Month: February 2011

Stallions Yankee Victor & The Groom Is Red Pass Away

Sad news out of Jeju Island as stallions Yankee Victor and The Groom Is Red have both died within the last month. Yankee Victor succumbed to a colic on February 1 while The Groom Is Red had to be euthanized after sustaining multiple fractures in a paddock accident on January 27.

Yankee Victor (Pic: KRA)

Yankee Victor [Saint Ballado – Highest Carol (Caro)] had been in for five years. On the racecourse in the US, Yankee Victor won eight of his nineteen races. A fine miler, in 2000, he won a pair of Grade 1 races over the distance – the Met Mile at Belmont Park and the Westchester Handicap at Aqueduct.

Retired to Stud, he was moderately successful in the US before being bought by the KRA in late 2005. Just becoming established as a sire in Korea, he’s had just two crops of foals reach the track so far both including some promising runners.

Here are the closing stages of his Met Mile victory:

And his KRA appearance video:

The Groom Is Red (Pic: KRA)

The Groom Is Red [Runaway Groom – Sheena’s Gold (Fast Gold)] won just four times in the US. Just like Yankee Victor, his biggest triumph also came over a mile at Belmont when, as a two year old in 1998, he won the G1 Champagne Stakes. Brought straight to Korea as soon as he retired from the track, he would have been entering his twelfth season.

Siring solid if generally unspectacular horses, he nevertheless produced some champions including the great grey Baekgwang, winner of the Minister’s Cup in 2006, and Triple Seven, Ttukseom Cup winner in 2010 as well as Andy’s Runner, winner of this year’s New Year Stakes.

Here is his KRA appearance video:

Rainy Sunday Round-Up

While snow has been more common of late, today the whole of the Korean peninsula saw its first rainfall for quite some time. And a lot of rain it was too as the cards at both Seoul and Busan were run in torrential conditions.

A wet but successful Baekjeonmupae returns after winning the frst of Sunday's co-features at Seoul

Not that a lot of the horses seemed to mind as Baekjeonmupae , fresh from defeating Tough Win and Dongbanui Gangja, continued his rich vein of form by taking out the first of co-feature races in the capital. The New Zealand bred six-year old swept wide of the field to claim victory in the seven furlong handicap by a commanding four length margin from outsider Bugmyeongsingong.

Baekjeonmupae (Anziyan) moves onto twelve career victories but from the same race, a special mention must go to Bally Brae (Yarrow Brae). The 2007 Grand Prix winner and former Horse of the Year is a shadow of his former self but is still healthy and in racing shape. Today he was just beaten out of third place by a neck by Kahnui Jeonseol but took fourth and with it his first money win since May last year.

In the second co-feature, last year’s champion filly and mare Love Cat was sent off as favourite, but it was Suseong TX who took the honours by overhauling long-time leader Natural Guy in the final furlong.

Angry sky: Seoul Racecourse February 27, 2011

Down at Busan where the weather was equally wet and wild, the feature race went the way of six year old mare Daejaui Yeosin (Impeachment) who got the better of a photo finish with Mystery Boy (Ecton Park) at the end of the mile long handicap.

Earlier at Busan, there was a win for three year old Useung Touch. The Menifee filly grabbed a surprise third in the Breeders’ Cup last November and won on her season debut in January. While yet to be tested around two turns, she is a possible Classic entrant later in the year. Another yet to be tested at two turns is exciting American import Viva Ace (Macho Uno). He was sent off odds-on favourite today but came unstuck over 1500 metres as 30/1 shot Northern Diva (Northen Afleet) took the honours in the class 2 race 5.

So concludes February’s racing on the peninsula, we’re back next week!

Grandstanding: Most punters stayed indoors today

Singgeureounachim Crashes Classic Trail

So what do we make of this? Another colt on the Classic trail? Or is it that the ones that the ones who already were in the frame are not as good as we thought? Two of the season’s brightest hopes came face to face at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. And both were soundly beaten.

Singgeureounachim - difficult to spell. He put himself in the Classic frame and gave jockey Jo In Kwen one of five winners today

With the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown, just over a month away, Ophelia (Commendable) and Gwangyajeil (Vicar) are among the highest rated of the three year olds who will be going after the Classics this year. Today, they both made their first attempt at 1700 metres – 100 metres more than the Cup Mile, a 100 metres less than the Derby. They were sent off as the top two in the betting, but both found themselves upstaged by another young colt. Singgeureounachim (Exploit) started at 14/1 but jockey Jo In Kwen timed his run just right to storm to a two length victory.

Ophelia - despite the name, he's a colt and he put in a strong final furlong

Ophelia got caught in traffic but finished well in second while Gwangyajeil was never a threat in fourth. Ophelia’s strong finish suggested there is more to come while Gwangyajeil may have had an off-day. As for the winner, while recording just his second win from seven starts, he now finds himself amongst the Classic front-runners.

With Park Tae Jong, Moon Se Young, Cho Kyoung Ho and Jung Ki Yong among an unusually large number of jockeys sidelined this weekend due to injury (Park) and suspension (the rest), Jo In Kwen took full advantage. Aside from Singgeureounachim (you will forgive me if I don’t root for him during the Triple Crown as even by Korean standards, it really is a rather difficult name to type), Jo rode four more winners including both of the co-features on Cherokee Man (Sir Cherokee) and Jewang Tansaeng (Petionville).

Racing returns to Seoul on Sunday with 11 races from 11:10 to 18:00 while there are 6 races at Busan from 12:30 to 16:30.

Jo-sen one. Jo In Kwen scored five winners today

Weekend Preview – February 25, 26, 27

Not much time this week but but look out for race 9 at Seoul on Saturday where Derby hopefuls Gwangyajeil and Ophelia (yes, despite the name, he’s a he) both try their luck around two turns of the racecourse for the first time. The winner – if it is either of them – will be installed among the favourites for the first Classic of the season, the KRA Cup Mile, at Busan in early April.

Sunday sees old favourite Bally Brae dropping back to six furlongs in goodness knows how many years – and not being forced to carry top weight for goodness knows how many more – in one of co-feature races.

Haven’t checked the weather but it’s been a great week in Seoul…surely it will be the same at the weekend too…Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 25

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

Saturday February 26

Seoul Race Park: 13 races from 11:10 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:30 to 17:20

Sunday February 27

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

Kkakjaengi Foils Florida Sox in Segye Ilbo

Defending Champion Beaten / Ace Galloper, Yeonseung Daero Shocked by Old-Timers

Florida Sox put in a valiant defence of her title, but it was Kkakjaengi who came away with the victory in the Segye Ilbo Stakes Cup at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Kkakjaengi in the Segye Ilbo Winner's Circle

Florida Sox, who had struggled with injury since winning the event last year, was sent off the odds-on favourite and led for six of the seven furlongs of this, one of very few Stakes races on the calendar for imported fillies and mares. Yet in the final furlong, the four-year old had nothing left and Kkakjaengi, a year her junior, swept by to win by half a length from Geumbi with Florida Sox hanging on for third.

Kkakjaengi (Put It Back) is a talent. Although she finished next to last in her debut last September, since then she has three wins and two seconds from five outings. For jockey Shin Hyoung Chul, one of the most experienced in the weighing room, it was a first Stakes victory since he won the Ttukseom Cup on Namchonuijijon in 2008.

Magic Party and Jang Chu Yeol (near-side) prepare to take the lead in race 7

Earlier, on a glorious spring-like afternoon at the races, another filly returned to form. Magic Party (Artie Schiller) was originally entered in the Segye Ilbo but steered clear in favour of taking on a class 3 field in race 7. After disappointing at two turns, she dropped back to seven furlongs and scored a comfortable win.

Magic Party, winner of the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup was one of last year’s stand-out two year olds but, having been sired overseas (although born in Korea), she’s ineligible for the three-year old Classics. A colt who is very eligible, however, is Shoot In (Exploit) and he made his much-anticipated second track outing in race 6.

Shoot In - Two for Two and looking good

Midway down the home straight, it looked as though jockey Cho Kyoung Ho may have left himself too much to do as Shoot In had several lengths to make up on the leaders.

Make them up he did with a little burst of speed a furlong from home to win, easing down, by two lengths. There will be greater challenges – not to mention distances – for Shoot In to contend with if he is going to be considered a Derby horse, but so far, he’s doing everything right.

On a very busy day of racing, there were two shocks and they came in the feature handicaps at both Seoul and Busan. In the capital, Ace Galloper was looking for his eleventh win from sixteen starts and punters sent him off at odds-on to achieve it. They reckoned without Hongji, an old-stager who’s always in the minor money but rarely lands a win – his last was in March 2009. Ace Galloper had him in his sights in the final furlong but the line came soon enough and the eight year old Hongji recorded his tenth career victory.

Down at Busan, the wonderful Yeonseung Daero was yet again the only Korean bred horse taking his chances against the imports in the feature race. He’s so good at it, he too was sent off odds-on. Hitting the front with a furlong to go, it looked like a thirteenth win was his for the taking but suddenly, creeping down the rail, was the venerable nine-year old Admiral Reigart [General Royal – Entoria (Stop The Music)].

The Admiral gained and gained and on the line, had the better of Yeonseung Daero by a head. It was quite a battle and both jockeys picked up fines for excessive whip use. Ultimately, Admiral Reigart gained his first win for a year and his eighth overall in a sixty-five race career which began in 2004. He’s not even a gelding.

So ended the first really glorious day of racing of the year. With temperatures in double figures at both tracks, big crowds were in. Kkakjaengi was the toast of the Segye Ilbo Cup. It will be a major surprise if she, like Florida Sox, is still in class 2 this time next year to defend it.

Kkakjaengi and Shin Hyung Chul

Segye Ilbo Stakes – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – Feb 20, 2011

1. Kkakjaengi (USA) [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] – Shin Hyung Chul – 10.2, 2.0
2. Geumbi (USA) [Ecton Park – Lady Justine (Lit De Justice)] – Han Sung Youl – 1.7
3. Florida Sox (USA) [Woke Up Dreamin – Chordette (Dixieland Band)] – Boo Min Ho – 1.2

Distances: 0.5 lengths/1.25 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Alpha Lady (AUS) 5. Burning Sky (JPN) 6. Blueband Mama (USA) 7. Sky Center (USA) 8. Fortunata (USA) 9. Milwaukee Money (CAN) 10. Illicit Image (USA) 11. Gwangsokcheoreom (USA) 12. Chongalcheoreom (NZ) 13. Southern Express (USA) 14. Dangmasan (USA)

On the nicest day of the year so far, there was a big crowd at Seoul Racecourse

Weekend Preview: Segye Ilbo Cup

Florida Sox To Defend Crown / Larrycat, the “Daero’s”, Ace Galloper all in action!

One year ago this weekend, Florida Sox stormed to victory in the Segye Ilbo Cup. No-one expected then that today she would be able to return to defend her title in 2011.

Florida Sox in the Segye Ilbo Winner's Circle last year

Defend it she will, however, as injury ensured that much of the rest of her 2010 would be spent on the sidelines making her unable to make what looked like being smooth progress out of class 2 racing.

Returning from her long lay-off in with a win in December, Florida Sox (Woke Up Dreamin) has had another two months to prepare for a tilt at a second Segye Ilbo at Seoul Race Park this coming Sunday and improve on her career record of four wins from six starts.

She’ll face thirteen rivals in one of very few Stakes races specifically for overseas bred fillies and mares. Some experience mares will take on some up and comers such as Geumbi (Ecton Park) who has four wins from seven starts and Kkakjaengi (Put It Back) and Blueband Mama (Purge).

Larrycat - not Larry the Downing Street Cat...(Pic: KRA)

Saturday at Seoul sees Larrycat (Fantasticat) make his season debut. Now four, he’s not been a prolific winner but finished third behind Tough Win and Dongbanui Gangja in the KRA Cup Classic and then beat them both when running second to Mister Park in the Grand Prix. 2011 could be his year and he goes up against the likes of KJ Khan and Jumong in Saturday’s feature race.

Classic possible Double Light goes in race 10 on Saturday while after the Segye Ilbo is over and done with on Sunday, Ace Galloper, with ten wins from fifteen starts, will head the field for a big class 1 handicap. Former Champion mare Lucky Mountain will join old-timers Gi Ra Seong and Hongji as well as New Year’s Stakes winner Andy’s Runner in trying to beat him.

Some stars will also be on show at Busan this week. 2010 Korean Derby winner Cheonnyeon Daero will be looking for three straight wins in Friday’s feature event while on Sunday the other “Daero” (it means “Road”), the fearless Yeonseung Daero once again takes on the overseas imports in the big race.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 18

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

Saturday February 19

Seoul Race Park: 13 races from 11:10 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:30 to 17:20

Sunday February 20

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

American Steward Joins Seoul Panel

Seoul Racecourse has a new foreign steward. James Smith made his first appearance behind the binoculars this past weekend.

James Smith began officiating at Seoul at the weekend (Pic:KRA)

Smith who – if the picture to the left is anything to go by – is a man who clearly appreciates a good tie, is a fifty-six year old American and has spent most of his career officiating at tracks in Oregon, principally Portland Meadows but has also had stints at Minnesota’s Canterbury Park and Iowa’s Prairie Meadows.

He’s joined what is usually a five-man panel at Seoul but will occasionally be seen guesting at Busan and Jeju as the KRA likes its stewards to sit on different panels from time-to-time. Down at Busan an Australian, Brett Wright, is currently Chief Stipendiary Steward.

In addition to race day duties, the job description of overseas Stewards in Korea also includes being a “Special Advisor” on racing related issues, particularly with regard to the “internationalization” of Korean racing – not an easy task in Seoul.

The position had been vacant for five months since previous incumbent James Perry returned to his native Australia last September. Perry was sadly lost in the Queensland flooding last month.

Double Classic Winning Filly Sangseung Ilro Retired

Sangseung Ilro, the filly who won the first two legs of the 2009 Triple Crown has been retired. She ran – and won – her last race in December last year and was retired in January ahead of what would have been her five-year old season. She was officially registered as a broodmare yesterday.

Sangseung Ilro (Pic: KRA)

Although she won three of her first five races, Sangseung Ilro [Concept Win – Ms. Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] was a 17/1 outsider going into the first leg of the Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at her home track of Busan in April 2009.

She wasn’t even the most fancied of four fillies taking part in the race, with Seoul’s Love Cat arriving down South with a big reputation and odds of 8/1 However, under Japanese jockey Eiki Nishimura she scored by a length and a half over stablemate Namdo Jeap and pre-race favourite Yeonseung Daero. It would not be the final time she’d beat these two who would both go on to become stars themselves.

There was intrigue surrounding her trip to Seoul the following month for the Korean Derby. Nishimura, who had been expecting to accompany her to the capital was jocked off in favour of local jockey Jo Sung Gon amid whispers of displeasure in the Jockeys’ Union that a foreigner had won a Classic race. It made no difference to Sangseung Ilro and while local Seoul hope Nice Choice was sent off as favourite, she repeated her feat from the KRA Cup Mile, this time winning by a comfortable five lengths, Namdo Jeap chasing her home once again.

By this time, she was not only talked about as being on course to complete the Triple Crown but, being a filly, possibly securing the Oaks aswell in what wa being termed the “Grand Slam”. However, tt was shortly after the Derby that the first signs of an injury problem – Sangseung Ilro had consistent problems with her shins – started to surface and she didn’t reappear until the Korean Oaks on a hot August evening at Busan. This time, with Eiki back in the saddle, she was sent off odds-on favourite.

All was going well as she entered the home straight clear of the field and seemingly heading to a simple victory. Then, out of nowhere, second favourite Pangpang emerged and as Sangseung Ilro weakened, slowly reeled her in, hitting the front just before the line to score a shock victory and give her jockey, the late Han Sang Kyu, his first and only Classic success.

The “Grand Slam” was off the table and it was a race against time for her to be fit for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup, at Seoul in October. That day, after being runner-up in the first two legs, Namdo Jeap finally took the honours with Martin Wepner in the saddle. Sangseung Ilro ran a brave and battling third. She hadn’t quite managed to pull off the Triple Crown, but had made her mark as one of the best fillies in modern Korean racing.

It seemed that an appearance two days after Christmas when she ran fourth in a handicap at Busan would be her farewell but, in a surprising and welcome decision, connections decided that she was fit enough to keep in training as a four year old. Their decision was quickly rewarded when in January she won a valuable handicap. Durung 2010 she would run seven times, winning on four occasions including back-to-back Stakes victories in the KNN Cup and the Gyeongnam Do-Min Ilbo. Her final race, on December 17, ended in a commanding four length victory.

Sangseung Ilro was retired with career figures of 17 races, 9 wins, 3 seconds and 2 thirds for prize money of just over 1 Billion Korean Won (approximately $1 Million). She has been retired by her owner to “Good Day Farm” and is expected to begin her broodmare career this year.

Mister Park Sprints To Another Success

Grand Prix Champion Rules at Busan / Wangson Returns Victorious at Seoul

Big sprints are few and far between in the Korean racing calendar. Once a horse has graduated to the higher echelons of racing here, they do not get many opportunities to run at distances less than nine furlongs. This can mean a premature career end for many talented sprinters who simply can’t stay the distance in longer races. Likewise, with lower class races almost always being sprints, stayers sometimes never have the opportunity to prove their talents.

Mister Park (Pic: KRA)

Things are improving slightly, as today saw the beginning of a Class 1 sprint series at both Seoul and Busan. And it could have no greater start as the current hot property of Korean racing, Mister Park, lined up for the seven furlong feature at Busan. Despite carrying at least three kilos more than any of his rivals, the Grand Prix winner was sent off favourite over a field that included Areumdaun Jilju and sprint specialist Mulbora.

Mister Park (Ecton Park) didn’t disappoint. Hitting the front as the field entered the home straight, the now four year old gelding stretched away to record a dominant four length win. The identity of the horse who got closest to him was a surprise though. Ebony Storm was the longest shot on the board when he won the 2008 Korean Derby in a monsoon downpour at Seoul. Since then he’d only won twice in sixteen starts and was today making an unexpected return after a seven month lay-off. Sent off at 40/1, Ebony Storm showed at the front throughout and held off the challenge of Thunder Clap and Mulbora to take the runner-up spot.

Wangson and Choi Jeung Seob return to scale after winning Seoul's Sunday Feature

Up in the capital, seven furlongs was also the distance of the main event. Coming off the back of two wins, Holy Dreamer was sent off favourite but while he finished quickly, it was too late to catch Wangson. Another one coming back from a lay-off, Wangson won the SBS Cup on a sweltering evening last July.

Conditions were a little bit different on this sub-zero afternoon but he’d built up enough of a lead over the field to be finishing slowly and still have three lengths in hand over Holy Dreamer who had to come right through the field to launch his challenge. Wangson now moves onto the impressive figure of eight wins from seventeen starts.

Earlier, 2010 Oaks winner Euro Fighter slumped to another defeat. This time she was well beaten by the improving Achim Sarang. Achim Sarang is, like Dongbanui Gangja, by the sire Broken Vow. And, like the double Grand Prix champion who is also ridden by Choi Bum Hyun, Achim Sarang has problems running in a straight line. Her and Choi veered drastically towards the Grandstand on the home straight but had enough in the tank to get to the line in front.

Wide Boy: Choi Bum Hyun and Achim Sarang go very wide to win race 8

Choi needs to be careful. He’s a talented jockey but is all too frequently on the receiving end of catcalls from punters who believe he has to go wide to win. He’s not the only jockey that has struggled to control Dongbanui Gangja, but rides like the one on Achim Sarang today don’t help.

In other races Mass Media’s Tea (Mass Media), with three wins from four starts, was sent off as favourite on his first venture around two turns. The highly rated US import disappointed though as never featured, ultimately finishing sixth to outsider Radio Box (Outofthebox).

Ham Wan Sik and Seoul Yeongung win race 4

So, another weekend of racing draws to a close. Mister Park moves on to eleven wins from twelve starts and the question is what next? He’s won at distance and he’s won at sprints. Hopefully there will be another showdown with the likes of Areumdaun Jilju, Dangdae Bulpae, Yeonseung Daero and Cheonnyeon Daero at middle distance. However, one of those horses, Yeonseung Daero, shows the ideal route.

As Grand Prix champion – and therefore de-facto Champion of Korean racing, Mister Park needs to race against the very best that Korea can offer and that means not being restricted to Korean only races. He’s already done it once at the Grand Prix and, if connections agree and take the sporting option, then we could be in for a very interesting and rewarding season.

Full Grandstand and busy trackside - the temperature was still below zero but it didn't feel like it as the biggest crowd of the year so far descended on Seoul Race Park

Sun Blaze Extinguished

While the eastern part of the peninsula was struggling with the heaviest snowfall for a century, the sun blazed down on Seoul today. However, Sun Blaze himself ran a disappointing fifth in his first attempt around two turns at Seoul Race Park this afternoon. The Derby hopeful had been sent off the odds-on favourite for his season debut. extinguished

Bad Day: Park Tae Jong

Sun Blaze had finished second to fellow Menifee colt Sun Hero in the Breeders’ Cup last November. Sun Hero has already put in a less than impressive performance of his own this year and Sun Blaze, despite looking good in the early stages of today’s 1700M race 10, weakened in the home straight to finish fifth, five lengths behind the winner, 8/1 shot Seventy-Niner.

It was a bad day for jockey Park Tae Jong, who followed up defeat on Sun Blaze with another reversal on an odds-on favourite, as Choegoro was taken down in race 11 by 6/1 shot Jet Fire. With the defeat of Sun Blaze, Triple Crown followers are now turning towards Vicar colt Gwangyajeil, who only ran twice as a two-year old but was an easy winner on his 2011 debut as early favourite for the first Classic of the year, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan in early April.

Ham Wan Sik gets to work with Eastern Dancer as they win race 9

Right now, the mention of April sounds wonderful as today It was yet another sub-zero day of racing in the capital. Nevertheless, there was a big Saturday crowd out for the extended thirteen race card seeing in the Year Of The Rabbit. Not that there was much spectacular racing on show but couple of maidens were broken who deserve a mention; Glory Sun was the 35/1 winner of race 7, the four-year old filly winning for the first time in her fifteen starts to date.

Meanwhile, one race earlier, something had to give as twelve horses with statistics of 0 wins for 138 starts came together. Punters had no clue and opted – understandably given the circumstances – for the horse with the least starts. It was, however, Double Maha who took the honours with a narrow victory at odds of 30/1.

Moon Se Young and Jolie's Runner (3) take race 4

Racing returns tomorrow and it’s Sprint Day! Feature races at both Seoul and Busan are at sprint distances, with Grand Prix champion Mister Park trying his hand at 1300M in the southern track’s feature while in the capital, Holy Dreamer is set to be well fancied in a 1400M dash.

Sunday February 13

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:10 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:30 to 16:30

There's still a bit of a social stigma attached to being a racegoer in Korea as this snapshot of the front cover of today's Korean Racing Journal shows. On the left is Journal editor Kim Mun Young, on the right is "Mr X" who won January's Punter Of The Month competition