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 (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