Month: December 2012

Grand Prix 2012: The Runners And Riders

It might be sub-zero but it doesn’t get bigger than this in Korean racing. After public vote decided upon the invitations, thirteen horses will line-up for the Grand Prix Stakes, the traditional end of season showpiece, at Seoul Race Park this Sunday.

Defending champion Tough Win heads the Grand Prix field (KRA)

Defending champion Tough Win heads the Grand Prix field (KRA)

Last year’s champion Tough Win returns to defend his title but he’ll face stiff competition from three-time President’s Cup winner Dangdae Bulpae. They are joined by a host of other Stakes winners in Korea’s most prestigious race.

Dangdae Bulpae: Three time President's Cup winner now chases the Grand Prix

Dangdae Bulpae: Three time President’s Cup winner now chases the Grand Prix

The conditions are going to be challenging. The first of this winter’s extreme cold snaps is crossing the peninsula right now with temperatures not expected to reach anything higher than -6C during the day. Ground staff will be working through the night to ensure the track is raceable.

Here is the full list of runners and riders (name [pedigree] Sex Age (Runs/1st/2nd/3rd) – Jockey):

Grand Prix (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – December 9, 2012, 16:15

1. Useung Touch (KOR) [Menifee – Jenny Tudor (Gulch)] F 4 (18/6/6/1) – Lim Sung Sil (Busan)
She won the Korean Oaks in 2011 but while she’s been a solid money winner since, she’s always found one or two quicker and this will probably be the same again.

2. Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)] F 3 (9/5/2/2) – Kanichiro Fujii (Busan)
A real potential star in the making. She’s the champion filly & mare of this year and should have no trouble with the distance. In Joe Fujii, she has one of the best jockeys in the peninsula on board and if the twi favourites have a bad day, she could be the one to capitalize.

3. Sing Sing Cat (USA) [D’Wildcat – Freddy Fenter (Fenter) C 4 (20/9/3/1) – Lee Sang Hyeok (Seoul)
Upset Tough Win in the KRA Cup Classic and therefore must command respect. Will love the distance and, while we must assume that Tough Win will be given a better ride than he was that day, he could be one to watch.

4. Seungniuihamseong (KOR) [Vicar – Hug And Kiss (Commander In Chief)] F 4 (19/6/2/1) – Seo Seung Un (Seoul)
She was a creditable fourth in the President’s Cup but she’s going to have to show some improvement to match that performance here.

5. Dangdae Bulpae (KOR) [Biwa Shinseiki – Indeed My Dear (Alydeed)] H 5 (27/18/2/1) – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
Now a three-time President’s Cup winner and has won more prize-money than any other horse in Korean racing history. The only question is the distance. Two years ago, he didn’t stay. Last time he didn’t even try. If he stays, he wins.

6. Nolbu Manse (USA) [Simon Pure – Reason To Fear (Kris S.)] C 3 (15/5/3/3) – Ham Wan Sik (Seoul)
A very nice looking colt who was second to Sing Sing Cat in the KRA Cup Classic. The distance is a slight concern but he is a potential value bet for at least a place.

7. Sydney Jewelry (AUS) [Lion Heart – Rivendelle (Charnwood Forest)] C 3 (9/6/1/0) – Moon Se Young (Seoul)
A real up and comer, he was a surprise entry. He comes off the back of two consecutive wins over 1900 metres and looks eager for more. This might be a few months early for him but the big names are going to need to be at their best to beat him

8. Smoking Gun (USA) [Hat Trick – Desdemona’s Dream (Announce)] C 3 (8/5/1/1) – Narazaki Kosuke (Busan)
Won his first four starts and has been lightly campaigned. Has been beaten by a number of his rivals here but is highly thought of and in Narazaki Kosuke, has aruguably the most in form jockey on the peninsula on board.

9. Tamna Hwangje (USA) [Montbrook – Morada Bay (Cape Town)] C 4 (17/8/3/0) – You Hyun Myoung (Busan)
Is generally at his best over shorter distances though has wins over many of his rivals here. Will likely be an outsider.

10. Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] G 5 (24/18/2/1) – Jun Duck Yong (Seoul)
The defending champion. If he is on his game, then he will be very hard to beat. He’ll have a different jockey on board for only the second time but, after he was given an awful ride in the KRA Cup Classic, that may be no bad thing. He will need to be at his absolute best to beat Dangdae Bulpae.

11. Jumong (USA) [Johar – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] H 5 (33/9/7/6) – Oh Kyoung Hoan (Seoul)
A regular runner-up, the half-brother of 2005 winner Subsidy is almost guaranteed to be in the mix at the end. It’s unlikely that he’ll win, but he is always competitive.

12. Sangnyu (USA) [Broken Vow – Midtown Miss (Yes It’s True)] F 3 (12/3/3/1) – Park Tae Jong (Seoul)
Winner of the YTN Cup in the summer and third behind Gamdonguibada in the Governor’s Cup last time out, she has plenty of talent but will be an outsider here.

13. Nobel Pokpung (KOR) [Didyme – Shar Baby (Talinum)] C 3 (13/4/3/2) – Kim Do Heon (Busan)
This colt really should have a far better win record. Second in the Korean Derby and seemingly crying out for more distance, he’ll certainly have that here. Others should be faster though and disappointing performances in both the Minister’s and President’s Cup make him a hard horse to back.

Sunday December 8

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:55 including the Grand Prix Stakes at 16:15
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:15 to 16:40

D-4: Thirty One Years Of The Grand Prix Stakes

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.

Defending champion Tough Win heads the Grand Prix field (KRA)

Defending champion Tough Win heads the Grand Prix field (KRA)

Sunday at Seoul Race Park sees the 31st 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 30 editions, home-bred horses have ended up in the winner’s circle just four times (including Mister Park who was born in Korea after his dam was imported while in foal). 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 Tough Win is likely to contend favouritism for this year’s race with the remarkable Dangdae Bulpae, who is now a three-time President’s Cup winner. Dangdae Bulpae didn’t stay the distance in 2010 and didn’t even start last year but at five, he appears at the peak of his powers.

Sadly missed - 2010 winner Mister Park

While Derby winner and champion three-year old Jigeum I Sungan looks set to sit out for sporting reasons, two other names are missing who really should have been here had circumstances been different. 2010 champion Mister Park tragically died after a race at Busan in June this year while Smarty Moonhak, who finished 3rd in the race as a two year old a year ago, was diagnosed with tendinitis after finishing second to Dangdae Bulpae in the Busan Metropolitan.

There is still plenty of interest besides the big two though. US filly Gamdonguibada has won two bg Stakes races and is getting better and better while Sing Sing Cat defeated an out-of-sorts Tough Win to claim the KRA Cup Classic. Meanwhile there are young up and comers such as Smoking Gun and Sydney Jewelry who may also take their chance.

Also set to line up is Dongbanui Gangja, the 2008 and 2009 champion. He’s fit and he’s still fast but he’ll be an outsider to add a third crown.

On Sunday Tough Win will seek to join Dongbanui Gangja, Ka Shock Do and the great Po Gyeong Seon as double winners of the race and 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.

2011: Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)]
2010: Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park – Formal Deal (Formal Gold)]
2009: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)] The now seven-year old two-time champion is a likely starter this year.
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. Like his great rival Subsidy, Bally Brae too passed away this year after a short illness having been retired to the Korea Horse Affairs High School.
2006: Flying Cat (KOR) [Western Cat – Flying Wood (Tapping Wood)]
2005: Subsidy (USA) [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] The last son of Mister Prospector died in a paddock accident earlier this year.
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 as record high of nearly 300 Million, the most in its history. The Korean Derby and the President’s Cup are both worth more 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 31st 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.