Month: September 2010

Weekend Preview

GyeongNam Governor’s Cup / Ilgan Sports / KRA Jeju Cup

A big weekend of racing in Korea is in store with Stakes action at all three tracks and some of the best known thoroughbreds – and ponies – in the country in action.

Highlight of the weekend is the GyeongNam Governor’s Cup at Busan on Sunday. Only eight will go but they include Classic Winners Sangseung Ilro and Namdo Jeap, plus Yeonseung Daero and young upstart Dangdae Bulpae.

Can Geumgangi make it two Stakes in two months?

Up at Seoul, it’s the Ilgan Sports Cup on Sunday, featuring the likes of Stakes winners Geumgangi and Luxury Jewang as well as up-and-comers such as Tamnaseontaek and Best Holls. Also at Seoul big names Nice Choice, Holy Dreamer and former Horse of the Year Bally Brae will be in action over the weekend.

Down on Jeju, it’s the biggest race of the year on the island in the form of the KRA Jeju Cup. Ten ponies will line up for the event with filly Cheonjibusa – with eleven wins from fifteen starts to her name, heading the weights in the 1700 metre handicap.

We will have a full preview of each big race over the bext couple of days. In the meantime, here’s what’s happening and when:

Friday September 10

Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:30 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday September 11

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:20 to 17:40
Jeju Race Park: 10 races from 12:10 to 17:40

Sunday September 12

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:20 to 18:10
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:40 to 16:30

* Someone who won’t be involved this weekend is steward James Perry. The Australian has taken the decision to return to his homeland after two-and-a-half years officiating with the KRA at Seoul Race Park. In addition to his regular steward duties, Perry, along with fellow Aussie Brett Wright – now Senior Stipendiary Steward at Busan – began publishing stewards’ reports for each race meeting in English. This initiative, taken by the stewards themselves, was one of the few visible signs of progress in the KRA’s stated policy of internationalization. His presence will be missed.

On his return to Australia with his young family, Perry will be taking up a Senior Steward position with Racing Queensland.

Stalling For Korea

Gyongmaman generally gets excited about all things horse racing. Yet even he struggles to raise much enthusiasm about starting gates – or “stalls” as he was brought up to say. However, a strangely high number of googlers arriving at this site by way of the search term “Korean starting gates” this week did remind him that last weekend, the Korean racing media was gushing in its approval of the fact that Seoul and Busan Race Parks have acquired new starting gates which are, for the first-time ever, Korean made!

Threeway view: But only 12 could fit in the old nasty foreign-made gate

And how are they? Actually, Gyongmaman didn’t notice, but apparently the new ones can accommodate a full field of fourteen horses in a single unit. Fourteen is the maximum number of horses permitted to run in any race in Korea. The old ones had twelve and two had to be joined together for races which attracted a full entry. Unfortunately, the only picture Gyongmaman took of the gates last weekend was the one below – taken in a torrential downpour while the photographer had a substantial sum riding on the winner – but there are, indubitably fourteen stalls in the one unit. Bravo Korean technology!

It's wet and Lee Ae Li is in the foreground, but yes, you can see that 14 horses can fit into these gates!

Hiro’s Welcome

There’s another new Japanese jockey in town, bringing the total number of riders from across the sea to five.

Hirotaka Hamada debuted on Saturday and had six rides over the weekend. His best finish was second place on Aussie bred Seoului Gangja in Saturday’s race 10.

A wet Hiro Hamada returns to scale on Sunday

Hamada has been billed in Seoul as being the “new Nozi” after the popular Nozomu Tomizawa who rode at the track for nearly two years. Like Tomizawa, the thirty three year-old Hamada has done the bulk of his recent riding in Australia with over 100 wins from around 1000 rides in Queensland.

Hamada joins Toshiyuki Katoh and Kunihisa Hirase at Seoul, while Ketsuya Sameshima and Hitomi Miyashita are at Busan.

Like all foreign riders in Korea, Hamada will start out as a freelance jockey and will have to overcome passive hostility from the local jockeys’ union (who incidentally, have a new Chairman) as he seeks to establish himself. The weekend was a good start though and like all foreign riders, he’ll need to convert his opportunities into wins to make it as hard as possible for the local trainers to ignore him.

Best of luck to him.

Derby Winner Downed At Busan

Punters believed that Cheonnyeon Daero could take on and beat older horses in the feature race at Busan Race Park this afternoon, but the Derby Winner came up short as Wonder Unicorn strode to an emphatic six-length win.

Not Today: Cheonnyeon Daero was beaten

Third favourite Top Grade set the early pace in the ten furlong handicap, but under jockey Park Geum Man, Cheonnyeon Daero, after recovering from a bad start, was always handily placed and looked ready to strike as they entered the home straight. Instead it was Jo Chan Hoon and Wonder Unicorn who took their chance while Cheonnyeon Daero seemed to get lost in the middle of the track. Top Grade held on for third from Conqueror, who stopped the Derby winner from even placing.

With KRA Cup Mile winner Money Car looking set to be out of action indefinitely following a poor showing at Seoul last week, the Oaks won by 50/1 outsider Euro Fighter and now the Derby Winner being beaten by three competant – but hardly world beating – horses, questions will be asked about the calibre of this year’s three-year old crop.

Mine's a double: Park Sang Woo

Maybe there are some late developers. Earlier at Busan, Ganghan Yeoja (Lethal Instrument), absolutely crushed a class 2 field by nine lengths, adding to the twelve length victory she scored last month. Although she won her very first race back in March 2009, it took her ten starts to win again. Now aged four, she’ll soon be in top class company. Whether she can maintain this form at longer distances is yet to be seen.

Up in Seoul, the weather was once again the focus of many people’s attention. What started as a baking hot day with temperatures around 34C, quickly progressed into a spectacular thunderstorm, followed by a monsoon downpour, before eventually settling down into a cool late summer’s day. On the track, things were set for a showdown between Vicar Love and the ever-improving Larrycat in the feature race. While Vicar Love was a late scratching, Larrycat did the business in his absence, scoring a narrow win over Jumong and Cheonjidolpung.

Earlier, there was a surprise in the all-fillies race 9 as hot favourite Raipai went down to defeat by Jeokbyeokgang. Raipai, who came into the race with four wins from six starts, could only manage third as Special Volpony sneaked into second under apprentice jockey Park Sang Woo. It was a good day for Park, who had earlier scored the first double of his career, with victory in race 1 on Honggwang and race 5 on Cheonhagullim.

It was also a good day for lady jockey Lee Ae Li who, in the rain-soaked race 7, produced City Ruler at exactly the right moment to overcome Cho Kyoung Ho on Rose Line and in doing so, record her first victory for five months. It was a skilful piece of riding by Lee who showed that despite her increasingly limited opportunities, when given a horse with a chance, she’s just as likely as anyone to convert it into a win.

She Made It Through The Rain: In dreadful conditions, Lee Ae Li on City Ruler gets the better of Cho Kyoung Ho on Rose Line

In other races, HRI Trophy victor Cheot Insang was successful in race 9, while debut-making fillies Gate Shine (Capital Spending) and Grand Ace (Grand Slam) began their careers with victories in races 3 and 4 respectively.

Class 1 Handicap (Domestic) – Busan Race Park – 2000M – September 5, 2010

1. Wonder Unicorn (KOR) [Graeme Hall – Bessette (Quest For Fame)] – Jo Chan Hoon – 4.0, 1.6
2. Top Grade (KOR) [Texas Glitter – Potential Storm (Cape Town)] – Hitomi Miyashita – 1.9
3. Conqueror (KOR) [Revere – Model Actress (Stage Colony)] – Jo Sung Gon – 1.8
Distances: 6 lengths/3 lengths – 12 ran

Class 1 Handicap (Foreign) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – September 5, 2010

1. Larrycat (USA) [Fantasticat – Tiger In My Tank (Tank) – Park Tae Jong – 1.6, 1.0
2. Jumong (USA) [Johar – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] – Moon Se Young – 1.6
3. Cheonjidolpung (USA) [Tactical Cat – Luminate (A.P. Indy)] – Boo Min Hoo – 2.2
Distances: 0.75 lengths/0.5 lengths – 9 ran

* Download English Stewards’ Reports from Busan and Seoul.

* Full results from both of today’s meetings are on the KRA’s website.