Month: February 2014

Weekend Racing Times

It’s been a very mild – albeit rather dusty – week in South Korea and the settled weather looks set to continue as racing returns this weekend.

Haze: Seoul has been hit by dust storms this week, but at least it is getting warmer

Haze: Seoul has been hit by dust storms this week, but at least it is getting warmer


It’s well worth watching Busan on Friday for the very last race on the card as unbeaten US import Cowboy Son (Cowboy Cal) steps up to class 1 for the first time. The three-year-old colt is already his America-based sire’s biggest earner and comes into the race with 6 comfortable wins from his 6 starts.

Among Others, Cowboy Son will find himself up against Beolmaui Kkum, who drops down in distance after 2 disappointing recent outings, including fading without trace in the home straight of the Grand Prix Stakes in Seoul in December.

There are no Stakes races on the peninsulas this weekend but Seoul does play host to a pair of class 1 events on Sunday afternoon. KRA Cup Classic winner Mari Daemul – another who had a disappointing Grand Prix, is among thoe on show.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 28
Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday March 1
Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:30 to 17:30

Sunday March 2
Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

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Gyeongbudaero Blasts His Way To Busan Ilbo Cup

Gyeongbudaero held off a late challenge from an outsider to win the Busan Ilbo Cup this afternoon.

Winner: Gyeongbudaero (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Winner: Gyeongbudaero (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Running at his favourite distance of 1600 metres, the horse who is famous for finishing 2nd or 3rd in the big races made light of his 60kg impost to record his 3rd career Stakes win by a length from My Winner with long-shot All Su leading the rest of the field home 6 lengths adrift.

Gyeongbudaero would have a much better win rate but his connections always seek out the toughest possible opposition for him, generally running in open company rather than in races restricted to Korean bred horses.

He was 3rd in the Korean Derby, Minister’s Cup and President’s Cup in 2012 and followed it up in 2013 with 3rd in this race and 2nd in the President’s Cup.

He’s now 2 for 2 in 2014 with today’s win the 9th from 25 career starts. With Dangdae Bulpae retired, it is between him and President’s Cup winner Indie Band for the title of Busan’s number 1 horse.

It was a very strong run from My Winner in 2nd place. The Peter Wolsley trainee won a listed race last autumn which encouraged connections to take their chance in the President’s Cup. He was last that day and hadn’t run since. Better things could be on the way and he certainly won’t be allowed to start at 20/1 next time.

There was no luck for the foreign jockeys in the race. Joe Fujii, Masa Tanaka and Darryll Holland allentered with fighting chances of the win, However, riding Magic Dancer, Alpha Myeongjang and Grand Teukgeup, they finished 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.

Busan Ilbo Cup – Busan Race Park – 1600M – February 23, 2014

1. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – Choi Si Dae – 2.3, 1.1
2. My Winner (KOR) [Vicar – Bridlingbride (Unbridled’s Song)] – Kim Yong Geun – 4.3
3. All Su (KOR) [Perfect Vision II – Seollimwon (Wheaton)] – Song Keong Yun – 6.5

Distances: 1 length/6 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Magic Dancer 5. Alpha Myeongjang 6. Grand Teukgeup 7. Chima Cheolli 8. Fine Fine 9. Road To Prince

* At Seoul, there was a little bit of an upset on the Classic trail as Cheongnyeong Bisang looked very out of sorts while finishing 7th when favourite in a class 2 handicap over the Derby distance of 1800 metres.

Last year’s Champion Juvenile started the year with a routine win over 1700 metres last month and was favourite to successfully go the extra 100 metres today but never looked like going close.

Meanwhile, it was another good day for Ikuyasu Kurakane. The Japanese rider added to his solitary win yesterday with a double today, taking him to 14 for the year already despite missing the first 6 meetings of the year due to suspension.

Busan Ilbo Cup – Full Preview

Busan hosts its first Stakes race of 2014 this Sunday when nine horses go to post for the mile-long Busan Ilbo Cup.

Gyeongudaero, seen here winning the KRA Cup Mile as a 3-year-old, heads the Busan Ilbo line-up(KRA)

Gyeongudaero, seen here winning the KRA Cup Mile as a 3-year-old, heads the Busan Ilbo line-up(KRA)

It’s the first class 1 Stakes race of the year anywhere in Korea and it has attracted a decent line-up. Here’s a full run down of the field:

Busan Ilbo Cup – Busan Race Park – 1600M – February 23, 2014

1. Fine Fine [Forest Camp – Dream Fantasy (Manlove)] 5 H 52Kg (17/6/2/0) – Lee Sung Jae
Has had a hard time since graduating to class 1 after an impressive summer last year. In his favour is that he will carry by far the lightest weight in the race.

2. Road To Prince [Pico Central – Ransom Bay (Red Ransom)] 5 H 58.5Kg (19/9/3/1) – Lim Sung Sil
Another who has struggled for form of late although ran a creditable 5th in the President’s Cup at Seoul last November. Plenty of talent but is trainer Kim Young Kwan’s 2nd string here.

3. Gyeongbudaero [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] 5 H 60Kg (24/8/6/6) – Choi Si Dae
Top weight reflects that he is a top horse whose win record doesn’t reflect his ability. Won the KRA Cup Mile over this distance almost 2 years ago and even with the weight, will be a contender.

4. Alpha Myeongjang [Pico Central – Lend (Coronado’s Quest)] 5 H 54.4Kg (21/8/6/0) – Masakazu Tanaka
Finished behind Grand Teukgeup in his last two outings and will have to work some to overcome that form here. Only out of the money 3 times in his 21 starts so always goes close.

5. Grand Teukgeup [Menifee – Saratoga Campaign (Mt.Livermore)] 5 M 55Kg (25/9/4/2) – Darryll Holland
The only filly or mare in the race, she was 3rd in the Korean Oaks in 2012 and 2nd in the Ttukseom Cup last year. Won last time out at 7 furlongs and must be considered.

6. Magic Dancer [Forest Camp – Wildly Magic (Peterhof)] 4 C 58.5Kg (10/7/3/0) – Kanichiro Fujii
Kim Young Kwan’s first string, he’s won his only start at this distance although that was at class 2. Skipped the Classics last year and regarded as one to follow this season.

7. Chima Cheolli [Dongseo Daero – Gamhwaryeok (Down The Aisle)] 4 C 57Kg (13/4/4/2) – Kim Dong Young
Has won his last two starts, both at this distance. He steps up in class here but has the speed to make a strong challenge.

8. My Winner [Vicar – Bridlingbride (Unbridled’s Song)] 5 G 57.5Kg (18/5/5/0) – Kim Yong Geun
Peter Wolsley’s runner hasn’t been seen since a disappointing run in the President’s Cup in November but he’ll most likely appreciate the drop back in trip and could be in with a shout of a place.

9. All Su [Perfect Vision II – Seollimwon (Wheaton)] 6 H 56Kg (41/8/5/9) – Song Keong Yun
Reliable campaigner who has been competing at class 1 for two years now. Likes the distance and has wins over a number of his rivals here. Will need to be at his very best to challenge though.

The Busan Ilbo Cup is the highlight of a busy couple of days of racing on the peninsula. Here’s what’s happening when and where over Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday February 22
Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:30 to 17:30

Sunday February 23
Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00 including the Busan Ilbo Cup at 16:10.

Fly Top Queen Strolls To Segye Success

Fly Top Queen made her way back to the winner’s circle in dominant fashion at Seoul Race Park today, crushing her opposition in the Segye Ibo Cup.

Fly Top Queen was back in the winner's circle

Fly Top Queen was back in the winner’s circle

Having suffered her first ever career defeat in Japan last November and putting in a poor performance on her season debut over 1700 metres last month, there were those who thought Korea’s most expensive ever import was a half-season wonder.

However, dropped back to 7 furlongs and with likely favourite Strong Wind a late scratching, Fly Top Queen was backed into odds-on and she didn’t mess about.

Gunned out of the widest gate, jockey Park Tae Jong took the 4-year-old to the front early and never looked back, cruising away from the field in the home straight to win by a distance of their choosing.

Behind them the Australian bred pair of Marica and Felix Joy came in 2nd and 3rd but they might as well have been running in a different race. so outclassed they were by the winner.

The victory and the manner of it – even against less than exalted opposition – puts Fly Top Queen firmly in the frame for the opening leg of the Queens’ Tour, the Ttukseom Cup at Seoul next month. There, also at 7 furlongs, Joy Lucky awaits. That should be a good one.

Segye Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – February 16, 2014

1. Fly Top Queen (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] – Park Tae Jong
2. Marica (AUS) [Reset – Teneales Pearl (Redoute’s Choice)] – Jang Chu Youl
3. Felix Joy (AUS) [Hard Spun – Royal Amity (His Majesty)] – Yoo Seung Wan

Distances: 9 lengths / 1 length – 13 ran

Segye Ilbo Cup: Full Preview

It’s been a while but Stakes action finally returns to Seoul on Sunday in the shape of the Segye Ilbo Cup.

Fly Top Queen is among the Segye Ilbo contenders (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Fly Top Queen is among the Segye Ilbo contenders (Pic: Ross Holburt)

A rarity on the calendar in that it is restricted to fillies and mares of up to class 2 level, it serves both as an opportunity for imported fillies to win a big race and also as an important trial for those hoping to get a run in the Queens’ Tour series of races, which begins in March.

A field of 14 will contest this year’s edition and as usual it is a mix of young up-and-coming fillies and older mares who haven’t yet made the breakthrough to class 1. It should be a very open betting race with many having chances. Here’s a full run down of the field:

Segye Ilbo Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – February 16, 2014 – 16:35

1. Socheonha (NZ) [Duelled – Interdame (Senor Pete)] 5 (36/1/3/5) – Ikuyasu Kurakane
Her only win came more than 2 years ago but she was 3rd last time out behind Xicar who has since performed well at Class 1. With Kurakane riding, she is a live outside bet. 5th in this race last year.

2. Felix Joy (AUS) [Hard Spun – Royal Amity (His Majesty)] 3 (12/1/2/2) – Yoo Seung Wan
A visually impressive winner over this distance last time out to finally break her maidem. That was at class 3 and she has recent losses to rivals here including Daeryugui Byeol and Marika. Another possible outside bet.

3. Strong Wind (NZ) [Duelled – Seams Of Gold (Made Of Gold) 3 (7/4/1/0) – Oh Kyung Hoan
The likely favourite, she comes into the race off of 3 consecutive wins and has beaten most of this field before. Seemingly class 1 bound sooner or later, if she runs to her best, she will be tough to beat.

4. Daeryugui Byeol (USA) [Rock Hard Ten – Big Miss (Chief Honcho) 4 (18/1/3/2) – Seo Seung Un
Has been in the money in her last 4 outings and has the most in-form jockey in Seoul riding. She shouldn’t have much chance of a win but she will have her backers.

5. Raon Bold (USA) [Big Brown – Wolfendale Island (Unbridled)] 4 (12/3/1/1) – Ham Wan Sik
Has two wins and a 3rd from her last four starts over two turns and drops down in distance here to look a solid bet for a place.

6. Geum Jello (USA) [First Defence – Jennifer Rose (Hennessy)] 4 (13/2/03) – Lee Chan Ho
Holds a win over the distance but has put in two consecutive poor performances since graduating to class 2. She’s had over a month off since the last one but she’s difficult to recommend here.

7. Namsan Chukje (KOR) [Volponi – Simple Charm (Capote)] 4 (13/4/2/1) – Jo In Kwen
One of just two Korean bred entrants, she was 2nd in the Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy over this distance last November. May find herself a little outclassed here though and she’ll be an outsider.

8. Big Power (USA) [A.P.Warrior – Dixie Satin (Dynaformer)] 5 (20/3/1/1) – Lee Sang Hyeok
never disgraced but hasn’t been in contention in her last few outings and there’s not much to suggest that will change here.

9. Marica (AUS) [Reset – Teneales Pearl (Redoute’s Choice)] 3 (7/2/2/2) – Jang Chu Youl
Third behind Strong Wind and Raon Ruby at the end of December and a disappointing season’s debut last month – albeit over a much longer distance – doesn’t give much confidence of her reversing that form.

10. Fly Winner (USA) [Unbridled Energy – Legendary Destiny (Giant’s Causeway)] 6 (19/1/1/4) – Lee Ah Na
Another who has found life difficult since reaching class 2 level. Not to be recommended here.

11. Smart Chestnut (USA) [Corinthian – Stillbe (Wavering Monarch)] 4 (19/1/2/3) – Park Sang Woo
In awful form of late and is making the numbers up. No chance.

12. Pinot Noir (KOR) [Capital Spending – Neungnyeokchungman (Pacific Bounty)] 4 (9/3/3/1) – Park Hyun Woo
The second Korean bred entrant has talent but hasn’t run since a poor effort in November. She’ll likely be a long price.

13. Raon Ruby (USA) [Tapit – Daisy Dukes (Ghazi)] 4 (10/2/3/1) – Cho Kyoung Ho
Will have plenty of support and was narrowly beaten by Strong Wind last time out and there are those who will fancy her to overturn that. It will be tough but she should be involved at the business end of the race.

14. Fly Top Queen (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] 4 (6/4/0/0) – Park Tae Jong
Defeat in Japan in November followed by a lacklustre performance last month when she finished behind three of her rivals here have taken a little of the shine off Korea’s most expensive ever import. If she runs at her best, she’s streets ahead of this field but doubts over exactly which Fly Top Queen will show up mean she won’t be favourite.

The Segye Ilbo Cup is race 9 of an 11-race card at Seoul on Sunday which runs from 10:50 to 18:00. There are also 6 races at Busan from 12:45 to 17:00

Smarty Moonhak Retired After Injury Relapse

Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones), one of the most talented and talked about horses to race in Korea in recent times, has been retired after suffering a recurrence of the tendonitis that had previously kept him off the track for over a year.

Smarty Moonhak (KRA)

Smarty Moonhak (KRA)

The 5-year-old had been spelled for a month after taking part in the Grand Prix Stakes in December but returned to Seoul Racecourse seemingly in good shape in mid-January. However, after several days of light work, swelling was noticed on January 31 and five days the return of the tendonitis was diagnosed.

Having had stem-cell treatment once already, the decision was taken to officially retire him and the horse has returned to Taepyeong Farm.

A $14,000 purchase from the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Smarty Moonhak, out of the Black Tie Affair mare Madeira M’Dear, arrived in Korea in February 2011 and after acclimatizing at Taepyeong, was sent into the care of trainer Ko Ok Bong at Seoul Racecourse.

He made his racing debut in May of that year, finishing 2nd to New Zealand import Mister Captain – a horse who would have his own very promising career cut short through injury after just three starts. Smarty Moonhak was sent off at odds of 24/1 in that race but he was the odds-on favourite by the time of his next start where he broke his maiden with a comfortable win over 6 furlongs.

Phenom: Smarty Moonhak wins the TJK Trophy as a 2-year-old (KRA)

Phenom: Smarty Moonhak wins the TJK Trophy as a 2-year-old (KRA)

He would stroll his next 3 races too, culminating in a eleven-length win in the Listed TJK Trophy at the beginning of November. Despite only being 2-years-old, he came back from that race, which was run over 1800 metres, looking as though he could have quite easily have gone round again.

It was because of this that his name was added to the ballot for the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes – a race similar to Japan’s Arima Kinen in that racing fans get to vote on which horses they want to see run in the season-ending showpiece.

Smarty Moonhak was voted in by a landslide becoming the first ever Juvenile to take part. On the day, He ran a game and valiant 3rd behind Horse of the Year Tough Win and the defending champion Mister Park. Despite not being eligible for the Triple Crown, Smarty Moonhak’s 3-year-old campaign was the most highly anticipated in years.

That campaign started as expected. Four consecutive routine wins meant that he arrived on the South coast for the Busan Mayor’s Trophy – informally known as the “Summer Grand Prix” as the overwhelming favourite.

He ran well that evening but while he was always towards the front of the field, he never looked like catching the winner, Dangdae Bulpae, who he finished two lengths adrift of in 2nd.

When he returned to Seoul, however, detailed veterinary examinations revealed that Smarty Moonhak was suffering from tendonitis in his left-foreleg. It was a very similar injury to the one that ended the career of that year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another on the eve of his bid to sweep the US Triple Crown.

The stem cell treatment process was a long one and if truth be told, few expected Smarty Moonhak to ever race again. Nevertheless, in July 2013, a year after his diagnosis, he was quietly returned to the racecourse.

It was with a different trainer – he’d been away for so long that Mr. Ko had retired in the meantime. A month later he breezed through his race-trial before making his comeback in a low-key class 1 race in early October. He finished 6th but more importantly, came through unscathed and looking sharp.

A month later, he was back in the winner’s circle, making a dashing late run to win a class 1 sprint over 6 furlongs. That was enough for him to once more be voted into the Grand Prix Stakes. In what would ultimately be his last race, he showed at the front early before fading into a mid-field finish.

Of course, with hindsight, he shouldn’t have come back at all. But almost all racing fans here will have to admit to have being delighted when he did. Now that delight is replaced with relief that he didn’t suffer an even worse injury.

Smarty Moonhak's final win (KRA)

Smarty Moonhak’s final win (KRA)

A half-brother has just been born. Smarty’s dam, Maderira M’Dear, was imported to Korea in 2012 and recently delivered a colt by Ecton Park. We will be looking out for him on the Korean Triple Crown trail in 2017. As for Smarty Moonhak himelf, he is recuperating at Taepyeong Farm before most likely becoming the resident stallion in the small breeding operation there.

Overall, he ran 14 times, winning 9 of them and won about $600,000. He also gained an overseas following by virtue of being a son of the wildly popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones. Although he may never have come close to reaching his true potential, in terms of impact, few have matched Smarty Moonhak.

Joy Lucky Saunters To Seoul Success

Joy Lucky began her 2014 campaign in fine style with an easy gate-to-wire win at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Winner Again: Joy Lucky and Seo Seung Un

Winner Again: Joy Lucky and Seo Seung Un

If anything it was too easy with the 7-furlong class 1 race proving little more than a workout for the 4-year-old who ended 2013 as Seoul’s top filly.

Under Seo Seung Un, Joy Lucky took an early lead and settled into a steady pace before sauntering away from her rivals in the home straight to win by a leisurely 9 lengths.

Despite how easy it was, her time was only just over half a second outside the track record for the distance.

Joy Lucky (Ecton Park) now has 8 wins from 11 starts and looks set for a very interesting year. The Queens’ Tour, which begins with the Ttukseom Cup in just over a month’s time, may be on the agenda.

There was no joy for the foreign jockeys at either Seoul or Busan today, but it will still go down as a successful weekend for them. On Friday at Busan, Joe Fujii landed a double while there were also wins for Jerome Lermtye and Masa Tanaka.

Meanwhile in the capital on Saturday, Ikuyasu Kurakane notched a treble, taking him up to 11 wins for the season. The most notable of those victories came on the promising 3-year-old filly Clean Up Speed (Pico Central), who was recording her 3rd win from 5 starts.

It was another wintry weekend in Seoul

It was another wintry weekend in Seoul

Next week sees the return of big race action in the shape of the Segye Ilbo Cup, a Queens’ Tour trial, at Seoul. Joy Lucky doesn’t need to run in it but a host of domestic and imported fillies looking for their pass to compete for the big prizes will be there.