Month: January 2010

Night Moves Beaten but Captain Sir Surges On

Mixed fortunes for highly-rated Busan pair
Night Moves, the filly who so impressed when winning the Busan Breeder’s Cup last November to become the track’s Champion two-year old, was beaten on her re-apperance this afternoon.

Sent off odds-on favourite, Night Moves was leading all the way but ran out of steam in the final few yards of the seven furlong race to allow four-year old gelding Molto Presto to come through and snatch victory. While the ability of Night Moves [Proud Accolade – Elania (Double Honor)] over sprint distances isn’t in question, there had been doubts over her ability to stay more than six furlongs. Today it seemed these doubts were realised.

There were no such worries for another newly turned three-year old. Captain Sir [Trippi – Fine Wine (Hooched)]. One of the most exciting imports of the last year, the US bred colt was on cruise-control as he outclassed twelve others over 1800 metres. It’s his second win over the distance and also at category 2. It won’t be long before Captain Sir is racing against the very best at Busan.

On Saturday the action moves to Seoul where one of last year’s stand-out two year olds, Ace Galloper will be hot favourite to make it five wins in a row in race 10. Meanwhile Gi Ra Seong heads up the feature handicap.

Seoul Race Park: 12 races, first post 11:10, last 17:45
Jeju Race Park: 9 races, first post 12:30, last 17:10


Weekend Preview

It’s cold. The temperature is yet to rise above zero in Seoul in 2010 and it’s getting tiresome. The snow from a fortnight ago is still on the ground and riding out these past few mornings must have been horrific. Nevertheless, there’s a full set of race-cards to look forward to this weekend.

While hopes have been dashed that last year’s champion three-year old Nice Choice would make his season debut, we have an even more intriguing entry at Seoul Race Park this weekend. Seonbongbulpae, Champion Juvenile in 2009 steps up to nine furlongs in race 7 on Sunday afternoon as he launches his three-year old campaign.

The colt is unbeaten in four races but laboured in winning the Herald Business Cup back in December. He’ll face an array of older horses in the class 3 test.

The big race of the weekend at Seoul is on Saturday. As mentioned above, there’s no Nice Choice but Gi Ra Seong will be there and the six-year old will be fancied to overcome a field that includes the likes of Symphony Sonata and Hwangnyongsaji.

Busan Race Park

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

Seoul Race Park

Saturday January 16: 12 races, first post 11:10, last 17:45
Sunday January 17: 11 races, first post 11:10, last 17:45

Jeju Race Park (Pony Racing)

Friday January 15: 9 races, first post 13:30, last 17:30
Saturday Janaury 16: 9 races, first post 12:30, last 17:10

The Foreigners in Korea

Last year was another tough one for overseas jocks in Korea
Korea provides a notoriously difficult challenge for ex-pat employees with long hours and alien working practices. A lot of people have bad experiences, some self-inflicted, some not. Racing is no exception.

The most high-profile of foreign employees in the Korean racing industry are the jockeys. On the surface a jockey’s life in Korea is good – purses are big, accommodation is free and they only race twice a week. In reality, it’s anything but. Just like everywhere else in the World, while the top jockeys do indeed earn a lot, the majority don’t.

Japanese riders have generally had the best luck in Korea. The culture shock is less as is the style of racing – Korean racing has been described by more than one observer as being similar to that of Japan. Twenty years ago. The gap left by Toshio Uchida at Busan was ably filled by Ikuyasu Kurakane who moved down from Seoul and quickly became the track’s top rider. Ikuyasu left during 2009 as did Nozomu Tomizawa who returned to Australia after putting in a creditable two years at Seoul without getting the recognition – or more importantly, the rides – he deserved.

Eiki Nishimura joined Busan early in 2009 and battled through a tough start to be rewarded with victory on Sangseung Ilro in the KRA Cup Mile. Sadly Eiki was jocked off the filly for the Korean Derby amid rumours that the militant Seoul Jockeys’ Association did not want a foreigner riding a potential Derby winner. He did, however, regain the ride for the Oaks where Sangseung Ilro was beaten.

Three other Japanese riders joined during the year. Toshiyuki Katoh has found rides difficult to come by at Seoul but is still plugging away. He was joined recently by Yoshiyuki Aoki who has found rides in more quantity than Katoh, if not in quality. Finally, Hitomi Miyashita joined Busan in October. The winner of the International Lady Jockey Invitational at the track in August, Hitomi wasted no time in applying for a full-time license and has had no trouble settling in and being accepted by trainers. As of now, she is arguably the top jockey at the track and is worshipped by lovestruck punters.

As for the non-Japanese, American Santos Chavez was popular with punters and put in a quiet but competent four months at Seoul before returning to the States. At Busan, Vincent Sit rode for two months before returning to Hong Kong where his wife had just become the first woman to be granted a trainer’s license. India’s Rahul Shinde lasted all of one week while Eden Cheung of Hong Kong is currently on the injured list.

That leaves the two South Africans. Stephan Swanepoel started off at Seoul but, as is common at the capital track was given no opportunities and was allowed to relocate to Busan where he had slightly more success. Swanepoel called time in late November and returned to South Africa, retiring from the saddle completely.

Then there is the exception. Martin Wepner arrived in Korea having had considerable experience in Malaysia. With a strong reputation and an ability to do the light weights, he instantly got more rides – not necessarily good rides, just more – than the other foreigners. And he started winning on them. Things haven’t been simple with Wepner. A miscommunication which placed him in an embarrassing situation led to him walking out on the ride of Namdo Jeap in the Derby on the day of race.

With Wepner set to leave Korea, top Busan trainer Kim Young Gwan, possibly appreciating the difficulties faced by foreign riders here, stepped in to offer him the job as his stable jockey. Wepner accepted and it was the start of a prolific partnership. However, late in 2009 their relationship broke down and trainer and jockey went their separate ways. Wepner has once again landed on his feet and, back as a freelancer is, alongside Hitomi, the most in-demand rider at the track.

Peter Wolsley is still the sole foreign trainer working on the peninsula. Just as the foreign jockeys get the horses no-one else wants to ride, when he arrived, Wolsley was given the horses no-one else wanted to train. He toughed it out, however, and has been rewarded with a number of good quality runners in his barn including Ebony Storm, Khaosan and Yeoreumbi, as well as one-time Derby hopeful Impeccable. Now with twenty-four horses in his care, Wolsley saddled twenty-nine winners in 2009.

In terms of the KRA, the last week of 2009 saw the upgrade of their website to include English language racecards and results as well as links to the English language stewards reports. The KRA have a foreign steward at both thoroughbred tracks and James Perry at Seoul and Brett Wright at Busan have been tapping out English translations of the reports for over a year. Behind the scenes, a South African jockey instructor has played a key role in the development of a promising crop of young Korean jockeys.

The word is that another overseas trainer will be granted a licence in 2010. No word yet on the identity or even the nationality. The KRA is also still accepting applications from foriegn jockeys. Any newcomer should hope to be based at Busan which while still challenging, offers a more accepting environment to newcomers than at Seoul where the Jockeys’ Association still wields great power on the backstretch.

Overall there is still plenty of work to be done for the much heralded “Internationalization” plan to be realised. 2010 promises to be another challenging year for those racing professionals who choose to ply their trade on the peninsula

Namdo Jeap & Good Day Have Great Days

Soseono back to winning ways / Galsaem beaten
Good Day and Namdo Jeap both went wire-to-wire to win their respective big races at Seoul and Busan Race Parks this afternoon.

Namdo Jeap, winner of last year’s Minister’s Cup was sent off only second favourite behind in-form fellow four-year old Golden Appeal. The result was never in doubt, however, as Namdo Jeap bounced out of the gate under Lim Sung Sil and cruised away from the field in the home straight for a six length victory. Golden Appeal rallied late but never got close.

Up at Seoul, Good Day had slightly more to worry about in the final stages of his ten furlong test. Balhaejanggun was finishing much the quicker and got close as the line loomed ahead. It arrived just in time for Good Day though, with the six year old having half a length in hand.

Namchonuijijon arrived late on the scene and grabbed third but there was no happy return for Galsaem. The former champion mare showed towards the front of the field early on but didn’t stay in the final furlong, eventually finishing fifth.

There was victory for one mare at Seoul today though as Soseono (no longer a filly by 10 days) scored her first win since the YTN Cup last August courtesy of a late run to overhaul outsiders Big Guy and Top Plus. Soseono’s race also saw a return to action for jockey Lee Geum Joo. Always likely to be up against it, long-shot Cheongunbaram duly finished in last place.

Soseono, seen here after the YTN Cup, was back in the winner's circle today

Soseono was ridden by Moon Se Young and provided the third of the 2008 champion’s three winners on the day. In other jockey news, Lee Geum Joo wasn’t the only rider to return today. Highly thought of young jockey Yoo Seung Wan was back in action after spending much of 2009 in the United States. Yoo finished the day with two second place finishes.



Sunday Preview – Return Of The Ajummas

Two of Korean racing’s most distinguished females make long awaited returns to the track at Seoul Race Park on Sunday.

Now eight years old, Galsaem [Adjudicating – Golden Image (Dancer’s Image)] made her debut in 2005 and quickly became one of the most formidable fillies on the track. She won the NACF Chairman’s Race in 2006 and amassed seventeen wins from her thirty-six starts, missing out on the money on just three occasions.

Her last appearance was in the Grand Prix race at the end of the 2008 season in which she finished ninth and was found to be lame. After a long recovery period, she came through an official race trial in December with no problems and will line up for Sunday’s feature handicap.

She’ll have her work cut out with the likes of Secret Weapon, Balhae Janggun, Good Day, New Rider and Namchonuijijon all having claims in the 2000 metre race 10.

Also making a return is jockey Lee Geum Joo. Only the second woman to have been granted a license (jointly with Lee Shin Young) in Korea, Geum Joo debuted in 2001 and over the following years rode sixteen winners from just over six hundred rides.

Despite having not riddden competitively for over two years, Geum Joo retained her license and, having got married last year, returns to race riding at Seoul on Sunday afternoon. She has just the one mount on six-year old gelding Cheongun Baram, who is himself coming off a nine month lay-off in the competitive looking race 9.

In that race, Soseono is the best known of the thirteen declared, but she’ll face strong competition from Gangho Jewang and Yaho MK among others.

Sunday Racing:

Seoul: 11 races, first post 11:10, last 17:45
Busan: 6 races, first post 12:30, last 16:15

Happy New Year for Baengnyeonbong

Baengnyeonbong took victory in the opening Stakes action of the year as he came from behind to win the New Year’s Commemorative Race at a cold and snowy Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

With likely pre-race favourite Wangsan a late scratching, Winner Prince was sent off the even money favourite with Baengnyeonbong and Golden Rose the joint 6-1 seconds. Indeed, it was Golden Rose who provided the early pace leading them through the opening six furlongs.

Outsider Green Jewel came to take things up as they turned for home but quickly faded in the home straight as the closers came through. Baengnyeonbong was the fastest, leading Winner Prince over the line by two lengths with Fundahigh another fast finisher in third.

Highly thought of during the early part of his three-year old campaign, the highlight of which was third place in the Korean Derby, the win today should see Baengnyeonbong gaining access to class 1 races for the rest of this season. The victory was his sixth in fifteen starts, during which time he’s only been out of the money twice.

New Year Commemorative Stakes (Herald Business) – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – Jan 9, 2010

1. Baengnyeonbong (KOR) [Al Naba – Sansovino Art (Mister. C)] – Oh Kyoung Hoan – 7.7, 2.3
2. Winner Prince (KOR) [Fortitude – Happy Power (Priceless Prince)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.3
3. Fundahigh (KOR) [Warzone – Fundamental High (High Brite)] – Lee Gong Kug – 5.8
Distances: 2 lengths/0.75 lengths – 13 ran

There was a shock later on as Vicar Love, sent off odds-on in the feature handicap could only manage fourth place as Ecton Cat took victory over ten furlongs. Vicar Love looked well placed entering the home straight but Ecton Cat, who had led wire-to-wire, was in no mood to be caught, going on to win by three lengths from Wind King and Seoul Teukgeup.

Jockey of the day was Jung Ki Yong, landing a treble withing the first eight races. Cho Kyoung Ho managed two winners while Choi Beom Hyun got one. 2008 Champion Moon Se Young scored a blank while 2009 winner Park Tae Jong had to wait until the very last to guide hot property Grand Money to victory.


Saturday Preview

Seoul is getting back to normal after the heaviest snowfall in the city’s hitory was recorded earlier this week. Normal being that it’s still plenty of degrees below zero and that snow remains on the ground, turning progressively uglier by the day.

As of now though, the 2010 season at Seoul Race Park is expected to get underway as planned on Saturday. Today they raced at a chilly Busan, with Jo Sung Gon winning the year’s first race on Widaehan Dojeon, while Jeju also ran its first regular Friday pony card. The rest of the weekend looks like this:

Seoul: 12 races, first post 11:20, last 18:05
Jeju: 9 races, first post 12:10, last 17:25

Seoul: 11 races, first post 11:10, last 17:45
Busan: 6 races, first post 12:30, last 16:15

As always, the feature event of the opening day of the year at Seoul is the New Year’s Commemorative Race. A full field of fourteen will contest the nine furlong event, among them Winner Prince, Guard Blue and Wangsan. The top horse on show on the day, however will be Vicar Love who lines up in race 11.

Gyongmaman is in the mood for some punting so here is what he will be losing his money on tomorrow:

Race 1: Pretty dreadful stuff to get us underway, Bon Rising might be the least slow.
Race 2: Mr Lucky will be odds-on to do just that.
Race 3: Kkonnuri has been third and fourth in his two outings to date and could score
Race 4: A lot of unknown quanities as a lot of young three year olds go for the first time. Of those who have raced before, Defcon and Golden Impact look the most likely to break their maidens.
Race 5: A tough one, Little Dreamer won last time out but Pilseung Korea may be the better option.
Race 6: Haengbokhan Party should not be beaten under Cho Kyoung Ho. His odds will reflect that.
Race 7: Gippeumnuri has won at this level and distance and could well do so again, Jangta under Moon Se Young might be worth a chance though.
Race 8: Anything could win this as the whole field steps up to eight and a half furlongs for the the first time. Bichui Adeul won’t be favourite, but could win.
Race 9: Jangbi Sarang could be another winner for Moon Se Young.
Race 10: The New Year’s race features a lot of improving young four-year olds. Wangsan and Fundahigh could provide the value.
Race 11: Vicar Love won’t be worth a bet to win. He should but he’s had off days in the past. All nine of his challengers though have dismal recent form.
Race 12: Champion jockey Park Tae Jong should be winning this comfortably on Grand Money.