Month: December 2015

2015 Review: Leading Sires

Menifee is the Leading Sire in Korea for the 4th year running. It wasn’t quite as one-sided as last year but he still earned $2 Million more than closest challenger, Ecton Park. Menifee stands in good stead for the future too as he also comfortably claimed the Leading Sire of Two-Year-Olds title. Strike Again is Leading First Crop Sire.

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Menifee, Korea’s leading sire, walks in the rain

Siring the Derby winner as well as significantly more winners than any other sire, Menifee is, for the 4th year running, the Leading Sire. He is quite the phenom here in Korea and will be hot favourite to win next year too, simply by weight of numbers. There will, however, be a change below soon with both Didyme and Creek Cat, mainstays of the Korean breeding program, having passed away recently.

Leading General Sire

Name, Earnings ‘000 KRW (Runners/Winners/Starts/Wins) Winning % (Chief Earner)

1. Menifee (USA) 7,680,833 (144/74/921/124) 13.5% (Yeongcheon Ace)
2. Ecton Park (USA) 5,447,012 (92/37/574/75) 13.1% (Triple Nine)
3. Creek Cat (USA) 3,810,773 (99/43/647/67) 10.4% (Jangpung Parang)
4. Didyme (USA) 3,519,796 (90/36/554/68) 12.3% (Best Guy)
5. Vicar (USA) 3,515,249 (106/36/609/55) 9.0% (Gumpo Sky)
6. Peace Rules (USA) 3,404,896 (76/32/508/57) 11.2% (Heba)
7. Forest Camp (USA) 3,307,403 (135/40/809/61) 7.5% (Ottug Ottugi)
8. Pico Central (BRZ) 3,161,609 (98/44/639/69) 10.8% (Daepungnyeon)
9. Volponi (USA) 3,035,469 (88/36/674/56) 8.3% (Goldholic)
10. Exploit (USA) 2,582,665 (114/43/714/53) 7.4% (Lion Star)
11. Colors Flying (USA) 12. Ft. Stockton (USA) 13. Hawk Wing (USA) 14. Officer (USA) 15. One Cool Cat (USA) 16. Biwa Shinseiki (JPN) 17. Capital Spending (USA) 18. Revere (IRE) 19. Cielo Gold (USA) 20. Admire Don (JPN)

Menifee is also leading sire of two-year-olds. Colors Flying has been producing foals which really run well on the sand tracks of Korea and will be featuring highly on the general sire list from next year while freshman Strike Again also signals intention here. There also needs to be a word for Cowboy Cal. It’s unusual for a non-Korean based sire to appear on these lists but from nine two-year-old runners, he has got six winners:

Leading Sire of Two-Year-Olds

1. Menifee (USA) 896,150 (23/10/69/17) 24.6% (Power Blade)
2. Forest Camp (USA) 641,100 (29/10/80/17) 21.3% (Ottug Ottugi)
3. Colors Flying (USA) 468,300 (26/8/79/13) 16.5% (Baedari Bobae)
4. Strike Again (USA) 387,100 (13/3/35/7) 20.0% (Winners Glory)
5. One Cool Cat (USA) 352,950 (26/7/65/8) 12.3% (Major Winner)
6. Didyme (USA) 335,050 (19/6/50/7) 14.0% (Seomgwangi)
7. Sharp Humor (USA) 334,800 (35/8/73/10) 13.7% (Pokpung Sinhwa)
8. Vicar (USA) 300,300 (23/5/53/6) 11.3% (Sidaeuiyeowang)
9. Cowboy Cal (USA) 293,100 (9/6/30/7) 23.3% (Miso Wangja)
10. Pico Central (BRZ) 277,950 (15/4/40/4) 10.0% (Waikiki)

The Korean breeding program suffered a sad setback with the loss of Sharp Humor. The stallion reportedly suffered fatal injuries while rearing up during a thunderstorm and slipping. Sharp Humor is second on the First-Crop sire list behind Strike Again.

Leading First-Crop Sires

1. Strike Again (USA) 387,100 (13/3/35/7) 20.0% (Winners Glory)
2. Sharp Humor (USA) 334,800 (35/8/73/10) 13.7% (Pokpung Sinhwa)
3. Whywhywhy (USA) 200,000 (25/4/71/5) 7.0% (Doctor Why)
4. Delago Brom (AUS) 72,350 (7/3/24/3) 12.5% (Delago Dream)
5. Stromberg Carlson (AUS) 57,850 (2/1/8/1) 12.5% (Short Stop)

2015 Review: Horse/Jockey/Trainer Of The Year

This is the first of a few year-end posts over the next week. We’ll look at breeding, betting, and the foreign jockeys and trainers, as well as racing in general. We’ll start with the honours though and while there are many ways to to do Horse Of The Year, the bottom line is, it’s my blog, so it’s my choice! Keeping it simple this year so just nine categories and in all honesty, there are standouts in each one.

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Bold Kings wins the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)

Keeping it simple this year so just seven categories and to be honest, there are standouts in each one this year.

2yo Colt: Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)]
2yo Filly: Ottug Ottugi (KOR) [Forest Camp – Main Objective (Lion Heart)]

The winner of the Breeders’ Cup race generally takes this and Power Blade heads into 2016 the early favourite for the 2016 Triple Crown races. He was 2nd to Ottug Ottugi in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup – that win making his stablemate the obvious choice to win the filly category – but has since overcome her twice. Honourable mentions for OS Hwadap, a US import who remains unbeaten after four races and Waikiki, who won the Gwacheon Governor’s Cup. Banjaui Jewang, 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup, may turn out to be better than all of them but at the moment Power Blade is top of his crop.

3yo Colt: Bold Kings (USA) [Afleet Express – Bold Arrival (Gilded Time)]
3yo Filly: Meni Money (KOR) [Menifee – Pocketful Of Money (Running Stag)]

Any three-year-old who wins the President’s Cup would usually automatically win this but not Triple Nine this year. The reason is that Bold Kings has done everything he has been asked of. Seven runs and seven wins culminating in victory in the Grand Prix Stakes, Korea’s biggest race, makes it his. Triple Nine is obviously the runner-up while honorable mentions go to Korean Derby winner Yeongcheon Ace and Minister’s Cup winner Rock Band. Also a word too for Cheongu. 3rd in the Asia Challenge Cup, he also represented Korea in Singapore and Japan and is currently in Dubai preparing for the World Cup Carnical.

It’s not been a great year on the filly side. Jangpung Parang won the Oaks but it was her only victory of the year. Instead, the honour goes to Meni Money, 2nd in the Oaks and Nonghyup Chairman’s Stakes but winner of five of her nine starts in 2015 including the Sports Chosun Cup.

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Choegang Schiller and Lee Chan Ho win the Asia Challenge Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Older Horse: Choegang Schiller (USA) [Artie Schiller – Changeable (Miswaki)]
Older Filly/Mare: Heba (USA) [Peace Rules – Sue’s Temper (Temperence Hill)]

Choegang Schiller provided the standout moment of summer, claiming victory for Korea in the Asia Challenge Cup, beating last year’s winner, Singapore’s El Padrino into 2nd. That alone is enough to make him our older horse of the year. On the same day, Chief Red Can won the KRA Cup Classic while honourable mention goes to Gumpo Sky, 2nd in the Grand Prix.

While Gamdonguibada won the Busan Mayor’s Cup at the beginning of July, it was Heba who succeeded her as Queens’ Tour Champion, winning the KNN Cup and Governor’s Cup in the autumn.

Horse of the Year: Bold Kings (USA) [Afleet Express – Bold Arrival (Gilded Time)]

It is sadly all too rare for us in Korea to witness a truly gripping race but this year’s Grand Prix delivered. The battle between Bold Kings and Gumpo Sky in the home straight while Clean Up Joy and Triple Nine desperately tried to close, was pure thoroughbred racing drama at its best. With jockeys Jo Sung Gon and Ikuyasu Kurakane both producing arguably the rides of their careers, in the end Bold Kings simply refused to be beaten. Flat-out, the will to win he demonstrated that day makes Bold Kings the Horse Racing in Korea Horse of the Year for 2016. What a prospect he is for 2016.

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Jockey Of The Year – if not haircut of the year – Moon Se Young (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Jockey Of The Year: Moon Se Young

Jo Sung Gon breaking the 100 winner barrier for a year at Busan coupled with his Grand Prix win on Bold Kings was impressive but Moon Se Young is once again jockey of the year. His 147 winners across the season, very nearly double the next best, with a win percentage of 25% makes Moon the standard Korean jockeys aspire to. He needs rivals; Djordje Perovic’s arrival in Korea has given trainers another first class option. Jo Sung Gon himself relocating to the capital and up and comer Lee Chan Ho continuing to get on better horses promises to give the Champion jockey a whole new challenge in 2016. Expect him to rise to it.

Trainer Of The Year: Kim Young Kwan

Another boring choice. It was tempting to give this to Peter Wolsley for Bold Kings but the Stable 19 Machine at Busan continues to suck in all the talent and churn out winner after winner. This year Kim Young Kwan completed the career “Grand Slam” – training the winner of every Korean group race at least once – and once more dominated the Busan Trainers’ Championship.

Power Blade, Doraon Hyeonpyo Close Out 2015 With Stylish Victories

Champion Juveniles past and present rounded out the racing year in Korea with impressive performances on the final card of 2015 at Busan Racecourse this past Sunday.

Power Blade overcame stablemate Ottug Ottugi to win a Juvenile Special race and confirm his status as the early favourite for the three-year-old Classics in 2016. Meanwhile Doraon Hyeonpyo, a year his senior, overcame a strong field by by a full ten lengths to record his first regular Class 1 victory.

Second by a rapidly diminishing neck to Ottug Ottugi in the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup in October before wining the overall Juvenile Champion race, the Breeders’ Cup at Seoul last month.

Back at six furlongs on Sunday in Power Blade and Ottug Ottugi faced off for the third time, this time with just three others to keep them company in a Juvenile Special race which was restricted to those horses who had passed their training test prior to entering the racecourse for the first time.

And it would be the Kim Young Kwan trained pair who would draw clear of their three rivals in the home straight. The filly Ottug Ottugi pushed all the way to the line but Power Blade eventually got his nose in front and went on to win by half a length.

A year ago it was Doraon Hyeonpyo who returned from the trip to the capital victorious as Champion Juvenile. 

He would go on to run creditably in the Classics; 2nd in the KRA Cup Mile, 5th in the Korean Derby and 4th in the Minister’s Cup, without quite making it up to the elite level.

However, last month Doroan Hyeonpyo won a class 2 event over 1900M which saw his rating go over the threshold for class 1 for the first time. Carrying a light weight and faced with a field in which the biggest names, Cowboy Son and Oreuse, were more suited to shorter distances, he ended up being sent-off as the narrow favourite in the Korean win pool.

His victory was anything but narrow. Hitting the front just before they reached the home straight, Doraon Hyeonpyo, under the urgings of jockey You Hyun Myung, galloped away from the rest to win by a full ten lengths.

Unfortunately for Doraon Hyeonpyo, the handicappers promptly walloped him with a new rating of 117 so next time he appears, he is going to be carrying significantly more weight. On Sunday’s evidence though, his 2016 debut is going to be one to look out for.

As indeed is that of Power Blade. The race to the Triple Crown is not far off.

Christmas Weekend Race Times

You didn’t think we’d break for Christmas, did you? Well, Seoul does but that leaves Busan to take centre-stage with three consecutive days of racing, starting on Christmas Day.

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Here’s what’s happening when and where:

English Race Cards Here

Friday December 25
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 14:15 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 11:40 to 17:10

Saturday December 26
Busan Racecourse: 7 races from 13:00 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 10:50 to 17:00

Sunday December 27
Busan Racecourse: 15 races from 10:50 to 18:00

Jo Sung Gon & Seo Seung Un To Trade Tracks In 2016

Two of Korea’s top jockeys will relocate from January 1st. Seo Seung Un is going to Busan while the south coast’s champion jockey Jo Sung Gon will be based at Seoul.

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Jo Sung Gon, seen here on a previous winning visit to the capital, will be full-time in Seoul in 2016

Jo Sung Gon to Seoul is something that has been talked about every year for at least the past six and now the jockey who is about to be crowned Busan’s Champion for the fifth time, will finally go head to head with the country’s top rider in terms of numbers, Moon Se Young, in the capital.

With 658 winners from from 4181 rides at Busan so far (with one weekend to go), Jo leads the all-time winners’ list at the track and won the Championship in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. This year he will win the Championship this weekend and has become the first jockey at the track to ride over 100 winners in a calendar year.

Jo is, of course well-known to Seoul punters and was winning the nation’s most prestigious race at the track on Peter Wolsley’s Bold Kings only two Sundays ago. He won the Korean Derby on Sangseung Ilro in Seoul in 2009 and also partnered the remarkable Dangdae Bulpae to a hat-trick of President’s Cups between 2010 and 2012.

Seo Seung Un burst on to the scene in 2011, winning two races on his first day as an apprentice. He has gone on to ride 294 winners from 2170 rides at Seoul, finishing 3rd in the Championship in 2013 and 2nd in 2014. This year he finished in 3rd place but had a slightly disappointing end to the season, being only 6th best in the second half of the year.

Daring Vision Seo Seung Woon

Busan Bound – Seo Seung Un

Seo is a rare Seoul jockey in that he has tasted Group race success at Busan, winning the 2014 KRA Cup Mile on Cheongnyeong Bisang.

Another Busan rider, Hwang Jong Woo, will also transfer to Seoul (Hwang only rode eleven times in 2015). In other licensing news, Nozi Tomizawa and Pasquale Borelli have extended their licenses at Busan by three and six months respectively. As previously reported, Masa Tanaka, whose license expires on December 31st, is not renewing.

Jo Sung Gon is currently retained rider for Peter Wolsley and his departure eaves the Australian trainer with a dilemma in advance of the 2016 season with the rides on Triple Crown contender Banjaui Jewang  and of course, Bold Kings, now up for grabs. While the depth in quality of horses is much greater at Busan, in the weighing room – where there is big gap between a small number of top jockeys and the rest – the depth in terms of top line riders is in favour of Seoul.

Pinna Closes Out 2015 With Big Win

Italian jockey Nicola Pinna landed his biggest Korean winner to date as he guided home the unbeaten OS Hwadap in a Juvenile Special race on Sunday afternoon at Seoul Racecourse.

The race was one of a pair of valuable races for juveniles who had already passed their training test before entering the racecourse for the first time. An equivalent race on Saturday restricted to Korean bred horses was won by Clean Up King (Strike Again) but the main interest was in Sunday’s event which was open to the imports.

Three came in undefeated, including OS Hwadap but it was Miso Wangja, under Djordje Perovic, already a winner at the race distance of 1400M who was sent off as the favourite. He jumped a little wide whereas under Pinna, OS Hwadap was quickly into a lead that he never looked like giving up, running on to win by almost three lengths on the line and take his 100% record to four races.

Perovic himself didn’t exactly have a bad end to the year, riding four winners on a rare Friday afternoon card in the capital.

Also of interest on Sunday was New White Socks, who had seemed almost unbeatable at distances up to 1700M but had been beaten in four previous tries at 1800M. On Sunday, he was stepped up to 2000M and while punters didn’t keep faith, sending him off at close to 7/1, connections evidently knew what they were doing and New White Socks this time stayed on to grind out a half-length victory.

New White Socks will be one to watch as a four-year-old and OS Hwadap one to watch as a three-year-old. However, that’s it for Seoul Racecourse in 2015 with Busan set to close out the year in Korean racing with cards this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Weekend Race Times

Busan takes its Christmas break this weekend so it is three days of Seoul, including a very rare Friday meeting in the capital.

Last Time Down The Stretch

Three days of Seoul this weekend

And there are big fields all round on each of the three days which include bumper 13 and 15 race cards on Saturday and Sunday respectively as well as 10 on Friday.

There is a class 1 race on each of the three days as well as a pair of valuable 2-year-old races. Here is what’s happening:

English racecards can be found here.

Friday December 18
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 8 races from 13:25 to 16:45

Saturday December 19
Seoul Raecourse: 13 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 8 races from 12:20 to 16:50

Sunday December 20
Seoul Racecourse: 15 races from 10:50 to 18:00

Ton-Up Tanaka Signs Off From Korea

Masa Tanaka’s time riding in Korea is at an end but the Japanese jockey had time to clock up his 100th winner on the peninsular last Friday, one of three successes on his final weekend.

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Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Tanaka joined Busan Racecourse in June of 2013 and returned solid results in his first year even while fellow Japanese rider Joe Fujii was getting most of the acclaim. Tanaka rode 24 winners in his first seven months up to the end of that year.

2014 was a challenging one but Tanaka still emerged with 29 winners from 330 rides. It would be in 2015, however, when his persistence paid off and he became acknowledged as one of the top jockeys in the country. He rode 49 winners this season, taking him to 5th place in the jockey championship.

Although he couldn’t secure a Stakes race victory, he landed a 3rd place on New York Blue in the Asia Challenge Cup in 2014. This year he managed another 3rd, on Ildeung Hanghaesa in the President’s Cup , Korea’s joint-richest race, in Seoul in October.

As has been written many times here, i order to make it in a place like Korea, it is not enough to simply be a good jockey. An open mind, a thick skin and an awful lot of cultural and people skills are required too. If you have an ego, leave it at the airport.

Masa Tanaka fulfilled all of those criteria in addition to being very good in the saddle. He is one of those whose presence here has had a positive impact on Korean racing. He will be missed.

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Masa Tanaka (left) and Joe Fujii are 4th and 2nd in the all-time list of foreign jockeys in Korea (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Tanaka came into his final weekend on 98 winners but had the 100 wrapped up by race 10 on Friday with victory on hot favourite Indian Star. He added a further victory on Sunday afternoon for long time supporter Bart Rice and while feature race favourite Queen’s Blade – his final ride in Korea – made a mess of exiting the gates, denying him the opportunity of going out with a final win, he ended with a total of 101 wins from just under 1,000 rides.

That took Tanaka to 4th on the all-time list for foreigners in Korea, the top ten of which now looks like this:

1. Ikuyasu Kurakane – 317
2. Joe Fujii – 149
3. Toshio Uchida – 138
4. Masa Tanaka – 101
5. Gary Baker – 77
6. Narazaki Kosuke – 68
7. Darryll Holland – 66
8. Nozomu Tomizawa – 63
9. Hitomi Miyashita – 55
10. Martin Wepner – 49

Tanaka, who is licensed in New Zealand and needs to maintain that license, is expected to be riding there in the New Year.

Cheongu & Success Story Set For Dubai

Two Korea trained runners are among the 181 horses who have been accepted to race at the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival which starts next month at Meydan.

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Cheongu will shortly be on his travels again (Pic: KRA)

Busan horse Success Story will travel to Seoul Racecourse on Tuesday to join capital-based Cheongu in pre-quarantine before the pair fly out to Dubai on December 23. The carnival starts on January 7th and while there, Cheongu is expected to race over 1200M with Success Story taking on a mile.

The acceptances come following a two-year process to establish quarantine protocols between Korea and the UAE which was concluded just in time to enable the horses to be nominated. In recent years, similar protocols have also been established with Japan and Singapore allowing Korean horses to race in those countries and vice-versa. Among three applications from Korean horses to participate at the carnival, two were accepted.

Cheongu (USA) [Old Fashioned – So Much Fun (Speightstown)] is a three-year-old colt who has won five of his eight starts in Korea. A sprinter, he also travelled to Kranji in Singapore in July and Ohi in Japan in October. He led both of those races before weakening in the closing stages. In between those trips, he finished 3rd behind Choegang Schiller and El Padrino in the Asia Challenge Cup in Seoul at the end of August.

Success Story (KOR) [Peace Rules – Power Pack (Lil’s Lad)] is a little bit of an enigma. A four-year-old, he has won ten of his eighteen races but has yet to score in a really big race although he hasn’t had the opportunity to go for one over his preferred distance of a mile. He put in an eye catching performance over that trip at Busan last month when he was just outside the track record when scoring the easiest class 1 win seen for some time.

Here is the full list of accepted horses from the Dubai Racing Club.

Brilliant Bold Kings Reigns Supreme In Grand Prix

Bold Kings maintained his unbeaten record after getting the best of a thrilling stretch duel with Gumpo Sky to win the most prestigious race on the Korean calendar, the Grand Prix Stakes, at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon.

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Bold Kings and Jo Sung Gon in the Grand Prix winner’s circle

Trained by Australian Peter Wolsley and ridden by Jo Sung Gon, Bold Kings was sent off the third choice in the betting market with President’s Cup winner Triple Nine the clear favourite.

Gamdonguibada, winner of this race in 2012, would set the early pace and she was joined up front, as expected, by Gumpo Sky, a 40/1 outsider. Bold Kings was in close attendance throughout as was Triple Nine.

As they turned into the home straight, Gamdonguibada weakened but Gumpo Sky kept on going and going. On the rail, Bold Kings got his nose in front and while Gumpo Sky gave no quarter and Clean Up Joy, Triple Nine and Clean Up Cheonha started to press down the outside, Bold Kings simply would not get beaten.

The distance between the winner and the runner-up would be a neck throughout the final furlong. As good as the ride was by Jo Sung Gon, his horse gave everything to win in what was a proper horse race. Bold Kings was not letting anything best him today.

So it had been all year. Bold Kings was a $14,000 purchase at Fasig Tipton’s Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale in 2013 and arrived in Korea in Spring 2014. He didn’t make his debut until this March and arrived here today with just six starts behind him. He had won them all, including a trial for this race last month stretch run in which a similarly battling performance in the home straight, served as a preview for today.

Gumpo Sky was immense in 2nd place and the rest of them, even Triple Nine in 4th, lost nothing in defeat.

For Jo Sung Gon it was a first Grand Prix winner as it was too for Peter Wolsley. The Australian trainer recently marked eight years in Korea and while he won the Minister’s Cup last year with Never Seen Before, this is his greatest triumph. He goes into 2016 with the hottest property in Korean racing in his stable.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – Dec 13, 2015

1. Bold Kings (USA) [Afleet Express – Gilded Time (Bold Arrival)] – Jo Sung Gon – 6.6, 2.8
2. Gumpo Sky (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 7.7
3. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeux Danseur)] – Ham Wan Sik – 1.4
Distances: Neck / 0.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Triple Nine (KOR) 5. Clean Up Cheonha (USA) 6. Chief Red Can (USA) 7. Heba (USA) 8. Cheonjae Bogo (NZ) 9. Gamdonguibada (USA) 10. Nobody Catch Me (USA) 11. Gandai (KOR) 12. Sotong SIdae (KOR) 13. Cinderella Man (KOR) 14. Damyang Chukje (USA) 15. Goji Jeongbeol (USA) 16. Unbeatable (USA)

Winning Owner/Trainer: Lim Yong Keun/Peter Wolsley