Month: December 2009

2009 – The Horses

Dongbanui Gangja ran seven times in 2009 and won seven times. Among those wins were an Owners’ Cup and his second Grand Prix. Currently untouchable at Seoul, he comfortably saw off those from Busan who dared to challenge him. By some distance, Dongbanui Gangja is our horse of the year.

Three year olds have had another mixed year. On the domestic front, Nice Choice eventually came good after a disappointing start to the year, his President’s Cup win over older horses the highlight. For the second year running, however, it was Busan horses who dominated the generation.

Namdo Jeap was second in the KRA Cup Mile and Korean Derby before going one better in the final leg of the Triple Crown. Like Nice Choice, Yeonseung Daero started the year with big expectations but only started living up to them late on in the campaign. In 2010, he more than others, will be the one to watch.

And then there was Sangseung Ilro. Overlooked by most before the Classics, the filly stormed to victory in the KRA Cup Mile at 16/1. Bizarrely, she remained unfancied for the Derby, which she proceeded to romp with ease.

Then it all went wrong. Sent off odds-on for the Oaks, she seemed all set for victory with a furlong to run, but tired to the extent that Pangpang managed to catch her. Diagnosed with a shin problem, she didn’t reappear until October when she made her bid for the Triple Crown in the Minister’s Cup at Seoul. Again she tired but bravely ran on for third place behind stablemate Namdo Jeap and Nice Choice.

With a disappointing reappearance last week, whether Sangseung Ilro returns in 2010 or follows 2008’s top filly Jeolho Chance, another plagued by injury, into the breeding shed, is still in doubt.

Those to have already had their careers prematurely ended by injury include Gangho and most notably, Playing Politics. The four-year old won six of his seven races and was considered a potential late season challenger to Dongbanui Gangja before he came back lame after easily winning what proved to be his final race in February.

Some old friends faded in 2009. Subsidy, Gayansanseong and Daiwa Arazi were retired while Golding, a stalwart of Busan since the track’s opening four years ago is in the way out. Meanwhile Subsidy’s great sparring partner Bally Brae was victorious early in the year but by the end of 2009, it was clear that his best days were behind him.

Feelgood story of the year is Baekgwang. Now six years old, the grey was champion three-year old in 2006 before suffering an injury that decimated his four-year old season and then flared up again in his only appearance in 2008. Following stem-cell treatment and a long period of recuperation, he came back in the SBS Cup in August. He ran fourth but went on to win two handicaps and finished second in the President’s Cup. In the unsentimental world of Korean racing, the sight of Baekgwang launching his home straight charge from the back of the field, just as he did three years ago.

Then there is the future. Seonbongbulpae, Northern Ace, Money Car and Night Moves caught the eye in the two-year old ranks this year. Will they push on in 2010? Who are those that we don’t know about yet but will have forced themselves into the Classic reckoning come May?

The road to the Derby is just days away. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at the four Classics of 2009:

1: The KRA Cup Mile – Busan, April 5: Sangseung Ilro stuns the colts by winning the first Classic:

2: The Korean Derby – Seoul, May 17: Sangseung Ilro again takes the honours to set up a possible Triple Crown:

3: The Korean Oaks – Busan, August 9: It’s Sangseung Ilro’s turn to be upset as Pangpang reels her in over the final furlong on a hot night in Busan:

4: The Minster of FAFF Cup – Seoul, October 12 – Namdo Jeap finally makes it to the Winners’ Circle, ending Sangseung Ilro’s hopes of emulating J.S.Hold in winning the Korean Triple Crown:

All these equine athletes become a year older on January 1. We will no doubt say goodbye to some in 2010 and meet a whole host of others for the first time. Wherever a horse is running next year, may it come home safely.

Didyme is Top Sire for 3rd Straight Year

Didyme is Leading Sire in Korea for the third year running. The nineteen year old was responsible for earnings approaching 3 Billion Won over the year, 200 Million Won more than nearest rival Concept Win whose filly, Sangseung Ilro claimed two legs of the Triple Crown. Revere was in third place.

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

1. Didyme (USA) [Dixieland Band – Soundings (Mr. Prospector)] – 2,961,105,000 – 13.1% – Areumdaun Jilju
2. Concept Win (USA) [Manila – Conveniently (In Reality)] – 2,799,694,000 – 8.2% – Sangseung Ilro
3. Revere (IRE) [Dancing Brave – Bint Pasha (Affirmed)] – 2,489,169,000 – 7.9% – Pangpang
4. Creek Cat (USA) [Storm Cat – Vivano (Island Whirl)] – 2,328,035,000 – 14.4% – Yeonseung Daero
5. Duality (USA) [Seeking The Gold – Jody.G (Roberto)] – 2,208,030,000 – 15.4% – Gaeseon Janggun

All of the top five’s chief money earners run at Busan, a further demonstration of the stranglehold the southern track has in terms of quality. In races where Seoul and Busan horses faced each other this year, Busan won four and Seoul won two. Crucially though, Busan won all the races which were restricted to Korean bred runners.

Creek Cat was leading sire of two year-olds, ahead of Didyme, but one to look out for though could be Newsprint (USA) [Gone West – Salty Perfume (Salt Lake)]. He finished seventh on the list of sires of two-year olds from just six runners. They included Seonbongbulpae and Money Car, two of the year’s most exciting juveniles. Newsprint was second among first crop sires behind Volponi. Sadly Newsprint died in November at the tender age of seven but his offspring may do him proud in 2010.

Full details can be found at the Korean Studbook.

Baekgwang Closes Out 2009 In Style

Park Tae Jong Trebles to Claim Jockey Title / Sangseung Ilro beaten
At the start of this year, it would have been a brave punter who suggested that it would be Baekgwang, champion three-year old of 2006 but since lost to perpetual injury, who would be bringing the curtain down on the 2009 season by running down the field in the home straight to claim a last gasp victory like he did so many times three years ago.

Yet that is what happened in the snow at Seoul Race Park this afternoon as the brilliant grey turned for home last out of eleven in the nine and a half furlong handicap. Roared on by 40,000 punters and under Park Tae Jong, another former champion about to have his crown restored, Baekgwang picked off one after another. Natural Guy, Best Fusion and Free Woody were the last to resist, but Baekgwang swept by with plenty to spare with Blue Pin, one of the year’s better three-year olds, coming through for second.

We shouldn’t even have been here today. However, a pair of cancellations – first for a Presidential funeral and then because of an iced-up track, meant that this additional weekend was necessary to complete all the races allocated for 2009. Any regrets racegoers may have had over leaving their yuletide firesides for the snowy wilds of Gwacheon were forgotten though as Baekgwang since secured his second win since his unlikely comeback and a twelfth win in total for the six-year old. Now only Nice Choice is ahead of him in the domestic ranks at Seoul. A seven-year old season is now very much on the cards.

For jockey Park Tae Jong, the jockey with the most rides and the most wins in Korean racing history, Baekgwang was just the start of a glorious late treble that saw him wrap-up the jockeys’ championship by a surprisingly comfortable margin.

2008 Champion Moon Se Young had done his best to upstage the veteran Park early on. Moon, making up for lost time after a frustrating three month lay-off went about business with a vengeance, landing five of the first seven races. In doing so, he made Park’s lead over Cho Kyoung Ho – three going into today – almost unassailable (although Cho had taken race 2 to narrow the gap).

From race 9 onwards, it was all about Park. This is a jockey who already has an exhibit in the KRA’s racing museum dedicated to him as well as a plaque commemorating his becoming the first jockey to ride 1000 winners in Korea. That was five years ago and he’s well over 1500 now.

After Baekgwang, Park took Obaek Yechan to a commanding five length victory in race 10 and then closed out the season with an easy win on two year old Money Car – the colt breezing away from a hopelessly outclassed field to win by fifteen lengths. It’s four out of five for Money Car [Newsprint – Pinocchio (Big Sur)] and he may have a big part to play in 2010.

As 2009 wrapped up at Seoul, however, it was all about Baekgwang.

Class 1 Handicap (Domestic) – Seoul Race Park – 1900M – Dec 27, 2009

1. Baekgwang (KOR) [The Groom Is Red – Grey Crest (Gold Crest)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.4, 1.0
2. Blue Pin (KOR) [Lion Heart – Telegraph Road (Royal Academy)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 1.4
3. Free Woody (KOR) [Social Charter – Choiseonbong (Imperial Prince)] – Lee Joon Chel – 1.8
Distances: 1.75 lengths/0.75 lengths – 11 ran

Busan Race Park also had a catch-up meeting and the eagerly awaited return to the track of Derby winner Sangseung Ilro was the main attraction. Off the track since her third place in the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October, the filly was sent off the odds-on favourite but failed to fire in the home straight, eventually finishing fourth behind outsider Segye Jepae. 2008 Derby winner Ebony Storm was never involved, trailing home last but one.



Park Tae Jong Goes Clear

With one day to go, Park Tae Jong scored a double to go three clear at the top of the Seoul Jockeys’ Championship at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. Long time championship leader Cho Kyoung Ho stayed in the hunt with a single win but Choi Beom Hyun scored a blank and is now five behind.

Park’s first victory came with three-year old filly Jangjagang in race 7 and in the last on favourite K Two Bong. Cho, meanwhile, guided two-year old US import Tough Win [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] to his third straight win. The gelding was stepped up in class for the seven furlong race 9 but once again was cantered to victory by an overwhelming margin. Tough Win will be one to watch in 2010.

While Park Tae Jong was moving ever closer to taking the Jockeys’ Championship, there was a welcome return to action for another veteran rider as Kim Ok Sung took his first mounts since suffering a knee injury in a trackwork fall during the summer. And it was a victorious return for the “Smile Jockey” as he landed race 5 on Cheot Insang.

Finally of note on a day when the focus seemed very much on the jockeys, apprentice rider Kim Hae Sun took only her second career victory as she guided long-shot Jumalui Haengbok to a comfortable win in race 1.

Racing returns to Seoul on Sunday with an eleven race card. Baekgwang is the big name runner in race 9. Also at Seoul four races will be simulcasted from Busan where Sangseung Ilro makes her long awaited return to the track. The 2009 Derby winner faces the winner of the 2008 edition, Ebony Storm. Racing at Seoul gets underway at 11:10am.

Check out the KRA’s new English results service

Christmas Weekend Preview

Baekgwang / Sangseung Ilro / Jockey Title Race
If the story of the first half of the Korean racing year was Sangseung Ilro, the filly who claimed the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the story of the second half was Baekgwang. With the help of stem-cell therapy, the six-year old grey overcame two years of injuries to make an unlikely return to the top-tier of racing and gave Nice Choice a run for his money in the President’s Cup.

It is fitting then that both Sangseung Ilro and Baekgwang should run on the day that brings the 2009 season to a close. Sangseung Ilro will be the main draw of a short four race card at Busan on Sunday while Baekgwang will tackle one of the co-feature races at Seoul on the same day.

Also at Seoul, the Leading Jockey Title is on the line. With last year’s Champion Moon Se Young missing three months of the season due to injury, the race opened up. Cho Kyoung Ho looked to have victory secured until he was hit with a suspension last week which allowed veteran Park Tae Jong to swoop in and take the lead. Park leads Cho by one wins with Choi Beom Hyun a further victory behind. All three have nearly full books of rides and it could go any way.

Busan Race Park
Friday December 25: 8 races, first post 11:30, last 16:00
Sunday December 27: 4 races, first post 12:30, last 16:20

Seoul Race Park
Saturday December 26: 10 races, first post 11:10, last 17:40
Sunday December 27: 11 races, first post 11:10, last 17:50

Jeju Race Park (Pony Racing)
Friday December 25: 9 races, first post 13:30, last 17:00
Saturday December 26: 9 races, first post 13:35, last 17:30

Jeju moves this week to racing on Friday and Saturday – this will be its regular schedule in 2010. After a few warmer days, the cold snap is likely to be back over the weekend. Wrap up warm!

Gyongmaman is currently in the UK for Christmas but will have his spies at the track over the weekend and wishes all punters a very Merry Christmas!

Sangseung Ilro Returns

Derby winning filly takes on 2008 Derby winner at Busan
This year’s KRA Cup Mile and Korean Derby winner returns to the racecourse on Sunday as Sangseung Ilro makes her first appearance since missing out on completing the Triple Crown in October.

Sangseung Ilro was a dominant winner of the season’s first two classics against the colts but then was upset by Pangpang on a hot night in August at the Korean Oaks. Following the Oaks. it emerged that she was struggling with a shin problem and she didn’t reappear until her assault on the Triple Crown at the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October. That day she finished third behind stablemate Namdo Jeap and Seoul’s top three-year old, Nice Choice.

With rest and recuperation now complete, Sangseung Ilro will line up with twelve others in Busan’s feature race this coming Sunday where she will run straight into the winner of the 2008 Derby, Ebony Storm. The four-year old is himself making his first start since June and what shape either of these two Classic winners are in will go a long way to determining the outcome of this race.

Aside from Sangseung Ilro and Ebony Storm, an interesting field will assemble for the 1800 metre handicap. Carrying top weight will be another three-year old, Top Grade. With six wins from ten starts, the colt will be stepping back a furlong after a disappointing run over 2000 metres earlier this month. Also going will be the always dangerous Sinheung Gangja.

Busan runs just four races on Sunday following on from an eight race card on Christmas Day.

Lucky Mountain Keeps Climbing

Nonghyup Cup winner Lucky Mountain continued her rich run of recent form today by claiming the feature race on another bitterly cold afternoon at Seoul Race Park.

The four-year old overhauled long-time leader Challanhanbit in the final furlong to take victory by a length from Machine Gun and Lucky Seven.

Lucky Mountain, always a consistent money-earner, has come into her own this year. While today was just her third win since graduating to class 1 racing, she hasn’t finished any worse than third in her ten starts in 2009

Down at Busan, it was the old-stagers to the fore as Hwanggeumbit Taeyang beat off the challenge of fellow seven-year old Golding by the narrowest of margins to land the southern track’s feature race. While Heungheung Daejak, at age five comparatively youthful, took third, it was another pair of seven-year olds, Admiral Reigart and DM Merch who filled out the moneying positions.

Earlier at Busan, those punters valuing personal qualities hit a quinella as Courage, edged out Trust in race 1. Both two years old, Courage [One Nice Cat – Humorous Style (Distorted Humor)], making his racecourse debut, looks to be the one to look out for.



Baekjeonmupae Hot In The Cold

Baekjeonmupae held off strong late challenges from Pocketful Of Money and Angus Empire to take victory in the feature race at a frozen Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

It was a tenth win in total and second consecutively for the New Zealand bred Baekjeonmupae [Traditionally – Star Sixty Seven (Phone Trick)] who confirmed his return to form after a disappointing summer and he finishes the year with three wins from nine starts.

Hitting the front at the furlong pole, the five-year old, sent off as second favourite held on by a neck from Pocketful Of Money and Angus Empire with both horses finishing faster. Haengun Daewang and favourite Yodongseong were just a further half-length back in a blanket finish.

Two weeks after racing had to be abandoned due to a frozen track, horses and jockeys braved temperatures as low as -7C and most punters’ fingers had frozen over long before lunchtime.

There will be more shivering tomorrow as Seoul gets the first of eleven races underway at 11:10. Down at Busan, as ever they will be basking in temperatures of at least five degrees the right side of zero for their six race card which starts at 12:30.


Weekend Preview

The peninsula has been shivering several degrees below zero for the past few days and there’s no let up in sight as the weekend’s racing gets underway:

Busan Race Park

Friday December 18: 10 races, first post 13:00, last 17:30
Sunday December 20: 6 races, first post 12:30, last 16:15

Seoul Race Park

Saturday December 19: 12 races, first post 11:10, last 17:30
Sunday December 20: 11 races, first post 11:10, last 17:55

Dongbanui Gangja Romps His Second Grand Prix

Favourite Crushes Challengers
Dongbanui Gangja produced a dominant performance to crush the rest of the Grand Prix field at Seoul Race Park this afternoon and in doing so, became only the third horse to retain the peninsula’s most prestigious race.

In a break from his usual patient style with the 2008 Champion, Choi Beom Hyun opted to take the race by the scruff of the neck in the back straight. After Ugildongja had made the early speed, Bally Brae headed for the front with Dongbanui Gangja on his shoulder. The favourite took the lead as they exited the third corner and from then on, the race was over.

As ever, he drifted to the centre of the track but the home straight was nothing more than a victory parade for Dongbanui Gangja who kicked on to win by a lazy six lengths. It could have been sixteen if jockey Choi had been so inclined.

The real battle was for second. Bulpae Gisang, winner of the Busan Metropolitan was considered to be his stablemate’s only real threat but in truth, he was in a different class. He did enough to hold off the late determined challenge of Gaeseon Janggun to take second place. Gaeseon Janggun, last year’s top Korean bred three-year old took third and had the honour of being both the best placed Korean horse and the first finisher from Busan.

Old favourite Bally Brae showed at the front in the back stretch, but his sprint legs are gone and he faded to sixth. The only filly in the race, Rolling On Strong, never featured and was eased up by Cho Kyoung Ho in the home straight.

An imposing physical presence, Dongbanui Gangja is a visually impressive animal. Big and muscular, yet handsome with it, he has a turn of speed of the type rarely seen on the Korean track. He now has ten straight wins and defeat doesn’t seem likely any time soon.

Bulpae Gisang is the second best foreign bred horse Seoul has to offer these days, while of the home-bred three-year old crop, the connections of Nice Choice and Yeonseung Daero declined Grand Prix spots, perhaps with Dongbanui Gangja’s presence in mind. Right now, it is difficult to see anything preventing him from completing an historic hat-trick this time next year.

Dongbanui Gangja in the Grand Prix Winner's Circle

Grand Prix (KOR. G.I) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – Dec 13, 2009

1. Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)] – Choi Beom Hyun – 1.2, 1.0
2. Bulpae Gisang (USA) [Lightnin N Thunder – Neat Trick (Clever Trick)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.2
3. Gaeseon Janggun (KOR) [Duality – Diamond Star (Dixieland Band)] – Jo Chan Hoon – 1.9
Distances: 6 lengths/Head
Also ran: 4. Haengbok Dream; 5. King Kephalos; 6. Bally Brae; 7. Ugildongja; 8. Crafty Louis; 9. Yaho TS; 10. Rolling On Strong

The Grand Prix was the sixth and final race of the year to pit horses from Seoul against those from Busan. Busan ran out the winners by four race to two Tellingly though, Busan made a clean sweep of the Classics, involving horses born, bred, broken in and trained in Korea. Seoul’s two wins were both with imported horses. Dongbanui Gangja, the second of those, is on his way to securing his place as one of the greatest in Korean racing history.