Month: June 2009

Love Cat Wins Sports Seoul

Favourite Lands Oaks Trial / Miss Ecton wins at Busan
Love Cat held off a strong late challenge from outsider Victor Hunter to land Seoul’s main Korean Oaks trial this afternoon. Coming back off a nearly three month lay-off since finishing a disappointing eleventh in KRA Cup Mile at Busan, the first leg of the Triple Crown, Love Cat was sent off favourite of a ten strong field in the Sports Seoul Cup.

Good Leader, under Moon Jung Kyun, set the pace in the early stages of the eight and a half furlong trial, with Ganghan Speed also showing early. Choi Beom Hyun kept Love Cat in the middle of the pack and made his move as they entered the home straight. Love Cat hit the front with half a furlong to go and it was the fast finishing Victor Hunter, under Kim Ok Sung, who came closest to catching them. The line arrived in time though as Love Cat secured victory by a neck.

There were disappointing performances from highly rated Isanghwa and Tummim but for Love Cat is was a sixth win from ten outings. Given her bad run in Busan last time, it is far from certain whether she will travel south in August to face the now mighty Sangseung Ilro once more. Nevertheless, with victory today, Love Cat secured her position as Korea’s second best three year old filly.

For jockey Choi Beom Hyun it was another big race win, following his victory last week on Dongbanui Gangja in the Owners’ Trophy. Throughout the rest of the day, however, it was Park Tae Jong who once more dominated. Honoured in a ceremony after race 7 for his achievement in scoring 1500 career wins, Park went on to take four more this afternoon.

At Busan Race Park, South African jockey Martin Wepner continued to repay the faith shown in him by trainer Kim Young Kwan, guiding Kim’s Miss Ecton to victory in the feature race. The US bred Miss Ecton, whose sire, Ecton Park, was recently brought to Korea won the Busan Ilbo Cup last year but was then out of action for five months. Elevated to the highest class of Korean racing, she found the going tough but now has her second win against male horses at the top level.

Sports Seoul Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1700M – June 28, 2009

1. Love Cat (KOR) [Creek Cat – Love Cue (Curia Regis)] – Choi Beom Hyun – 2.1
2. Victor Hunter (KOR) [Social Charter – Angel’s Walk (Commemorate)] – Kim Ok Sung – 30.1
3. Ganghan Speed (KOR) [Lethal Instrument – Devil’s Mama (Devil’s Bag)] – Yoo Sang Wan – 6.7
Distances: Neck/1.75 lengths
Also ran: 4. Good Leader; 5. Abigail; 6. Isanghwa; 7. Rose cat; 8. Morning Rush; 9. Jeongsang Cheonji; 10. Tummim



Choi Jeong Seob Climbs Back on Lhotse Shar

In March this year, jockey Choi Jeong Seob was suspended for three months. Lhotse Shar was in a strong position entering the home straight of race 10 on March 14 and, with a motionless Choi on board, the four year old ran on for fourth place. The stewards were not impressed (punters even less so) and Choi was banned for apparently not trying.

That ban expired this week and the 29 year old rider was back at Seoul Race Park today where in race 11, he would be re-united with none other than Lhotse Shar. Trainer Kim Ho Ik, who was fined for his alleged part in the non-trying incident clearly having no hesitation in reinstating Choi and in his choice of race for Lhotse Shar, perhaps making a point.

Once more, Choi stopped riding long before the finish. This time, however, it didn’t matter as Lhotse Shar – starting a 27/1 outsider had the race comfortably won with half a furlong still remaining. It was a fine win for the colt in his first outing at category 2 level.

On a baking hot day in Seoul with temperatures touching 33C, the day’s feature race was won by Lucky Mountain. The filly had placed second or third in her last seven outings but, under Choi Beom Hyun got the better of Seven Card in a tight finish to the ten furlong race.


Weekend Preview

The fillies take centre stage on Sunday with the twenty fourth running of the Sports Seoul Cup (see full preview), the highlight of another busy – and likely very hot – weekend of racing on the peninsula.

Busan gets things started on Friday, it’s Seoul and Jeju’s turn on Saturday and, as usual, all three tracks run on Sunday. Aside from those going in the Sports Seoul on Sunday, Machine Gun and Saebyeok Dongja face each other in Saturday’s Seoul feature.

South African jockey Stephan Swanepoel will make his Busan debut on Sunday having requested a move down to the southern track after a lack of opportunities at Seoul. Meanwhile, Toshiyuki Kato of Japan makes his debut at Seoul on Saturday.

Busan Race Park

Friday June 26, 2009: 11 races, first post 12:30
Sunday June 28, 2009: 6 races, first post 12:40

Seoul Race Park

Saturday June 27, 2009: 12 races, first post 11:20
Sunday June 28, 2009: 11 races, first post 11:20

Jeju Race Park hosts cards on Saturday and Sunday with a first post time of 12:10 on both days.

Fillies Set for Oaks Trial – Sports Seoul Preview

Ten fillies will line up when the Sports Seoul Cup, Seoul Race Park’s main Korean Oaks trial race goes to post on Sunday afternoon. Whether any of the ten will eventually travel down to Busan in August to potentially face double classic winner Sangseung Ilro at her home track is another matter but in any case, the Sports Seoul looks an entertaining race in its own right.

The most experienced filly in the race is Love Cat. Sent to Busan to race the colts (and of course, one other filly) in the KRA Cup Mile in April, she wasn’t able to do herself justice. Off the track since, she will still have plenty of backers.

She’ll be up against a number of fillies who have impressed at sprint distances but have yet to appear over anything approaching the 1700 metres this race will be contested at. Isanghwa, Good Leader, Morning Rush and Ganghan Speed fall into this category as do the lightly raced Tummim and Jeongsang Cheonji. Abigail is the only other filly with form over this distance.

The Sports Seoul is one of Korea’s longest established races with its first running in 1986. It only became restricted to female horses in 2004 and to three year olds in 2006. Baekpa won the race in 2007 before going on to land the Oaks later in the year, however, last year’s winner Samsimnyeonsarang has since failed to live up to her promise.

Full list of runners, pedigree, race records and riders:

Sports Seoul – Seoul Race Park – 1700M – June 27, 2009

1. Love Cat [Creek Cat – Love Cue (Curia Regis)] – (9/5/0/2) – Choi Beom Hyun
Hasn’t run since her disappointing eleventh in the KRA Cup Mile at Busan. Before that she won twice over this distance. Currently races several classes above anything else in this race.
2. Ganghan Speed [Lethal Instrument – Devil’s Mama (Devil’s Bag)] – (8/3/1/1) – Yoo Sang Wan
Has beaten some useful horses at shorter distances.
3. Good Leader [War Zone – Kkummaeul (Curia Regis)] – (8/3/0/0) – Moon Jung Kyun
Returned to form last time out after some poor efforts during the Spring.
4. Victor Hunter [Social Charter – Angel’s Walk (Commemorate)] – (8/0/2/3) – Kim Ok Sung
The only maiden in the race and little to suggest that she’s going to break it here.
5. Tummim [Lost Mountain – Skip The Trial (Skip Trial)] – (4/2/1/1) – Moon Se Young
Won impressively last time out and is an interesting prospect if she makes the step up in distance.
6. Rose Cat [Creek Cat – Rose Bouton (Somethingdifferent)] – (8/2/2/1) – Park Tae Jong
The other “Cat” in the race, she took on the foreign horses last time out in the STC Trophy race but finished a well beaten 10th.
7. Morning Rush [Al Naba – Ireun Achim (Psychobabble)] – (4/2/0/0) – Shin Hyoung Cheol
A smart winner last time out, she’s never gone more than six furlongs.
8. Abigail [Exploit – La Finale (Dunbeath)] – (6/1/3/1) – Oh Kyoung Hoan
A rare Korean bred winner of a race open to foreign horses in April bumped her up in class, she finished third behind the unbeaten gelding Holy Dreamer over this distance.
9. Isanghwa [Didyme – Sugar Lips (Miswaki)] – (6/3/1/0) – Ham Wan Sik
Has won three of her last four and must be considered.
10. Jeongsang Cheonji [Didyme – Gypsy Fire (Best Western)] – Jun Deok Young
She’s only run three times and won two of them. Has been off the track since early April when she breezed to a seven length victory over decent opposition.

Notes From an Island

While Dongbanui Gangja was storming to the Owners’ Trophy at Seoul Race Park on Sunday afternoon, down on Jeju one of the island track’s biggest races of the season was also taking place.

This blog generally neglects the racing at Jeju Race Park. Contested between Jeju ponies that are native to the island, there is no studbook and, as seasoned punters at Seoul will tell you, it is notoriously difficult to handicap. Plus it always seems to rain.

Jeju ponies are strong and although the jockeys maintain their weight at similar levels to their thoroughbred counterparts, for some handicaps, even your correspondent would have a shot at making weight. For Sunday’s Jeju Ilbo Cup, top weight and favourite Hanramyeongseng carried 74 kilos. Most races are open to all ages and while most are young, there are a number of ponies who start their careers very late and a handful of ponies still run at twenty years of age or older.

In Sunday’s race, Hanramyeongseng never featured at the front. Just as he had in the corresponding race last year, Dongdaemunuikkum set a frenetic early pace. Last year, he faded to third with the line in sight, this time he went with a furlong remaining and third favourite Hwanghaemyengsan came through to claim victory (carrying 71 kilos). It was the three year old’s tenth win in seventeen races.

Jeju has an odd relationship with horses. Legend has it that Mongol invaders brought their own horses to the island and cross-bred them with the native ponies resulting in the distinctive pony which still survives today. Amid fears that they were dying out in the 1980’s as they ceased to be required in their traditional agricultural roles, the Korean government designated the ponies “National Monument Number 347” and mandated the Korea Racing Authority to set up the apparatus necessary to save the species. That apparatus took the form of Jeju Race Park and pari-mutuel betting.

On the other hand, Jeju is the only part of Korea where there is any significant market for horse meat (as this rather weird article from the English language edition of the Chosun Ilbo from 2006 rather too gleefully explains) and organisers of the island’s annual Daeboreum Fire Festival were disappointed at being banned from including horse-fighting on their list of attractions this year.

Jeju plays an important role in the Korean throughbred racing industry – most breeding farms are on the island and many young horses undergo their initial breaking in and training there. It is the ponies though that make this island a unique outpost of racing.

Jeju News Cup – Jeju Race Park – 900M (Hdcp) – June 21, 2009

1. Hwanghemyengsan – Jang Woo Sung – 3.9
2. Baengnokgunji – Jung Myoung Il – 24.3
2. Yeongsangsegye – Park Hoon – 67.9
Distances: 2 lengths/0.75 lengths – 10 ran

Dongbanui Gangja Owns Them

Four year old dominates Owners’ Cup / To The Champ wins at last
It may have been inevitable, but it was still very impressive. From the moment at the end of back straight when Choi Beom Hyun shifted Dongbanui Gangja out from the middle of the pack and brought him up to tuck in just behind the leaders, the race as a contest was over.

Vicar Love had set the early pace and Subsidy had made his customary back straight charge to join as they started to make the long turn for home. However, Dongbanui Gangja was with them. Choi Beom Hyun barely had to move as the four year old moved out wide and exploded into the home straight. The track record fell and Dongbanui Gangja cemented his place as the top horse at Seoul right now.

Surprisingly the horse who got closest to him on the line was Seungyu Sinhwa. The outsider had been at the back of the field for most of the race, but finished strongly to claim second. JRA Trophy winner Free Hugs showed he belongs at the top level by finishing third ahead of both Baekjeonmupae and Angus Empire.

Dongbanui Ganga was third in this race last year – his lowest ever placing – but would win the Grand Prix in December. He becomes the first horse to win the Grand Prix and then go on to win the Owners’ Trophy in the following year (although Subsidy did it the other way round a few years ago). His record now reads twelve wins from nineteen races and his unbeaten streak is now seven. Few would bet against him successfully defending his Grand Prix title come December.

Owners’ Association Trophy (G.III) – Seoul Race Park – 10F (Hdcp) – June 21, 2009

1. Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)] – Choi Beom Hyun – 1.3
2. Seungyu Sinhwa (USA) [Commendable – Backroom Blues (Dixieland Band)] – Shim Seung Tae – 164.1
3. Free Hugs (AUS) [Fantastic Light – Woodie (Woodman)]
Distances: 7 lengths/0.5 lengths
Also ran: 4. Baekjeonmupae; 5. Angus Empire; 6. Subsidy; 7. Vicar Love; 8. Fly Queen; 9. Afternoon Dove; 10. Seongpacheonha; 11. Saegisang; 12. Obaek Yechan; 13. Cash In Your Chips

In other races, three horses were making their first appearances since being beaten by Sangseung Ilro in last month’s Derby. And they all looked very impressive. First Khanui Jeguk dominated the category 3 race 8, Cho Kyoung Ho easing the colt with half a furlong to go.

In race 10, it was the turn of Baengnyeonbong, third in the Derby, to try his luck at category 2. Under Kim Ok Sung he rallied late to take a length and a half victory from Blue Pin.

Meanwhile at Busan, Sky Star finished second to King Rider in the category 1 feature race. Performances since the Derby are marking out this year’s three year old crop to be better than last year’s and Sangseung Ilro could have quite a task on her hooves when she comes back to Seoul in October to attempt to complete the Triple Crown.

Finally, a mention must be made of To The Champ. The five year old lined up for the thirty-ninth time this afternoon and came through late in the 1800 metre race 6 to land victory by a length. Kim Ok Sung, who has partnered him in twenty-three of those outings, punched the air as they crossed the line and was still smiling when he emerged for his next ride. While it’s the Dongbanui Gangjas who get the headlines, it’s the To The Champs of this world who keep this wonderful sport going.



Park Tae Jong Rides into History

After spending the last two weeks inching closer, Park Tae Jong today became the first Korean jockey to reach 1500 career winners. It was only just after midday at Seoul Race Park when, in torrential rain, Park guided three year old filly J Stern to a hard fought victory in race 3.

While the race was as low key as it is possible to get – a class 6 maiden in which six of the twelve runners were odds of well over 100/1 – the final furlong duel between J Stern and Ever Clever, who had led from the gate, was a furious one, Park getting his mount ahead with fifty metres to go and holding on by a length.

As the rain worsened Park would go on to add three more winners later in the afternoon. There was Boeun Gaduk in race 5 and then Symphony Sonata in race 9. The much hyped four year old relentlessly chased down long time leader Sajaseong in the home straight. Next up came Tiffanyuikkum, the Australian filly securing her fifth win.

Things didn’t go Park’s way in the feature race but he still managed to take outsider Daehyo to an unlikely third place behind Top Point and Gayasanseong.

Tomorrow, Park Tae Jong will partner Beakjeonmupae in the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy. Dongbanui Gangja will be the overwhelming favourite but if anyone can stop him, it is Baekjeonmupae. Park won this race last year on Saerounbisul – over his twenty two years in the saddle he has won every race, most more than once. Today in the rain, Seoul Race Park honoured one of Korea’s greatest sportsmen. Tomorrow, he’ll be out on the track doing it again.


Weekend Preview

It’s Owners’ Trophy weekend at Seoul and the big race on Sunday afternoon (see full preview) is the highlight of a busy weekend of racing. Busan gets things underway with an extended eleven race card on Friday which culminates in a clash of Busan titans as Golding, Crafty Louis and Admiral Reigart face off over 1800 metres in the last race. The three big names will all carry over seven kilos more than the remainder of the field though, so an upset could be on the cards.

Sunday’s feature race at Busan is headlined by Procyon. After a dismal second half of 2008, the five year old has won two of his three outings this year. Among those going against him is Sky Star, the colt making his first appearance since a disappinting run in the Derby. To get back in contention, to take the trip back to Seoul for the Minister’s Cup later this year, he’ll need a big run here.

Saturday’s card at Seoul has a competitive feature race as Top Point, currently the leading older female, takes on Hongji, Gayasanseong, Tu Won and Lucky Seven over 1800 metres. Saturday could also be the day when Park Tae Jong becomes the first Korean jockey to land 1500 winners. He needs just one to reach the milestone and if he hasn’t already then Symphony Sonata in race 9 looks likely to get the job done for him.

Busan Race Park

Friday June 19: 11 races, first post 12:30
Sunday June 21: 6 races, first post 12:40

Seoul Race Park

Saturday June 20: 12 races, first post 11:20
Sunday June 21: 11 races, first post 11:20

Jeju Race Park hosts pony racing on Saturday and Sunday with a first post time of 12:10 on both days. It’s the Jeju Ilbo Cup on Sunday, one of the biggest races of the year on the Island. Jeju ponies are strong and the top weight Hanramyeongseng, who has won eleven of his eighteen races, willl carry 74 kilos for the four and a half furlong race.

Dongbanui Gangja Heads Trophy Field

Seoul’s top foreign bred horses will go to post Sunday for one of their biggest events of the year, the Group 3 Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy race. Dongbanui Gangja, winner of last season’s Grand Prix and currently ranked number one horse in Korea, heads the field and will carry the top weight of the thirteen runners.

Apart from last year’s winner Saerounbisul, who has been sidelined since March, the only other big name missing is Bally Brae. The seven year old’s connections opting, as they have in the past, not to subject the former Horse of the Year to the high weight he would likely have been allocated. Bally Brae’s old rival, Subsidy, will line up though. The nine year old may be past his prime but he still finishes in the money more often than not.

Also going and likely to be around at the business end of the race are Vicar Love, Baekjeonmupae and Angus Empire. While Dongbanui Gangja is likely to be favourite, outsiders have won this race in each of the last three years. Here’s a complete look at the runners and riders:

Owners Association Trophy (G.III) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M (Hdcp) – June 21, 2009

1. Seongpacheonha (AUS) [Agnes World – House Of Chimes (Bellotto)] G 4 (24/4/2/5) 52kg – Lee Dong Kuk
A creditable fifth in the Grand Prix last December but unlikely to have more than a place chance.
2. Cash In Your Chips (USA) [Storm Boot – Le Privee (Private Account)] H 5 (17/4/5/2) 52kg – Moon Jung Kyun
Has been beaten by most of this field on various occasions so far this year.
3. Vicar Love (USA) [Vicar – Canberra (Silver Hawk)] C 4 (15/8/1/3) 54kg – Oh Kyoung Hoan
Looked set to be the top imported three year old last year until Dongbanui Gangja intervened. He’s won once this year but has since twice finished behind Baekjeonmupae.
4. Saegisang (AUS) [Commands – Constant in Opal (Lake Coniston)] C 4 (16/5/0/1) 53kg- Ham Wan Sik
His first attempt in the top tier of Korean racing – he has talent but will be hard pushed to feature here.
5. Fly Queen (USA) [Exploit – Fully Approved (With Approval)] M 6 (32/7/6/9) 52kg – Kim Young Jin
Won the KRA Classic and finished fourth in the Grand Prix last year. Second to Angus Empire last time out.
6. Subsidy (USA) [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] G 9 (36/18/5/2) 54kg – Moon Se Young
The legendary Subsidy is reunited with Moon Se Young. It would be a fairytale ending to his career if he could do it but it is unlikely. Nevertheless, expect him to be near a money finish.
7. Angus Empire (USA) [Lion Cavern – Clever Dorothy (Clever Trick)] H 5 (29/9/7/2) 55kg – Yang Hee Jin
Has been in good form lately and will appreciate carrying less weight than usual. A big run will be required to defeat Dongbanui Gangja but he is capable of it.
8. Baekjeonmupae (NZ) [Traditionally – Star Sixty Seven (Phone Trick)] G 4 (22/8/6/1) 55.5kg – Park Tae Jong
Always there or thereabouts, he’s a threat and on a weekend when Park Tae Jong should secure his 1500th winner, he could supply the vetrean jockey with another big race win.
9. Obaek Yechan (AUS) [High Yield – Kanaka Creek (Thunder Gulch)] G 5 (33/5/5/6) 53kg – Kim Ok Sung
Well beaten over the same distance by a number of this field so far this year.
10. Free Hugs (AUS) [Fantastic Light – Woodie (Woodman)] G 4 (22/4/4/3) 53kg – Cho Kyoung Ho
The surprise winner of the JRA Trophy on Derby Day last month, it will be interesting to see how he copes with the big step up in both class and distance.
11. Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)] C 4 (18/11/4/2) 58kg – Choi Beom Hyun
The favourite. Unbeaten this year, and usually carried even more weight than this, last year’s Grand Prix winner should be this year’s Owners’ Trophy winner.
12. Seungyu Sinhwa (USA) [Commendable – Backroom Blues (Dixieland Band)] H 7 (35/12/5/2) 53kg – Shim Seung Tae
Winner of a lot of races in his career – but not recently. Ran second to Dongbanui Gangja in April.
13. Afternoon Dove (USA) [Afternoon Deelites – Flying Dove (Dove Hunt)] G 4 (19/4/3/2) 52kg – Yoo Sang Wan
Third in the JRA Trophy last month, he looks to be out of his depth here.

If you’re going to pretend to gamble….

…you can now only pretend to do it for ten hours a day…Not racing related but there have been some regulatory developments in the gambling sector. In the absence of legalized gambling all sorts of alternatives go on in Korea, most of them online. One of the most popular is “virtual gambling” where players take each other on at various games over the internet – Korean Poker or “Go-Stop” being one of the most popular. No money changes hands in these games.

In these games, players are given a certain amount of “virtual money” each day to play with how they choose. There’s no charge for this but when they run out, they have the opportunity to purchase more. Leftover money cannot be redeemed for real money so no actual “gambling” of any consequence takes place – in theory anyway. As with many online games in Korea, a market has sprung up for in-game items. In this case, there are reportedly instances of players selling their credit to other players in pre-arranged games where the “loser” deliberately loses all their game credit in exchange for real money.

Now the Korea Times reports that new regulations are coming in designed to limit players to ten hours each day. No doubt new ways to circumvent these rules will appear – most likely involving the exchange of even more “real” money. In Korea, only foreigners are allowed to legally lose all their money in casinos so Koreans have turned to all manner of different enterprises to get their gambling fix – indoor fishing being a particularly ingenious example before the Supreme Court got wind of it.