Month: April 2012

Weekend Preview

Useung Touch Is Back / Jumong Carries Big Weight At Seoul / Grand Niner Bids For Fourth Win

It’s set to be the warmest weekend of the year so far and we’ve got plenty to keep us occupied across the peninsula.

Oaks Winner: Useung Touch is back at Busan this weekend

South African jockey Gerrit Schlechter will make his Busan debut on Friday and has a promising book of rides across the weekend including on Peter Wolsley’s Pnata Rhei (Stormy Atlantic) in Sunday’s feature.

That race sees 2011 Korean Oaks winner Useung Touch (Menifee) make her first appearance of the season while the impressive late developer Quantum (Ecton Park) is among a host of well-known names being dropped back for a a rare chance to race for a big prize over 6 furlongs.

Up at Seoul, there are class 1 tests on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s looks more interesting with top weight Jumong (Johar) heading a reasonably challenging field that includes one-time Grand Prix Stakes runner-up Larrycat (Fantasticat) as well as the now past his best former Grand Prix winner Bally Brae (Yarrow Brae).

On Sunday at Seoul, plenty of eyes will be on US import Grand Niner (Any Given Saturday) who will be bidding to make it four wins from four starts in race 9.

Meanwhile down on Jeju Island, the ponies have one of their biggest races of the year in the shape of the Halla Ilbo Cup on Saturday afternoon.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday April 13

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

Saturday April 14

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday April 15

Seoul Race Park: 10 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:15 to 16:40

Schlechter & Abe Join Foreign Jockey Ranks At Busan

There are two new foreign jockeys in town at Busan.

Japanese Yukio Abe made a winning debut last weekend while South African veteran Gerrit Schlechter will ride for the first time this coming Friday.

New Boys: Gerrit Schlechter and Yukio Abe

Forty-three year old Abe, who usually rides at Nagoya, has over 2600 career victories to his name and opened his Korean account with victory on 7/1 shot Fine Fine in race 3 at Busan last Sunday. Officially freelance, Abe has so far been booked by a wide range of trainers.

Cape Town rider Schlechter, who also has over 2600 victories over the course of his near thirty-year career, is already known to Korean racing fans having ridden in and won the 2007 International Jockey Challenge at Seoul Racecourse.

At the time, this blog described him as a “man with a truly incredible head of hair” – which in retrospect may have been a slight exaggeration – and also noted that he wasn’t afraid to interact with heckling punters, suggesting confidence that may serve him well here full-time.

It appears that Schlechter, while also officially freelance, will replace Nathan Stanley as de-facto first-choice jockey for Australian trainer Peter Wolsley. Joe Murphy also puts the forty-six year old up this weekend.

Schlechter is the fifth South African to take up a riding licence in Korea. They’ve had mixed experiences.

Exception: Martin Wepner

Chris Taylor spent seven weeks at Seoul in 2008 while the less said about Willie Uys’ one weekend in the Capital, before he dashed to the airport, the better.

Down at Busan Deryl Daniels had the misfortune to be riding at the track at the same time as Toshio Uchida was monopolizing the winners and went home, initially on vacation but decided not to return.

After a spell in the United Arab Emirates, Taylor is now riding in Durban. Also in Durban, Daniels meanehile recorded his first Group 1 winner recently and has just relocated to Johannesburg. Uys has been forced into retirement through injury.

The one successful exception in Korea was Martin Wepner who was arguably Busan’s top jockey for a while in 2009 and early 2010, picking up victory in the Minister’s Cup on Namdo Jeap.

His was a turbulent stint, however, which wasn’t made any easier by his being inadvertently stuck in the middle of a bitter dispute between the Jockeys’ Union and the Trainers.

With backing from Wolsley though, it is likely that Schlechter will have every opportunity to do well. Both he and Abe have been granted initial licenses for four months.

Gyeongbudaero Wins KRA Cup Mile – Seizes First Jewel Of 2012 K-Triple Crown

If there is to be a winner of 2012 Korean Triple Crown, then his name will be Gyeongbudaero. At Busan Race Park this afternoon, the colt went from last to first in the home straight to secure the KRA Cup Mile, the first Jewel, in commanding fashion.

Perhaps fittingly, Gyeongbudaero [Menifee-Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] is named after the road that connects the Korean capital Seoul, with the second city of Busan. Since the opening of the Busan track in 2005, there has been a marked shift in power in Korean racing with horses based in Busan dominating the three-year old Classics.

So it was today. Last year’s Champion Juvenile Good Time (Yehudi) was sent off as the favourite but it was Dream Tower (Forest Camp), the most expensive horse of his generation who set the early pace. Park Geum Man was happy to keep Gyeongbudaero right at the back of the field and there they stayed until turning into the home straight.

Classic Winner: Gyeongbudaero

The anticipated challenge of Good Time never materialised and instead it was an outsider, Baekho Janggun (Pico Central) under Japanese jockey Narazaki Kosuke who was the first to challenge Dream Tower. However, once Park had finally made room for himself, there would be no stopping Gyeongbudaero who flew down the outside to win by three lengths pulling away.

Dream Tower held on for second while a very game Baekho Janggun got third just ahead of the Seoul pair of Viva Cat (Creek Cat) and Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire).

Gyeongbudaero marks another big race victory for the team who were behind the 2010 Korean Derby winner, the similarly named Cheonnyeon Daero. Owner Jung Kwang Hwa, trainer Oh Moon Sik and jockey Park Geum Man will now be favourites to go up to Seoul in May and with Gyeongbudaero, repeat their success.

KRA Cup Mile (K.G2) – Busan Race Park – 1600M – Sunday April 8, 2012

1. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee-Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – Park Geum Man – 3.8, 1.8
2. Dream Tower (KOR) [Forest Camp-Hurricane Warning (Thunder Gulch)] – Kim Yong Geun 2.2
3. Baekho Janggun (KOR) [Pico Central-Oaks Fever (Old Trieste)] – Narazaki Kosuke – 12.9

Distances: 3 lengths/Nose
Also Ran: 4. Viva Cat 5. Jigeum I Sungan 6. Predict 7. Good Time 8. Bongodong 9. Wonderful Namhae 10. Sing A 11. Dolpung Jilju 12. Himchan Jilju 13. Cheoneun 14. Myeongseo Hero

Gyeongbudaero has now won five of his nine races and on the strength of today’s showing, looks to have plenty more development in him. The last two Cup Mile winners, Money Car and Soseuldaemun saw their careers stalled by injury. Fingers crossed Gyeongbudaero can stay sound and go on to fulfil his wonderful potential.

It was a huge day of racing at Busan. Earlier in the afternoon, Narazaki Kosuke had scored a shock win in the JRA Kokura Trophy on outsider Jungwon Jepae (Al Maher) and then after the CUp Mile the stage was set for a showdown between two previously unbeaten American imports.

The MJC Trophy saw Smoking Gun and Pure Future put their winning streaks on the line and while Pure Future (Simon Pure) failed to live up to his billing, Smoking Gun (Hat Trick) made no mistake, despite having to come very wide around the field, scoring victory by just under 2 lengths to take his winning streak to 4:

MJC Trophy – Busan Race Park – 1400M – Sunday April 8, 2012

1. Smoking Gun (USA) [Hat Trick-Desdemona’s Dream (Announce)] – Kim Dong Young – 3.5, 1.5
2. Kidari Joe (USA) [Tiznow-Trickle Of Gold (Formal Gold)] – You Hyun Myung – 1.6
3. Japjima (USA) [Latent Heat-Imp’s Wild (Wild Gale)] – Narazaki Kosuke – 5.0

Distances: 1.5 lengths/1.75 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Alke The Man (USA) 5. Henry Higgins (USA) 6. Oreuse (USA) 7. Yeonseung Gangho (USA) 8. Former (USA) 9. Dandojikip (USA) 10. Pure Future (USA) 11. Allie’s Premo (USA)

Smarty Moonhak Strolls In The Sunshine

Smarty Moonhak went for a jog in the Spring sunshine at Seoul Race Park this afternoon and returned with his third class 1 win of 2012.

The three-year old colt was sent off the long-odds on favourite for the 2000 metre feature race and, despite carrying more than 4 kilos more than any of his rivals, led from gate to wire to score victory by five lengths.

As in his last outing race last month, Smarty Moonhak [Smarty Jones-Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] barely needed to raise a canter and jockey Moon Jung Kyun was able to remain motionless throughout what was in the end was little more than a timed workout.

Behind him, Jisanggunju (Eddington) held off KJ Khan (Squirtle Squirt) for second in what might as well have been a different race.

Since getting beaten in his first start, Smarty Moonhak has won seven races with the Grand Prix being his only defeat. He hasn’t been pushed in any of these – even in the Grand Prix, given his tender age and the distance he was running, his jockey was careful not to push him too hard.

Only Tough Win, the horse who beat Smarty Moonhak in the Grand Prix Stakes last December, is now ranked higher than him at Seoul. At Busan Mister Park, who finished second in that Grand Prix, could perhaps still give him a race. Until these three meet again though, likely to happen in the Busan Metropolitan Stakes in the summer, there is little to keep him amused in the capital.

And until they meet again, we won’t have any clue as to how good Smarty Moonhak really is. The $14,000 purchase from the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling sale has now amassed nearly 400 Million Won of prize money. If he stays sound, he could go on to break all sorts of records.

At Busan tomorrow it is the big one. The KRA Cup Mile – the “Korean 2000 Guineas” – is the first leg of the 2012 Korean Triple Crown (which is only open to Korean bred horses) and comes under orders at 3:50pm.

Immediately after the Cup Mile is the Macau Jockey Club Trophy which brings together two highly rated unbeaten imports Pure Future (Simon Pure) and Smoking Gun (Hat Trick). Could one of those two go on to challenge Smarty Moonhak later in the year? We’ll know a little more tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday April 8

Seoul Race Park: 10 races from 11:00 to 17:50
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:15 to 16:50 including the KRA Cup Mile at 15:50 and the MJC Trophy at 16:50

Weekend Preview

KRA Cup Mile, Macau Jockey Club Trophy at Busan, Smarty Moonhak at Seoul

It’s the first leg of the 2012 Korean Triple Crown at Busan Race Park on Sunday as 14 of the nation’s best three-year olds go to post for the KRA Cup Mile. Click here for a full preview and run-down of all the runners and riders.

Smarty Moonhak (KRA)

Also at Busan on Sunday, two so-far unbeaten three-year old imports (the Cup Mile is only open to Korean bred horses) will face each other for the first time.

Something has got to give as Pure Future (Simon Pure), with 4 wins from 4 starts, faces Smoking Gun (Hat Trick) who has 3 from 3, in the Macau Jockey Club Trophy.

Up at Seoul, another three-year old import who can’t run in the Triple Crown is perhaps the best of the lot. Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) will look for his third straight win on 2012 in the feature race on Saturday. He’ll be carrying 60Kg – a full 4.5Kg more than any of his 11 rivals but should still win the 10 furlong handicap with ease. This colt is well worth watching.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday April 6

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

Saturday April 7

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:00

Sunday April 8

Seoul Race Park: 10 races from 11:00 to 17:50
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:15 to 16:50 including the KRA Cup Mile at 15:50

KRA Cup Mile Runners And Riders

After months of preparation, finally it’s the big one.

Chae Gyu Jun & Good Time in the Breeders' Cup Winner's Circle

The first leg of the 2012 Korean Triple Crown will be run at Busan Race Park this Sunday.

The KRA Cup Mile, also known as the “Korean 2000 Guineas” will see four runners from Seoul travel down South to take on a ten strong home team.

One of them could be on the way to emulating J.S. Hold who in 2007, became the first and only horse to complete the Triple Crown. Champion Juvenile of 2011 Good Time leads the line for the home team while Viva Cat, with 5 wins from his 6 starts, heads the challenge from Seoul.

Here is a full list of the runners and riders with pedigrees, race records and jockey:

KRA Cup Classic (KOR.GII) – Busan Race Park – 1600M – Sunday April 8, 15:50

1. Good Time (KOR) [Yehudi-A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] C (8/3/3/0) – Chae Gyu Jun (Busan)
Champion Juvenile of last year and has made steady progress this year up to class 2 level, recording a very easy win over the distance in February.

2. Himchan Jilju (KOR) [Kwaedo Nanma-Wild Triple (Military)] C (8/4/0/1) – Jo Chang Wook (Busan)
Untried at the distance but was impressive last time out and should be in with a chance.

3. Wonderful Namhae (KOR) [Vicar-Make That Call (Glow)] C (6/4/0/0) – Akane Yamamoto (Busan)
Has won his last three in good fashion and with Akane on board, has to be a contender.

4. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee-Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] C (8/4/2/0) – Park Geum Man (Busan)
Over the winter, he was set to be favourite but put in an indifferent performance last time out when he finished behind Good Time over 1800 metres. Could win easily or could finish last, it depends which Gyeongbudaero shows up.

5. Myeongseo Hero (KOR) [Pico Central-Regal Heir (Regal Intention)] C (7/2/3/0) – Song Keong Yun (Busan)
Was disappointing in his only outing over the distance and comes into the race off the back of two second place finishes over seven furlongs at class 3. He’ll need to show much more to challenge here.

6. Cheoneun (KOR) [Forest Camp-Naha (Silver Buck)] F (8/5/1/0) – Choi Bum Hyun (Seoul)
A poor run in the Breeders’ Cup last November and again over 1800 metres last month. Sandwiched between those two though were two very impressive wins and if she can bring that form to Busan, she can’t be discounted.

7. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) [Ingrandire-Solmaru (Mujaazif)] C (9/3/4/1) – Moon Se Young (Seoul)
A colt that has been getting better with every run. The longer Derby distance might suit him better but more improvement can’t be ruled out here and Moon Se Young would not travel South if he didn’t feel he had a shot at bringing home a big prize.

8. Dolpung Jilju (KOR) [Didyme-Alder Gulch (Gulch)] F (8/3/1/1) – Jun Duk Yong (Seoul)
Without a win since claiming the Gwacheon Mayor’s Stakes last October, she is a talented filly but it would be a surprise if her return to the Winner’s Circle came here.

9. Baekho Janggun (KOR) [Pico Central-Oaks Fever (Old Trieste)] C (9/1/2/2) – Narazaki Kosuke (Busan)
Second over the distance last time out but has done little to suggest that he will be one of the favourites here. Needs improvement.

10. Dream Tower (KOR) [Forest Camp-HUrricane Warning (Thunder Gulch)] C (8/4/1/1) – Kim Yong Geun (Busan)
The most expensive colt of his generation, Dream Tower was third in the Breeders’ Cup last year. Yet to go a mile, he was second over 1500 metres at class 2 in his last race and must be among the frontrunners here.

11. Viva Cat (KOR) [Creek Cat-Babaria (Engagement)] C (6/5/0/0) – Cho Kyoung Ho (Seoul)
A fourth place in the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup aside, this colt has done nothing wrong at all. Two smart wins at 1700 metres this year as well as Cho Kyoung Ho on board for the first time make him arguably the favourite. However, Seoul horses do not have a good record at Busan.

12. Bongodong (KOR) [Meisei Opera-Martie’s Prospect (Allen’s Prospect)] C (7/1/2/2) – You Hyun Myung
Undoubtedly the best named horse in the race (with the possible exception of the musically inspired Jigeum I Sungan), Bongodong would have to show form far beyond what he has demonstrated so far if he is to compete here.

13. Sing A (KOR) [Fortitude-Seollimwon (Wheaton)] F (9/2/3/2) – Kim Dong Young
A very nice filly who was second in the Breeders’ Cup behind Good Time and won over course and distance last month with Predict behind her. She’ll need to go quicker than she did that day to win here but she’s tough to oppose.

14. Predict (KOR) [The Groom Is Red-Muhanseungni (Big Sur)] C (7/3/2/0) – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
Finished behind Good Time and Sing A in his last two starts, both of which were at this distance. Jo Sung Gin can never be ruled out in the big races but he’ll need to find improvement here.

Three Jeju Jockeys & One KRA Official Arrested In Ongoing Corruption In Sport Investigation

Three jockeys and one racing official were arrested on Tuesday as part of the ongoing investigation into corruption in Korean Sport. All three jockeys had been riding in Pony races on Jeju Island.

The Prosecution alleges that the jockeys (who despite having earlier been banned and named by the KRA can, due to the Proseuction action, no longer be identified) accepted money, jewellery and “high-performance cars” from an organised crime syndicate in deals brokered by a “Kim” in exchange for providing inside information and, on occasion, slowing down horses in races.

The KRA official, a 37 year-old male identified only by his family name of “Jeong” was arrested for allegedly assisting the three.

Over the past year, professional football, baseball, volleyball and motor-boat racing have all been found to be in the grip of organised gambling rings manipulating results. Racing, with its explicit gambling component, has long suffered these scandals.

In football, the allegedly fixed results occurred mainly in the “Rush & Cash Cup”, a midweek tournament contested mainly by K-League teams’ Reserve teams, away from the scrutiny of television cameras and involving players not making very much money.

Similarly, the Pony racing on Jeju Island is conducted for much smaller prize-money than thoroughbred racing on the mainland and legal gambling handle is low and as a result, there is the possibilty for manipulations to go unnoticed.

Having said that, one high-profile Seoul jockey has been suspended for the past six months pending investigation into his conduct.

Racing in Korea has extremely strict rules with regards to inside information – to the extent that this blog is extremely careful when communicating with jockeys, trainers and officials – let alone in terms of fixing races. One or two jockeys get struck-off each year for offences that in other jurisdictions would receive a far more lenient punishment.

Given that the well-supported and Chaebol backed K-League was under the threat of closure earlier this year, the latest revelations are something that racing, already considered a pariah sport by many in Korea, can ill-afford.

* The story made the main nightly SBS TV News, complete with library footage from the track that is at least a decade old: