The runners have been confirmed and the barriers have been drawn. The 32nd Grand Prix Stakes – live in Seoul and simulcast to Singapore – will take place on Sunday.
Will we get a finish like the one in 2011 when Tough Win came out on top?
Here is a full run-down of the field (Name [Pedigree] Age Sex (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) – Jockey (Home track)
The Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 15, 2013
1. Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] 6 G (31/22/2/1) – Cho Kyoung Ho (Seoul)
Tough Win has been the dominant horse at Seoul for almost 3 years now. He won his first 9 races including the 2010 Busan Mayor’s Trophy and KRA Cup Classic before suffering his first ever defeat in that year’s Grand Prix when he finished 4th. That didn’t stop him being made 2010 Horse of the Year and he made no mistake in the 2011 Grand Prix but at the end of 2012 he was found wanting again as he finished 5th behind Gamdonguibada. He racked up 4 wins to begin this year culminating in his regaining the Busan Mayor’s Trophy. No horse has ever regained the Grand Prix Stakes. Tough Win will have plenty of people backing him to do exactly that.
2. Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)] 4 F (15/9/2/3) – Kanichiro Fujii (Busan)
The defending champion returns to Seoul to attempt to become the 4th horse to retain the Grand Prix Stakes. She was the first filly to take the prize for 12 years when winning by a neck a year ago and has won 3 of her 5 starts in 2013. Of concern will be her poor run in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy, also known as the “summer Grand Prix” but she took nearly 4 months off after that and returned with an easy win last month. She’ll have many supporters here
3. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] 4 C (22/7/6/6) – Choi Si Dae (Busan)
Gyeongbudaero is a colt whose win record doesn’t really reflect his ability. Nine of his 22 starts have been in Stakes races and he has over $1.2Million is prize money to his name. He won the 2012 KRA Cup Mile – also known as the “Korean 2000 Guineas” and this September won the Busan Owners’ Cup before coming up to Seoul and running an impressive 2nd in the President’s Cup – Korea’s richest race. His sire Menifee isn’t known for getting runners who can go more than 2000 metres and this will be Gyeongbudaero’s first attempt to disprove that. If he does stay the distance, he could be very dangerous.
4. Indian Blue (USA) [Henny Hughes – Gamblers Passion (Prospectors Gamble)] 3 F (12/3/3/4) – Ikuyasu Kurakane (Seoul)
A highly rated filly who began the year by winning the Segye Ilbo Cup and then running 3rd in the Ttukseom Cup. Since then she’s been running exclusively against colts and, while she’s not picked up another win, she has placed 3 times out of 5 culminating in a very impressive 2nd place to Mari Daemul in the KRA Cup Classic in October. That race over 2000 metres was her first try over more than a mile and she came through it looking full of running at the end. She’s up against far stiffer opposition here though.
5. Mr. Rocky (KOR) [Exploit – Sulry N’ Sassy (Thunder Gulch)] 6 G (35/7/6/2) – Choi Bum Hyun (Seoul)
Mr. Rocky had been away from the track for more than a year until he returned in June this year. Before his injury, he had been a very solid class 1 horse but struggled to regain his race sharpness. However, a strong 3rd place finish last time out showed promise and is what allows him to take his chance here. That being said, he’s not been in the winner’s circle since 2011 and that’s not likely to change here.
6. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park – Plie (Dixieland Band)] 3 C (11/7/1/1) – Lim Sung Sil (Busan)
A late entry, but potentially a very good one, Indie Band missed the early season Classics but announced his arrival by winning the Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Stakes in July by 4 lengths. He then came to Seoul and ran 3rd in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Korean Triple Crown, in October before returning to the capital a month later to win the President’s Cup, Korea’s richest race. In both those races he came from a long way back in the straight and the distance here should be very good for him. He is the stablemate of last year’s winner Gamdonguibada, but is by n means a second string.
7. Lion Santa (USA) [Lion Heart – Santa Fe Strip (Phone Trick)] 5 H (23/12/1/2) – Jo Chang Wook (Busan)
Lion Santa took Busan by storm as a 2-year-old in 2010, winning all of his first 9 starts, including his first attempt at a Stakes race. He’s since matured into a very reliable place-getter in big handicaps without ever managing to repeat the stellar form of his juvenile campaign. He’s won twice in nine attempts this year and was 4th in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy in the summer. He followed that up with a win over 2000 metres at the end of September but his most recent outing ended in a disappointing 6th a long way behind the winner, who was Gamdonguibada.
8.Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini – Purrfection (Tale Of The Cat)] 4 C (16/8/0/2) – Darryll Holland (Busan)
The only Southern Hemisphere bred horse in the race, Aussie colt Cheonji Bulpae arguably enters the race in the best form of any of the field having won his last 4 races with Gyeongbudaero among his victims in his 3 successful starts since graduating to class 1 this summer. He hasn’t been favourite in any of those races and he won’t be favourite here but if he can get a forward position early on he could cause some problems in the straight. It’s his first time at Seoul, his first time over 2300 metres and his first time in a Stakes race.
9. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] 3 C (10/7/2/0) – You Hyun Myung (Busan)
A real talent and maybe the fastest horse in the race. Beolmaui Kkum has never finished worse than 2nd in his 10 starts to date. His career highlight is beating Gamdonguibada by 5 full lengths to win the Gukje Sinmun Stakes in May this year before running 2nd to Tough win in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy. He won easily over a mile in his last start. He likes to lead right from the gate and if he gets in front, he could be very difficult to beat.
10. Secret Whisper (KOR) [Sea Of Secrets – Generals Passion (General Meeting)] 5 M (27/11/6/5) – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
Secret Whisper comes into this race in the form of her life and off the back of the biggest win of her career in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup. That race took her recent record to 3 wins from her last 4, with the defeat being in a 7-furlong tune-up. That Cup win was the final leg of the Queens’ Tour and she was only facing fillies and Gamdonguibada wasn’t among them. However, the step up to 2300 metres should be ideal for her. Under the guidance of Australian trainer Peter Wolsley, Secret Whisper ending her career on the highest possible note can’t be ruled out.
11. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 3 C (12/3/5/1) – Jung Pyeong Soo (Seoul)
A lot of potential in the 3-year-old colt, whose only time out of the money was his racecourse debut. He stepped up to class 1 on his last start and was just beaten a nose by the experienced former KRA Cup Classic winner Sing Sing Cat. He finished strongly that day and should be ready to take on 2300 metres. Whether he is quite ready to compete for the win in a field of this quality though, is more open to debate.
12. Murangae (USA) [Sunriver – Merril Gold (Gold Fever)] 4 G (30/1/6/5) – Lee Chan Ho (Seoul)
It is difficult to recommend a horse with just 1 win from 30 starts as a likely winner of the Grand Prix Stakes so we’ll not be doing that here. However, Murangae is a solid competitor who does regularly get on the board. His only win came in May this year and was over 1800 metres and the Grand Prix will be his 13th start of the year – starts in which most of his rivals here have beaten him at least once. It won’t be his 2nd win.
13. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones – Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] 4 C – Seo Seung Un (Seoul)
Two years ago Smarty Moonhak made history as the first 2-year-old to run in the Grand Prix Stakes. He finished 3rd that day to Tough Win and looked set to go on to dominate Seoul especially as he went on to win his first four races of 2012. However, disaster struck after the Busan Mayor’s Trophy when he was diagnosed with tendonitis. After more than a year of treatment he returned to the track with a low-key 6th in October before getting back in the winner’s circle last month. That was over 1200 metres and it is a huge step up here. If the old Smarty Moonhak is back, he’ll be difficult to beat and, what a story it would be if he could do it.
14. Gippeun Sesang (CAN) [Behrens – Bellus (Saint Ballado)] 4 H (62/6/4/5) – Kim Hye Sun (Seoul)
One of very few Canadian bred horses running in Korea, Gippeun Sesang has been a reliable performer during his 62 race career which has spanned 5 years. He’s spent 3 of those years running at class 1 level and as managed to pick up 3 wins in that time, most recently in September. He ran in this race in 2010 when he finished a well-beaten 10th and, if truth be told, beating that finish this time around would represent a very good result for him.
15. Mari Daemul (USA) [Go For Gin – Token Beauty (Gold Token)] 4 C (20/7/3/2) – Shin Hyoung Chul (Seoul)
A 13/1 win in the KRA Cup Classic in his last start in October with an out-of-sorts Tough Win well beaten in 6th put this solid campaigner firmly into the public eye. Up until that time he’d been consistently grinding out wins as he progressed up to class 1. Since getting there, he’s won 3 of 7 starts and can’t be overlooked here. The KRA Cup Classic win was a comfortable one and he should be able to cope with the step up in distance.
16. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) [Ingrandire – Solmaru (Mujaazif)] 4 C (24/13/6/2) – Moon Se Young (Seoul)
In the race’s 30-year history, there have only ever been 4 Korean bred winners of the Grand Prix. Jigeum I Sungan offers perhaps the best chance of it being number 5 this year. The winner of the 2012 Korean Derby and a 2-time Stakes winner this year it has long been thought that Jigeum I Sungan needs longer distances to show his full potential. Third in the President’s Cup on his last start, if he is on top of his game, he should reverse that form. He is a big talent.