Month: January 2011

Tough Win Toppled as Baekjeonmupae Crashes Match Race

It was billed as the Big New Year’s Match Race. In the absence of Stakes action this weekend, another showdown between Double Grand Prix Champion Dongbanui Gangja and Busan Metropolitan and KRA Cup Classic winner Tough Win was set up to send racing fans into the Lunar New Year holiday feeling satisfied. However, Baekjeonmupae didn’t accept that he was there to simply make up the numbers and soundly defeated the pair of them in the feature event at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Baekjeonmupae and Park Tae Jong (9) collars Tough Win (obscured) in the final strides

There were clues that the two stars may not necessarily have it all their own way. Dongbanui Gangja had run wide in his last few outings and, despite being equipped with a set of pacifiers for the first time, it was a brave punter who expected him to give Choi Bum Hyun an easy ride. As for Tough Win, while he could be forgiven for not staying the distance in the Grand Prix last December, his laboured win in the Busan Metropolitan suggested that he wouldn’t have it all his own way over ten furlongs.

Not Today: Dongbanui Gangja stayed straight but didn't have enough

So it proved to be. Cho Kyoung Ho gunned Tough Win out of the stalls and into an early lead. He stretched away from the field to the tune of five lengths in the back straight and looked in fine shape as they turned for home.

On the contrary, Choi Bum Hyun on Dongbanui Gangja looked to have given himself far too much to do having not made his customary charge round the field as they exited the back straight. All the while, Park Tae Jong was sitting poised on Baekjeonmupae in second place.

Not Today: Tough Win led but just didn't stay

As the sprint got going, Tough Win had the rail while Baekeonmupae came down the centre. For a long while it looked as though Tough Win was going to hold on but, thirty metres from the line Baekjeonmupae drew level and a tired Tough Win succumbed to the second defeat of his career. Dongbanui Gangja, labouring under 61 kilos of weight, rallied well to finish fourth – a good sign for those who feared that his talent, along with his discipline, had gone.

As for New Zealand bred Baekjeonmupae [Traditionally – Star Sixty Seven (Phone Trick)], he started as the 7/1 favourite and recorded his eleventh win from thirty-eight starts.

In other races, 2010’s champion two-year old Sun Hero made his second appearance of the season. And, having disappointed in his first outing earlier in the month, he made no mistake in race 8 over the Derby distance of nine furlongs. Just like Tough Win, however, he was struggling towards the end and will have to improve if he is to feature in the Classic hunt later this year.

Moon Se Young looks across as Sun Hero does just enough

Down at Busan, there was a six race card, the highlight of which saw young Aussie colt Wanggol (Jet Spur) look for his seventh win in ten starts. It wasn’t to be. Four year old Hudson River Line (Not For Love), who won four of his first five starts but had only one twice in ten subsequent starts, dominated proceedings as he took a two length win from old-stager Admiral Reigart.

So that’s it for two weeks as next weekend racing takes a break for the Lunar New Year holiday. Very welcome the break is too as we leave a January in which not a single day has recorded a temperature above 0C. Hopefully by the time we reconvene in a fortnight’s time, horses, jockeys and punters alike, will find a much more agreeable climate.

Today, however, we saw our champion – our reigning Horse of the Year – humbled. He’ll be back and all Tough Win’s defeat really does is open up the question of just who it is who is going to take that crown this year. In our wonderful sport, there is always something to look forward to.

Triple Seven, Special Volpony Strike Cold

Triple Seven returned to form while Special Volpony found hers at last as the pair took home the big prizes in co-feature races at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Choi Bum Hyun knows he's won on Triple Seven with only a loose horse ahead of him

Thinking up various ways of saying “it was very cold” has become tedious but, suffice to say, it was once again extremely cold on a day which saw thirteen races run with last Sunday’s abandoned feature race added to the card. That was Triple Seven’s race and the current Ttukseom Cup holder was back to his best to see off a field containing Oaks runner-up Cheonun and pre-race favourite Blue Pin. Blue Pin managed second but Cheonun was a disappointing sixth.

One race earlier, 12/1 shot Special Volpony scored her first win at class 1 at her first attempt, in the process landing apprentice jockey Park Sang Woo his own first triumph at the elite level. Fourth to Love Cat in the Nonghyup last year, she made the most of a light weight to win by just over a length from outsider Jeokdaejeok. Love Cat and pre-race favourite Lucky Mountain were both well-beaten.

Looking the Wrong Way: Lee Gi Hweoi avoids the cameras as he and Baekjeonjeonseong beat Park Tae Jong and Super Yongwang

In other races there was a New Zealand exacta in race 10 as Baekjeonjeonseong (Traditionally) – a horse who appears to have at least one too many syllables in his name – got the better of fellow Kiwi born Super Yongwang (Ekraar). Meanwhile much earlier in the day, while it may have taken apprentice jockey Park Jong Hyun seven months to ride her first winner, it hasn’t taken her so long to grab her second. Park guided 16/1 shot Paxgo to victory in race 3.

Also breaking their maidens today were US bred A Wanted Affair (Ten Most Wanted) and Strodes Creek colt Sen Wang. Three year old Sen Wang is one of the last foals to have been sired by Strodes Creek, who died in a paddock accident in January 2008.

The sun sets on another sub-zero afternoon at Seoul Race Park

Racing returns to the capital on Sunday when it is the big match; Dongbanui Gangja vs Tough Win. Tough Win has just officially been named Horse of the Year for 2010 and he’ll be odds-on to start 2011 on a high. There are eleven races at Seoul from 11:20 to 18:00 and six at Busan from 12:40 to 16:30.

Weekend Preview: They’re Back

It’s Tough Win vs Dongbanui Gangja at Seoul while Minister’s and President’s Cup winner Dangdae Bulpae goes at Busan on what is set to be another action packed weekend of racing in Korea.

The Boys Are Back in Town: (clockwise) Dongbanui Gangja, Tough Win, Dangdae Bulpae

It’s true that 2010’s much hyped battles between double Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja and young upstart Tough Win fell a little flat. Dongbanui Gangja had always been difficult to control, but in the Busan Metropolitan he ran so wide on the final turn that he was able to play no part in the finish as Tough Win triumphed. Next was the KRA Cup Classic when, while Dongbanui Gangja kept straight Tough Win soundly beat him. Finally in the Grand Prix, the unbeaten but unheralded Mister Park came up from Busan and in the season’s longest race, handed them both a thorough drubbing.

Tough Win didn’t manage to say the distance that day, but he’s back down to ten furlongs on Sunday as he meets Dongbanui Gangja again. With a two kilo weight advantage, he’ll be strong favourite to get back to winning ways.

Saturday sees a thirteen race card at Seoul with last week’s snowed off Sunday feature being re-arranged. Good Day, Cheonun, Triple Seven and Blue Pin all survive from the original line-up. In what’s now a co-feature event, Lucky Mountain and last year’s champion filly or mare Love Cat are among a full field of fourteen contesting a class 1 handicap over nine and a half furlongs.

Down at Busan, one of the peninsula’s top horses returns to action. Dangdae Bulpae also failed to stay the distance in the Grand Prix last year but did land the President’s Cup, Korea’s richest race. On Friday, he runs at his home track of Busan for the first time since last September as he takes on another full field in the feature race. He’s a class apart from any of his rivals, but will have to carry eight kilos more than any of them . Only the weight can beat him.

Also down in South Gyeongsang Province on Friday, we’ll be looking out to see how Lion Santa (Lion Heart) fares in his first outing at class 2. The three-year old was one of last year’s hottest imports and has won all of his four races to date.

With no racing next weekend because of the Lunar New Year holiday, so despite the fact it’s going to be several degrees below zero yet again….Come Racing! Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday January 28

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday January 29

Seoul Race Park: 13 races from 11:20 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:10 to 17:10

Sunday January 30

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:20 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:40 to 16:30

Last week's snow means Seoul has a double feature this Saturday. It's going to be very cold, but we should escape any more blizzards

James Perry Family Flood Relief Trust

Racing Queensland announced last week that it has set up a trust fund for the family of Chief Steward James Perry who was lost in the recent Queensland floods.

James served as a Steward at Seoul Racecourse for two-and-a-half years from the beginning of 2008 until September 2010 when he took the decision to return to his native Australia. With racing in Korea always taking place on a Saturday and Sunday, he needed more weekend time to spend with his family.

He was held in very high regard in Korea.

* A memorial service for James Perry will be held in the Chapel next to the Robb Hall at Seoul Foreign Middle School at 2pm on Friday, simultaneous with a service in his native Sydney.

Snow Forces Early Seoul Finish

Racing Abandoned in the Capital / Yeonseung Daero Wins at Busan

A full-on blizzard mid-way through the card caused racing at Seoul to be abandoned this afternoon. Six races had been completed by the time the decision was made that conditions were no longer safe.

The big screen announces the least surprising news of the day - that racing at Seoul was abandoned after 6 races

While there had been a few flakes drifting in the air when racing got underway at 11:20 this morning, there was little indication of what was to follow. By race 4, snow was falling steadily and then settling on the track. With the driving blizzard limiting visibility, the floodlights were switched on after race 5, however, with the horses at the post for race 6, jockeys dismounted while as much snow was cleared from the track as possible.

A few hardy punters watch Park Tae Jong guide Yeongung Icheon to victory in what would prove to be the last race before Seoul was abandoned

They got back on and Park Tae Jong guided favourite Yeongung Icheon to a victory that could be barely made out on the TV cameras, let alone by the punters sheltering in the grandstand. While efforts were made to continue, it quickly became apparent that such was the volume of snow, horses were finding it difficult to walk in the paddock, let alone on the track.

Kim Hae Sun contemplates getting on her horse in the snow-filled paddock

Shortly after 3pm, it was announced that racing was abandoned for the day. Unlike the last time this happened, there were no near-riots from punters – the time of day and the obviously dreadful conditions contrasting with the day in 2009 when in bright sunshine and with punters having just paid their entry fee, the track was deemed to be frozen.

Seoul’s abandonment meant that all eyes were shifted south to Busan for the southern track’s co-feature races. In the first of them, favourite Areumdaun Jilju put in a disappointing run as Deep Desire took the honours. The four-year old led home rank outsider Boulogne by just over half a length to record the sixth win of his twelve race career.

At least someone had fun at Seoul today

That race was restricted to Korean breds but the finale was open to all. Yeonseung Daero, despite being eligible for the domestic races, was sent out against foreign opposition. And as he usually does, he beat them. Now five-years old, Yeonseung Daero was well-placed throughout and pounced with just over a furlong to go to win by a length and a half from Heukjanggun and Haengbok Dream.

Korean racing needs more horses to be campaigned the way Yeonseung Daero has been. His career record reads just twelve wins from twenty eight starts. However, since turning four, he has only competed in races restricted to Korean bred horses twice – both Major Stakes races. Instead of harvesting comparatively easier handicaps, he’s taken on the best of the imports, culminating in his third place finish in the Grand Prix at Seoul last month.

So that’s racing over with for another week. We never got to see Cheonun take on Triple Seven in Seoul’s feature but all those abandoned races will be rescheduled as additions to forthcoming cards.

Punters head home early after Seoul is abandoned

Necromancer Summons His Spirit

On another cold day of racing in the Korean capital, it was five-year old Necromancer who ran out winner of the feature Handicap. The Japanese bred gelding beat out a competitive field of fourteen to win by three lengths under jockey Park Tae Jong.

Necromancer and Park Tae Jong Stride to victory

Bally Brae’s little brother Jumong was sent off as favourite for the ten furlong main event but he struggled to make any impression as Necromancer [Air Eminem – I Am The Filly (Symboli Rudolf)] took the lead two furlongs out and cruised home ahead of Dr. Twobillion (Eddington) and Victory Town (Delaware Township). It was only the fifth win of Necromancer’s twenty-five race career and his second at class 1.

It may have been a little warmer today but Choi Won Joon was still taking no chance

While it was another sub-zero day, the lack of any wind made conditions far more pleasant than they had been a week ago and a healthier Saturday crowd was on hand for a day of relatively low-key racing. There was little action on the three-year old front as although Mustang King (Menifee) put in a good performance in race 5 to record his second win from five starts but neither his time nor opposition suggested that he’ll be among the favourites on the Derby trail.

Meanwhile, champion jockey Cho Kyoung Ho was the pick of the riders, landing a treble while Yang Hee Jin scored a rare double. Meanwhile Kim Hae Sun continued her solid start to 2011 by winning on Blue Charming in race 3, her only mount of day.

Racing returns to Seoul on Sunday with an eleven race card from 11:20 to 18:00. Down at Busan there are six races from 12:40 to 16:30. Last year’s Ttukseom Cup winner Triple Seven faces Oaks runner-up Cheonun in Seoul’s feature while Areumdaun Jilju and Yeonseung Daero headline co-features at Busan.

Weekend Preview

It’s another weekend of racing in Korea – Areumdaun Jilju, Yeonseung Daero, Jumong and Triple Seven will be among those in action. Here’s what’s happening when and where this weekend:

Friday January 21

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 race from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday January 22

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:20 to 17:40
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:10 to 17:10

Sunday January 23

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:20 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:40 to 16:30

Was Upstairs, Now Downstairs – Foreigner Info Desk

Not going to win any prizes for that headline, but it’s been nearly a year since the “Foreigner Lounge” at Seoul Race Park was closed. During that time, there has continued to be an information desk outside the old lounge – which is now opened to all punters – offering support in various langauges. However, as that was on the fourth floor, nobody actually went there, so the KRA has relocated it to a prime position next to the general information desk on the first floor of the Luckyville Grandstand right by that stand’s main entrance.

From A Distance: The new "Multi-lingual Information Desk"...that's what we're going to call it!

The KRA operated a lounge with reserved seats for any overseas passport holder for a number of years but decided to stop offering this service in April 2010. While it was well used, the regulars generally consisted of those who had no need of its services – mainly Koreans holding foreign passports while the visiting groups could often prove a substantial handful – Gyongmaman was, on more than one occasion, thoroughly ashamed of the behaviour of some large groups of young foreigners who would bring in and consume large quantities of alcohol (banned by law at the track) and proceed to abuse the infinitely patient staff when they asked them to calm down. And it’s not as if they ever bet anything so it’s no surprise that it was eventually shut.

With many automated betting machines around the track offering service in English, it was felt a designated room was no longer required, however, the information desk remained and has now been made much more prominent. The desk provides multi-lingual staff (English, Chinese and Japanese) as well as guides on how to bet in several different languages. Although when Gyongmaman stopped by to clumsily attempt to flirt with say hello to the staff on Sunday afternoon they had run out of English language racecards, these too are generally available.

The desk is located next to the main Korean language information desk by the main entrance of the Luckyville Grandstand.

Cool Women

Park Jong Hyun Lands First Winner / Kim Hae Sun Wins Again

Today was the coldest day in Seoul for ten years but for Park Jong Hyun, it will be memorable for a different reason. At her fifty-third attempt and as temperatures plummeted to a painful -16C, the young jockey rode her first ever winner.

Head Down: Park Jong Hyun drives Cheonnyeonmama to victory

And how ever long she rides for, her first winner will be one of her easiest. Three year old filly Cheonnyeonmama had won her first race easily at the tail-end of last season and is one of this year’s most exciting prospects. Although Park had ridden her in her race trials, Jung Ki Yong rode her on her racecourse debut.

This time, Park was given the nod to partner the US import and they were sent off long odds-on favourites for the five furlong race 4. Park immediately sent Cheonnyeonmama [Toccet – Lady Lust (Lord Carson)] into the lead and there was never any danger of them relinquishing it as they strode away from the field for a professional seven length win.

Park Jong Hyun (also known as “Park Jong Mi”) gained her license in July last year along with Kim Jung Jun, Jang Chu Yeol and Lee Gang Seo. Until today, Park was the only one of them to have failed to have recorded at least one win. Today, she nailed her first real opportunity to get it. All new graduates of the KRA’s Jockey Academy are of a high standard and Park has every chance of making a successful career.

Another winner: Kim Hae Sun

One year ahead of her is fellow female rider Kim Hae Sun. Today, Kim scored the thirteenth winner of her own career with a typically smart ride of favourite Don’t Worry in race 1. While Lee Shin Young and Lee Ae Li have both made decent careers, Kim looks likely to eclipse both of them and although it is early days, she could very well go on to be the first woman to compete in the highest echelons of racing in Korea.

There were no class 1 races on the peninsula today but a couple of useful three-year olds were in winning form. Colt Gwangya Jeil won race 7 at Seoul to make it two wins from three starts while down at Busan, filly Useung Touch, third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup, got her three-year old campaign off to a winning start in race 2.

The most valuable race of the day was at Seoul as four year old Cheonhajangsa (Tactical Cat) saw off the rest of a fourteen-strong field by half a length to seal victory in a class 2, 1800 metre handicap. In Busan’s feature, five year old mare Real Winner (Red Sky’s) came through late to score her second consecutive class 2 victory. She’ll be mixing it with the elite next time out.

So ends a weekend which wasn’t really fit for racing. The track staff did a great job in ensuring that there wasn’t even the slightest chance of racing having to be called off. The horses, as they always do, took everything in their stride and gave their all. A word too for punters as although the queues at the betting windows were slightly shorter than on a normal Sunday, 35,000 still turned out.

As for the jockeys, who even on the best of days need to have an ambulance following them around such is the routine danger of their profession, all deserve the highest praise. And for Park Jong Hyun, who returned to the winner’s circle as nonchalantly as one would expect of someone having just won on a 1/5 shot, on this coldest of days, the warmest of congratulations.

Seoul Racecourse - Sunday January 16, 2011

Saturday Review: Seoul Ice Park

Holy Dreamer Beats Top Point, Ophelia, Double Light Win

If, as is highly probable, over the coming months I write an article bemoaning proposals to give racing at Seoul a winter break once the new racecourse at Yeongcheon opens in 2015, I would be very grateful if somebody could remind me of today. With temperatures far below zero and a wicked wind whipping down the home straight, today was no day for racing. But race they did and as ever, put on a good show for the 30,000 punters in attendance.

It was beautiful, clear and cold cold cold at Seoul Race Park today

The feature race ended in a commanding win for third-favourite Holy Dreamer. The five-year old made the most of a four kilo weight advantage to run-down and overtake the favourite, the venerable seven year old mare Top Point, in the final furlong. It makes it two in a row for Holy Dreamer and a total of ten wins from eighteen career starts.

Bundled-Up: Apprentice jockey Lee Gang Seo tries to keep warm

Earlier in the card, we saw the third big payout in as many racing days as 150/1 shot Hamseong Jilju led home 20/1 New Edition to land a 3800/1 exacta for some lucky punters. Hamseong Jilju was the second of three winners for jockey Lee Gi Hweoi who, in the last, partnered the highly thought of US import Mass Media’s Tea (Mass Media) to his third win in four starts. It was easy for Mass Media’s Tea, who was eased to a four length victory. Behind him, rank outsiders Cheolgamyeon and Jangson filled out a 5000/1 trio.

As an imported horse, Mass Media’s Tea won’t be eligible for this season’s three year old Classics. However, two horses who will be, put in solid performances. Double Light (Menifee) cruised to victory in race 8 over 1700 metres – only 100 metres short of the Derby distance. A little but behind Double Light in terms of development but still impressive is the grey Ophelia who won race 7. Despite the name, Ophelia (Commendable) is a colt and now has two wins and two seconds from four starts.

Double Light and Cho Kyoung Ho ease to victory

Many congratulations must go to the track-staff who ensured that despite the conditions – where the highest temperature all day was -10C, there was never any question of the meeting being called off. At the same time, massive admiration must go to those jockeys and horses who were out on the track.

We’re back racing at Seoul tomorrow when it’s going to be a little – but not much – warmer. There are 11 races from 11:20 to 18:00 while down at Busan there are 6 races from 12:40 to 16:30.