Month: May 2009

Korean Derby Countdown – The Home Team

Busan’s six challengers will be met on the sand of Gwacheon by eight horses looking to write their own name into Korean racing history and in doing so, halt Busan’s remarkable run of Classic wins.

Among Seoul’s entrants is the likely favorite. Nice Choice was champion two year old in 2008 and having been campaigned this term solely with the Derby in mind, will be the one to beat on Sunday. If Nice Choice doesn’t produce the goods, however, it would take an upset to see the Derby trophy remain in the capital.

Nice Choice [Lost Mountain – Betty’s Rhapsody (Don’t Hesitate)] – (6/4/2/0)
If he had won last time out, there would be no justification for betting against him. However, he was engaged in a stretch battle and lost. Nice Choice will still be a worthy favourite but will be worth taking on.

Triple Canon [Tahamkke – Tamna Jeilbong (Lost Mountain)] – (7/4/2/0)
He’s won over the distance and last time out beat Symphony Sonata, the highly rated – and well bred – four year old. Must be considered

Red Ball [Lethal Instrument – Wildly Magic (Pieterhof)] – (8/4/0/1)
Won three in a row before stepping up to the Derby distance and finishing well beaten.

Seokcheong [Fiercely – Miss Geology (Jade Hunter)] – (6/4/1/1)
Jockey Park Tae Jong has won more Derbys than anyone and his mount has won over the distance. A possible.

Baengnyeonbong [Al Naba – Sansovino Art (Mister C.)] – (9/4/1/1)
Has had the Derby in mind for a long time but finished behind Seokcheong last time out.

Khanui Jeguk [Sunday Well – Lucky Dip (Didyme)] – (7/3/1/1)
Has won his last three but against significantly weaker opposition than he’ll face on Sunday. Will need to improve to compete.

Khanui Huye [The Groom Is Red – Noble Michelle (Flow Technology)] – (7/2/2/0)
Ran poorly last time out and has never won at a higher level than class 5.

Money Teukgeup[Ft. Stockton – Headwork (Silveyville)] – (8/2/3/1)
One of only two Seoul horses to contest the KRA Cup Mile, there were no grounds to support him in that race and following a seventh place finish, no grounds to support him here.

Baekpa Works at Laurel Park

2007 Korean Oaks winner Baekpa worked four furlongs at Laurel Park last Saturday morning. The five year old is in the United States as the second horse to take part in the KRA’s “internationalization” program.

Baekpa put in a hardly Earth-shattering, but perfectly respectable, time of 49.60 for the four furlongs – thirty-third quickest of the fifty two who worked that morning. Shaka has the full details (Korean). Her first race could come later this month.

Korean Derby Countdown – The Southern Raiders

Whether it is the milder winters, the sea air, the uphill back-straight at Busan – or even the stronger liquor in Gyeongnam Province, horses from Busan have won the last four Triple Crown races. Rainmaker, Ebony Storm and Gaeseon Janggun did the honours last year, while Sangseung Ilro claimed the KRA Cup Mile for the home team last month – a race for which only two Seoul horses bothered to ship down for.

Seoul’s most promising three year-old, Nice Choice, was among those whose connections opted not to venture south last month, preferring to concentrate entirely on the Derby. Six Busan horses will be coming to coming to him, however, and there is every chance that they could continue the dominance of Korea’s supposedly second track.

Leading the Southern charge will be the filly Sangseung Ilro. It looks like jockey Eiki Nishimura won’t be with her (more on that tomorrow), but the KRA Cup Mile winner will be joined by Namdo Jeap and Yeonseung Daero, who ran second and third in that race as well as Sky Star, the filly Pangpang and late entry, Impeccable. Here is the run down on the Busan entrants, with pedigree and race records:

Sangseung Ilro (F) [Concept Win – Miss Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] – (6/4/1/1) – We know what she is capable of. She came into the KRA Cup Mile relatively unfancied but finished with a flourish to take the honours.

Yeonseung Daero [Creek Cat – Sensationalkris (Cryptoclearance)] – (8/5/1/2) – Favourite going into the KRA Cup Mile and should be well-fancied again.

Namdo Jeap [Ft. Stockton – Wandering Katie (Tejano)] – (6/3/2/1) – Half brother to last year’s Cup Mile winner Rainmaker and stablemate to Yeonseung Daero, the Cup Mile was his first test at anything over six furlongs. He passed it and while victory may be too much to ask, he must be considered for a place.

Sky Star [Tahamkke – Blue Lark (Ravenwood)] – (10/5/1/0) – Ran poorly in the Cup Mile but returned just two weeks later to win over the Derby distance. A contender.

Pangpang (F) [Revere – Awishnotalark (Rio’s Lark)] – (11/3/0/1) – The only one of the Busan horses that it is difficult to make a case for. Finished well down the field in the Cup Mile and although she bounced back with a win at the end of April, she dropped down in distance and class to do it.

Impeccable [Distilled – Bellebreezy (Foolish Pleasure)] – (6/4/0/0) – The enigma. A late entry in the Derby, he won his first four outings with ease but came unstuck in the Cup Mile. On May 1, he came back and at odds-on, finished fourth against the same calibre of opposition he’d easily defeated in the past. Punters will have to make the decision if those last two outings were the exception. Impeccable will be the choice of those wishing to see Peter Wolsley become the first foreign trainer to win the Korean Derby. Last year’s winner Ebony Storm is now in his barn, but was under different supervision when he caused the biggest shock in Derby history twelve months ago.

Korean Derby – Past Winners

2009 Derby in D-6 – Sangseung Ilro would be fifth filly to win
The Derby is a relatively recent addition to the Korean racing year. Except for during the Korean War, racing has been running on the peninsula continuously since the 1920’s, however, the calendar as we know it today only really started to take shape in the 1980’s. The Ilgan Sports Cup and the Grand Prix started things off with both being run for the first time in 1985.

The introduction of the private ownership of race-horses – and therefore prize money – accelerated the creation of big Stakes races in the 1990s and finally in 1998, the Derby was run for the first time.

In the eleven editions run so far, seven colts and four fillies have taken the prize which for its first three years was run over just seven furlongs before moving up to its current nine in 2001. Here are those winners with pedigree and jockey:

2008: Ebony Storm [Buster’s Daydream – Sorority Jazz (Dixieland Band)] – Shim Seung Tae – Last year was the first time that Busan’s best three year olds were invited up to Seoul to contest the Derby and it was one of those visitors, Ebony Storm, the longest shot on the board, who took victory in a monsoon downpour.

2007: J.S. Hold [Ft. Stockton – Hwangsangjiljoo (Passetreul)] – Moon Jung Kyun – Widely considered the best Korean bred horse ever. J.S. Hold landed the inaugural Triple Crown injuring himself in the final race and not returning to the track. He is about to commence his first season of stud duties.

2006: Baengnokjeong [Slew O’Green – Lesu Run (Proper Reality)] – Hwang Soon Do – The rank outsider at over 80-1 on Derby day, Baengnokjeong was at the time, the longest priced horse to win the Derby.

2005: Saebyeok Dongja [Fiercely – Cheongpa (The Rodgers Four)] – Chun Chang Ki – Still racing at the top level, he came fourth in last year’s President’s Cup. Jockey Chun Chang Ki will saddle his first Derby runner as trainer when Seokcheong lines up on Sunday.

2004: Mupae Gangja [Didyme – A Heun A Hop Kan (Kinsky)] – Kim Hyo Seob – One of the top colts of this decade, Mupae Gangja won ten of his sixteen races including the Chairman’s Trophy and Minister’s Cup along with the Derby in 2004

2003: Habidongju [Silent Warrior – Kahwa (Zoffany)] – Park Tae Jong – The last filly to win to date.

2002: Haeam Janggun [Didyme – Ronde (Toast The Champ)] – Lim Dae Gyu – Ronde foaled her second Derby winner in as many years with this filly who won eight of her fourteen races and gave the late Lim Dae Gyu a Derby victory.

2001: Haetpit Maeul [Mujaazif – Ronde (Toast The Champ)] – Ji Ha Ju – Starting a run of three consecutive years of filly triumphs was Haetpit Maeul. Now a broodmare, her colt Haedong Teukgeup got his first win last month.

2000: Haekdol’pung [Lost Mountain – Swift Diplomacy (Nice Pirate)] – Park Tae Jong – Korea’s top jockey got his second straight Derby win on the favourite. It was tight though with Haekdol’pung getting the verdict in a three way photograph.

1999: Manseokkkeun [Fiercely – Komplication (Kris. S)] – Park Tae Jong – Yes, he really did have three consecutive ‘k’s in his name. Park Tae Jong got the first of his three Derby winners on the colt whose sire, Fiercely, died earlier this year.

1998: Useung Yegam [Happy Jazz Band – Man Jang Dae()] – Song Seok Hen – Nine of the 14 runners in the first Derby were fillies and the favourite Useung Yegam, whose dam wasn’t even in the studbook, took the honours by a length.

Angus Empire Rises Again

Baram Queen rules / Eiki nabs a double / Impeccable Derby-bound
Angus Empire, currently ranked fourth best horse at Seoul, produced a fast finish to land the feature race at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Sent off third favourite behind Seoul Teukgeup and Brilliant Knight, Angus Empire was slow to begin as sprint specialist Gamadongja set the early pace under Nozomu Tomizawa.

As in his last outing, Gamadongja held the lead until the final furlong, but could only manage third as first Angus Empire and then Fly Queen came past with the line in sight. The win was five year old Angus Empire’s [Lion Cavern – Clever Dorothy (Clever Trick)] first of 2009 after three straight placings. Disappointments were Seoul Teukgeup and Pocketful of Money finishing seventh and tenth respectively.

On a day where weather forecasters once more got it gloriously wrong and Seoul basked in sunshine and temperatures in the high seventies, Baram Queen took advantage of the late scratching of likely favourite Siinui Norae to land the day’s second most valuable race. The four year old, who in fourth place was Seoul’s best finisher in the Korean Oaks last year, comfortably held off Saebyeol Achim for a two length win after early pace setter Esteban disappeared in the home straight. Siinui Norae meanwhile, will likely be sidelined for at least six months.

At Busan Race Park, Eiki Nishimura followed up his treble on Friday with a double. The Japanese jockey took race 4 on Champion Rush and race 5 on the improving Kiwi’s Playboy.

And so we are just a week away from the Derby and in Triple Crown news, it has been cofirmed that the filly Love Cat will not run in the big race next week. In her place will be Impeccable, the colt who went into the KRA Cup Mile four for four but finished unplaced. We’ll be starting our week of Derby build-up tomorrow as we gear up for the biggest weekend in Korean racing which will see not only the Derby but also the JRA Cup.



Weekend Preview

The weekend’s racing is almost upon us and things will get underway at Busan Race Park on Friday afternoon. The action moves to Seoul and Jeju on Saturday, before all three tracks run their usual cards on Sunday.

The main events of the weekend will be at Seoul where, with a week to go until the Derby, the winner of the 2005 edition of the race, Saebyeok Dongja, will make an appearance in the feature race on Saturday. The seven year old will be up against nine rivals over 1900 metres including Triple Seven and Free Woody.

Sunday’s feature race is for overseas bred horses and features a host of big names. Sprinter Gamadongja tries his luck at 1800 metres in a race where Angus Empire and Seoul Teukgeup will be the most fancied.

Busan Race Park

Friday May 8: 10 races, first post 13:00
Sunday May 10: 6 races, first post 12:40

Seoul Race Park

Saturday May 9: 12 races, first post 11:20
Sunday May 10: 11 races, first post 11:20

Jeju Race Park hosts its regular weekend pony racing card with nine races on Saturday and ten on Sunday, with the first going to post at 12:10 on each day. Race 3 on Sunday is one of Jeju’s signature two furlong dashes. Temperatures across the peninsual have shot up during the week and could reach as high as 30C on Saturday at Seoul. Nevertheless, it is currently predicted to be unsettled. Busan should have perfect conditions with clear skies and temperatures in the low twenties.

Korean Derby – First Preview

With less than two weeks until the big day, Korean racing is gearing up for the 2009 Korean Derby which will take place at Seoul Race Park on Sunday May 17.

A maximum of fourteen will line up for the race and at this stage, exactly fourteen remain entered. Sangseung Ilro will venture north from Busan in an attempt to keep her Triple Crown effort on course. The filly was the surprise winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan in April. Stablemate Namdo Jeap, who she duelled with in the home straight of the Cup Mile, will join her in shipping up from Busan as will Yeonseung Daero, who started as favourite that day and finished third. However, following his disappointing run in the Cup Mile and a lacklustre performance in a handicap a week ago, the one time highly fancied Impeccable will not travel to Seoul.

Busan based horses swept all the Classics in 2008 and Seoul will be looking to regain some much needed pride. They have a good chance of doing so in the shape of the likely favourite, Nice Choice. Last year’s top juvenile didn’t travel down to Busan for the Cup Mile, his connections giving up the chance of going for the Triple Crown in order to focus solely on the Derby. His two races so far this year have both been at the Derby distance of nine furlongs and ended in a comfortable win and a narrow second against older horses.

A host of others will also fancy their chances and we will take a closer look at all of the contenders over the coming days. For now, here is the full list of entries with race records (Runs/1st/2nd/3rd), [B] = Busan, (F) = Filly:

Nice Choice [Lost Mountain – Betty’s Rhapsody (Don’t Hesitate)] – (6/4/2/0)
Triple Canon [Tahamkke – Tamna Jeilbong (Lost Mountain)] – (7/4/2/0)
Love Cat (F) [Creek Cat – Love Cue (Curia Regis)] – (9/5/0/2)
Red Ball [Lethal Instrument – Wildly Magic (Pieterhof)] – (8/4/0/1)
Seokcheong [Fiercely – Miss Geology (Jade Hunter)] – (6/4/1/1)
Baengnyeonbong [Al Naba – Sansovino Art (Mister C.)] – (9/4/1/1)
Khanui Jeguk [Sunday Well – Lucky Dip (Didyme)] – (7/3/1/1)
Khanui Huye [The Groom Is Red – Noble Michelle (Flow Technology)] – (7/2/2/0)
Money Teukgeup[Ft. Stockton – Headwork (Silveyville)] – (8/2/3/1)
Sangseung Ilro [B] (F) [Concept Win – Miss Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] – (6/4/1/1)
Yeonseung Daero [B] [Creek Cat – Sensationalkris (Cryptoclearance)] – (8/5/1/2)
Namdo Jeap [B] [Ft. Stockton – Wandering Katie (Tejano)] – (6/3/2/1)
Sky Star [B] [Tahamkke – Blue Lark (Ravenwood)] – (10/5/1/0)
Pangpang [B] [Revere – Awishnotalark (Rio’s Lark)] – (11/3/0/1)

In 2008, the race was run following a downpour and 90/1 outsider Ebony Storm shocked the favourites to claim the victory. See race video here.

Kim Hyo Seob to Train Stateside

Jockey Kim Hyo Seob is set to retire from the saddle shortly and join the training ranks, according to reports by the Korean Racing Journal over the weekend. The 44 year old Kim, who suffered a heavy fall during racing on April 26, will go to the United States to observe training methods before returning to Korea to take up his license. While breeding in Korea has improved in recent years, the performance of thoroughbreds on the track is still sub-standard and training quality is an area that has been identified as being in need of improvement.

Kim Hyo Seob debuted as a jockey in 1987 and has ridden 851 winners from 5794 mounts. While spending much of his career in the shadow of Park Tae Jong, who qualified at the same time and has established himself as Korea’s greatest ever jockey, Kim has nevertheless won the Korean Derby once, the Korean Oaks twice and the Ttukseom Cup twice, most recently this year’s renewal on Mighty Runner last month. Other contemporaries such as Ahn Byung Ki, Woo Chang Gu and Chun Chang Ki have already taken up trainers’ licenses.

Kim will not be the only one heading to the the States. The KRA is to send two young jockeys over to train. One of these is reported to be Seoul based Yoo Seung Wan, the 24 year old having ridden 41 winners in his first two years since qualifying. The other is yet to be determined. In horse terms, 2007 Oaks winner Baekpa is already in the States. The mare is yet to race since arriving in late March

Angle Slam Powers to Second Gukje Sinmun

Seven year old retains Cup / Easy for Top Point at Seoul
Angle Slam retained the Gujke Sinmun Cup with a powerful stretch run to overcome Crafty Louis and Miss Ecton in the final furlong of the seven furlong race at Busan Race Park this afternoon.

Last year’s winner was sent off sixth in the betting with Crafty Louis slight favourite in what, as expected, a very open market. Three year old Australian colt Cheonseungmanseung was quickest out of the gate and kept in front until depp in the home straight. He finally ran out of energy, however, as Gu Min Sung guided Angle Slam down the outside to take the victory.

The win is Angle Slam’s first since the corresponding race last year. The seven year old disappointed throughout the latter half of 2008 but ran second last time out and once more, performed when it mattered in the big race. Seond favourite Gunham disappointed, as did filly Mighty Hero. Meanewhile, despite still only having four career wins, Miss Ecton re-confirmed her position as arguably the top foreign bred filly or mare currently in training at Busan. See below for full result.

At Seoul Race Park a bumper crowd was in, possibly enthused by having watched the Kentucky Derby over breakfast and looking for 50/1 shots to come in and remove the need to return to work after the long weekend. There were no surprises in the feature race, however, as Top Point went wire to wire for a routine win ahead of Natural Nine over 1900 metres. The returning Gayasanseong looked comfortable but didn’t have the speed to compete in the home straight and finished sixth.

Also of interest at Seoul was a first win for three year old colt Power of Money. He and the much hyped Symphony Sonata are the only two horses to have been foaled by First Violin during her short time in Korea. Under champion jockey Moon Se Young, Power of Money shot across from gate 12 to the rail (too aggressively according to the stewards, who handed Moon a two day ban for the move) and went on to stretch out for a nine length win.

Gukje Sinmun Cup – Busan Race Park – 1400M – May 3, 2009

1. Angle Slam (USA) [Gold Case – Platinum Code (Lost Code)] – Gu Min Sung – 12.5
2. Crafty Louis (USA) [Louis Quatorze – Crafty Louis (Crafty Prospector)] – Jo Chang Wook – 4.1
3. Miss Ecton (USA) [Ecton Park – Miss Lion King (Lion Cavern)] – Martin Wepner – 6.3
Distances: 2 lengths/1 length
Also ran: 4. Gyeongcheonsa; 5. Hwanggeumbit Taeya; 6. Heukjanggun; 7. Saeroun Bulpae; 8. Cheonseungmanseung; 9. Gunham; 10. Gangsan Jijo; 11. Seneca Light; 12. Mighty Hero; 13. Spruiker; 14. Dahlonega



Sunday Preview – Gukje Sinmun Cup

With the Kentucky Derby scheduled to be over by 7:30am Sunday morning Korean time, it means there’s plenty of time to get to the tracks for a Sunday of racing. Seoul Race Park goes to post at 11:20 while at Busan Race Park they’ll line up for the first race of Gukje Sinmun Cup day at 12:40.

One of Busan’s most valuable races for overseas bred horses, the Gukje Sinmun is run over seven furlongs and has this year attracted a full field of fourteen. With most class 1 races being held at distances of nine furlongs or greater, the race is a rare chance for the top sprinters to compete for the big prizes.

In what should be an open betting race, last year’s winner, Angle Slam, returns to defend his title while there will be plenty of support for Gunham, the seven year old who only raced three times last season, having his best efforts over this distance. Others likely to feature near the top of most punters’ tickets are Crafty Louis, Cheonseungmanseung and the filly Mighty Hero. Full list of runners, records and riders:

Gukje Sinmun Cup – Busan Race Park – 1400M – May 3, 2009 – 15:35

1. Gunham (NZ) – (28/8/4/0) – Kim Tae Kyoung
2. Crafty Louis (USA) – (29/10/3/2) – Jo Chang Wook
3. Angle Slam (USA) – (39/7/7/8) – Gu Min Sung
4. Heukjanggun (USA) – (7/3/0/2) – Han Sang Gyu
5. Saeroun Bulpae (USA) – (16/5/1/4) – Chae Gyu Jun
6. Miss Ecton (USA) – 13/4/2/4) – Martin Wepner
7. Hwanggeumbit Taeyang (AUS) – (40/8/11/5) – Gu Young Jun
8. Gyeongcheonsa (USA) – (21/6/2/0) – Park Geum Man
9. Seneca Light (USA) – (31/7/6/2) – Jo Chan Hoon
10. Dahlonega (USA) – (13/3/4/1) – Yoo Hyun Myoung
11. Spruiker (AUS) – (8/3/2/1) – Eiki Nishimura
12. Cheonseungmanseung (AUS) – (11/4/2/3) – Jo Sung Gon
13. Mighty Hero (USA) – (8/5/0/0) – Kim Eu Su
14. Gangsan Jijo (NZ) – (47/4/7/7) – Oh Young Il

* Saturday’s card at Seoul Race Park had co-feature races, one for domestic bred and one for overseas. In the overseas, there was another disappointing performance by Shaving Points, the four year old finishing eleventh of twelve behind Captain Cugat. Five year old gelding Sesemanse took the domestic feature by two and a half lengths from three year old filly Crown Carla. Favourite Rich Family was unplaced.