Gwangyajeil Wins The Korean Derby

Vicar Colt Ends Soseuldaemun’s Triple Crown Hopes

Gwangyajeil is the winner of the 2011 Korean Derby. The pre-race favourite overcame the valiant effort of filly Useung Touch to claim the second leg of the Korean Triple Crown by two and a half lengths.

Oh Kyoung Hoan and Gwangyajeil in the Derby Winner's Circle

In what was the most open looking Derby field for years, Gwangyajeil was sent off the very slight 4/1 favourite ahead of Singgereounachim and Double Light. As expected though, it was the Busan based filly Useung Touch who set the early pace and got to the first corner in the lead. KRA Cup Mile winner Soseuldaemun, rated as a 6/1 chance, ran into trouble right away and found himself at the back of the field as they rounded the first corner. However, Toshio Uchida on board, Soseuldaemun caused a stir in the back stretch as he joined fellow Busan challenger World Winner in coming right around the outside of the field to join the front-runners. Gwangyajeil and Oh Kyoung Hoan meanwhile sat safely in the middle of the pack.

Gwangyajeil leads Useung Touch to the line in the Korean Derby

Rounding the final corner, Useung Touch still had the lead while Uchida found himself four wide on Soseuldaemun. Now it was time to strike for Gwangyajeil. Shifting to the outside at the top of the stretch, he went past Soseuldaemun as if he wasn’t there. Shoot In and Double Light similarly saw their challenge collapse. The battling Useung Touch was the last to succumb but once Gwangyajeil had her collared with a furlong to go, there was to be only one winner. The filly held on for second from the fast finishing Singgereounachim and outsider Champion Belt.

Soseuldaemun – who had lost 26 kilos since his KRA Cup Mile win – finished in seventh, once place behind Double Light. Well-fancied Geuma Champ was a disappoiting thirteenth while bringing up the rear was 2010 Champion juvenile Sun Hero, who played up in the paddock before the race and is looking increasingly difficult to control.

Oh Kyoung Hoan doesn't have to do this every day

Gwangyajeil [Vicar – Hurricane Havoc (Jade Robbery)] now has a record of five wins from his seven starts. Vicar, whose foals had long been popular with Korean buyers at American sales, was imported to Korea in December 2006. Gwangyajeil’ s triumph means that he has a Classic winner among his first crop of foals to reach the racetrack. As for jockey Oh Kyoung Hoan, while he did win the Grand Prix Stakes in 2004, this will surely go down as his biggest victory to date. For trainer Lim Bong Chun it is by far and away his biggest success.

It is also a welcome victory for Seoul. The capital city hosts the Derby but hasn’t provided a winner of it since the race was opened up to competition from Busan in 2008. Could the tables be turning at last> We’ll find out when this crop of three-year olds re-convenes back at Seoul in October for the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown. With Soseuldaemun’s defeat, a Triple Crown won’t be on the line, but plenty else will be.

Korean Derby (KOR.G1) – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – May 15, 2011

1. Gwangyajeil (KOR) [Vicar – Hurricane Havoc (Jade Robbery)] – Oh Kyoung Hoan – 4.4, 1.9
2. Useung Touch (KOR) [Menifee – Jenny Tudor (Gulch)] – Choi Si Dae – 3.0
3. Singgereounachim (KOR) [Exploit – Singgereoun (Mr. Adorable)] – Jo In Kwen – 2.0

Distances: 2.5 lengths/0.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Champion Belt 5. Daeseung Yegam 6. Double Light 7. Soseuldaemun 8. World Winner 9. Yeongung Icheon 10. Prime Galloper 11. Shoot In 12. Choeonji Horyeong 13. Geuma Champ 14. Sun Hero

* Down at Busan today, names from Derby’s past were present. 2010 winner Cheonnyeon Daero faced 2009 runner-up Namdo Jeap in the first of co-feature events but they were both upstaged by Joe Murphy trained Udeumji, who beat them into the minor placings in a tight finish.

In the second co-feature, Yeonseung Daero, fifth in Sangseung Ilro’s 2009 Derby, scored the fourteenth victory of his illustrious career with yet another victory over foreign bred opposition. This time, he got the better of Daldeongi and track stalwart Crafty Louis by a neck on the line.

If Gwangyajeil goes on to have the same sort of career as Cheonnyeon Daero, Yeonseung Daero or even Namdo Jeap, he’ll be quite a horse.

Not this year: Toshio Uchida and Soseuldaemun won't be winning the Triple Crown

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