It’s time for the big one. The 33rd Grand Prix Stakes will be run at Seoul Racecourse this coming Sunday.
Beolmaui Kkum, seen here at last year’s Grand Prix, returns as favourite this year (Pic: Ross Holburt)
Despite the injury-enforced absence of defending champion Indie Band, the race still looks to be one of high quality. And while last year’s event was the first ever Korean race to be broadcast live overseas, this year’s edition breaks new ground too with European punters able to bet on the race with the French PMU.
Beolmaui Kkum is likely to start as the strong favourite for the 2nd year running with jockey Lee Hee Cheon, who won the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October given the chance of a lifetime to reach his 100th career winner in style with Choi Si Dae retained for Gyeongbudaero.
Last year, Beolmaui Kkum faded badly in the home straight but is in great from this time around and will be hard to beat. Magic Dancer may challenge Beolmaui Kkum for the lead and has every chance of staying on whereas likely to come from further behind are Cheonji Bulpae and Nobody Catch Me, both of whom have claims.
Gyeongbudaero won the President’s Cup on this track a month ago but may find the this a little bit too much while Wonder Bolt has improved plenty since his 5th in the race last year despite being more renowned as a sprinter. Ghost Whisper is game but may find himself overmatched here while Clean Up Joy and Samjeong Jewang have plenty of potential and are the wildcards.
Here is a full run-down of the field:
Grand Prix Stakes (KOREA GROUP I) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – Sunday December 14, 2014 (16:40)
Name [Pedigree] Age/Sex (Lifetime Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) – Korean rating – Jockey (Home Track)
1. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeux Danseur)] – 3yo colt – (8/3/4/0) – 110 – Ham Wan Sik (Seoul)
One of the up and coming talents at Seoul, following a 6th place finish on his debut, he hasn’t finished worse than 2nd in seven subsequent starts, usually coming from just off the pace to close strongly. A winner over 1800M last time out in what was his first attempt racing around two-turns promoted him to class 1, but he faces by far his toughest race to date.
2. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] – 4yo colt – (17/11/3/0) – 132 – Lee Hee Cheon (Busan)
Twelve months ago, he started as the favourite for this race and led the field into the home straight before fading disappointingly to 13th. He had five months off earlier in 2014 and since returning, he’s won all four of his starts. He will be the favourite again, having broken the Busan track record over 2200M on his last start and he will probably lead again. This should be his year.
3. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – 4yo colt – (21/6/8/1) – 127 – Lee Chan Ho (Seoul)
The highest rated horse in training at Seoul, Wonder Bolt was 5th in this race last year. He has spent much of the year racing at shorter distances, finishing 2nd behind Singapore’s champion sprinter El Padrino in the Asia Challenge Cup in August. A very comfortable winner over 1700M last month, he is very quick and will have some supporters for the Grand Prix.
4. Rush Forth (USA) [Rush Bay – Fourth Quest (Norquestor)] – 4yo gelding – (15/4/3/3) – 117 – Kim Ok Sung (Seoul)
He was 2nd behind Samjeong Jewang in the KRA Cup Classic over 2000M on his last start in October, only beaten a nose and finishing the quicker of the two horses. He should like the distance but is yet to find the winner’s circle at class 1 level – his last victory was all the way back in February – and he is unlikely to find it in this race.
5. Major King (KOR) [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] – 4yo colt – (16/7/3/3) – 119 – Jo Chang Wook (Busan)
The winner of one of the Korean Triple Crown races last year, he spent the first half of 2014 in the United States. He was unsuccessful there and returned to Korea in August. He has raced four times since, winning once over 2000M. He is a very capable competitor but will probably find a few too quick for him.
6. Samjeong Jewang (USA) [Patriot Act – Ms. Sadira (Dixieland Heat)] – 3yo gelding – (9/6/0/2) – 117 – Ikuyasu Kurakane (Seoul)
A narrow win over Rush Forth in the KRA Cup Classic in October was the fourth consecutive victory for this up and coming gelding. He likes to come from slightly off the pace and he has a strong finish. He’s going to need a very strong one in this company but is certainly not without hope. Three-year-olds have won the two most recent editions of this race.
7. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini – Purrfection (Tale Of The Cat)] – 5yo horse – (24/10/3/3) – 126 – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
Now from the stable of Peter Wolsley at Busan, Cheonji Bulpae was an impressive 3rd in this race last year. He’s only won two of his seven starts in 2014 but has usually been close and has been carrying some big weights in handicaps. While he won’t be favourite, he has every chance of coming close again.
8. Magic Dancer (KOR) [Forest Camp – Wildly Magic (Peterhof)] – 4yo colt – (17/10/4/1) – 126 – Kanichiro Fujii (Busan)
Trained by Kim Young Kwan at Busan, Magic Dancer is a proven winner at Seoul Racecourse, having won the Jeju Governor’s Cup over 2000M in June this year. He finished 3rd behind Gyeongbudaero in the President’s Cup last month and should have no problems with the distance. Jockey Joe Fujii is the only foreign rider to have won the Grand Prix and what tactics he employs could be the key to this race.
9. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – 5yo horse – (27/10/6/7) – 129 – Choi Si Dae (Busan)
The highest-rated domestic bred horse in Korea, Gyeongbudaero finished 6th in this race last year. He has only run three times in 2014 but the most recent of those saw him land the biggest victory of his career, the President’s Cup, over 2000M at Seoul Racecourse last month. In 2013, the President’s Cup winner went on to win the Grand Prix and while Gyeongbudaero won’t be favourite, he can never be ruled out.
10. Nobody Catch Me (USA) [With Distinction – Nana’s Babe (Allen’s Prospect)] – 4yo gelding – (17/6/4/2) – 131 – Kim Yong Geun (Busan)
He was a convincing winner of the Busan Metropolitan Stakes – known as the “Summer Grand Prix” – in July at odds of over 50/1, beating a number of his rivals here. He’s only run once since then and that too ended in a win, carrying 60kg around 1900M and still winning by 5-lengths and breaking the track record in the process. One of two contenders from the stable of Busan’s top trainer Kim Young Kwan, he has a chance.
11. Unbeatable (USA) [Eddington – Baxter Hall (Rahy)] – 4yo colt – (27/5/5/6) – 116 – Park Tae Jong (Seoul)
A distance specialist, Unbeatable won the most recent of very few races to be run over 2300M at Seoul last month, holding off several rivals in a tight finish. He’ll definitely stay on but that race was run at a pace significantly slower than any recent runnings of the Grand Prix and while he was quick at the finish, this is a significant step up in quality.
12. Ghost Whisper (KOR) [Gotham City – Emmy’s Lullaby (Unbridled’s Song)] – 6yo gelding – (27/14/4/3) – 128 – Masakazu Tanaka (Busan)
A very game horse and with plenty of talent too, he’s won four of his last six starts, usually from the front and broke the Busan track record for 1800M in October. Trained by Australian Peter Wolsley, he’s never without a chance although the distance and the caliber of opposition may be just a little too much for him here.
13. Jangmi Eondeok (USA) [Midnight Lute – Sea Gift (A.P. Indy)] – 4yo filly – (14/3/4/1) – 107 – Moon Se Young (Seoul)
The only filly in the race, she is likely to be the longest shot on the board. She’s only raced five times in 2014 with a best finish of 5th and she came home in 6th place in a Stakes race restricted to fillies and mares at Busan last month. As a result, even with the champion jockey on board, she is overmatched here.
Selections: (2) Beolmaui Kkum (7) Cheonji Bulpae (8) Magic Dancer (10) Nobody Catch Me