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.