The horses have arrived, the speeches have been made, the dinners have been served, the wine has been drunk. Now all that’s left is the actual race. Later on Sunday, the SBS Asia Challenge Cup will finally go to post at Seoul Racecourse.
And an extremely open race it is too. On paper, the three horses visiting from Singapore look too good. El Padrino, Trudeau and Speedy Cat all have ratings well in excess of 100 and are a class above the home team.
However, the race isn’t being run on paper. More to the point, it’s not being run on turf or polytrack either, but on sand. Alien to the blue-blooded visitors, but totally natural to the Korean racers.
Then there is the Japanese challenge. The NAR has great depth in its sprint ranks – arguably more so then the JRA – and while Chocolat Verrine, Pierre Tiger and Toshi Gang Star are no world beaters, they are all proven winners and will have few problems in Seoul’s sandpit.
It’s a wide open contest and while class may eventually win out, it is set to be a great race.
SBS Asia Challenge Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – August 31, 2014 (17:25 KST / 16:25 SIN)
1. PERSIA WANGJA (CAN) [Ghostzapper – Dynamite Dancer (Lite The Fuse)] 3-year-old Colt (10/5/1/1) – Park Hyun Woo
Unbeaten at this distance, however, this is a far stronger field than he’s ever faced before. Expect him to try to come from just off the pace, but it is going to be very difficult.
2. TRUDEAU (AUS) [Exceed And Excel – Canadian Legacy (Kris)] 7-year-old Gelding (33/7/5/9) – Noel Callow
A big chance with a perfect draw and Noel Callow, who has a 50% strike rate on this track, at the controls. He’ll try to close in the home straight and if he does it, expect Seoul to be drunk dry of wine by the end of the night.
3. CHANGIPARANG (USA) [Touch Gold – Victory Roll (Deerhound)] 5-year-old Mare (27/2/5/3) – Shin Hyoung Chul
Likely to be outclassed here. By no means a bad horse, but doesn’t have the speed to compete in this company.
4. EL PADRINO (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] 6-year-old Gelding (29/8/5/4) – David Flores
Racked up another big race win earlier this month, how he takes to the sand is the big question. If he does, then he really should be winning.
5. CHOCOLAT VERRINE (JPN) [Gold Allure – Breezy Woods (Timber County)] 5-year-old Mare (24/6/5/3) – Daisuke Mashima
Perhaps the best of the Japanese visitors, certainly on recent form. Should come from just off the pace and has every chance.
6. WONDER BOLT (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 4-year-old Colt (19/5/7/1) – Lee Chan Ho
Perhaps the best hope for Korea. Absolutely belted Watts Village and Fly Top Queen last time out and unlike most Korean sprinters, he doesn’t need to lead from gate to wire to win.
7. PIERRE TIGER (JPN) [Cacoethes – Be Fragrant (Daitaku Helios)] 6-year-old Horse (38/13/5/4) – Fumio Matoba
Veteran jockey Matoba won the SBS Cup last year on a relatively unfancied Japanese raider last year. Pierre Tiger should welcome the drop back in trip and could make it a double for Matoba.
8. TOSHI GANG STAR (JPN) [Kurofune – Pisa no Birkin (Sunday Silence)] 7-year-old Horse (46/4/6/0) – Takayuki Yano
The least fancied of the Japanese trio, the grey is likely to be one of the front-runners but may have a hard time staying there.
9. WATTS VILLAGE (USA) [Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] 4-year-old Colt (14/6/4/1) – Seo Seung Un
Overcame all the odds to record an incredible win for Korea in Tokyo last year but he’s going to have to overcome them again to win here. That 9-length defeat at the hands of Wonder Bolt was a bad one.
10. NEW YORK BLUE (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] 3-year-old filly (11/5/4/0) – Masakazu Tanaka
One of two raiders from Busan and both have a chance. A really good filly with a lot of potential at any sprint distance, she should take to the Seoul track well.
11. INDIAN BLUE (USA) [Henny Hughes – Gambler’s Passion (Prospector’s Gamble)] 4-year-old filly (18/5/4/4) – Ikuyasu Kurakane
An extremely versatile filly, she’s yet another who has the potential to win this. Hasn’t really been herself on two visits to Busan in her last two races but back in Seoul, she should be back to her best.
12. SPEEDY CAT (NZ) [Scaredee Cat – Lane Cove (Magic Of Sydney)] 6-year-old gelding (35/8/7/5) – Danny Beasley
An unhelpful draw but there is plenty of time to overcome it before the turn. He’s not won this year but is a classy horse with classy jockey on board.
13. COWBOY SON (USA) [Cowboy Cal – Nosmallachievement (Smart Strike)] 3-year-old colt (11/8/1/2) – Yoo Hyun Myung
The second of Busan’s entries and this one is just as good. Surprised everybody by grabbing 3rd in the Busan Metropolitan over 2000M, he should love the step back to his favoured sprint distance.
14. FLY TOP QUEEN (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] 4-year-old Filly (9/6/1/1) – Park Tae Jong
Just like Watts Village, that defeat at the hands of Wonder Bolt dealt quite a blow to her reputation. As a result, she’s likely to start at the longest odds of her career. There’s never been a better time for her to put that right.