Month: October 2009

Weekend Preview

Oh My Sun / Seonbongbulpae / Gi Ra Seong
The Juvenile Fillies have their big day at Seoul Race Park on Saturday as the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup takes centre stage. Ten two year olds will go in the six furlong test with Oh My Sun and and the unknown Choegouisungan among them.

It’s rare for the feature race of the weekend to be held on a Saturday but this Sunday also has its attractions. The in-form Gi Ra Seong, will be in action in the feature race as the build up continues to next month’s President’s Cup but, in keeping with the Juvenile theme, plenty of eyes will be on race 7 where Seonbongbulpae makes his third appearance.

The colt won his first two races easily and steps up to class 4 as he prepares for his likely December showdown with Nothern Ace in the Herald Media.

Busan runs cards on Friday and Sunday. The feature is on Friday with Golding and Dongbang Geona among the contenders.

Busan Race Park

Friday October 23: 10 races, first post 13:00, last 17:30
Sunday October 25: 6 races, first post 12:40, last 16:30

Seoul Race Park

Saturday October 24: 12 races, first post 11:20, last 17:50
Sunday October 25: 11 races, first post 11:20, last 18:00

Jeju Race Park (Pony Racing)

Saturday October 24: 9 races: first post 12:10, last 17:10
Sunday October 25: 10 races, first post 12:10, last 17:20

New Jockey for Seoul, New Stallion for Jeju

The Japanese jockey contingent in Korea has risen to four again. Thirty-two year old Yoshiyuki Aoki has arrived in Seoul and looks set to make his debut at the track this coming weekend. He’ll join Toshiyuki Katoh at Seoul while Eiki Nishimura and Hitomi Miyashita are at Busan.

Meanwhile the KRA has been stallion shopping and it appears that they are close to bringing over the nine year old Peace Rules [Jules – Hold To Fashion (Hold Your Peace)], a prolific winner in his racing career taking the Haskell Invitational and Blue Grass Stakes amongst a number of Grade Ones. He’s found only moderate success as a sire and the Bloodhorse reports he will stand at the KRA’s Jeju Stud Farm where he will be alongside the likes of Volponi and fellow newcomer, Ecton Park.

Peace Rules will take the number of registered stallions in Korea to 96. Over the past year, two colts and a fiilly by Peace Rules have been imported. The best known of these is three year old Gangho [Honor Delilah (Honor Grades)], who won his first four races this Spring. Two year old filly Gwacheon Geojang [Copelan’s Lily (Copelan)]has also made a positive start withe a win and a second place in her two outings to date.

Here’s Peace Rules winning the 2004 Suburban Handicap from Funny Cide at Belmont Park:

Bloodhorse Article

A video of Peace Rules at current home Vinery Farm.

(ht – FP)

FAFFing About in Parliament

Golf, Karaoke and Illegal Race-calls all feature in Racing’s Day at the Auditors

Monday saw top KRA officials make the journey to the National Assembly building in Yeouido, Seoul where, as part of the Ministry of Farming, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (FAFF), it was their turn to appear in front of lawmakers as part of the annual National Assembly audit.

During the three week audit, all government departments come under scrutiny with 500 administrative sections covering everything from the Army to the Tourist Board having to appear to answer questions. It’s an event widely criticised in Korea as being little to do with serious audit and more to do with political showboating.

Indeed it often turns out that way. In the past, politicians have arrived for the Defence Department audit wearing army fatigues and staged a target practice exhibition before the questions, while others decided to cut off the power while the Korean Electrical Power Corporation (KEPCO) was being grilled so that executives could see what it was like to work by candlelight.

The Korea Times commented last year that generally all officials need to do is either “beg, bribe or entertain the parliamentarians” to get through another year. The same paper did grant, however, that if nothing else, the audit period was good for “slapstick funnies” on the National Assembly TV channel.

Chairman and CEO Kim Kwang Won headed the KRA delegation. Sadly, Kim did not show up wearing racing silks and carrying a whip. Here’s a brief summary of some of the issues that were raised by lawmakers:

* Like any audit, the main purpose was to check what the KRA was doing with its money. Especially what it shouldn’t be doing. The KRA overtime payments to staff were criticised – around 4 Billion won ($3.6Million) was allegedly paid during the audit period. This was also noted in the last audit.

* Rep. Kang Seok Ho of the ruling (and perhaps appropriately named) Grand National Party, raised the issue of “improper Golf Club memberships” purchased by the KRA to the value of KRW 1 Billion as well as KRW 100 Million put on corporate credit cards at various Karaoke bars and “Saunas”. Rep. Kang condemned the expenditure as “violating every civilized subject of public sentiment” given the ongoing recession.

* Rep. Kang Ki-Kap of the Democratic Party is generally good value at any National Assembly event. Opting to neither fight, nor smash anything up today, he instead chose to focus on illegal gambling. Given that racing on TV has now been outlawed, Kang wanted to know what the KRA was doing to counter the supposed problem of illegal live commentaries of races from the track to private gaming houses.

* The appointment of a former close advisor to President Lee Myoung Bak during his election campaign to what some see as a grace and favour position within the racing authority, came under attack

* Regulatory issues were also covered. Breakfast TV news reports had speculated that the KRA would be strongly criticised over its progress in meeting guidleines laid down by the National Gaming Control Commission (NGCC). The matter was raised with criticism for the way the KRA has pushed ahead with its promotion of Off Track Betting locations (or KRA Plazas) with the NGCC requiring that by 2013, 50% of all money wagered is done so at the track – currently it stands at 30%.

How much fall-out there is from the audit session will become clearer later in the week but overall, there was little new on the regulatory front – and sadly even less on the comedy front.

Leading Sire Race Neck And Neck

With the Classics out of the way it seems a good time to check on the leading sires race. And with Sangseung Ilro taking two legs of the Triple Crown and finishing third in the final one, Concept Win’s offspring are locked in a tight battle with those of Didyme to reclaim the title he last won in 2006.

Concept Win [Manila – Conveniently (In Reality)] has been in Korea since 1997 and was leading sire in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Didyme has ruled since then, with sheer numbers of winners rather than big race stars, giving him a slight advantage as we head into the tail end of the season. With just over two months to go, Didyme leads by just 40 Million won ($35,000) with Revere a further 100 Million Won behind.

What remains remarkable about Didyme, however, is his win rate – with 63 wins from 438 starts he has a win percentage of nearly 15% compared to 8% for Concept Win (43 wins from 500 starts). While Sangseung Ilro has accounted for over 600 Million Won of Concept Win’s earnings, Didyme’s top earner, Areumdaun Jilju, has made just 150 Million won. With the talent spread around, it looks as though it’s going to be three years running for Didyme.

Leading Sires in Korea 2009 (As of October 19)
Name/Pedigree/Earnings (Korean Won)/Chief Earner/Win Rate

1. Didyme (USA) [Dixieland Band – Soundings (Mr. Prospector)] – 2,379,790,000 – Areumdaun Jilju – 14.4%
2. Concept Win (USA) [Manila – Conveniently (In Reality)] – 2,331,894,000 – Sangseung Ilro – 8.6%
3. Revere (IRE) [Dancing Brave – Bint Pasha (Affirmed)] – 2,243, 940,000 – Pangpang – 8.4%
4. Ft. Stockton (USA) [Cure The Blues – Tai The Devil (Tai)] – 1,897,778,000 – Namdo Jeap – 9.5%
5. Social Charter (USA) [Nureyev – Aunt Pearl (Seattle Slew)] – 1,739,596,000 – Natural Guy – 8.1%

Volponi has been the best performer so far out of eleven first crop sires (albeit with just two wins) and is sixth overall in the list of sires of two year olds.

Full details can be found at the Korean Studbook.

Hitomi At The Double

It hasn’t taken new girl Hitomi Miyashita long to settle into her new environment at Busan. Having landed three second place finishes on her debut weekend, today she followed it up with her first victory – and then immediately after with her second.

Having safely seen home hot favourite Seongsu Yeongung in race 3, she came out and did the same on the promising two year old Time To Fly in race 4. She wasn’t finished there as she took Max Is Cruisin to third place in the feature event of the afternoon.

That feature event was won by Crafty Louis, the six year old notching up his fifth win of 2009, holding off Phasmes by three lengths. While Hitomi landed two winners, Crafty Louis was the third win of the day for jockey Jo Chang Wook.

Earlier this year, Hitomi Miyashita was pictured next to Toshio Uchida at a ceremony in Japan where “Mr Pink” won an award for his performance in Korea and Hitomi picked up a Lady Jockey prize. That picture must have struck fear into the Busan Jockey colony with memories of Uchida’s dominance at the track last year still dominant. Hitomi may be no Uchida, but if she continues with the same kind of support she’s had from trainers so far and then doing the business in the saddle, she’s going to be a regular visitor to the winner’s circle.

Up at Seoul, Donga Ilbo winner Dangdaeteukgeup followed up with a smart win over 1900 metres. The filly is now just one win away from entering the top tier of Korean racing. That same top tier today put on a rather low key feature event where Obaek Yechan tasted victory for the fist time since November 2007.

The six year old came through late for a surprisingly convincing four length win over Model Student and Seungyu Sinhwa. For the second race running, favourite Dankee’s Pal vanished without trace entering the home straight.



Baekgwang Rolls Back The Years

The White Light Shines Again At Seoul
It’s almost three years to the day since Baekgwang roared up the Seoul Race Park home straight reeling in horse after horse to land the 2006 Minister’s Cup. That win completed a hat-trick of big race wins and was enough to see him crowned Champion Three Year Old of that year. Having started his 2007 campaign in much the same fashion, injury struck and has plagued him ever since.

Off the track for nearly a year, he returned in the 2008 Ttukseom Cup and ran a strong second only to return to his barn with severely damaged knee ligaments. His career looked over once and for all. However, a year of stem cell therapy and recuperation on Jeju Island saw Baekgwang make a second comeback fifteen months later in this July’s SBS Cup, the race his little sister Baekpa had won in his absence last year. Baekgwang ran fourth, keeping his record of always finishing in the money intact but most importantly, he came out of the race in fine condition.

A second place to Gi Ra Seong followed last month but today, the rehabilitation was complete. Running seventh of nine as they entered the straight, Baekgwang – the “White Light” – ran them all down to finally reclaim his rightful place in the winner’s circle. Yes he was favourite in a slightly sub-par class 1 field and yes, big danger Hwangnyongsaji was a late scratching but in winning, Baekgwang brought a smile to the face of even the most hardened punter.

Baekgwang will almost certainly be pointed next at November’s President’s Cup – a race that, had he stayed injury free, he would no doubt have been in the mix for over the past two years. While the winner of the last two editions, Myeongmun Gamun, is now out of the picture, the likes of Gi Ra Seong and Secret Weapon remain very much on the prowl and Baekgwang will be an outsider.

Whatever happens next will happen. Punters paid him the ultimate compliment by yelling his name rather than his number as he entered the stretch this afternoon – an honour that only Subsidy, Bally Brae and Baekpa have received recently. His place in Korean racing history is already assured and the best thing about it is that against all odds, it’s not over yet.

Shaka is on hand with video of the race.

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – Oct 17, 2009

1. Baekgwang (KOR) [The Groom Is Red – Grey Crest (Gold Crest)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.6, 1.0
2. Free Woody (KOR) [Social Charter – Choeseonbong (Imperial Prince)] – Lee Jun Cheol – 3.4
3. Ugildongja (KOR) [Dixie Dot Com – May Roses (Incinderator)] – Moon Jung Kyun – 1.4
Distances: 0.5 lengths/0.5 lengths – 9 ran


Weekend Preview

Big Chance for Baekgwang
Baekgwang is the star attraction of the weekend with the grey former champion three year old set to make his third appearance of his comeback. Now six, Baekgwang will finish off his preparations for a likely tilt at next month’s President’s Cup as he heads a field of ten in Saturday’s feature race at Seoul Race Park.

While it is a competitive field it is also a beatable one and, while the likes of Hwangnyongsaji, Machine Gun and Ugildongja are all proven winners, Baekgwang has his best chance since his return from stem cell therapy of finding himself back in the winner’s circle for the first time in nearly three years.

The weekend’s racing gets underway at Busan on Friday with ten races while on Sunday one of the track’s stars, Crafty Louis will be on show in the pick of six races.

Busan Race Park

Friday October 16: 10 races, first post 13:00, last 17:30
Sunday October 18: 6 races, first post 12:40, last 16:30

Seoul Race Park

Saturday October 17: 12 races, first post 11:20, last 17:40
Sunday October 18: 11 races, first post 11:20, last 18:00

Jeju Race Park (Pony racing)

Saturday October 17: 9 races, first post 12:10, last 17:10
Sunday October 18: 10 races, first post 12:10, last 17:35