Month: February 2015

Weekend Preview: Never Seen Before, Beolmaui Kkum At Busan / Sports Seoul Trophy In….Seoul

Racing returns this weekend after the break for the Lunar New Year holiday with big cards across the board and some big names making an appearance.

Beolmaui Kkum is in action on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum is in action on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It’s been four months since Never Seen Before galloped down the home straight at Seoul to win the Minister’s Cup, the final jewel in Korea’s Triple Crown. Now finally, the colt who gave Aussie trainer Peter Wolsley his first Korean Classic victory, reappears on the track.

This time he is at home, in Busan’s Friday afternoon feature. He shouold be the favourite although he will have the likes of Useung Radar and Damyangui Jilju for company in the Class 1 handicap over a mile.

Sunday at Busan also sees a heavyweight – literally – match-up as the top-rated horse in Korea, Beolmaui Kkum, carrying 60kg looks to make it two out of two for 2015 with Gamdonguibada among those out to stop him in the feature handicap.

Earlier on Sunday, Busan plays host to the Macau Jockey Club Trophy while up at Seoul, the Sports Seoul Trophy headlines Sunday’s card.

February turns into March and while we seem to be getting one last blast of winter in the Korean capital right now, it should be mild by the weekend.

Complete Racecards can be found here

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 27

Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11.40 to 18:00 (races 4-11 will be simulcast by the Singapore Turf Club, full race by race preview here)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday February 28
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 1
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:30

Peter Wolsley, Gyeongbudaero and Tough Win Stories of 2015 So Far

We say goodbye to the Year of the horse and enter the Year of the Sheep…or goat or ram or whichever hooved and horned animal it actually is; there is some disagreement in these parts. There is no racing this weekend on account of the holiday, so it’s a good opportunity to take stock of what has happened during the first six weeks of racing:


Never Seen Before and Lee Hee Cheon win the Minister's Cup. Lee and Peter Wolsley are in great from this year

* Peter Wolsley is on fire: With five winners across last weekend, trainer Peter Wolsley has shot to the top of the Busan Trainers’ Championship, leading the Kim Young Kwan machine by 14 winners to 12 and 49% of all runners placing first or second. Wolsley has some solid talent in his stable at the moment and also a pair of in-form stable jockeys in the shape of champion rider Jo Sung Gon but also with Lee Hee Cheon, who has been an absolute revelation under the Australian’s tutelage over the past few months. Such is the firepower that is always available to him, Kim Young Kwan will amost certainly take the ultimate prize but it looks set fair for another very good season for Wolsley.

This Korean language blog, which I’ve just seen for the first time has some really good pictures of Wolsley and Lee Hee Cheon winning the Minister’s Cup with Never Seen Before last October.

* Tough Win is back: The 2011 Grand Prix Champion’s best days looked to be behind him but he returned to the winner’s circle for the first time for 18 months in January and then followed it up last week with another victory; his 24th from 37 career starts and took him to over $2Million in prize-money. He’s done it in style too, closing from dead-last in the home straight. As long-time racing observer Thomas Song pointed out on this site, closing to defeat tired frontrunners is the only way Tough Win can run these days, but it is thrilling to watch and hopefully there is plenty more to come.

* We have some good three-year-olds: The likes of Cosmos King at Seoul and Rafale and Doraon Hyeonpyo at Busan have all won around two-turns already and they, along with a number of others, should make for a fascinating Triple Crown series which this year, will be concluded by July.

* The new rating system is here to stay: Every horse in Korea now has a rating and aside for some Grade and Listed races, there are no longer races restricted to Korean bred horses at Class 1 and Class 2. It is hoped that the stronger competition will make for a better quality of Korean racehorse and more competitive racing for punters. The early evidence, especially at Busan, is positive. With horses able to move back down in class for the first time, we’ve seen some compelling contests already. Now that connections at Seoul have belatedly signed up to the changes too, racing in the capital – in need of a new lease of life for some seasons – will hopefully be on an upward spiral soon too.

* Gyeongbudaero : If the KRA’s race-planners had scripted the first class 1 to be run under the new system, they would have come up with something like this. Six Korean bred horses faced off against six imported horses and after a tough battle, the locally bred Gyeongbudaero, carrying top weight of 60kg, prevailed. Winner of the 2014 President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes, Gyeongbudaero’s image was on the front of the KRA’s 2015 Race Plan booklet announcing the changes and he is undoubtedly the poster-horse of Korean racing right now.

Racing returns next weekend.

Cheonnyeon Dongan Claims Second Donga Ilbo Trophy

For the second time in three years, Cheonnyeon Dongan ran out victorious in the Donga Ilbo Trophy at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday. The odds-on favourite ran on for a 4-length win under champion jockey Moon Se Young.

Cheonnyeon Dongan and Moon Se Young win the Donga Ilbo

Cheonnyeon Dongan and Moon Se Young win the Donga Ilbo

The last time she won this race, it was held in September and a change in the racing calendar meant that the past two winners of the trophy would face-off much earlier this year.

Last year’s winner, Ua Deungseon was sent off third in the betting but she never really featured, coming home in 5th as Cheonnyeon Dongan took things up in the home straight and cruised clear.

No a 5-year-old, Cheonnyeon Dongan (Ecton Park) has won 9 of her 21 career starts. This was her third big race win with a Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy added to her two Donga’s.

Donga Ilbo Trophy – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – February 15, 2015

1. Cheonnyeon Dongan (KOR) [Ecton Park – Honeycakes (Hennessey)] – Moon Se Young – 1.4, 1.0
2. Geumbit Hwanhui (KOR) [Peace Rules – Sincheongchun (Silent Warrior)] – Jang Chuyoul – 2.7
3. Revereduction (KOR) [Revere – Neednointroduction (Announce)] – Han Sung Youl – 14.7
Distances: 4 lengths / Head – 11 ran

Tough Win Trousers Two Billion

Tough Win reached another milestone in his remarkable career at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday as the 8-year-old broke the 2 Billion Won mark in career prize money.

After spending much of 2014 on the sidelines, Tough Win roared back to form last month with an against the odds win in a big handicap. It was his first visit to the winner’s circle since his second triumph in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy in the summer of 2013. He didn’t have to wait long for a repeat.

Despite carrying top weight of 59kg and despite being up against rising-star Haemaru, who came into the race off the back of six consecutive victories, punters made Tough Win the favourite for Saturday’s feature class 1 event over 1800M.

And it was vintage Tough Win. With Cho Kyoung Ho having retired, it was yet another new jockey on board him for the first time. Lee Sang Hyeok had the honours and he took the 2011 Grand Prix Stakes winner right to the back as the exited the gate, giving the rest of the field a full ten lengths head start.

Tough Win likes it that way. Although they closed the gap a little, Tough Win remained last as they entered the home straight, going wide around the field to find his run. Once they did, the race was over. He hit the front a furlong out and eased home comfortably for a three-length victory ahead of outsider Double Shining. Haemaru was 3rd.

It was a 24th career victory for Tough Win (Yonaguska) on his 37th start. While cynics will, with some justification, point to a lack of strong competition at class 1 at Seoul right now giving him this window to return to the top (and it is undoubtedly weaker than it was when he was battling it out with the likes of Dongbanui Gangja four years ago) – his achievement is still  noteworthy.

It is very hard for an imported colt (or gelding as Tough Win is) to amass such an amount of prize money. Korean bred horses have the Triple Crown races and the President’s Cup while the best imported fillies such as Gamdonguibada can harvest the lucrative Queens’ Tour events. Tough Win has always had to do it the tough way.

Now we know that win in January wasn’t a fluke, the question is whether he can maintain it in the long season ahead. Principally, can he keep it up long enough to go to Busan to take on the current set of big boys in the summer for a tilt at a 3rd Mayor’s Cup?

Weekend Preview: Donga Ilbo Trophy Headlines Valentine’s Weekend Racing

It’s Valentine’s Weekend so where better to spend it than at the racecourse? The Donga Ilbo Trophy headlines at Seoul while both in the capital and at Busan there are big fields all round.

Cheonnyeon Dongan won the Donga Ilboin 2013 with the now retired Cho Kyoung Ho on board

Cheonnyeon Dongan won the Donga Ilbo in 2013 with the now retired Cho Kyoung Ho on board

The Donga Ilbo Trophy is this year restricted to Korean bred fillies and mares and has attracted a field of ten. Chief among them is Cheonnyeon Dongan, who won the race back in 2013 when it was held in September, and Ua Deungseon, who took last year’s event just five months ago.

With the unrest of last week now over, Seoul will hold a 13-race card on Saturday and a 10-race card on Sunday.

At Busan there are full fields on Friday and among them are some fascinating races with horses being able to drop down in class for the first time in Korea. This looks set to give a new lease of life to those who found themselves with too many points for class 2 but not good enough for class 1.

Peter Wolsley has a solid set of runners at Busan on Friday including the exciting Macheon Bolt while jockeys Joe Fujii and Masa Tanaka are riding live chances throughout the day. Nobuyuki Oyama and Nozomu Tomizawa will also be in action. South African trainer Bart Rice will have one runner on Sunday.

Full racecards are available here.

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

Saturday February 14
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday February 15
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00 including the Donga Ilbo Trophy at 16:55.
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:30

Gwanggyo Bisang Cruises To The Segye Ilbo Cup While Gyeongbudaero Proves His Worth At Busan

Gwanggyo Bisang strolled to his third career Stakes win with an easy victory in the Segye Ilbo Cup at Seoul last Sunday. However, the star of the weekend was Gyeongbudaero, who carried 60kg to victory in the first class 1 “Open” race at Busan.

Gwanggyo Bisang was an easy winner of the Segye Ilbo Cup at Seoul on Sunday

Gwanggyo Bisang was an easy winner of the Segye Ilbo Cup at Seoul on Sunday

Now a 5-year-old, Gwanggyo Bisang is the top rated Korean bred horse in the capital and he showed exactly why when coming from behind in the final two furlongs of the 1200M Segye Ilbo Cup to take the line almost two lengths clear of closest rival Ganghae.

A slight disappointment in the President’s Cup last November and then again when sent off the strong favourite in a class 1 handicap just before Christmas, Gwanggyo Bisang this time made no mistake as he secured the 12th win of his 19 race career to date.

Segye Ilbo Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – February 8, 2015

1. Gwanggyo Bisang (KOR) [Menifee – Touch Upon (Touch Gold)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.4, 1.0
2. Ganghae (KOR) [Didyme – Ocelot (Catrail)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 1.3
3. Global Fusion (KOR) [Menifee – Morning Red Sky (Chisos)] – Lee Joon Chel – 12.8
Distances: 1.75 Lengths / 0.75 lengths – 13 ran.

The winner of that aforementioned President’s Cup was, of course, Gyeongbudaero. He would then go on to win the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes as well and his eagerly anticipated 2015 debut also came on Sunday.

It was a debut that was given extra significance in that it was in the first class 1 race to take place since the practice of providing separate races for Korean bred horses at the top-level was ended (except for some Stakes races).

Gyeongbudaero and Choi Si Dae win at Busan on Sunday (Pic: KRA)

Gyeongbudaero and Choi Si Dae win at Busan on Sunday (Pic: KRA)

Despite carrying top weight and facing some very good imports in the shape of Spring Gnarly (Master Command), undefeated in seven and Cheonji Bulpae (Bernardini), one of the highest rated horses in the country, the Korean horse was immense.

Under jockey Choi Si Dae, Gyeongbudaero was in close attendance the whole way around before accelerating away in the home straight. He held off the challenge of fellow domestic-bred Gumpo Sky (Vicar) for victory by just over a length.

It was his 12th win in 29 career starts, however, 13 of those starts have been in Stakes races. He’s only ever been out of the money twice and has won over US$2 Million in prize money. And he’s certainly not finished yet.

Class 1 – Busan Racecourse – 2000M – February 8, 2015

1. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – Choi Si Dae – 1.7, 1.1
2. Gumpo Sky (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Kim Dong Young – 2.2
3. Chogwang (AUS) [Lion Heart – Colonial Dancer (Pleasant Colony)] – Noboyuki Oyama – 5.7
Distances: 1.25 lengths/Neck
Also ran: 4. Ildeung Hanghaesa (KOR) 5. Spring Gnarly (USA) 6. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) 7. Biryong (NZ) 8. Full Forest (USA) 9. Cheonjae Bogo (NZ) 10. Kellan (KOR) 11. Sarang Dream (KOR) PU: Haneului Chubok

Kurakane Collects NAR Award in Tokyo

Ikuyasu Kurakane picked up his Grand Prize award at the NAR Grand Prix ceremony in Tokyo on Thursday.

Kurakane among the award winners in Tokyo (Pic:

Kurakane among the award winners in Tokyo (Pic:

Kurakane was honoured for becoming the first foreign jockey to ride more than 100 winners in a year in Korea and being named Seoul Racecourse Jockey of the Year.

The popular rider is based at Kochi Racetrack in Japan which falls under the auspices of NAR which administers Local Government organised racing in that country.

Kurakane rode 101 winners at Seoul in 2014 from 674 rides including the KRA Cup Classic on Samjeong Jewang, the biggest win of his time in the country. The jockey previously rode at Seoul and Busan in 2007 and 2008 , returning in 2013 after a five-year absence.

That his wins came at Seoul makes his acheivement all the more impressive and his departure means there are currently no foreign riders in the capital’s weighing room. There are four Japanese jockeys riding in the more welcoming environment of Busan.

See here for a full rundown of the awards in English

Weekend Preview: Segye Ilbo Highlights Slimmed Down Seoul / Gyeongbudaero Up For The Fight At Busan

It has been a tense week in Korean racing. However, despite the threat of a boycott by owners, declarations went ahead as normal at Seoul Racecourse on Thursday morning following Busan where it had been business as usual the day before. Although some planned races have been cancelled, a big weekend still awaits.

Let's Run! And we are running this week, albeit not much at Seoul

Let’s Run! And we are running this week, albeit not much at Seoul

There have been a couple of casualties from the uncertainty earlier in the week. The scheduled overseas simulcast on Friday and Saturday was cancelled in case a large scale boycott materialised and a last minute reorganisation of the schedule was required, while there are also no regular class 1 or class 2 races in the capital. The Segye Ilbo Cup, a Stakes race, will go ahead, however, as it remains restricted to Korean bred runners.

Busan hosts class 1 action on Sunday afternoon though and there is a mouth watering clash in store as Gyeongbudaero heads the weights on his first appearance of 2015. The Grand Prix Stakes winner is the best of six Korean bred horses taking on six imports in exactly the kind of race the new rating system was intended to provide. Gumpo Sky (taking on foreign-bred horses fort he first time), and imports Cheonji Bulpae and Spring Gnarly will also be going in the handicap over 2000M.

At Seoul, where not all stakeholders are yet onboard with the new system, we are down to eight races on Saturday and ten on Sunday. The highlight is the Segye Ilbo Cup on Sunday in which the track’s top-rated Korean-bred horse Gwanggyo Bisang will be favoured to get back to winning ways.

To make up for the lost races on Saturday, eight of the nine pony races from Jeju Island will be simulcasted back to punters at Seoul instead of the usual four.

It’s the first weekend of the post Ikuyasu Kurakane era at Seoul but the four Japanese jockeys at Busan; Joe Fujii, Masa Tanaka, Nozomu Tomizawa and Nobuyuki Oyama are all in action.

Full race cards are available here. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 6
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday February 7
Seoul Racecourse: 8 races from 11:15 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 10:50 to 17:30

Sunday February 8
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

New Owner Joe Dallao Teams Up With Trainer Bart Rice

Korea’s first foreign racehorse owner has been getting plenty of attention from the local media as he attended orientation for new owners at Busan this past weekend.

Joe Dallao (left) with his wife Young Sook at the Busan Racecourse stables with Bart and Pam Rice (Pic: Hankyoreh)

Joe Dallao (left) with his wife Young Sook at the Busan Racecourse stables with Bart and Pam Rice (Pic: Hankyoreh)

The Hankyoreh, Segye Ilbo and Kookmin Ilbo newspapers, among others, all carried the story of Dr. Joe Dallao making a little piece of Korean racing history. Having been based in Korea for a long time, Dallao’s path to ownership was a relatively smooth one once the Korea Racing Authority partially eased restrictions on non-Korean owners at the end of last year.

Impressed with his horsemanship and thorough business-like approach, Dallao has engaged Bart Rice as his trainer and the pair will immediately set about identifying and purchasing suitable horses with a view to start racing horses at Busan Racecourse in the late summer or early autumn.

A New York City native, Dr. Dallao has been a semi-regular fixture in the weekend crowd at Seoul Racecourse over the past few years. Having raced horses as a member of a syndicate in the US, he didn’t hesitate to strike out on his own in Korea when the opportunity arose.

The official entry of "Joseph Dallao" on the KRA's list of licensed owners

The official entry of “Joseph Dallao” on the KRA’s list of licensed owners

Dallao, who told the media that his ultimate aim is to take a Korean horse back to his hometown for the Belmont Stakes, is also known in Korea and elsewhere for successfully racing pigeons.

Joe Dallao and Bart Rice can be followed at the links below:

Dallao Thoroughbred Racing
Bart Rice Racing Stables

Gyeongbudaero Set To Lead Korean Racing Into New Era

Last weekend saw the end of any class 1 and class 2 races restricted to Korean bred horses. From now on, it is all against all at the highest level. And the nation’s best locally-bred horse, Gyeongbudaero, is immediately sent out to take on the challenge of the imports at Busan on Sunday.

Leading the line: Gyeongbudaero (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Leading the line: Gyeongbudaero (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The Korea Racing Authority’s decision to no longer set aside some class 1 & 2 races for domestic horses only has been controversial but is intended to eventually improve the quality of the locally bred horses. Every horse is now assigned a rating which will determine which class they can race in so to win the big money, they will need to beat imported horses.

At Busan, they’ve already been doing just that for quite some time. The likes of Mister Park, Dangdae Bulpae, Yeonseung Daero and latterly Indie Band and Gyeongbudaero have been the track’s main stars over the past few years. All were Korean bred and all took on and beat the imports. Among the current top ten rated horses at the track, five are Korean bred and five imported.

At Seoul, it is a little different. Asked to name the best horses from recent years, names likely to come up are Tough Win, Dongbanui Gangja, Smarty Moonhak and going back a couple of years further, Bally Brae and Subsidy. All were American bred. J.S. Hold and Myeongmun Gamun may get mentioned but they never managed to beat the imports and neither did  Jigeum I Sungan, who only ran in an open race one time. In fact, the mare Top Point is the only one who readily springs to mind. Only two of the current top-ten rated horses at Seoul are locally bred.

Beating all-comers: Dangdae Bulpae

Beating all-comers: Dangdae Bulpae

This is simplistic but perhaps helps illustrate one reason why there is more resistance to integrated racing in the capital. While there are class 1 and class 2 races scheduled for Busan this weekend, the KRA has already abandoned the ones it had planned for Seoul after the Owners’ Association made clear its members would not be making any entries. Indeed there is still a threat that this unofficial boycott may extend to all races in the capital. We will know at 4pm on Thursday.

This is unlikely but even if everything goes ahead as planned, one casualty has already been Friday and Saturday’s overseas simulcast. In the event of a large-scale cancellation of races at Seoul, the Busan race schedule could be amended. With that uncertainty, the KRA decided to cancel the simulcast as a precaution and at an early stage in order to allow overseas partners maximum time to secure races from elsewhere.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of its implementation, the change is one that needs to happen. Racing here must become more competitive and sterner tests for locally bred horses are essential in achieving this. For all the many things it can be questioned about, the KRA’s commitment to the breeding industry here isn’t one of them as is shown by its continued investment in better and better stallions. The Triple crown races will continue to be restricted to Korean bred horses.

That brings us back to Busan’s Sunday feature. Gyeongbudaero will be making his first appearance since winning the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December and will be top weight in the 2000M handicap. Fittingly, there will be six Korean bred horses and six imported horses in the starting gate. Also among the Koreans is Gumpo Sky, who has won two consecutive class 1 races and faces imports for the first time.  Among those imports is Cheonji Bulpae, the 6th highest rated horse at Busan as well as Spring Gnarly who is unbeaten in seven starts since returning from a year’s layoff last May.

It makes for a fascinating contest for both the punter and the sportsman. If this is the kind of race we can look forward to on a regular basis, the change is surely one for the better.