Month: December 2013

Dominant Indie Band Wins Grand Prix Stakes

Indie Band followed up his President’s Cup success with a commanding win in Korean racing’s season-ending showpiece, the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Race Park on Sunday.

Indie Band and Lim Sung Sil win the Grand Prix (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Indie Band and Lim Sung Sil win the Grand Prix (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The 3-year-old colt, who up until a week ago wasn’t even going to run in the race, produced a late charge to surge away from the field and win by a commanding 4 lengths from 2012 Derby winner Jigeum I Sungan.

Pic: Ross Holburt)

Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was a third win in four years for Busan trainer Kim Young Kwan as the silverware disappeared from Seoul down the Gyeongbu Expressway once again.

a 6/1 chance, Indie Band was sent off as second-favourite behind Beolmaui Kkum who led for much of the race before fading in the home straight.

Beolmaui Kkum wasn’t the only one to fade. Last year’s winner Gamdonguibada also showed early before offering nothing on the run in along with KRA Cup Classic winner Mari Daemul, 2011 winner Tough Win and the ever-popular Smarty Moonhak.

Pic: Ross Holburt

Pic: Ross Holburt

In the end, only Jigeum I Sungan, who was competing in his final race before retirement, could get close as Indie Band became the undisputed number 1 horse on the peninsula.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – December 15, 2013

1. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park] – Lim Sung Sil – 6.7, 2.3
2. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) [Ingrandire] – Moon Se Young – 4.3
3. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini] – Darryll Holland – 4.5

Distances: 4 lengths/5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Indian Blue (USA) 5. Wonder Bolt (USA) 6. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) 7. Lion Santa (USA) 8. Murangae (USA) 9. Secret Whisper (KOR) 10. Gippeun Sesang (CAN) 11. Smarty Moonhak (USA) 12. Gamdonguibada (USA) 13. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) 14. Mari Daemul (USA) 15. Tough Win (USA) 16. Mr. Rocky (KOR)

The 32nd Grand Prix Stakes: Detailed Preview

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?

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.

Busan Foreign Jocks Help Charity Auction

Ever wanted a pair of Joe Fujii’s goggles? No? Well, you should and now you can. Busan’s foreign jockeys have teamed up with Korean racing magazine “Seoul Gyongma” for their Christmas auction.

Clockwise from top left: Darryll Holland, Joe Fujii, Jerome Lermyte and Masa Tanaka

Clockwise from top left: Darryll Holland, Joe Fujii, Jerome Lermyte and Masa Tanaka

Fujii has donated the saddle he used when riding Gamdonguibada to victory in last year’s Grand Prix Stakes as well as Road To Prince’s saddlecloth.

The other foreign jockeys currently riding at the track; Darryll Holland, Masa Tanaka and Jerome Lermyte all supplied several pairs of signed goggles.

The haul up for auction at Seoul Gyongma includes Gamdonguibada's Grand Prix saddle

The haul up for auction at Seoul Gyongma includes Gamdonguibada’s Grand Prix saddle

Details of the auction will be in this weekend’s editions of “Seoul Gyongma” with all proceeds to charity.

One Week To Go: The 32nd 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.

Gamdonguibada and Joe Fujii return to Seoul to defend the Grand Prix Stakes title they won last year

Gamdonguibada and Joe Fujii return to Seoul to defend the Grand Prix Stakes title they won last year

Sunday December 15 at Seoul Race Park sees the 32nd 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 1980s and 1990s, 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 seven out of the last nine 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 Gamdonguibada is likely to be among the favourites to retain her crown. 2011 champion Tough Win (Yonaguska), won the Busan Mayor’s Trophy – also known as the “Summer Grand Prix” – and while he has not looked at his best this autumn, can’t be ruled out.

Tough Win will try to regain the title he won in 2011

Tough Win will try to regain the title he won in 2011

2012 Korean Derby winner Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire) makes his first attempt on the race while Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones), who was 3rd in 2011 at the age of 2, is set to complete a remarkable recovery from over a year off with tendonitis by taking his chance too.

As ever, there are one of two who will be notable by their absence. Dangdae Bulpae has tried and been found wanting in this race before with the 2300 metre distance beyond him and he didn’t even appear on the ballot paper this time around.

Also likely to swerve the race is Indie Band, who was last seen breaking Dangdae Bulpae’s three-year stranglehold on the President’s Cup last month.

One who will definitely be there though is 5-year-old mare Secret Whisper (Sea Of Secrets). Last year, Joe Fujii became the first foreign jockey to win the race and in Secret Whisper, Peter Wolsley has an opportunity to be the first foreign trainer.

One other first already assured this year is that the race will be simulcasted to Singapore – the first time a Korean race will be shown live overseas.

Next Sunday, Gamdonguibada and 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.

2012: Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)]
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 32nd 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.

South African Trainer Bart Rice Set For Busan

The newest addition to the training ranks at Busan Race Park is Korea’s 3rd foreign trainer. South African Bart Rice was officially granted a license this week.

South African Bart Rice is Busan's latest foreign trainer (KRA)

South African Bart Rice is Busan’s latest foreign trainer (KRA)

37-year-old Rice grew up in Zimbabwe and began working as an assistant trainer in South Africa as soon as he left school and worked for a number of trainers before striking out on his own in 2002.

Since then, Rice has trained at a number of tracks across South Africa and also in Zimbabwe, amassing a decent number of winners.

An all-rounder, the trainer has also moonlighted in show-jumping and as a driver in harness racing.

The arrival of Rice and his wife Pam, who will be his assistant, has taken longer than expected due to the lengthy process required to secure a visa. Now that they are here, the task of getting horses into their barn begins.

Isidore Farm, always great supporters of the foreign trainers here, have sent Rice his first two with Ecton Lass and North Sky moving across from Peter Wolsley.

Wolsley is the role-model for any frougn trainer coming here although it took the Australian two years to get established. However, two years was all that American Joe Murphy, the only other overseas trainer to try his luck here, was given.

Rice has been assigned stable 31 at Busan.

Weekend Race Times

Just a week to go until the Grand Prix Stakes, but still plenty to keep us occupied.

It should be quite warm this weekend so it probably won't be quite as sunny as this

It should be quite warm this weekend so it probably won’t be quite as sunny as it was on this weekend a year ago

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday December 6
Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:50 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:10 to 17:40

Saturday December 7
Seoul Race Park: 13 races from 11:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday December 8
Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:50 to 17:10

Hyun Myung-Kwan Appointed KRA Chairman

The Korea Racing Authority has announced the appointment of a new Chairman. Hyun Myung Kwan will be inaugurated for a three-year term at Seoul Racecourse on Thursday.

Hyun Myung Kwan (KRA)

Hyun Myung Kwan (KRA)

A native of Jeju Island, the 72-year-old Hyun began his working life in the 1960’s as a civil servant at the Board of Audit and Inspection but has spent most of his career at Samsung.

He eventually rose to become Chairman of Samsung C&T and was a close aide of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun Hee.

More recently, Hyun also worked on President Park Geun Hye’s election campaign.

He succeeds outgoing Chairman Jang Tae Pyeong and his term will expire in December 2016.

His thoughts on who will win next week’s Grand Prix Stakes are, as yet, unknown. No doubt he is studying the form right now.