Sangseung Ilro Romps the Derby

Filly on course for Triple Crown after destroying Derby field
There were doubts about Sangseung Ilro. Yes, she had won the KRA Cup Mile pulling away, but the Cup Mile is not the Derby and Seoul’s best had stayed home that day in April. There are no doubters now.

Seoul’s best didn’t stay home today and they were found wanting as Sangseung Ilro destroyed the best colts Korea has to offer to win the Derby at Seoul Race Park this afternoon and in doing so, take herself to within one race of completing the Triple Crown.

As expected, it was Nice Choice who was sent off favourite, with Sangseung Ilro fourth in the betting, behind Seokcheong and Yeonseung Daero. As the field broke, it was Namdo Jeap who grabbed the early lead under Shin Hyoung Cheol, standing in for Martin Wepner who lost the ride reportedly for failing to weigh-in on time.

Namdo Jeap, second in the Cup Mile last month, continued to lead through the back-straight with Yeonseung Daero, Seokcheong and Khanui Jeguk following close behind. Jo Sung Gon meanwhile was keeping Sangseung Ilro tucked in at the back of the field. Jo began to make his move as they rounded the home turn coming level with Nice Choice in the middle of the field as they exited the turn and entered the home straight.

When the filly started to sprint, however, there were no equals. As in the Cup Mile, Namdo Jeap battled valiantly but once caught, was never going to be able to fight back. Sangseung Ilro ran on to win by five lengths on the line, Jo Sung Gon comfortable in victory with half a furlong still to go. Namdo Jeap completed the same 1-2 as in the Cup Mile while Baengnyeonbong salvaged a tiny amount of pride for Seoul, finishing third. Rank outsider Pangpang, the only other filly in the field, ran a creditable fourth. Yeonseung Daero came in fifth.

Favourite Nice Choice never got involved and crossed the line in sixth, while second favourite Seokcheong disappeared in the home straight and came home ninth. It was another miserable classic for Seoul trained horses. With Busan raiders taking four of the five money finishes, the pressure is going to be on the beleaguered Seoul backstretch to take a long hard look at itself and figure out what it is doing wrong.

Sangseung Ilro is the fifth filly to win the Derby and she is now on course to become the first to land the Triple Crown. She will have to wait a long time to do it, however, as the final leg isn’t until the Minister’s Cup, back at Seoul in October. Before that, however, she will have the opportunity to add the Korean Oaks to her collection at Busan in August.

Overnight, the fear had been that the rain which had fallen throughout yesterday’s card would continue into today and that by post time, the track would be a quagmire. Instead, it was dry from early morning and a strong wind around lunchtime dried the track out considerably and by the time the Derby got underway, the sun had been shining for quite some time. The poor forecast, however, meant that a slightly smaller crowd than hoped for enjoyed the now traditional free entry to the track on Derby day.

Korean Derby (G.I) – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – May 17, 2009

1. Sangseung Ilro (F) [Concept Win – Miss Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] – Jo Sung Gon – 8.1
2. Namdo Jeap [Ft. Stockton – Wandering Katie (Tejano)] – Shin Hyoung Cheol – 19.8
3. Baengnyeonbong [Al Naba – Sansonvino Art (Mister C.)] – Kim Ok Sung – 19.8
Distances: 5 lengths/3 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Pangpang; 5. Yeonseung Daero; 6. Nice CHoice; 7. Money Teukgeup; 8. Sky Star; 9. Seokcheong; 10. Triple Canon; 11. Khanui Jeguk; 12. Impeccable; 13. Khanui Huye; 14. Red Ball

One race before the Derby, the final International Exchange race of the weekend took place. The unbeaten Gangho was sent off the odds-on favourite but it was third favourite Free Hugs who emerged from the pack to land the victory from Saerounachim and Afternoon Dove – Gangho a disappointing fourth:

JRA Trophy – Seoul Race Park – 1200M – May 17, 2009

1. Free Hugs (AUS) [Fantastic Light – Woodie (Woodman)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 5.6
2. Saerounachim (NZ) [Pyrus – Jouet (Langfuhr)] – Kim Dong Cheol – 57.5
3. Afternoon Dove (USA) [Afternoon Deelites – Flying Dove (Dove Hunt)] – Jung Ki Young – 35.1
Distances: 2.5 lengths/Neck – 14 ran

* He may have been jocked off Sangseung Ilro for the Derby, but Eiki Nishimura responded in the best possible way, doubling the two most valuable races on offer at Busan Race Park this afternoon. The Japanese rider landed race 5 on Hangang Jeil and race 6 on Jewang.




  1. What a great weekend for fillies around the world! Sangseung Ilro’s damsire is a half-brother to the magnificient Citronnade who sadly passed away recently, so there’s good strong females in her pedigree. Continued success for her!

  2. Remains to be seen – the Derby time was a record, a full second faster than J.S. Hold’s effort a couple of years ago and she seemed to have plenty more left. I think this year’s crop of three year olds is better than last year’s so she hasn’t had it easy. She didn’t get the respect she deserved after the KRA Cup Mile (from me included) but I don’t think we’ll be seeing her go off at 15/1 again!

  3. I think he was – although he broke a couple of Korean records, his times were not necessarily international class – but he was trained by Korean trainers for Korean racing – they didn’t need to be. I think wherever he had run, he would have found himself in the top level. He won nine out of his ten races but I’m convinced we didn’t see the best of J.S. Hold.

    This summer is going to be interesting. Sangseung Ilro will now likely face older horses in a couple of handicaps before going for the Oaks at Busan in August. Then if all goes well, she’ll be back in Seoul for the final leg of the Triple Crown in October. It will take an amazing effort to get through all this but if she does, she will have claims to have eclipsed J.S. Hold’s achievement. But a very long way to go.

    Sid/Val, thanks for your continued interest in and support of Korean racing.

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