Month: January 2015

Weekend Preview: Ikuyasu’s Last Stand

Seoul’s Jockey of the Year for 2014 as called time on his second sojourn in the country as Ikuyasu Kurakane will return home following this weekend’s racing. And the Japanese rider has plenty of opportunities to add to his remarkable 288 winners in the country before he heads to the airport.

Bowing out (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Bowing out (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Kurakane rides plenty of faovurites across the weekend, especially on Saturday, as connections look to make use of his services one more time. There’e plenty more happening too on a busy three days of racing.

Both Seoul and Busan host class 1’s. Things get underway at Busan on Friday when Hangangui Gijeok will be favourite for the big handicap over a mile. Ghost Whisper and Grand Teukgeup look to have the best chance of stopping him.

There is another big race at Busan on Sunday when the pair of Gamdonguibada and New York Blue face each other yet again. They’ll be joined by Heba and Lion Santa, anong others for the 1800M test.

Seoul’s class 1’s include a competetive 7-furlong sprint on Saturday with Mirae Yeongung looking the pick while on Sunday Unbeatable and Big Curlin will be top-rated in the final event of the weekend over 2000m.

It’s set to be a chilly but dry and bright weekend, so with big competitive fields, it’s a great time to come racing!

Full racecards are available at the KRA’s website. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday January 30
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00 (full simulcast preview of races 4-11)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday January 31
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00 (full simulcast preview of races 4-12 to follow)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday February 1
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

Se Young Storms Back At Seoul / Cinderella Man Steps Up At Busan

The fun’s over for the Seoul Jockey colony. There have been plenty of wins to go around so far this year but the main man was back this weekend. And Moon Se Young promptly asserted his dominance riding eight winners across the weekend.

And well he might smile. Moon Se Young was back and in-form this weekend (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

And well he might smile. Moon Se Young was back and in-form this weekend (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Last year’s champion jockey picked up a 6-meeting ban during the final weekend of 2014 giving him a pleasant few weeks off on what should have been the coldest race-days of the winter. As it transpired, it wasn’t that cold but in his return to race riding this weekend, Moon was red-hot.

To the surprise of no-one, he was in the winner’s circle after his first ride back on Saturday and he would return there a further seven times across the weekend – two more on Saturday followed five on Sunday. He added three 2nd places and two 3rds and is remarkably already in 3rd place in the 2015 Jockey Championship. Park Tae Jong, racing’s “President”, will know its odds-on Moon Se Young will have overtaken him at the top by the end of next weekend.

At Busan, the performance of the day came from Cinderella Man. The Peter Wolsley trained 4-year-old made his class 1 debut in the feature handicap. Under Jo Sung Gon, he led home last year’s Derby winner Queen’s Blade and solid handicapper My Key for victory by just under three lengths.

Cinderella Man (Southern Image) now has seven wins from ten career starts and looks a force to be reckoned with. Aussie trainer Wolsley has built up another strong stable this year and already sits in third place in the Trainer Championship. Another promising one of his, the (poorly-spelled, in an orthographical rather than a having a rest on the farm way) Diferent Dimension (Into Mischief) was an easy winner on Friday.

Also on the foreign training front, Bart Rice saddled his first winner of the year on Friday, with his Aussie-bred filly Ace Sinhwa (Onemorenomore) scoring on her racing debut.

As for the foreign jockeys, both Ikuyasu Kurakane at Seoul and Joe Fujii at Busan were among the winners on Sunday.

Back at Seoul, the feature race of the weekend was won by Strong Road (A.P.Warrior) who, just like Cinderella Man at Busan stepped up to class 1 for the first time and duly registered his 7th win from 10 career starts so far.

Korea’s New Rating System Explained

It is the year of change for horse racing in Korea. The racing calendar has been revamped, foreign ownership of racehorses has been approved (see bottom of this article) and now a new rating system is coming in.

Yeonseung Daero - (Pic: KRA)

Yeonseung Daero usually ran against foreign opposition. In future he will be the rule, not the exception – (Pic: KRA)

Of all the changes, it is the rating system that has caused – and continues to cause – the most debate within Korean racing circles as what it means is that if Korean-bred horses are to win class 1 races, they will need to beat imported opposition. 

The KRA believes this will raise the quality of Korean horses. Local breeders and some owners disagree.

Under the new system, every horse will be assigned a rating from 0-140 to accurately reflect their current ability.  The rating will determine their eligibility for races and their handicap mark.

The ratings are for use in Korea only and are not intended to mirror what a horse’s international rating would be.

Over the past couple of months horses at Class 1 and Class 2 have already been receiving a monthly rating. This will now be rolled out to all classes.

The Current System

There are six classes in Korean racing (only five are used at Busan). Within each class, all races are further split into two categories:

Domestic: Races restricted to Korean-bred runners
Mixed/Foreign: Races open to both Korean and Foreign-bred runners.

Horses move up in class according to points earned for winning or placing in races and prize-money won. They can never return to a lower class, regardless of recent performance.

The New System

All horses will be assigned a rating which will determine which class they are eligible to run in. With the exception of some Stakes races, such as the Korean Derby, eligibility for all Class 1 and Class 2 races will be determined solely by their assigned ratings. The rating band for each class is as follows:

Ratings table








In Summary:

– All races at Class 1 and Class 2 will be open to both Korean-bred and Foreign-bred runners
– Some races at Class 3 and Class 4 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– All races at Class 5 and Class 6 will continue to be restricted to Korean-bred runners.
– Horse ratings may go up or down according to recent past performance. This means that a horse may move down in class as well as up.

On the subject of foreign ownership of racehorses, they will be allowed to buy up to fifteen horses, which is the same as local owners. However, unlike the locals, foreign owners must buy four Korean-bred horses for every foreign-bred horse they wish to import to Korea. This is one reason why it has been a slightly less controversial development than might otherwise have been expected.

Some of the first batch of foreign owners will be able to start purchasing at the 2-year-old sale on Jeju Island in March.

Busan Friday Selections

Eleven races at Busan today with the first at 11:40 and the last at 18:00. No class 1 events but plenty to get stuck into. It’s been a long time since we did our “wine and winners” on here but someone asked if we could start again (minus the wine):

Race 1: 4, 8, 5, 9
Race 2: 4, 3, 1, 6
Race 3: 9, 2, 4, 1
Race 4: 8, 5, 2, 3
Race 5: 4, 5, 3, 6
Race 6: 2, 1, 4, 6
Race 7: 5, 6, 4, 1
Race 8: 7, 9, 12, 2
Race 9: 1, 4, 3, 7
Race 10: 13, 11, 2, 10
Race 11: 2, 1, 13, 4

Most of those will be favourites so you’ll not get rich but hopefully not too poor either.

Racing will return to Busan on Sunday. Seoul runs cards on both Saturday and Sunday.

Weekend Preview: Moon Se Young Is Back, Heukgisa At Seoul, Queen’s Blade At Busan

The fallout from the Korea Racing Authority’s 2015 plan continues with local media in Korea reporting that a coalition of breeders, owners and trainers may boycott the races from the first weekend of February. As punters, we’ll worry about that next week though because in the meantime, there’s a full set of cards definitely going ahead over the next three days.

Busan hosts the pick of the action this weekend

Busan hosts the pick of the action this weekend

The feature race of the weekend is, as has become the norm so far this year, at Busan and takes place on Sunday when 2014 Korean Derby winner Queen’s Blade faces My Key and Peter Wolsley’s impressive Cinderella Man in the feature handicap.

At Seoul, champion jockey Moon Se Young returns from suspension for his first rides of 2015 and has plenty of live chances across the weekend. Moon will ride Impetus in Seoul’s feature race of the weekend, a race which sees Heukgisa carrying top weight in the handicap.

Among the foreign riders, Ikuyasu Kurakane, who’s nearing the end of his license period, should be in the winner’s circle at Seoul while Joe Fujii has plenty of decent rides at Busan. Nozomu Tomizawa will also be in action at Busan as will Nobuyuki Oyama who has made a quick return from injury. Masa Tanaka is suspended.

Click here for full racecards from the KRA.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday January 23
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00 (Click here for a full preview of races 4-11)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday January 24
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday January 25
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

Beolmaui Kkum Heads January Ratings

Beolmaui Kkum remains the top-rated horse in Korea being pushed up one point following his Class 1 victory on Sunday. The latest Korean ratings, which were published on Monday, has the US-bred 5-year-old one point ahead of Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero.

Gyeongbudaero's Grand Prix Stakes win wasn't quite enough to see him to the top of the ratings. He is though, the top Korean bred horse  (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Gyeongbudaero’s Grand Prix Stakes win wasn’t quite enough to see him to the top of the ratings. He is though, the top Korean bred horse (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Wonder Bolt is Seoul’s top horse and is up two points following his Grand Prix Stakes win although he was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday. He is now 7 points clear of his nearest rival in the capital. New entrants at the top of the list at Seoul include Clean Up Joy, who was 4th in the Grand Prix Stakes, while at Busan Success Story comes in following two dominant victories over the past month.

Dropping off the list is Indian Blue, who has been retired ready for the 2015 breeding season.

Seoul Top 30
Busan Top 30

For the first time the ratings, which are for domestic use only and are not intended to be compared to international ones, have been expanded to include all horses down to class 5. The ratings are one of a number of changes which have not been universally popular among some stakeholders – principally trainers. For now though, while there will always be disagreements between connections, punters and the handicappers, they are if nothing else, providing a talking point.

Round-Up: Beolmaui Kkum, Success Story, Rafale Impressive Winners / Japanese Riders Going Strong / Opposition To KRA’s Race Plan

While Seoul’s top horse, Wonder Bolt, was scratched from what was supposed to be his 2015 debut in the capital on Sunday, down at Busan there were some strong performances last weekend.

Beolmaui Kkum was a winner on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum was a winner on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum (Put It Back), who for the second year running, couldn’t quite get it done in the Season-ending Grand Prix Stakes a month ago, returned to Busan and returned to the winner’s enclosure on Sunday afternoon. The 5-year-old carried top weight of 60kg for the 1900M Class 1 race, a full 8kg more than the other nine runners, but that didn’t stop him leading from gate-to-wire, running on for a two length victory, his 12th from 18th career starts.

Another who disappointed on his visits to Seoul last year was Success Story. A late arrival on the Triple Crown trail, he was 4th in the Minister’s Cup and last October and then a disappointing 10th in the President’s Cup a month later. Both those races were run over 2000M but on his return to Busan in December, he blitzed a class 2 field by a full seventeen lengths at 1400M. On Friday, Success Story (Peace Rules) was stepped up to a mile on what was his first try at a class 1 handicap.

And the results were impressive. Jockey Jo Sung Gon took the 4-year-old to the front right out of the gate and the pair stayed there for a very easy 8-length win. Success Story is going to be one to watch out for this year, possibly, with his sprinting credentials as they are, for such event as the Asia Challenge Cup.

There was also interest at Busan last Friday for this year’s Triple Crown. Rafale (Colors Flying), 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup race at Seoul at the end of November, made his own 2015 debut and his first attempt on the Derby distance of 1800M. It was a successful one with the colt streaking away for a 7-length win on the line. Rafale joins Doraon Hyeonpyo at Busan and Cosmos King at Seoul as having made very impressive first tries around two-turns and this year’s 3-year-old crop looks to be shaping up very nicely ahead of the first leg of the Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan on April 5.

In other news, the Japanese jockey contingent continues to go strong. Ikuyasu Kurakane looks set to ride winners right until the bitter end at Seoul. The 2014 Jockey of the Year rode another two on Sunday. At Busan, Joe Fujii continues to be his consistent self, guiding 4/1 chance Battle Master to victory on Sunday while Masa Tanaka’s strong start to the year shows no signs of abating.

Tanaka ride two more winners across the weekend, first on Nobel Shinhwa (Ecton Park) on Friday and then on Sunday on Triple Nine (Ecton Park). The latter was a 5-length win on a favourite for Busan’s top trainer Kim Young Kwan. Even though he managed to pick up a ban as well, that kind of result bodes extremely well for Tanaka. He lies in 5th in the Jockey Championship with 5 winners from 23 mounts, just behind Fujii who is in 3rd with 6 from 33.

On the political front, the Korea Racing Authority’s new race plan for 2015, which has embraced a new rating system, a revamped Stakes calendar and permission for foreign ownership of racehorses, is being resisted by a coalition of breeders, owners and trainers. While such a disparate group is never, within itself, going to have the same priorities, one thing they do appear to agree on was that they were not consulted in the way they would have liked. There are interesting times ahead in the next few weeks

Big Changes As KRA Overhauls Its Racing Calendar

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) has announced a major shake-up of of the racing calendar for 2015 as it seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of Korean horse racing and further its goal of being promoted to a Part 2 country.

All change in 2015

All change in 2015

The changes – which have been an open-secret for some time but were finally posted on the Authority’s Korean language website on Friday – coincide with the introduction of a new rating system that will see domestic-bred horses run against imported horses with far more regularity than they do now (although the Triple Crown remains restricted to Korean-bred entrants). The new calendar also adds International Open races to the the International Invitational ones which have been held in the past two years.

Here are the major changes:

Triple Crown: While the individual races which make up the Triple Crown remain the same, the final leg will be brought forward from October to July so the three jewels will be as follows:

April 5: KRA Cup Mile (Busan)
May 17: Korean Derby (Seoul)
July 19: Minister’s Cup (Seoul)

The Korean Oaks will also move forward from its previous August date and will be run at Busan on June 21. The Oaks will be the final leg of the “Filly Triple Crown” after the Cup Mile and the Derby.

Queens’ Tour: The three races that made up this series were previously spread over a period of 8 months which meant the line-up for the last leg was often unrecognisable from the first. To remedy this, the Ttukseom Cup at Seoul, has now been put back to June with the two Busan legs, the KNN Cup and South Gyeongsang Governor’s Cup being in September and November respectively.

International: Five races have been designated as open to international runners. The JRA Trophy in May and the aforementioned Ttukseom Cup in June will be international open races while the SBS Asia Challenge Cup will be the centrepiece of a huge weekend at the end of August. The Cup itself will be an international invitational race as it was last year, however, the Singapore Turf Club Trophy and the KRA Cup Classic will be run on the same weekend and wil be designated international open races. Qurantine protocols have already been established with both Japan and Singapore while others are being worked on currently.

Recognised Trial Races: While this blog has talked for years about such and such race being a trial for such and such another race but it’s never been officially that way. Now though, taking March 1 as an example, the Macau Jockey Club Trophy at Busan and the Sports Seoul Cup in the capital will both be official Korean Oaks trials.

More Opportunities For Sprinters: If Korean horses are to eventually compete on the international stage, it is most likely to be at sprint distances and with that in mind, there are more opportunities for them to run for big prizes. Both the Asia Challenge Cup and the Jeju Governor’s Cup will be sprints and both will also have official prep races.

Click here for the full 2015 schedule

Weekend Preview – Wonder Bolt, Beolmaui Kkum Headline At Seoul & Busan

It’s been a mild week across the peninsula and the almost spring-like conditions are set to continue for what’s going to be a busy weekend of racing in Korea.

Wonder Bolt is the star attraction at Seoul this weekend (Pic: Elan959)

Wonder Bolt is the star attraction at Seoul this weekend (Pic: Elan959)

At Busan, there are class 1 races on both Friday and Sunday. Friday’s card sees Success Story, fresh from a 17-length triumph last month, make his first bid for a big class 1 handicap as he takes on Road To Prince, My Winner and Challanhan Useung over a mile. Also on Friday, Rafale, the south-coast track’s champion juvenile, makes the first start of his 3-year-old campaign and his first attempt on the Korean Derby distance of 1800M.

On Sunday, Korea’s joint-top rated horse Beolmaui Kkum will be in action in the feature race. He’ll carry a full 8kg more than his rivals, who include Mujinjang, who has won 6 of his 7 starts and returns to action after over 4 months in the sidelines.

Seoul also sees its top-rated horse in action with Wonder Bolt headlining the feature race on Sunday afternoon. Just like Beolmaui Kkum, he’ll be giving 8kg to his rivals, but has every chance of overcoming it in the 1800M handicap.

Full racecards for the whole weekend are available at the KRA website. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday January 16
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00 (races 4-11 simulcast to Singapore – race by race preview here)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday January 17
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday January 18
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

More Acclaim For Ikuyasu Kurakane With NAR Special Prize

The exploits of Ikuyasu Kurakane, who was recently named Seoul Racecourse Jockey of the Year, have now earned him recognition in his home country with the Japanese rider set to receive a “Special Award” at the upcoming NAR Grand Prix in Tokyo on February 5.

Ikuyasu is becoming accustomed to receiving prizes (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Ikuyasu is becoming accustomed to receiving prizes (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Although he didn’t win the Seoul Jockey Championship, Ikuyasu rode 102 winners in 2014 including his first Korean Group win, which came on Samjeong Jewang in the KRA Cup Classic in October. That, combined with the fact that he had achieved his total with significantly less quality rides at his disposal than his rivals, was enough for the Korean poll to go his way.

Now that news has reached Japan. The Special Award generally goes to a rider who has reached a particular milestone in his or her carrer but it is unusual for the NAR to grant such an award for a Jockey’s performance overseas. Previous winners include one-time Busan based Hitomi Miyashita, who was recognized on her retirement in 2011.

Kurakane, who’s home track is the NAR’s Kochi Racecourse, is currently in his second stint in Korea, having previously ridden at Seoul and Busan between 2007 and 2008.

Taking both times into consideration, he has 285 winners from 2293 rides in Korea. Remarkably, it is a record that puts him 11th on the all-time leading jockey list at Seoul Racecourse.