The most prestigious race of the Korean season is upon us and a full field of sixteen will line up at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon for the 34th running of the Grand Prix Stakes.
And with the home track of the winning horse set to host the race next year, it could be the last time for a while that the Grand Prix is in the capital. The last three winners have all come from Busan (one of them, Gamdonguibada returns for another crack this time) and there is every chance that could be repeated here.
For the past two years, the winner of the President’s Cup has gone on to win the Grand Prix and in Triple Nine, that record could be set to continue. Busan also brings up the undefeated Bold Kings, Queens’ Tour winner Heba and the dangerous Nobody Catch Me among a nine-strong challenge.
For the home team, Cinderella Man (formerly a Busan horse himself and now with his own facebook page) leads the charge but it is a field this year that offers genuine depth and should make for a very interesting race which, for the second year running, will be available to European bettors through the PMU. Here is a full run down of the field.
Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – Dec. 13, 2015
Name [Pedigree] Sex Age (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) Trainer (Home track) Jockey
1. Cinderella Man (KOR) [Southern Image – Tiza Fast Kat (Tiznow)] G 4 (17/10/4/0) Lee Shin Young (Seoul) – Moon Se Young
Nine of his ten wins came at Busan before he was permanently transferred to Seoul this summer. In his first race in the capital, the KRA Cup Classic, he was ridden too quickly too early and faded badly in the straight but has since put in a couple of impressive performances and last month won the Grand Prix trial over this distance. Champion jockey Moon Se Young rides. This is a very strong contender.
2. Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)] M 6 (29/14/4/6) Kim Young Kwan (Busan) – Pasquale Borelli
The only previous winner of the race set to line up here, Gamdonguibada was victorious as a three-year-old in 2012. She was unable to follow up in 2013 but has gone on to become very successful in big Stakes races, winning the Queens’ Tour in 2014. This year she won the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July over a mile before taking a trip to Singapore where she was an also-ran at one of her lesser-favoured distances. She hasn’t run since then but remains one of the highest-rated horses in Korea and must be respected. Italian jockey Pasquale Borelli is in good form.
3. Nobody Catch Me (USA) [With Distinction – Nana’s Babe (Allen’s Prospect)] G 5 (22/6/5/2) Min Jang Gi (Busan)¬ – Kim Yong Geun
Just six career wins but one of those was in the Busan Mayor’s Cup last year. He ran in the Grand Prix a year ago, crossing the line in 10th but was disqualified for interference. This July he went to Kranji in Singapore and scored a creditable 6th place in a 1200M sprint. Since returning to Korea, he has raced twice, with a 2nd over 2000M but then a disappointing performance in the trial for this race behind Bold Kings last month. He went too fast too early and faded badly in the straight. He is still the 2nd highest rated horse in Korea though and makes his first start here for a new trainer. With a slightly more conservative ride, he should do better.
4. Unbeatable (USA) [Eddington – Baxter Hall (Rahy)] H 5 (36/6/6/9) Lim Bong Chun (Seoul) – Djordje Perovic
Despite the name, he is anything but unbeatable although he is a regular money winner at class 1. He hasn’t actually won since March and he was 3rd behind Chief Red Can and Clean Up Cheonha in the KRA Cup Classic in August. He participated in the trial for this race last month and finished in 5th place behind Cinderella Man and as a result, he will be one of the outsiders here. Serbian jockey Djordje Perovic is a top booking.
5. Goji Jeongbeol (USA) [Congrats – I Love Cindy (Adonis)] G 4 (21/5/4/5) Baik Kwang Yeol (Busan) – You Hyun Myung
Another who is coming into the best form of his career at the end of his four-year-old season, he landed back-to-back wins over 2000M in September and October, the latter at class 1 and then ran Bold Kings very close in the 2200M trial race on November 8th, just being beaten a neck on the line. A few months ago he would not even have been considered for this but the distance should be ideal and while he won’t be among the top line of favourites, one of Busan’s top jockeys comes to ride him and he could be very interesting.
6. Bold Kings (USA) [Afleet Express – Bold Arrival (Gilded Time)] C 3 (6/6/0/0) Peter Wolsley (Busan)¬¬ – Jo Sung Gon
Currently the most exciting prospect in Korean racing, Bold Kings is unbeaten in six starts to date, the two most recent being at Class 1 level. He won Busan’s trial for this race, a 2200M handicap in early November by a head, really working hard and beating a couple of the others nominated here. Every time he has raced he has got better and while the Grand Prix is a tough ask of such an inexperienced horse, he can win and will be one of the favourites.
7. Damyang Chukje (USA) [Good Reward – Strategy (A.P. Indy) H 6 (30/5/3/4) Bae Hou Jun (Seoul) – Lim Gi Won
He has only raced four times in 2015, beginning with a win over 2000M in March. He hasn’t been able to follow up though and most recently beat just two home in the trial over 2300M on November 8th. That doesn’t lend itself to him receiving a huge amount of support here and he will be one of the outsiders.
8. Clean Up Cheonha (USA) [El Corredor – Loh Callado (More Than Ready)] C 4 (16/7/6/2) Kim Hyo Seob (Seoul) – Lee Chan Ho
A stablemate of Clean Up Joy, he is actually rated two points higher currently and put together a four-race winning streak, all of them at Class 1, earlier this year. He was 2nd to Chief Red Can in the KRA Cup Classic in August before being dropped in distance to 1400M last month when he finished to quickest but was just beaten a neck on the line. A winner over 2000M in the past, the distance shouldn’t be a problem and he is in with a chance.
9. Gandai (KOR) [Don’t Get Mad – Gamble To Victory (Prospector’s Gamble)] H 5 (39/8/2/5) Kim Nam Jung (Busan) – Song Keong Yun
It is always dangerous to overlook this one. A very reliable and honest campaigner, he may just find himself a little overmatched racing at the very top level. He was though a class 1 winner over 2000M in September, beating Nobody Catch Me and Cheonjae Bogo very handily and was then 3rd behind Bold Kings and Goji Jeongbeol over 2200M at the start of November. He won’t be one of the favourites but he will have some backers to find at least the minor money.
10. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] C 3 (11/7/4/0) Kim Young Kwan (Busan) – Choi Si Dae
For the past two years, the winner of the President’s Cup has gone on to win the Grand Prix; Indie Band in 2013 and Gyeongbudaero in 2014. This year, Triple Nine, 2nd in the Korean Derby, won the President’s Cup by a comfortable three lengths and he looks to still have scope to get better. The extra distance should suit him perfectly and he has every chance. He likes to come from just off the pace, settling in 4th or 5th before unleashing a strong finish and he is hard to oppose.
11. Gumpo Sky (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] C 4 (25/9/7/3) Sung-J. Kwon (Busan) – Ikuyasu Kurakane
A very solid campaigner over the past couple of years, he finally made his Stakes breakthrough in the Busan Ilbo Cup in August, defeating a small field. He finished 6th in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July and 5th in the President’s Cup last month and matching that finish would be a reasonable aim today. He will almost certainly set the early pace and should stay on. Ikuyasu Kurakane has ridden more winners in Korea than any other foreign jockey.
12. Sotong Sidae (KOR) [Gold Money – Myeonggauihuye (Black Minnaloushe)] G 4 (27/7/4/6) Ha Jae Heung (Seoul) – Park Byeong Yun
After being solid but unspectacular in the early part of his career, Sotong Sidae has really emerged as a force to be reckoned with in his four-year-old season. He won the Sports Chosun Cup over 2000M in August and then went on to score a very good 4th place behind Triple Nine in the President’s Cup last month having briefly led in the home straight. He generally settles towards the rear of the field and closes strongly, he won’t be many people’s first choice but he will be looking to find the money.
13. Heba (USA) [Peace Rules – Sue’s Temper (Temperence Hill)] M 5 (35/9/5/2) Sung-J. Kwon (Busan) – Makoto Okabe
Champion Filly & Mare of 2015 having won two legs of the Queens’ Tour, she was also third in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in the summer. In the best form of her career at the end of her five-year-old season, this is of course a tougher test and may be just one race to far but she will cope with the distance and a prize money finish can’t be ruled out. Japanese jockey Makoto Okabe rides at Seoul for the first time.
14. Cheonjae Bogo (NZ) [Royal Gem – Fuelled (Tanker Port)] G 7 (62/6/4/11) An Woo Sung (Busan) – Nozomu Tomizawa
A very solid campaigner although in the three years since he reached class 1, he has only managed the one victory at the top level. That came this June and was slightly fortunate in that the pre-race favourite was a late-scratching and another rival was pulled up. He was 4th in Busan’s Grand Prix trial and the distance will be fine for him but it is hard to see him being very competitive in this company.
15. Chief Red Can (USA) [Fantasticat – Deputy Lady (French Deputy)] G 5 (16/6/3/1) Park Chun Seo (Seoul) – Park Eul Woon
Always very sparingly campaigned, he has run no more than five times in any of his seasons to date. So far in 2015, he has had four outings and was been 2nd twice before following up with back to back wins. The most recent of those was the KRA Cup Classic at the end of August when he beat Clean Up Cheonha, Unbeatable and Cinderella Man over 2000M. He settled towards the rear that day, improving around the home turn and running on to win by three lengths. He should fit well in this company and while not a favourite, can acquit himself well.
16. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeux Danseur)] G 4 (13/6/5/0) Kim Hyo Seob (Seoul) – Ham Wan Sik
He was 4th in this race last year but has only run four times since in 2015, coming 2nd once and winning the other three. He beat Cinderella Man whilst carrying 59kg in October to land his second successive class 1 victory over 2000M and he can be very competitive here. In last year’s race he finished strongly having gone back early and may look to do similar again this time He is certainly one of Seoul’s strongest contenders and while the outside gate may not be ideal, he will be backed.