Month: December 2011

Thirty Years Of The Grand Prix

While other races may carry more prize money, in terms of honour and prestige, the Grand Prix Stakes is second to none in Korea. It’s a race that has had movies named after it and is, perhaps, the only domestic horse race to register in the national consciousness.

Mister Park - Defending Grand Prix Champion

Sunday sees the 30th edition of the race. It’s young in international terms, but in a country where the private ownership of racehorses – and therefore prize money and big Stakes races – go back less than two decades, it is positively venerable. With race fans invited to vote on which horses they want to see in the starting gate, it is the undisputed Championship race in Korea. There is no question of the best horses trying to avoid each other as there is nowhere else to go. In the Grand Prix, the best face the best.

This is because whereas the Classics are restricted to Korean bred entrants, the Grand Prix is open to all. Indeed in the previous 29 editions, home-bred horses have ended up in the winner’s circle just four times (including Mister Park who . Fillies or mares have won the race five times with Ka Shock Do taking back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991.

The origin of the winners also shows the change in influence on Korean racing. Throughout the eighties and nineties, the vast majority of horses imported to Korea were from the Southern Hemisphere. This is reflected by Australian or New Zealand breds winning thirteen of the first sixteen runnings, compared with just one American. Since the turn of the century, the majority of imports have come from the USA and American breds have won six out of the last eight editions.

As recently as 1999, a non-thoroughbred was triumphant. Saegangja was by the established sire Fiercely, however, his dam Chuk Je, was not in the studbook. That won’t happen again as year on year, Korean racing gradually becomes more mature.

Last year’s winner Mister Park is likely to contend favouritism for this year’s race with Ace Galloper (Chapel Royal), another born in Korea after his pregnant dam was imported. The breeding stock in Korea is getting better and better and so are the resulting racehorses.

This year, while a couple of big names sit out – Dangdae Bulpae didn’t get the the distance last year while the unbeaten Lion Santa’s connections also believe their colt is not a 2300 metre horse, there are still plenty of potential stories among the potential winners.

It could be defending champion Mister Park, the impressive Tough Win and Ace Galloper, gutsy Yeonseung Daero, the retiring Cheonnyeon Daero or the two-year old phenom Smarty Moonhak. Also Peter Wolsley becomes the first foreign trainer to saddle a horse in the race as his Gyeongkwaehanjilu takes his chance – if the others beat themselves on the first corner, he just may be the one to benefit.

On Sunday Mister Park will seek to join Dongbanui Gangja, Ka Shock Do and the great Po Gyeong Seon as double winners of the race. He’s also looking to maintain the longest consecutive winning streak in Korean racing history. He’s got a massive task on his hands to prevent a new name being added to the list of horses below who, for one year at least, can claim to have been the undisputed best.

2010: Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park – Formal Deal (Formal Gold)]
2009: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)]
2008: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)]
2007: Bally Brae (USA) [Yarrow Brae – Political Bluff (Unaccounted For)] – Also has two second places to his name, in 2006 and 2008.
2006: Flying Cat (KOR) [Western Cat – Flying Wood (Tapping Wood)]
2005: Subsidy (USA) [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)]
2004: Value Play (USA) [Mt. Livermore – Return Of Mom (Deputy Minister)]
2003: Tempest West (USA) [Silent Tempest – Westabout (Gone West)]
2002: Bohamian Butler (USA) [Patton – Circus Princess (Forli)]
2001: Tahamkke (NZ) [Dance Floor – Cantango (Danzatore)]- has gone on to become a moderately successful sire in Korea
2000: Cheolgeoun Party (KOR) [Big Sur – Party Paint (Acaroid)] – The only Korean bred filly to win.
1999: Saegangja (KOR) [Fiercely – Chuk Je] (non-thoroughbred)
1998: Sin Se Dae (AUS) [Avon Valley – Meroo Star (Starboard Buoy)]
1997: P’Ulgeurim (NZ) [Crested Wave – Evocative (Sea Anchor)]
1996: Hula-Mingo (NZ) [Broadway Aly – Zamatina (Zamazaan)]
1995: Dae Kyeun (AUS) [Northern Regent – Romantic Evening (Sunset Hue)]
1994: Ji Goo Ryeok (AUS) [Pine Circle – Perfect Choice (Lunchtime)] – The first year prize-money was awarded, Ji Goo Ryeok’s connections took home 50 Million won. This year’s winner will receive 212 Million, the same as last year but slightly down on 2008. The Korean Derby is worth in excess of 250 Million to the winner.
1993: Gi Peun So Sik (NZ) [Bolak – Belserena (Serenader)]
1992: Chun Pung (NZ) [Coral Reef – Little Jo] (non-thorougbred)
1991: Ka Shock Do (NZ) [Engagement – Nursery Rhyme (Namnan)]- With her second , she became arguably the greatest filly to run in Korea. In all, she won twelve of her thirteen starts.
1990: Ka Shock Do (NZ) [Engagement – Nursery Rhyme (Namnan)]
1989: Cha Dol (USA) [Mr Redoy – Honest’N Do Right]
1988: Wang Bang Wool (AUS) [Moon Sammy – Aqua Nymph (Crepone)]
1987: Cheong Ha (AUS) [Suliman – Pigalle Wonder (Exalt)]
1986: Po Gyeong Seon (NZ) [Danseur Etoile – Leonotis (Lionhearted)] – with twenty wins from twenty-five starts, he is, along with Saegangja and J.S. Hold one of the three
1985: Po Gyeong Seon (NZ) [Danseur Etoile – Leonotis (Lionhearted)]

* Although this is the 30th running of the Grand Prix, Korean racing records officially only go back to 1985.

* This is an updated version of a post that appeared on this blog in the build up to last year’s Grand Prix. And the year before and the year…etc.

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Dongbanui Gangja and Dongteuja Keep Maremaid’s Memory Alive

Siblings Win At Seoul & Busan

December is a month when punters expect to see Dongbanui Gangja [Broken Vow-Maremaid (Storm Bird)] in the winner’s circle. In 2009, he became the third horse – after 1980’s and 1990’s greats Po Gyeong Seon and Ka Shock Do – to win consecutive Grand Prix Stakes, Korea’s most prestigious race. This year, he wasn’t nominated and instead came to Seoul Race Park this weekend and comfortably dismissed a class 1 field by three lengths despite giving the whole lot of them a minimum of six kilos.

Back winning: Dongbanui Gangja and Choi Bum Hyun (Pic: KRA)

Just one week before his first Grand Prix triumph on the weekend before Christmas in 2008, Dongbanui Gangja’s dam, a then fourteen-year-old mare named Maremaid [Storm Bird-Isayso (Valid Appeal)] arrived in Korea having been bought by the Korea Horse Land breeding operation.

Dongbanui Gangja himself was a $20,000 purchase from the OBS Spring Two-year olds in Training sale at Ocala in 2007. He quickly established himself as a high-class performer and went unbeaten for twelve consecutive races between October 2008 and July 2010, during which time he won hs two Grand Prix’s and an Owners’ Trophy.

The rest of 2010 was a disappointment though. As a five-year old he had become increasingly difficult to control and he started to drift very wide in his races. There was talk of retirement. However, with a lot of training and a pair of pacifiers fitted, this year he has begun to show a little of his old form. It is great to have him back.

Apart from Dongbanui Gangja, Maremaid had produced six other foals who raced in the US. The best of them was a filly, Glitter Maid, by Glitterman, who won six of twenty-eight starts in the early 2000’s. When she arrived in Korea, she was heavily in foal to Montbrook. Sadly, she suffered complications while giving birth to a filly on February 12, 2009.

The filly survived, however, and this afternoon at Busan Race Park, Dongteuja [Montbrook-Maremaid (Storm Bird)] maintained her 100% record as she strolled to her fourth consecutive win since her debut in August. She has a long way to go before emulating her big brother but so far, she’s doing just fine.

Dongteuja was today ridden by Japanese jockey Akane Yamamoto. Akane went on to finish second by a head in the feature race on Goni (Wando) to hot favourite Champion Belt (Exploit). Champion Belt should have been ridden by Nathan Stanley, however, calamity struck for the prolific Australian rider on Friday as he picked up a three-month ban – an unusually strong punishment for in-race incidents in Korea that don’t involve non-trying – for his ride on Cheonjae Bogo in race 6 on Friday.

The suspension, which potentially ends Stanley’s time in Korea given his license expires at the end of December, means he will miss next week’s Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul. Akane will be there though riding Mister Park, last year’s winner as he attempts to emulate none other than Dongbanui Gangja and retain the biggest prize in Korean racing.

Dongbanui Gangja’s second Grand Prix in 2009:

Weekend Preview

Dongbanui Gangja / Grand First / Champion Belt

We’re just a week away from the Grand Prix, the climax of the Korean racing season, but there’s still

Double Grand Prix Winner: Dongbanui Gangja goes on Saturday

plenty going on across the peninsula this weekend.

Seoul has class 1 handicap headlining on both Saturday and Sunday. Double Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja (Broken Vow) misses this year’s event but he’ll be in action in Saturday’s feature. While there are a number of decent, if less than intimidating, horses up against him, the thing that is most likely to stop the former Champion adding to his eighteen career victories is the weight – he’ll be carrying six kilos more than any other horse in the race. Sunday sees three-year old filly Grand First (Salt Lake) making her first appearance at the highest level as she takes on a beatable looking field in the feature race.

Down at Busan, US five-year old Purely Spontaneus (Pure Precision) makes just his third atrt of 2011 in the feature – he’s one of twelve rides for Akane Yamamoto over the weekend as she looks to build on her five wins a week ago. The now nine-year old Golding (Gold Alert) is one of just seven rivals.

However, Busan’s most intriguing contest of the weekend is on Sunday afternoon. Aussie jockey Nathan Stanley gets the nod to ride Champion Belt (Exploit) who many predict will go on to be the stand-out horse of his year-group (which so far has been pretty shoddy) in the feature race. To get on the favourite, however, Stanley has had to get off Khaosan (Sunday Well) on who he won the Busan Owners’ Stakes and finished fourth in the President’s Cup. In his absence, trainer Peter Wolsley has managed to secure the services of champion jockey Jo Sung Gon to ride the tough as nails Khaosan. Neither rider will be in a good mood if they lose this one.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday December 2

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

Saturday December 3

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:10 to 17:30
Jeju Race Park: 10 races from 12:30 to 17:50

Sunday December 4

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:10 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:30 to 17:00

December can be cold but beautiful at Seoul Race Park