Month: July 2009

Nozi Bows Out

Nozomu Tomizawa has left Korea. The Japanese jockey recently brought to an end his two year stint at Seoul Race Park and is returning to Australia where his family lives and where he rode previously.

Initially arriving for six months in August 2007, Tomizawa started a month after fellow Japanese rider Ikuyasu Kurakane. While Ikuyasu was quick to become reasonably well established, it took Nozomu a little while to build up rides and eventually, winners. Once he did, however, his obvious talent came through as he notched up a decent winning record despite not generally getting the better horses.

Six months became a year and then one year became two. Slowly overcoming the traditional huge disadvantages faced by foreign riders in Korea, not least by learning a little Korean, Tomizawa finshed with figures of 730 rides with 48 winners, 56 seconds and 71 thirds. Top rides always remained hard to come by – being the regular jockey on Gamadongja, a top sprinter, the notable exception.

There was talk of Nozomu following in the footsteps of Ikuyasu and going to Busan for a final few months in Korea but it was not to be. Instead he leaves as a jockey who has advanced the reputation of foreign riders at Seoul no end and the track – and punters – will miss him. followed Tomizawa during his last weeks in Korea and produced a short video about him. This, as well as a couple of his race videos can be seen at the Enjoy Racing blog.

Get Katoh: Nozi’s departure leaves Toshiyuki Katoh as the only overseas jockey at Seoul and he must have felt the horses were out to get him on Sunday. In race 6, Dublin Gypsy bolted wildly from the gate and tried for a full furlong to throw him off. Katoh eventually managed to bring the filly under control and get her home only for Money Pokpung to promptly dump him over the outside rail on the home turn in the very next race. Fortunately he escaped injury and was able to ride the rest of the card.

* In other jockey news, it’s been confirmed that Kim Ok Sung’s season is over. The veteran rider suffered a broken ankle during track work last Wednesday and will be sidelined for at least six months.

Nice Choice Takes the Munhwa Ilbo

Three year olds dominate / Afternoon Dove steps up
Nice Choice continued his post-Derby rehabilitation by coming through late to get the best of a three way battle for the Munhwa Ilbo Cup at Seoul Race Park this evening.

As expected, it was the three year olds who dominated proceedings. Nice Choice was sent off the odds on favourite ahead of Baengnyeonbong and Khanui Jeguk. However, it was the other three year old in the race, Event, who made the early running under Moon Se Young and led the eleven strong field going into the home straight.

Choi Beom Hyun on Khanui Jeguk was the first of the big guns to make his move and, as Event faltered, the three favourites locked horns. It was a battle that Nice Choice and Cho Kyoung Ho would win by a neck on the line, with just a further head sealing second place for Khanui Jeguk ahead of Baengnyeonbong, who was finishing fastest of all.

With the win, Nice Choice goes onto six wins from nine starts and, with his Derby disappointment well and truly behind him, puts himself back among the main contenders to prevent Sangseung Ilro from completing the Triple Crown in October. With three year olds sweeping the placings, that particular division is looking a little brighter for the capital track tonight than it did when we filed out of Gwacheon on Derby day.

Things weren’t done after the Munhwa. Once the ceremonies were complete, Afternoon Dove recorded his first class 1 victory in a shock victory over a field containing Seungyu Sinhwa and Fly Queen. Old stagers Serendipper and Crocap rounded out an unlikely first three. Afternoon Dove shot to prominance by finishing second in the JRA Trophy on Derby day but was brought back to Earth by running ninth n the Owners’ Cup last month. Meanwhile Fly Queen, winner of last year’s KRA Cup Classic was sent immediately to the KRA’s Veterinary hospital after the race. Thoughts are with her this evening.

Khanui Jeguk wasn’t the only one of the “Khanuis” in form today. Khanui Huye, another also-ran in the Derby, took victory in a competitve race 7 ahead of fellow three year old Bulsechul. Highly rated Power Of Money sat down in the gate as they loaded and was deemed unfit to race.

At Busan, Oneurui Bobae and Admiral Reigart punished punters by taking first and second in the feature race – the four year old holding off the venerable Admiral by a length. Dongbang Geona completed a top three of outsiders.

Racing takes a break next weekend, but will be back the week after when Sangseung Ilro will be make her first appearance since winning the Derby in May. Currently the hottest property in Korea, the filly will be the one to beat in the Korean Oaks at Busan on August 9. On a big day at the Southern track, the undercard sees the International Lady Jockey Challenge race. We’ll start the build up over the next few days.

Munhwa Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – July 26, 2009

1. Nice Choice (KOR) [Lost Mountain – Betty’s Rhapsody (Don’t Hesitate)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 1.4, 1.0
2. Khanui Jeguk (KOR) [Sunday Well – Lucky Dip (Didyme)] – Choi Beom Hyun – 1.9
3. Baengnyeonbong (KOR) [Al Naba – Sansovino Art (Mister C.)] – Shin Hyoung Cheol – 1.3
Distances: Neck/Head
Also ran: 4. Grandzif; 5. Super Jet; 6. Nanjeongseo; 7. Hallasinbi; 8. Challanhanbit; 9. Event; 10. Lhotse Shar; 11. Taeguk Musa



Secret Weapon Fires To The Top

Easy for SW / Nothern Ace makes record breaking debut
Secret Weapon crowned a week in which he became recognised as the top Korean bred horse currently running at Seoul by winning the feature race under the lights at Seoul Race Park this evening.

Sent off as odds-on favourite for the 2000 metre handicap, the six year old had little trouble seeing off the rest of the fourteen strong field. Under Park Tae Jong, Secret Weapon hit the front entering the home straight and went on to record a four length victory from Jigusangwiryeok in second and Badajebi in third.

With Myeongmun Gamun slipping down to fourth in the Korean Racing Journal’s ranking of Korean bred horses, Secret Weapon takes the top spot after three consecutive victories at the top level. In second is Good Day with Top Point the highest placed filly or mare in third place.

Earlier, two year old Nothern Ace made his highly anticipated debut. He didn’t disappoint. Not only did he wire the field in race 2, he also took over half a second off the great J.S. Hold’s track record for Korean breds over five furlongs. Nothern Ace [Didyme – Telegraph Road (Royal Academy)] will be one to follow as the year progresses.

Race 2 was also significant as it saw the first two year old by former Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Volponi take to the track. Special Volpony was unplaced. Korean owners have clearly taken a liking to the name “Volpony” – also slated to debut soon is “White Volpony”, a grey filly.

Nothern Ace wasn’t the only horse with a curiously spelled name to find success today. Three year old colt Preety Good came into form too late to get on the Classic trail but he picked up his second straight win – and fourth from ten in total – in race 9. Meanwhile, in her third outing, filly Victoria Captin was narrowly beaten by Yaho Shani in race 6.

Tomorrow sees the Munhwa Ilbo Cup headline the last day’s racing before the two week summer break. Most seem to be predicting a two way battle between three year olds Nice Choice and Baengnyeonbong. However, nine other horses will be seeking to spoil that. Racing starts at 2:30pm with the big race at 7:35pm.

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – July 25, 2009

1. Secret Weapon (KOR) [Native Regent – Aheadofthetimes (Gold Alert)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.4, 1.0
2. Jigusangwiryeok (KOR) [Washington Color – Leapski (Nagurski)] – Won Jung Il – 6.4
3. Badajebi (KOR) [Mujaazif – Madonna (Avon’s Lord)] – Park Byoung Yun – 3.6
Distances: 4 lengths/Neck – 14 ran


Weekend Preview

It’s week two of night racing in Korea and Busan kicks things off on Friday with a twilight card beginning at 4:30pm. Seoul and Jeju run on Saturday with all thre having cards on Sunday.

The Munhwa Ilbo Cup at Seoul on Sunday is the highlight of the weekend (see full preview) but there is other action worth watching too. Last year’s champion three year old filly Mexicali Blues goes in a competitve handicap at Seoul on Sunday while
Secret Weapon, one of Seoul’s best Korean bred horses goes on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, Supernatural, an import from New Zealand makes his first start of 2009. The five year old made a prmising start to his career last year with three wins before injury hit at the end of the year.

Busan Race Park

Friday July 24: 10 races, first post 16:00, last 21:00
Sunday July 26: 6 races, first post 16:20, last 20:50

Seoul Race Park

Saturday July 25: 12 races, first post 14:30, last 21:00
Sunday July 26: 11 races, first post 14:30, last 21:00

Jeju Race Park (Pony racing)

Saturday July 25: 10 races, first post 16:30, last 21:30
Sunday July 26: 10 races, first post 16:30, last 21:30

The monsoon has been quiet throughout the week and sunshine and showers are predicted for the weekend.

Nice Choice Leads Munhwa Hopefuls

It’s been another disappointing year for three year olds at Seoul but one of them may have the chance to step up on Sunday as four of the best of the crop are among the entries for the Munhwa Ilbo Cup.

The Munhwa brings together a group of three year olds and also older horses who haven’t quite made it into the big time yet. However, with winners in recent years including Myeongmun Gamun and Baekgwang, who went on to become two of the track’s biggest stars, there is the potential for a champion to emerge.

Nice Choice is the one many will be looking to. He’s won five of his eight races to date and was last year’s champion two year old. The one race he’s dissappointed in was the Derby. Ahead of him that day, Baengnyeonbong slipped into third place and following a smart win last month, he’s also back. Khanui Jeguk also disappointed in the Derby, but he too won last time out. The final three year old is Event. Kept off the classic trail, the colt has quietly amassed six wins from his ten starts.

Among the older horses, Lhotse Shar has been in good form this year and won at this level last time out. All the others have wins in their history but only Super Jet and Hallasinbi have been in winning form recently.

The race will be run under the lights on Sunday evening with post time at 7:35pm. Click here for past performance information (Korean) and see below for a full list of runners, records and riders:

Munhwa Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – July 26, 2009

1. Nanjeongseo [Psychobabble – Caroful (Sportful)] – (22/4/1/3) – Ham Wan Sik
2. Lhotse Shar [Revere – Leave It To Mama (Pappa Riccio)] – (16/5/1/1) – Shim Seung Tae
3. Baengnyeonbong [Al Naba – Sansovino Art (Mister C.)] – (11/5/1/2) – Shin Hyoung Cheol
4. Taegeuk Musa [Walkslikeaduck – Bae Gil Gi Do (Salmon Leap)] – (47/3/2/5) – Yang Hee Jin
5. Super Jet [Archer City Slew – Tae-Eulbong (Road Of War)] – (12/5/0/1) – Kim Young Jin
6. Khanui Jeguk [Sunday Well – Lucky Dip (Didyme)] – (9/4/1/1) – Choi Beom Hyun
7. Hallasinbi [Duality – Gamble On Jill (Spare Card)] – (21/4/4/1) – Lee Gi Hwoi
8. Challanhanbit [Psychobabble – Naha (Silver Buck)] – (21/5/1/1) – Moon Jung Kyun
9. Event [Creek Cat – Forget Me Dot (Citidancer)] – (10/6/0/0) – Moon Se Young
10. Nice Choice [Lost Mountain – Betty’s Rhapsody (Don’t Hesitate)] – (8/5/2/0) – Cho Kyoung Ho
11. Grandzif [Mujaazif – Knight Blues (Knight’s Choice)] – (18/3/5/3) – Park Tae Jong

Sit in at Busan

Another overseas jockey rides into Busan this weekend as Hong Kong’s Vincent Sit takes up a four month licence. He’ll make his debut on Friday.

Sit (Shun Keung Sit) isn’t one of Hong Kong’s most prolific jockeys – he has 103 career wins from 2385 rides. His best season was in 2000-2001. In the 2008-2009 season he has three wins.

He will join what’s becoming a vibrant overseas jockey community at Busan. Eiki Nishimura and Martin Wepner have been thriving recently with Wepner currently the in-form jockey at the track. Stephan Swanepoel also recently transferred down from Seoul and has already landed his first winner – something he was unable to do in four months in the capital.

Back up north, Nozomu Tomizawa continues to valiantly battle on against the odds at Seoul where he was recently joined by fellow Japanese rider Toshiyuki Katoh .

Click here for Vincent Sit’s profile from the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Update: Shaka has collected some videos of Vincent Sit in action in Hong Kong

Baekpa Does a Little Better

Baekpa not only stayed in touch with the field but actually beat one home in her second US outing at Colonial Downs on Monday evening. The five year old ran sixth of seven in race 6, an Allowance Optional Claiming over a mile on the turf under jockey Geovany Garcia.

Still not exactly world beating but a better effort for her first ever race on turf and if they must run her again before bringing her home, one that gives heart.

Video hat-tip to Fpop.

Screens Go Dark as Racing on TV Outlawed

Yesterday saw the last live TV broadcasts of horse racing in Korea before such coverage became illegal today. The Living TV cable channel had previously broadcast four hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The ban comes in conjunction with an enforced end to telephone and internet betting which also came into effect today.

The move to ban TV coverage comes from a fear that as punters can no longer legally bet from home on what they are watching, they will do it illegally. Now they will have to leave their houses. Racing on TV had long been keeping those in charge of the nation’s morals up at night. The maximum bet limit of KRW 100,000 and the 27% take-out rate had meant that many had already been seeking other avenues for their gambling money and to prevent illegal bookmakers using the racing coverage, a time delay was in place to ensure races weren’t actually shown “live”.

Living TV, a relentlessly optimistic channel which spends most of its time showing travelogues set to uplifting music, will continue to show its “Ye-Sang Gyongma!” preview shows on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Many inside racing fear that the strong anti-gambling lobby will use this victory to move onto bigger targets. This year they have succeeded in cutting the number of race dates as well as limiting the number of pari-mutuel windows that can be open at any one time at the track. Now it is the ending of telephone and internet betting coupled with the TV ban. Next in their sights is likely to be the Off Track betting sites – or “KRA Plazas”. Aside from the race tracks themselves, these are now the only places in Korea where it is legal to place a bet.

The KRA is responding. They have worked to position the Plazas – generally located in prestige office buildings – as community hubs on the four days a week there is no racing, with various activities and events taking place free of charge for local residents.

There is some requirement on them to do this. The KRA is part of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (FAFF, as it were) and is mandated to fund a lot of social programs. It also plays a large role in promoting Korean agriculture. Making itself indispensible is perhaps the only defence the racing industry can use when the next onslaught comes.

Meanwhile, as punters become criminalized, those already on the other side of the law remain more than willing to take over.

Update: In semi-related news Korea Beat translates a YTN report about some Korean teachers being caught gambling. It is likely that these games go on up and down the country every day of the week. The report is typical of Korean news coverage of gambling issues in that it describes the teachers as engaging in “anti-educational” acts. Korearacing would contend that, on the contrary, he learned what little mathematics he did calculating each-way returns at Newmarket.

Baekpa To Make Second US Start

Baekpa will make her second US start on Monday evening (Tuesday morning Korean time) in race 6 at Colonial Downs in Virginia. The 2007 Korean Oaks winner finished last on her debut at Delaware Park last month and she’ll be hard pushed to improve on that with seven tough looking fillies and mares currently entered against her. Here’s the line-up with records and rider:

Allowance/Optional Claiming ($40,000) – Colonial Downs – One Mile (Turf), July 20, Race 6

1. One Man To Beat – (11/4/3/0) – H. Karamanos
2. Baekpa – (23/8/5/2) – G. Garcia
3. Royal Regan – (34/6/8/6) – L. Garcia
4. Miss Lombardi – (23/7/3/5) – R.B. Homeister, Jnr.
5. Song Cat – (19/3/2/3) – S. Russell
6. Burst Of Light – (13/3/2/1) – J. Hall
7. Lily’s Joy – (19/3/2/7) – M. Franklin
8. Beau’s Trip – (22/3/1/1) – E. Camacho

The race is off at 7:20pm local time (8:20am Korean time).