This coming Sunday, the first leg of the 2014 Korean Triple Crown will be run at Busan Racecourse. And just like the Triple Crown itself, the KRA Cup Mile is a relatively new addition to the Korean racing calendar.
It began in 2005 as the marquee race of the season at the then brand new Busan track.
It was run in September, wasn’t called the KRA Cup Mile and wasn’t restricted to Korean-bred 3-year-olds. The race was won by US bred Siseon Jeap (Precise End).
The following year, the race was renamed as the KRA Chairman’s race and was run over the Korean Derby distance of 9 furlongs. Another US import Golding (Gold Alert), who went on to become a stalwart of the track all the way up until 2011 took the honours.
In 2007, the race moved to June and back in distance to a mile and was given the name KRA Cup Mile. In a memorable race, Australian jockey Garry Baker rode the 6-year-old mare Luna (Concept Win) to victory. Luna, who had broken down aged 2 and was never expected to race again, would later have her story (very) loosely made into a movie.
That year, J.S.Hold had won all three legs of the Triple Crown. However, he only faced Seoul horses and the first leg had been the Ttukseom Cup. In 2008, with the Busan track coming of age, for the first time runners from both Seoul and Busan would be eligible for the Triple Crown races and it was decided that the KRA Cup Mile was the ideal first leg – a Korean 2000 Guineas.
Here are the winners since then:
2008: Rainmaker (KOR) [Revere – Wandering Katie (Tejano)] – Ahn Sun Ho
The first Classic to be run at Busan was won by a Busan horse. However, Rainmaker went on to finish 8th in the Derby the following month and never won a race again despite running on for 2 years. Now a minor stallion at Stud.
2009: Sangseung Ilro (KOR) [Concept Win – Ms. Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] – Eiki Nishimura
The only filly to win since the race became part of the Triple Crown, she’s also the only winner of this race to go on to win the Korean Derby. She went on to win multiple Stakes before retiring. Delivered a foal by Menifee in 2012.
2010: Money Car (KOR) [Newsprint – Pinocchio (Big Sur)] – Park Tae Jong
Romped to an 11-length victory and is to date the only visitor from Seoul to win the race. He was caught right on the line in the Derby by Cheonnyeon Daero and only ran once more. Like Rainmaker now a minor stallion.
2011: Soseuldaemun (KOR) [Meisei Opera – This Ole Way (Vigors)] – Toshio Uchida
A comfortable winner at odds of 7/1, Soseuldaemun turned up for the Derby having lost a lot of weight and didn’t run well. He was retired after his 3-year-old season.
2012: Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Pirncess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – Choi Si Dae
A 3-length winner, he finished 3rd in the Derby and has gone on to be one of the top performers in the country, running in almost every big Stakes race, recording wins in the Busan Owners’ Cup and Busan Ilbo and a 2nd in the President’s Cup. Ranked the number 2 Korean bred horse in the country right now behind Grand Prix winner Indie Band.
2013: Sting Ray (KOR) [Forest Camp – Straight Cash (Straight Man)] – Kim Dong Young
His dam was a Korean Stakes winner and while Sting Ray performed so badly for the rest of the year after the Cup Mile he got himself gelded, he was back in the winner’s circle at class 1 earlier this month.