Month: April 2015

Trainer Banned For One Year For Saddle Mix-Up That Led To Unrest

Seoul trainer An Byung Ki, whose horse Argo Asset was disqualified in March after weighing-in more than two kilos light, sparking off a near-riot at the racecourse, has had his license suspended for one year.

An Byung Ki won't be adding to these figures for at least a year

An Byung Ki won’t be adding to these figures for at least a year

An had horses entered in consecutive races just 25 minutes apart, circumstances in which weighing out is done prior to both races. Some time after the jockey sat on the scales, the wrong saddle found its way onto the wrong horse.

It is deemed to be the trainer’s responsibility to make sure the right saddle is on the right horse and therefore An was found ultimately responsible. Argo Asset won the race, carrying lighter than he should have and the ultimate disqualification caused unrest that resulted in two races being cancelled and the KRA ultimately paying out on the disqualified horse.

An Byung Ki’s stable has now been closed and his horses are being dispersed to other trainers. An is a fromer jockey who took up a training license in 2008 and has trained 200 winners from 2080 starters.

A week after the Argo Asset incident, Busan punters tried something similar when the saddle slipped on favourite Yeongung Bolt. This time the Authority did not budge and simply cancelled the remaining two races on the card. Seoul punters did not join in with the action that day.

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Jockey Joe Fujii explains what happened to Yeongung Bolt in an appeal to punters on the Racing Broadcast Network

In the Yeongung Bolt case, which was also resolved this week, trainer Kang Byung Eun was fined KRW 3 Million (just under $3,000) and jockey Joe Fujii – whose stirrups-less ride around the track is destined to become a mainstay of stocking-filler comedy racing DVDs in years to come – received a reprimand.

Success Story Living Up To His Name At Busan

Naming a racehorse can be a tricky thing. We have in Korea an “Unbeatable”, who is anything but, an “Always Winner” who has a win rate of 4% and a “Derby Winner” about whom the less said about the better. We do though now have Success Story who maintained his unbeaten record for 2015 with a solid victory in the feature race at Busan on Sunday, his 9th victory from 14 career starts.

It was Success Story’s first try at 2000M since two unsuccessful attempts at the distance in the Minister’s and President’s Cups at Seoul last autumn. Both times his front-running style had come unstuck in the closing stages.

Following three consecutive wins at 1400M, 1600M and 1800M, Success Story (Peace Rules) was sent off as slight favourite over Gumpo Sky and Nobody Catch Me, the latter being last year’s Busan Metropolitan Stakes winner making his first appearance since the Grand Prix. This time Success Story would not be caught.

As usual jockey Jo Sung Gon took Success Story out in front, however, the expected challenges never materialised and his victory by almost three lengths was surprisingly comfortable. 23/1 outsider Eongmangdori, under Nozi Tomizawa, finished the quickest to grab 2nd place with Gumpo Sky a further five back in 3rd. Nobody Catch Me faded to last.

Success Story didn’t win any of the three-year-old Classics last year but with Cheongnyong Bisang usually injured, Queen’s Blade sinking into obscurity in the USA and only Minister’s Cup winner Never Seen Before still running well, he is the top horse to come out of his crop (as a gelding, Hangangui Gijeok couldn’t run in the classics last year).

As is the norm these days, the racing at Seoul was low-key although although there was plenty of excitement. Saturday’s class 1 ended in a three-way photo finish with Mirae Yeongung (Aragorn) getting the better of and earn his 10th win from 16 starts in the process. Sunday’s feature saw a first class 1 win for US import Cheonma (Langfuhr).

Weekend Preview

It’s set to be a fine weekend on the Korean peninsula and there’s plenty of racing on offer.

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All quiet at Seoul. Should be a bit busier come the weekend

At Seoul on Saturday, Namhae Daewang and Mirae Yeongung headline the feature race while Sunday also sees class 1 action in the capital.

As usual though, the pick of the action is at Busan and Sunday’s feature race which sees last year’s Busan Metropolitan winner Nobody Catch Me make his first appearance of 2015. He’s up against Success Story, Gumpo Sky and Mujinjang in what should be a very good race over 2000M.

Prior to all that, at Busan on Friday, Rock Band, the full brother of currently injured 2013 President’s Cup and Grand Prix winner Indie Band will make his third appearance and will be seeking to maintain his 100% winning record.

Full race cards available here.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday April 24
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 12:50 to 19:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:15 to 17:35

Saturday April 25
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday April 26
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

Cinderella Man Keeps On Winning

The weekend just passed was a rather low-key one for racing in Korea. We’re a month away from the Derby and the leading contenders will, for the most part, have already run their final prep race. There was one stand-out performer though as Cinderella Man landed his fifth straight win in Sunday’s feature race at Busan.

The Peter Wolsley trained Cinderella Man (Southern Image) was sent off as the favorite for the 1900M handicap, which also featured Spring Gnarly (Master Command), who was also coming into the race with 8 wins from 11 previous starts.

Cinderella Man would be the one who would move onto 9 from 12 as, under jockey Jo Sung Gon, the Pegasus Stables-owned 5-year-old flew home in the pouring rain to overcome long time leader Damyangui Jilju.

There was little of note across the weekend up at Seoul. South African jockey Jarred Samuel’s challenging introduction to racing here continued as he moved onto 26 rides without a top three finish. He hasn’t yet been given any ammunition that would make a better return possible.

A couple of personal milestones were reached though. Ji Yong Cheol became the first Korean trainer to saddle 10,000 runners in his career (it wasn’t a winner), while jockey Yoon Tae Hyuk reached 100 career wins.

This coming week should see more action with the likes of Nobody Catch Me, Beolmaui Kkum, Success Story, Gumpo Sky and Mujinjang all among early entries for Sunday’s feature at Busan.

From Pick Me Up To Queen’s Blade: It’s Time To Change

A few years ago, I wrote an article with the title “What have we learned from Pick Me Up?” If one definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, then it must be concluded that more than six years on, the answer to my question is “not a lot”.

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Bring her home: Queen's Blade wins the 2014 Korean Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Last year an unfit Speedy First and an out of sorts Major King, Korean Classic winners both, spent the spring and early summer in the United States, each getting humiliated three times, before coming home. That three times is important as, for some reason, all these years later, the Korea Racing Authority still picks up the bill if a horse goes to the US and runs three times. A couple of years previously, Oaks winner Baekpa did the same.

This past Saturday, the 2014 Korean Derby winner Queen’s Blade was entered in a six-furlong race for fillies and mares at Pimlico. I’ll not post the video but she was left in the gate at the start and never featured, ending last by some considerable distance. Inevitably she will race twice more to get the subsidy.

If we were learning something from this, it wouldn’t be so bad but we’re not. We already know that four-year old Korean horses who have been going non-stop since their debuts nearly two years ago will not be competitive in US racing. We also know that if a horse was expected to perform well in Korea this year, it would not be sent overseas.

Similarly, we know that Korean bred horses who go to the US when young can be competitive. As someone once said, “maybe  the problem isn’t the horse”.

We also know that when sent overseas at the right time and to the right race, Korean trained horses can compete – Watts Village winning the Interaction Cup at Ohi in 2013 proved that.

In the original piece about Pick Me Up, I wrote about the strange practice of sending a Korean horse halfway around the world in order to try and assess the strength of Korean bred horses, when there are plenty of imports racing in Korea, but only allowed to run in segregated races. The start of the rating system, whatever its critics may say, is finally addressing that.

In a year where Korea hopes to become recognised by IFHA as a Part II country, a second Derby winner in as many years going to the States and not even looking like a racehorse, is potentially damaging to the international perception of racing here.

If an owner wishes to take their horse themselves to race in the USA, then the very best of luck to them. Support though should focus on getting our best horses to Singapore in July, to Tokyo in late autumn and to Dubai early next year and also encouraging them to take on the visitors in the Ttukseom Cup, KRA Cup Classic and Asia Challenge Cup.

It’s time to do things differently.

Donggeupchoegang Stuns Gyeongbudaero & Beolmaui Kkum, Daegunhwang Derby-Bound?

What was billed as being a clash between Busan’s best two horses ended up being about neither of them as both Gyeongbudaero and Beolmaui Kkum fell to a late charge from 50/1 shot Donggeupchoegang in the track’s feature race on Sunday.

Beolmaui Kkum, the highest rated horse in Korea was sent off as the slight odds-on favourite ahead of the Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero. The former would, as he generally does, set the early pace and as they entered the home straight, it looked set to be a two way fight between the two favourites.

That was to reckon without Donggeupchoegang. The five-year-old was benefitting from a 6kg weight advantage and he made it count as he flew home under replacement jockey Jeong Dong Cheol, going from 5th to 1st in the final furlong and running on for victory by two and a half lengths.

Gyeongbudaero hung on for 2nd, just pipping another Grand Prix winner Gamdonguibada, by a nose. Beolmaui Kkum was 4th.

The longest shot on the board, US import Donggeupchoegang [Bernstein – Resurge (Seeking The Gold)] was recording his 7th win from 29 career starts and his 3rd from his most recent 6.

It may be at Busan where we get the higher quality racing these days as was evidenced by that track’s utter domination of the KRA Cup Mile last week, but there was some hope for Seoul on Sunday afternoon. That came in the shape of three-year-old colt Daegunhwang (Menifee), who landed his 5th straight win.

This time it was at class 2 and it was a fast time over 1700M. The colt made the running all the way around and while he was made to work a little harder than on previous starts, Daegunhwang looked to have plenty in hand as he stayed on to win by just under three lengths. He’s going to have to work much harder though if he is to beat the Busan raiders next month in the Korean Derby.

Speaking of the three-year-old Classics, the winner of last year’s final Classic Never Seen Before, made his way back to the winner’s circle at Busan on Friday, holding off stablemate Ms. Margaux in what was a competitive class 1 handicap over a mile.

Weekend Preview: Cherry Blossoms! Gyeongbudaero Vs. Beolmaui Kkum!

It’s springtime! The Cherry Blossoms are out and it’s set to be a great weekend of racing on the peninsula.

Seoul Racecourse Floodlit Cherry Blossom Festival runs from 18:00-22.00 from today until next Thursday

Seoul Racecourse Floodlit Cherry Blossom Festival runs from 18:00-22.00 from today until next Thursday

The big race of the weekend is at Busan on Sunday where the top two rated horses in Korea will face off over 1900M. Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero and Beolmaui Kkum will also face the likes of Gamdonguibada and Magic Dancer in a small but serious field in the afternoon’s feature.

At Seoul, South African jockey Jarred Samuel will make his Korean riding debut on Saturday with 6 rides.

Here’s what’s happening when and where across the weekend:

Friday April 10
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 12:50 to 19:00
Jeju Racecourse: 8 races from 13:15 to 17:10

Saturday April 11
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10.50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

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