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.
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.
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.
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).
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.