Day: April 21, 2015

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.

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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.