Month: March 2011

Weekend Preview: Invasion!

Seoul Sends Eight For KRA Cup Mile Assault

It’s Triple Crown time. Final declarations have been made for the season’s first classic, the KRA Cup Mile – also known as “the Korean 2000 Guineas”, which will be run at Busan Race Park this coming Sunday. And there will be a big contingent from the capital in Busan this weekend with eight of the fourteen starters for the Cup Mile travelling down from Seoul for the event.

See below for a full list of runners and riders, but first up here’s what’s happening when and where on the first weekend in April:

Friday April 1

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

Saturday April 2

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

Sunday April 3

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:10 to 18:10
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:30 to 17:10

The KRA Cup Mile is at Busan 16:15 on Sunday afternoon and will be simulcasted live back to Seoul Race Park. Eight jockeys will also travel down from the capital to partner the Seoul-based horses which means that while some of Busan’s biggest names such as Jo Sung Gon and You Hyun Myung are without a ride, the Seoul weighing room will be rather quiet place on Sunday.

Among the six Busan jockeys who do have a ride in the big race are Japanese pair Toshio Uchida and Hitomi Miyashita. They will be bidding to emulate Australian Garry Baker, who won the Cup Mile in 2007 – albeit before the race became part of the Triple Crown series.

Well have a final run-down of the field on Saturday evening but in the meantime, here is the full list of runners with pedigrees, race records, home track and rider:

KRA Cup Mile (KOR G.II) – Busan Race Park – 1600M – Apr 3, 2011 – 16:15

1. Soseuldaemun (KOR) [Meisei Opera – This Ole Way (Vigors)] (9/2/3/1) – Busan – Toshio Uchida
2. Mupaeseungni (KOR) [Ingrandire – Dangdae Eutteum (Pro For Sure)] (4/3/0/0) – Seoul – Jung Ki Yong
3. 9. Double Light (KOR) [Menifee – Iruda (Glorify)] (7/3/2/1) – Seoul – Cho Kyoung Ho
4. Haengunui Mannam (KOR) [Creek Cat – Clever Lil (Lil’s Lad)] (Filly) (5/2/3/0) – Busan – Hitomi Miyashita
5.Useung Touch (KOR) [Menifee – Jenny Tudor (Gulch)] (Filly) (5/3/1/1) – Busan – Choi Si Dae
6. Daeseung Yegam (KOR) [Silent Warrior – Tolp’ung-Yegam (Land Rush)] (9/3/1/1) – Busan – Jo Chang Wook
7. Beongaegangho (KOR) [Vicar – Carson City Dancer (Carson City)] (7/2/2/1) – Seoul – Choi Bum Hyun
8. Reigns Cat (KOR) [Creek Cat – Eternal Reigns (Eternal Orange)] (7/2/2/0) – Seoul – Park Eul Woon
9. Cheonji Horyeong (KOR) [Buster’s Daydream – Sorority Jazz (Dixieland Band)] (7/2/2/1) – Busan – Chae Gyu Jun
10. Ophelia (KOR) [Commendable – Miss Personality (El Prado)] (5/2/3/0) – Seoul – Moon Jung Kyun
11. Sun Hero (KOR) [Menifee – Strategic Reward (Bold Revenue)] (8/4/2/1) – Seoul – Moon Se Young
12. Sun Blaze (KOR) [Menifee – Claudia’s Secret (Crafty Prospector)] (6/2/3/0) – Seoul – Park Tae Jong
13. Flower (KOR) [Menifee – Fancy Cheeks (Jade Robbery)] (Filly) (6/2/2/1) – Busan – Kim Myoung Sin
14. Singgeureounachim (KOR) [Exploit – Singgeureoun (Mr. Adorable)] (7/2/1/2) – Seoul – Jo In Kwen

A Tale Of Two Classic Cities

Will Busan Continue Its Triple Crown Domination?

When the final line-up for Sunday’s KRA Cup Mile is declared on Wednesday afternoon, there is likely to be a roughly equal number of horses from both Seoul and Busan taking part. While Seoul has the better known names, if performances in recent years are anything to go by, the ultimate winner is likely to hail from the Southern city.

Busan's Cheonnyeon Daero wins the 2010 Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

While Seoul Race Park is the undoubted headquarters of Korean horse racing, since Busan horses started competing in the three-year old Classic races in 2008, the capital’s horsemen have found themselves consistently losing out to those of the newer track down South. Of the nine colt Classics run in the past three years, Busan horses have won eight of them. They’ve also won two out of the past three runnings of the Korean Oaks.

So is it just chance or is Busan really doing something better than Seoul? Those with experience of both praise the set-up at Busan as being more conducive to the development of racing. In the capital – as has been mentioned ad-nauseum on this blog before – vested interests; the various unions and horsemen’s associations, really do run the show. There is little incentive to change the status-quo as it’s served them very well. Until that is, their biggest prizes of the year started disappearing down the Gyeongbu Expressway.

Busan's Double Classic winning filly Sangseung Ilro (Pic: KRA)

The unions have had less power at Busan and so – the theory goes – there has been more focus on delivering quality on the track. This is most visible in the success that foreign jockeys have had at Busan compared to Seoul. In Busan, talented jockeys will get rides, regardless of where they are from. Frankie Dettori would struggle to get a ride at Seoul.

It is absolutely proper that there are limits on the numbers of foreign jockeys granted licenses but the presence of talented ones can only be beneficial to local riders. Toshio Uchida may be “taking their money” now, but the likes of Jo Sung Gon and Park Geum Man are surely benefiting from riding alongside him; indeed both are now Classic winning jockeys.

It’s not only jockeys but also trainers. Busan has two foreign trainers – and more reportedly on the way – with Peter Wolsley now helming one of the track’s most successful barns. He’s not won a classic but again, could it be that the competition is raising the all around standard?

On a more practical level, another theory is simply that regularly training on the challenging Busan track produces better horses. Busan has a punishing uphill back-straight, a long sweeping level turn, and then a two and a half furlong stretch. Seoul meanwhile has a reasonably flat back-straight and a steep descent around the turn into the two-furlong home-straight. It’s plausible and is frequently mentioned in the Korean racing media. Or it could just play into the stereotype that eveyone from the capital – both man and beast – is well…a bit soft.

Busan's Dangdae Bulpae and Jo Sung Gon win the Minister's Cup

There is an anomaly though. Imported horses who are based at Seoul have, in the few races in which they have taken on their Busan counterparts, generally come out on top. Bulpae Gisang and Tough Win have won the last two editions of the Busan Metropolitan while Dongbanui Gangja claimed the first Grand Prix to which Busan horses were also invited. Of course, Busan’s Mister Park put an end to that by winning the 2010 Grand Prix but even so, it is worth asking whether Busan owners are just choosing better lots at the yearling and two-year old sales.

They’re certainly spending more money. At the recent March two-year old sales on Jeju Island, Busan buyers were responsible for the three most expensive lots: a filly by Menifee and colts by Forest Camp and El Corredor. If all goes to plan, they’ll be making their track debuts this coming autumn. By which time this could of course, all be forgotten about. Horses from the capital filled the top to places in the Breeders’ Cup – the nation’s top two-year old race, last November. Maybe this will be the year that Seoul strikes back.

Here is a list of the classic winners since Seoul and Busan started competing in 2008:

2010
KRA Cup Mile: Money Car (Newsprint) – Seoul
Korean Derby: Cheonnyeon Daero (Creek Cat) – Busan
Korean Oaks: Euro Fighter (Archer City Slew) – Seoul
Minister’s Cup: Dangdae Bulpae (Biwa Shinseiki) – Busan

2009
KRA Cup Mile: Sanseung Ilro (Concept Win) – Busan
Korean Derby: Sangseung Ilro (Concept Win) – Busan
Korean Oaks: Pangpang (Revere) – Busan
Minister’s Cup: Namdo Jeap (Ft. Stockton) – Busan

2008
KRA Cup Mile: Rainmaker (Revere) – Busan
Korean Derby: Ebony Storm (Buster’s Daydream) – Busan
Korean Oaks: Jeolho Chance (Didyme) – Busan
Minister’s Cup: Gaeseon Janggun (Duality) – Busan

Triple Crown 2011: First Look at KRA Cup Mile Line Up

Sixteen Remain in “Korean Guineas”

It’s almost upon us. The 2011 Korean Triple Crown Challenge Series gets underway this coming Sunday, April 3 with the KRA Cup Mile – The Korean 2000 Guineas – at Busan Race Park.

So far sixteen horses are entered; at least two will be eliminated before the day and therefore if there is going to be a Triple Crown winner, it’s going to be one of these. Both Seoul and Busan have eight entries each. Five of the host track’s representatives are fillies while all of those from Seoul are colts.

Breeders' Cup winner Sun Hero is one of 5 horses by Menifee entered for the Cup Mile

Menifee was both leading first-crop sire and Champion two-year old sire in 2010 and he has five entrants, all with serious claims. Filly Useung Touch finished in a surprise third place in the Breeders’ Cup last year and the filly has brought her good form over to 2011. Meanwhile, Breeders’ Cup winner Sun Hero and stablemate Sun Blaze, along with Double Light will be among those heading the Seoul contingent.

Despite the name, Ophelia's a colt. A handsome one too

There’s been plenty of hype surrounding the grey Ophelia, while Mupaeseungni has the best strike rate in the race with three wins from his four starts. Unusually, there are no unbeaten horses in the race although like Ophelia, the filly Haengunui Mannam, has finished first or second in all of her five starts.

The KRA Cup Mile is a relatively new addition to the Korean racing calendar. It was first run in its current form – for Korean bred three-year olds – in 2008, which was the first year that the Korean Triple Crown series incorporated horses from the new Busan track. The Series itself has only been started the previous year when J.S. Hold scored a clean sweep of the Ttukseom Cup, Korean Derby and Minister’s Cup. For 2008, the Ttukseom Cup was made age-open and the Cup Mile restricted to three-year olds and thrown open to horses from across the peninsula.

Busan won the 2008 and 2009 editions in the form of Rainmaker and Sangseung Ilro, however, Money Car became the first Seoul based three-year old to win a Classic since 2007 when he took the 2010 renewal. Of those, only Sangseung Ilro went on to win the Korean Derby, two months later and she failed at the final Triple Crown hurdle as Namdo Jeap, second in both the Cup Mile and the Derby that year, finally came out on top in the Minister’s Cup in Seoul in October.

Winning the Triple Crown is tough – there are six months between the Cup Mile and the Minister’s Cup and there may be later developing horses, such as Dangdae Bulpae last year, who get better as the season progresses and overtake those who were on top in April. Sangseung Ilro’s fragile shins didn’t hold up for the whole year, while poor old Money Car only ran once more after being caught in the final strides of the Derby.

It’s a long time until October but if we’re to have a Triple Crown winner in 2011, it will be one of one of these sixteen (Name/Pedigree/Race Records/Home Track):

1. Cheonji Horyeong (KOR) [Buster’s Daydream – Sorority Jazz (Dixieland Band)] (7/2/2/1) – Busan
2. Soseuldaemun (KOR) [Meisei Opera – This Ole Way (Vigors)] (9/2/3/1) – Busan
3. Daeseung Yegam (KOR) [Silent Warrior – Tolp’ung-Yegam (Land Rush)] (9/3/1/1) – Busan
4. Dallija (KOR) [Adcat – Great Lakes (Meadowlake)] (Filly) (7/3/1/0) – Busan
5. Shamash (KOR) [Al Naba – Jayeon Juui (Road Of War)] (Filly) (8/2/2/0) – Busan
6. Flower (KOR) [Menifee – Fancy Cheeks (Jade Robbery)] (Filly) (6/2/2/1) – Busan
7. Useung Touch (KOR) [Menifee – Jenny Tudor (Gulch)] (Filly) (5/3/1/1) – Busan
8. Haengunui Mannam (KOR) [Creek Cat – Clever Lil (Lil’s Lad)] (Filly) (5/2/3/0) – Busan
9. Double Light (KOR) [Menifee – Iruda (Glorify)] (7/3/2/1) – Seoul
10. Beongaegangho (KOR) [Vicar – Carson City Dancer (Carson City)] (7/2/2/1) – Seoul
11. Reigns Cat (KOR) [Creek Cat – Eternal Reigns (Eternal Orange)] (7/2/2/0) – Seoul
12. Singgeureounachim (KOR) [Exploit – Singgeureoun (Mr. Adorable)] (7/2/1/2) – Seoul
13. Ophelia (KOR) [Commendable – Miss Personality (El Prado)] (5/2/3/0) – Seoul
14. Sun Blaze (KOR) [Menifee – Claudia’s Secret (Crafty Prospector)] (6/2/3/0) – Seoul
15. Sun Hero (KOR) [Menifee – Strategic Reward (Bold Revenue)] (8/4/2/1) – Seoul
16. Mupaeseungni (KOR) [Ingrandire – Dangdae Eutteum (Pro For Sure)] (4/3/0/0) – Seoul

*Here is Money Car’s 2010 victory:

Ace Galloper Canters To Cup Win

Chapel Royal colt picks off Sports Donga

After slipping up last time out, Ace Galloper resumed normal service today, cruising to victory in the Sports Donga Cup, Sunday’s feature event at Seoul Race Park.

Ace Galloper returns after another win

It was an eleventh career win for Ace Galloper from seventeen total career starts. Ineligible for last year’s three-year old Classics having been born in Korea but sired elsewhere, Ace Galloper (Chapel Royal) is currently ranked fourth best Korean horse at Seoul. On current form, it is difficult to see those ahead of him – Triple Seven, Top Point and Blue Pin – standing much of a chance.

Today, the four-year old was sent off the odds-favourite and led from gate to wire to record a three length win from New Year’s Stakes winner Andy’s Runner with jockey Cho Kyoung Ho having the luxury of being able to ease him to a canter before the line. Cherokee Man was a surprise third while Special Volpony and Lucky Mountain filled out the remaining money finishes.

In other races, with the KRA Cup Mile just a week away, things were relatively quiet. Filly Yeah Strike scored an impressive 5 length win in race 10 to earn her first class 2 victory and fifth in total. Meanwhile another filly, Allegrissimo (Bon Vivant) was similarly dominant in race 6 as she recorded her second win. Also a word is warranted for filly Hiroo Dreamer; the four-year old finally broke her maiden today as she took race 5 vy just over a length. It was her sixteenth attempt.

Choi Won Joon drives filly Hiroo Dreamer to her first victory in her sixteenth start

Down at Busan, the feature race was won by favourite Global Champ (Charge Forward), who was produced at exactly the right time by jockey Toshio Uchida to score a half length victory from Dandi and Cheogo Beoltong.

So that wraps up another weekend – and another month – of racing on the peninsula. It is April when the serious business begins. There’s the Ttukseom Cup at Seoul but more significant is next week’s KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown Series, at Busan. We begin our build-up tomorrow!

The flowers have been planted and they'll be out soon - Seoul Racecourse March 27

Friday Night Wine & Wagering

Just one winner from twelve selections last week may indicate that this is one Friday night combination that doesn’t deserve to continue. Indeed that winner came in the very first race of the day and Gyongmaman hadn’t even arrived at the track in time to bet on it.

However, the combination of a couple of long shots managing to finish in the first three and a decent bottle of Chilean red on the shelves at Homeplus at a price giving greater value than Gyongmaman’s “wine tissue” suggested, means we’re giving it another go.

Saturday at Seoul provides thirteen opportunities for us to lose our hard-borrowedearned. For the most part, we’re trying to stay away from the favourites and looking for some value to have both a small win and a bigger place bet on – but always look at the tote board first. It’s not going to make us rich – try quinella-ing (is that a word?) them with another for that – but hopefully won’t bankrupt us either:

Race 1: Wangga (5)
Race 2: Senchingu (9)
Race 3: Beauty Cat (9)
Race 4: Rising Woman (9)
Race 5: Special Day (8)
Race 6: Blue Charming (6)
Race 7: Chuwolchupung (10)
Race 8: Juheulsan (9)
Race 9: Travel Zone (10)
Race 10: Gwangyajeil (2)
Race 11: Burning Sky (2)
Race 12: Saebyeogi (12)
Race 13: Victory Camp (10)

Gwangyajeil (race 10) was on the Triple Crown trail before his last disappointing outing but will now skip the KRA Cup Mile, the first jewel of the Crown (we’ll start our week long build-up to that race on Monday). He’ll need to win tomorrow to put himself back into the reckoning for the Korean Derby. Beauty Cat (race 3) will be odds-on but all the others will offer some value and it shouldn’t need many of them to come home in front to turn a profit. Not that Gyongmaman turns one of those very often (he blames twitter for distracting him at the track).

* 2008 Korean Derby winner Ebony Storm was back in the winner’s circle at Busan today after claiming the feature race. Now six, Ebony Storm, who was the longest shot on the board when he scored in the Derby during a torrential downpour at Seoul three years ago, won the seven furlong feature race by six lengths.

It’s become unexpectedly cold again this week but temperatures should hold up during the day. Here’s another summary of what’s happening for the rest of the weekend

Saturday March 26

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

Sunday March 27

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

Weekend Preview: March 25, 26, 27

There are so many stories to write up. We’re only just over a week away from the KRA Cup Mile – the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown – looking at the line-up, it’s set to be a fascinating race and yet I haven’t done a preview yet! This is most remiss of me and will be addressed shortly but real life has rudely intervened recently.

This week is therefore very much the calm before the storm, but there’s still plenty going on this weekend to keep race fans occupied:

Friday March 25

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

Saturday March 26

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

Sunday March 27

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

Larrycat Pounces On Dongbanui Gangja Habit

Former Champion Runs Wide Again / Crown Flag Scores Upset In Busan Ilbo

Larrycat took full advantage as once again it all went wrong for Dongbanui Gangja in the feature event at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Larrycat and Park Tae Jong just edge out Strong Demand and Park Byung Yun in the feature race at Seoul

Dongbanui Gangja (Broken Vow), the former double Grand Prix Champion, had been out of the winner’s circle for nearly a year, after his long time habit of running wide in the home straight became too much to control. Still every time he races, many punters expect him to get it together once more. Indeed today, he was sent off as slight odds-on favourite as he was carrying several kilos less than he has been accustomed to.

Beaten again: Dongbanui Gangja

It didn’t make any difference. Choi Bum Hyun had Dongbanui Gangja well placed as they rounded the home turn but slowly, inevitably, the drift happened and while his rivals were going forward, Dongbanui Ganga was going sideways and didn’t stop until he got to the grandstand rail. In his stead, it was left to Larrycat (Fantasticat), second to Mister Park in the 2010 Grand Prix to get the better of Strong Demand (Read The Footnotes) in a tight finish.

Three lengths behind them, there was a blanket finish for third, Geumbi, who was making her class 1 debut, beating out Kahnui Jeonseol and, all the way across, Dongbanui Gangja by a nose. He ran a self-inflicted 20 metres further than any other horse in the race but was still only five metres away from winning. This suggests he’s still the fastest horse in Korea. However, now six years old, it is difficult to see how a stallion such as Dongbanui Gangja is going to change his ways.

Down south, on a wet and muddy day at Busan it was the Busan Ilbo Stakes and what was billed as a clash of the track’s most promising up and coming imported fillies.

As it turned out, the final stages were a clash between a Korean bred four-year old – with just one win in twenty to her name – and the only mare in the race – who also had only ever recorded one win. It was the Korean four-year old who won out as Crown Flag (Volponi), a 57/1 shot squeezed home a length ahead of Amateras (Silver Charm).

Pre-race favourite Royale Embrace (Chapel Royal) was a disappointment, never featuring towards the front and only managing seventh in the end. Likewise, there was to be no first Korean Stakes win for trainer Peter Wolsley as his Secret Whisper, second favourite in the betting finished third.

The winning pair returned a 1763/1 exacta. A few punters will have gone home happy while a few fillies have reputations to repair.

Busan Ilbo Stakes – Busan Race Park – 1400M – Sunday March 20, 2011

1. Crown Flag (KOR) [Volponi – Crown of Creation (Beau Genius)] – Kim Myoung Sin – 57.2. 7.8
2. Amateras (JPN) [Silver Charm – Nice Juno (Nice Dancer)] – Choi Si Dae – 9.5
3. Secret Whisper (KOR) [Sea Of Secrets – Generals Passion (General Meeting)] – Park Geum Man – 2.1

Distances: 0.75 lengths/1.75 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Sangseung Geotap 5. Lovely Woman 6. Queen Of Rain 7. Royale Embrace 8. Gayatansaeng 9. Saetbyeol 10. Geungnak Seonnyo 11. Ecton Legacy 12. Myeongmun Bobae 13. Jungle Love 14. Allie’s Premo

Dongbanui Gangja (7) gazes out over the Seoul paddock that he used to dominate