its present home in Gwacheon in 1989. The race is run over seven furlongs and was formerly the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown until that honour was shifted, seemingly permanently, to Busan’s KRA Cup Mile in 2008. However, with a first prize of KRW 132 Million, the Ttukseom Cup remains one of the season’s highlights.

Last year, the then four year old Namchonuijijon held off the grey Baekgwang to record victory by a length. While Baekgwang limped away wih ligament damage that prematurely ended his season, Namchonuijijon went on to disappoint during the rest of 2008 but began his 2009 campaign with a smart victory earlier this month.

If he starts, Myeongmun Gamun will be stepping back down to seven furlongs for the first time since the 2006 running of the race when he finished fifth. Now eight years old, Myeongmun Gamun has seventeen wins from thirty one outings and has only got better with age, 2008 being his most successful season to date. However, he suffered a surprising reverse at the hands of mare Top Point in his only run so far this year. Also among the thirteen early entries are Triple Seven, Taebaek Janggun, Seven Card and Geumsuni.

Meanwhile, this coming Sunday sees the KRA Cup Mile at Busan. Final declarations will be made tomorrow. Gyongmaman will be attending the Football World Cup Qualifier between South Korea and North Korea at Sangam Stadium tomorrow evening so our preview of the big race will be up on Thursday.

Three Go Free

Bang, Moon, Jung go freelance / Park Soo Hong warned off
Three more jockeys have taken on freelance status at Seoul Race Park bringing the total number of unattached riders to twenty out of the sixty-one currently holding a license. Bang Choon Sik, Moon Jung Kyun and Jung Ki Young are the latest to go it alone.

The main benefit to being freelance is that the jockey can ride in as many races per week as he can find a mount for. Jockeys who are attached to a stable are limited to a maximum of five race rides per week. Figures released by the KRA last year showed that freelance jockeys had an average of 9.6 mounts per week whereas stable jockeys had 3.4. Average earnings for freelancers was over KRW 12 Million per month compared with KRW 5 Million per month for retained riders.

The figures do hide a disparity between the freelancers, however. The top freelance jockeys, such as Moon Se Young or Park Tae Jong, who will pick up a ride in nearly every race over a weekend – a large proportion of them well-fancied – will earn much more whereas most will earn far less.

This has particularly been true for the overseas riders who have often struggled to get mounts in their early days in Korea. All overseas riders are given freelance status and while it can work out very well, as for Toshio Uchida and now Ikuyasu Kurakane at Busan, it can take a long time to get established. With the race fee less than KRW 60,000 per ride, freelance jockeys need to consistently be getting quality rides to make ends meet.

In other jockey news, Park Soo Hong, who rode Subsidy to victory in the 2005 Owner’s Trophy and Grand Prix races, has been permanently warned off by the KRA for passing on inside information. Local media reported at the weekend that thirty four year old Park confessed to police that he accepted money for information. A groom and a trainer also found to have been involved, were handed lesser penalties.

Shock Defeat for Nice Choice

Passing on next week’s KRA Cup Mile to focus fully on May’s Korean Derby, Seoul’s 2008 Champion juvenile Nice Choice looked set to continue his stately progress towards the year’s top prize with a warm up race at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Stepping up to class 2 for the first time but with a less than initimidating field to contend with, the Lost Mountain colt was sent off the 1.2 favourite.

Punters were in for a shock, however. Bouncing out of the gate first was Jo In Kwen on six year old Holeinonefive and they led into the first corner of the 1800 metre Derby distance race. Dream Runner slotted into second, outsider Gamunhuye third and Moon Se Young on Nice Choice into fourth.

Holeinonefive continued to lead through the back straight and there were nervous moments for backers of Nice Choice as the colt seemed to be crowded in on the rails. Moon Se Young managed to extricate them, however, and as they rounded the home turn, they were looking well placed for the sprint. They had reckoned without Holeinonefive still having the energy for a sprint and starting with a length’s advantage, the older horse matched the colt stride for stride all the way to the line.

It was Holeinonefive’s first win in nearly a year and the sixth of his career. For Nice Choice, the setback breaks a streak of four straight wins. He remains Derby favourite but, after they take care of their home track classic next Sunday, Busan’s Derby hopefuls may look north with a little less apprehension.

On what was otherwise a low key day’s racing at Seoul, the feature race went the way of Dankee’s Pal. The US bred five year old saw off a field including Yodongseong, Obaek Yechan and Saerounbisul, by two lengths.



Top Points for Hongji

Tiffanyuikkum holds on / Blue Pin, Happy Queen win
In a final furlong battle, six year old Hongji outsprinted hot favourite Top Point to take this afternoon’s feature race at Seoul Race Park. Although it was outsider Tough Energy who made the early running in the 2000 metre test, the two big hitters, Hongji and Top Point slotted straight into third and second places just a length off the leader.

Entering the home straight, it was Moon Se Young on the mare Top Point who made his move first, hitting the front as Tough Energy tired. However, Jo In Kwen got Hongji into his stride as well and the duel was on. With half a furlong to go, it looked like Top Point may hold on but Hongji had more in reserve, getting his nose in front with just thirty metres remaining and keeping it there for a half length win.

With the victory, Hongji moves onto nine career victories. Top Point, following her upset of Secret Weapon and Myeongmun Gamun in January, remains on eleven from nineteen starts

One race earlier, Australian import Tiffanyuikkum continued his recent run of good form, but only just. Park Tae Jong had the four year old in a winning position on the rails with a furlong to go but was left hanging on as Baramsan under Moon Jung Kyun launched a late challenge down the centre of the track. The line came soon enough though and Tiffanyuikkum, a late developer scored his third win from three outings so far this year.

In other races, there was a second win for improving three year old Blue Pin. The colt edged out Money Pokpung and New Kaiser in a tight finish to race 8. Blue Pin was the second of three wins for jockey Cho Kyoung Ho who took race 1 on the impressive Khanui Jeguk and then race 9 on the equally impressive filly Happy Queen.

Tomorrow, the first of eleven races comes under orders at 11:20. Busan gets underway at 12:40 and Jeju at 12:10.


Weekend Preview

Busan will start things off with a ten race Friday card before the action moves north to Seoul on Saturday. Both tracks host a card on Sunday.

Busan Race Park

Friday March 27: 10 races, first post 13:00
Sunday March 29: 6 races, first post 12:40

Seoul Race Park

Saturday March 28: 12 races, first post 11:20
Sunday March 29: 11 races, first post 11:20

Jeju Race Park will hold its regular Saturday and Sunday cards with a first post time of 12:10 on both days. After last weekend’s summer-like weather, the peninsula has shivered its way through the week. Nevertheless it should be a dry weekend.

Nice Choice Sits Out Cup Mile

Entries for the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown, are out and missing from the list is last year’s top juvenile Nice Choice. Trainer Kim Hak Soo confirmed that the Seoul based colt will not make make the trip down to Busan for the April 5 race and will instead focus solely on May’s Korean Derby at his home track.

That last year’s Seoul entrants at Busan performed so disappointingly may have played a part in only two horses shipping down for the Cup Mile. Bae Dae Sun will send Money Teukgeup [Ft. Stockton – Headwork (Silveyville)] and Kim Yang Seon will saddle the filly Love Cat [Creek Cat – Love Cue (Curia Regis)]. Both should comfortably get the Mile trip but how they will adapt to Busan remains to be seen.

Love Cat is one of four fillies entered at this stage while in the absence of Nice Choice, Peter Wolsley’s Impeccable [Distilled – Belle Breezy (Foolish Pleasure)], who remains unbeaten in four outings looks likely to be favourite despite not having gone a mile before.

After the Cup Mile last year, a number of possible reasons were put forward to explain the dominance of Busan horses including the visiting jockeys being unfamiliar with the course and Busan’s uphill back straight being very different to that at Seoul. All of these were found to be wanting when Busan horses went to Seoul and swept the placings in both the Derby and Minister’s Cup later in the season. Here is a list of the entries with race records:

KRA Cup Mile (G.III) – Busan Race Park – 1600M – Apr 5, 2009

1. Yeonseung Daero C (7/5/1/1)
2. Sangseung Ilro F (5/3/1/1)
3. Namdo Jeap C (5/3/1/1)
4. Geumbit Sesang C (4/3/0/0)
5. Dream Wings F (5/2/1/0)
6. Sandeomi C (7/4/0/1)
7. Sky Star C (8/4/1/0)
8. Power Boy C (7/2/3/1)
9. Pangpang F (9/2/0/1)
10. Impeccable C (4/4/0/0)
11. Love Cat F (8/5/0/2)
12. Money Teukgeup C (7/2/3/1)

We’ll have a full preview once the final line up is confirmed next week.

Weekend Round-Up: Gaeseon Janggun who won the final leg of last year’s Triple Crown was back in the winner’s circle at Busan yesterday, beating Derby winner Ebony Storm into third place over 2000 metres. Meanwhile, up at Seoul, Hwangnyongsaji took the feature race and there was another win for the improving Symphony Sonata.

Down on Jeju Island it was another frustrating day as, for the second time in as many months, Sunday’s entire card was called off due to fog.

Mighty Hero Lands Busan Ilbo

Second favourite Mighty Hero came away from the pack in the home straight to record a comfortable win in the Busan Ilbo Cup at Busan Race Park this afternoon. The grey led home a field of the most promising imported fillies at the Gyeongnam track.

Favourite Jilju Hara bolted out of the gate and set a frenetic pace in the early stages of the seven furlong race. Though the Japanese had won over a longer distance in the past, the pace as such that it always seemed a case of when, rather than if, she would tire.

Indeed it came as they turned into the home straight. Jo Chang Wook had kept Mighty Hero safely in the middle of the field but now he and Chae Gyu Jun on Graceful Ballerina made their move. It was Mighty Hero who proved the strongest, stretching out to a four length margin on the line. Mentor came through with a very late run to take third place.

For Mighty Hero, it was a fourth straight win since breaking her maiden in December. Meanwhile for Jilju Hara, who was found to be lame after the race, it was a third defeat from seven outings. Also disappointing was the well-backed Haste. The locally foaled filly led the field chasing Jilju Hara in the early stages of the race and also tired in the straight.

Busan Ilbo Cup – Busan Race Park – 1400M – Mar 22, 2009

1. Mighty Hero (USA) [Buddha – Pretty Pretty (Silver Deputy)] – Jo Chang Wook – 5.2
2. Graceful Ballerina (USA) [Posse – Royal Ballerina (Farma Way)] – Chae Gyu Jun – 12.1
3. Mentor (KOR) [Testa Rossa – Crystal Decanter (Encosta De Lago)] – Park Geum Man – 18.9
Distances: 4 lengths/1 length – 14 ran



Spring in Step for Baekjeonmupae

Tummim does it the hard way / Boo! – Min Ho lands a treble
Baekjeonmupae galloped through the sunshine to land victory in this afternoon’s feature event at Seoul Race Park. As expected, sprint specialist Gamadongja made the early running of the 2000 metre race with hot favourite Vicar Love just behind. With Gamadonga still leading in the back straight, Moon Se Young brought former horse of the year Subsidy around the outside of the field to slot into second.

This was how it remained until they exited the home turn with Gamadongja clinging on. Oh Kyoung Hoan asked Vicar Love for an effort but he couldn’t match that of Baekjeonmupae who finished strongly down the outside under Moon Jung Kyun for a two and a half length win.

One race later, three year old import Gangho [Peace Rules – Honor Delilah (Honor Grades)] continued his impressive start to his racing career taking a seven length win and in the process extending his unbeaten run to three. Gangho was the third winner of the day for second year jockey Boo Min Ho following earlier success on Fly Top in race 2 and Bio Com in race 7.

Much earlier in the day, highly thought of Lost Mountain filly Tummim broke her maiden in race 3, although she did her best not to. Sent off long odds-on favourite in her second start, Moon Se Young had the three year old in a winnng position with less than a furlong to go when Tummim suddenly veered off the inside rail and right across to the other side of the track. The filly almost lost enough ground to allow Lee Ae Li on Haedong Teukgeup to steal a shock win, but champion jockey Moon managed to coax Tummim across the line with just enough to spare.

In other news on what was a beautiful spring day with temperatures in the low seventies at the track, South African jockey Stephan Swanepoel scored his first money finish in Korea, guiding The Bank to third place in race 8.

Tomorrow is Busan Ilbo Cup day at Busan Race Park where the first of six begins at 12:40. Seoul gets underway at 11:20 and Jeju at 12:10.


Weekend Preview

Subsidy vs Vicar Love & Baekjeonmupae / Triple Seven vs Tu Won
It’s Busan Ilbo Cup weekend and while the big race is on Sunday afternoon (see preview below), there’s plenty of other action to look forward to.

As usual, Busan gets things underway with ten races on Friday afternoon. The feature will see Hwanggeumbit Taeyang look to get back in form after a disappointing start to the year. Wonder Love and King Kephalos will be amongst those out to stop him. In addition to the the Cup race, Sunday’s Busan card also features a clash of two 2008 Classic winners as Gaeseon Janggun and Ebony Storm face other over 2000 metres. They’ll have the back in form mare Mirae Cheonsa for company.

At Seoul Race Park, Saturday’s highlight sees Vicar Love taking on Baekjeonmupae and Subsidy. Top sprinter Gamadongja joins them and will have a significant weight advantage in the 2000 metre test. Subsidy got the better of Baekjeonmupae last month when both were soundly beaten by Playing Politics and with Vicar Love back in form after his Grand Prix disappointment, it looks an intriguing race.

On Sunday, Triple Seven and Tu Won will meet again in the feature race. Dashing Champ will also be among those lining up for race 10. Also on Sunday, Shaving Points, who began his racing career so impressively this time last year before being blighted with injury, makes his first appearance of 2009.

Busan Race Park

Friday March 20: 10 races, first post 13:00
Sunday March 22: 6 races, first post 12:40

Seoul Race Park

Saturday March 21: 12 races, first post 11:20
Sunday March 22: 11 races, first post 11:20

Jeju Race Park hosts cards on Saturday and Sunday with first post at 12:10. A wet weekend is forecast. Busan should escape rain on Friday but showers are expected on Saturday and Sunday.

* Not taking any part in the weekend’s action is jockey Choi Jung Seob. The 29 year old has been suspended for three months and trainer Lee In Ho fined KRW 2 Million under the non-triers rule following Choi’s ride on Lhotse Shar in race 10 at Seoul last Saturday. Lhotse Shar finished a close fourth in the race which can be viewed here. The horse in question breaks from stall 10.

Full Field for Busan Ilbo

Fourteen will come under orders for the Busan Ilbo Cup this coming Sunday as Busan Race Park hosts its first big fillies race of the year. Among those lining up will be Japanese bred Jilju Hara who has won four of her six starts and US import Mighty Hero, who has run the fastest over the 1400 metre distance and comes into the race off the back of three straight wins. Three domestically foaled fillies will also be taking part with Galmaegi Kkum joined by Mentor and Haste, both of whom have suffered only one defeat in their careers so far.

The Busan Ilbo Cup is race 5 of a six race card at Busan on Sunday and comes under orders at 15:35. Full list of runners, records and riders:

Busan Ilbo Cup – Busan Race Park – 1400M – Mar 22, 2009

1. Neat Play (JPN) (14/1/3/4) – Moon Joong Won
2. Lady Pres (USA) (6/1/3/2) – Yang Young Nam
3. Haste (KOR) (4/3/0/1) – Ikuyasu Kurakane
4. Yeongwonhanhangbok (USA) (13/3/2/3) – Eiki Nishimura
5. Mighty Hero (USA) (6/3/0/0) – Jo Chang Wook
6. Galmaegi Kkum (KOR) (7/2/2/1) – Jo Chan Hoon
7. Charm And Harm (USA) (7/3/1/1) – Han Sang Gyu
8. Global Jeongsang (NZ) (7/2/1/0) – Lee Seung Jae
9. Jilju Hara (JPN) (6/4/1/0) – Kim Tae Jun
10. Mentor (KOR) (5/4/0/0) – Park Geum Man
11. Smart As Me (USA) (8/3/2/0) – Kim Eu Su
12. Phasmes (USA) (8/3/1/4) – Jo Sung Gon
13. Graceful Ballerina (USA) (14/3/1/4) Chae Gyu Jun
14. City Bon (USA) (8/3/2/1) – Martin Wepner