The Korean Oaks

This year was to be the “Year of the Filly”. It has been so far. While in the US they have their filly, in Korea, it is Sangseung Ilro who has been the year’s stand-out achiever so far. On Sunday, she will look to become the second filly to complete the Derby/Oaks double when she lines up for the tenth running of the Korean Oaks at Busan Race Park.

At the start of the year, the KRA decided to put more emphasis on the filly and mare division. The limit owners could spend on buying overseas bred fillies for racing was doubled and 10% of races were designated as being for fillies and mares only. The long-term aim of these policy initiatives would seem to be to lessen the amount that needs to be spent on importing broodmares by having more capable fillies running, then retiring to the farms.

Like most races on the calendar, the Korean Oaks is a relatively new event. With the advent of private ownership of racehorses – and therefore prize money – in the 1990s, Korea began the long process of bringing its racing in line with international standards. It’s very much an ongoing process but one part of that has been organising the season. The Derby began in 1998 and the Oaks two years later.

With the Derby taking place in May and the Oaks in August, it is possible for a filly to win both. Haeam Janggun managed that feat in 2002 and went on to land the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup. She didn’t compete in the first leg (which was then the Ttukseom Cup) so missed out on the opportunity to win all four. Sangseung Ilro did take part, however, and won the KRA Cup Mile. In Classic terms she is two down with two to go. While there is still much running to do, if she can go on to win the lot, the “Year of the Filly” will be the year of Sangseung Ilro.

The first eight editions of the Oaks were run at Seoul Race Park before being moved to Busan last year. Here is a run down of the winners of each race so far:

2008: Jeolho Chance [Didyme – Harboring (Boston Harbor)] Previously finished third in the KRA Cup Mile but after failing to make an impact in the Derby, won the Oaks in impressive fashion before going on to run a close second in the Minister’s Cup back at Seoul. Has been off the track injured all year and it is looking increasingly unlikely we will see her again.

2007: Baekpa [Revere – Grey Crest (Gold Crest)] – Chun Chang Ki – Chun landed his third Oaks on the grey Baekpa. She remains, along with big brother Baekgwang, one of the country’s most popular horses although of late she has been running in the US in the KRA’s Internationalization program.

2006: Seohae Beontcheok [Revere – Linear Mark (Miner’s Mark)] – Kim Hyo Seob – She wired the field and won by ten lengths but the filly didn’t step up after and only won once more. Sent for broodmare duties, she recently gave birth to her first colt, by Concept Win.

2005: Gamun Nyeonggwang [Concept Win – Pebble Beach (Metfield)] – Lim Dae Gyu – Her win was a minor suprise but she went on to land the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup in October that year. Late jockey Lim Dae Gyu scored his last big race win on her.

2004: Singgeureoun [Mr. Adorable – Rambollina (Rambo Dancer)] – Chun Chang Ki – She came through with a late run to win by a commanding five lengths and went on to run for a further two seasons. Her only future success came in the 2006 Sports Seoul. Began broodmare duties in 2008.

2003: Amaranth [Future Quest – Shernadeed (Shernazar)] – Chun Chang Ki – The first of jockey Chun’s three Oaks wins came on the 8/1 shot who edged out a small field by a length. Ran on for a further two seasons but couldn’t repeat her Oaks form.

2002: Haeam Janggun [Didyme – Ronde (Toast The Champ)] – Bang Choon Sik – The one that Sangseung Ilro will be looking to emulate. Earlier in the year she won the Korean Derby and, after the taking the Oaks, she went on to win the Minister’s Cup. Two out of her three foals to hit the track so far have been winners.

2001: Espass [Psychobabble – Moment In May (L’Enjoleur)] – Kim Hey Sung – A four length winner, she went on to win the Ttkukseom Cup the following year.

2000: Seonbong Taegam [Road Of War – Jae-Saek-Keom-Bi (Elusive Quest)] – Kim Hyo Seob – The first Oaks winner won by a narrow margin ahead of an odds-on favourite. The race was run over seven furlongs. From the following year, it would be run over its current distance of nine furlongs.


    1. Generally they are the same. In Korea, the Derby is open to three year old colts and fillies, the Oaks is only open to fillies. One difference between the Korean Derby and say, the Kentucky Derby, is that geldings are not allowed to compete.

      Another big difference is that the Korean Classics – The KRA Cup Mile, Derby, Oaks and Minister’s Cup – are only open to Korean bred runners – the foal must have been both conceived and born in Korea to be eligible.

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