A frenetic day of racing on the peninsula saw a total of four races lost due to a combination of a Tote system failure and then a late-winter blizzard. However, both of the day’s biggest races survived, with Pinot Noir running out the dominant winner of Seoul’s snowbound Donga Ibo Cup and, in altogether more agreeable conditions in Busan, last year’s President’s Cup winner and top three-year-old Triple Nine got his 2016 campaign off to a winning start.
Pinot Noir was sent off the 2nd favourite for the Donga Ilbo Cup, an early prep race for the Queens’ Tour races later in the year. And while, as in recent starts, she was slowly away, she quickly improved and once she took the lead on the turn for home, there was only ever going to be one winner. She and jockey Park Eul Woon crossed the line a full nine lengths clear of their nearest rivals.
Smart Time and Djordje Perovic got the best of a photo-finish for 2nd, nosing ahead of X File. Pre-race favourite Meni Money, 2nd in last year’s Korean Oaks, was a disappointing seven further lengths back in 4th place. It was Pinot Noir’s 6th career victory.
Donga Ilbo Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – Feb 28, 2016
1. Pinot Noir (KOR) [Capital Spending – Neungnyeokchungman (Pacificbounty)] – Park Eul Woon – 2.9, 1.2
2. Smart Time (KOR) [Ft.Stockton – Caron (Jade Robbery)] – Djordje Perovic – 1.5
3. X File (KOR) [Exploit – Dorothy Dee (Woodman)] – Kim Dong Soo – 2.9
Distances: 9 lengths/Nose – 9 ran
At Busan, President’s Cup winner Triple Nine (Ecton Park) was making his seasonal debut and he was sent off at odds-on to score in the class 1 handicap over 2000M. He was made to work for it, although not by second favourite Gumpo Sky (Vicar) who as usual set the early pace but this time failed to get home.
Instead, on a day when the road to the Queens’ Tour began in Seoul, it would be last year’s “Queen” Heba (Peace Rules) would run Triple Nine all the way to the line, ultimately going down by only half a length. Old-stager Viva Ace (Macho Uno), nowin his sixth season racing at Busan, ran a huge race and pipped Gumpo Sky by a nose for 3rd.
Neither were perhaps the story of the day. There had been carnage in race 6 at Seoul when filly Brown Rocket broke down when leading, unseated jockey Jang Chuyoul in front of a wall of horses. Three more jockeys would be brought down in the aftermath; Jeong Jeon Hee, Kim Hye Sun and Lee Hae Dong. Remarkably, between them, the most serious injury was a broken arm. Brown Rocket, sadly, was not so fortunate.
While races 3 at Busan and 7 at Seoul proceeded without incident, the tote system then malfunctioned – Busan and Seoul both running the same system. This caused the cancellation of Busan race 4. For a few worrying moments it became clear that not only could the system not take bets, it could not payout or refund tickets either. A ripple of discontent started to appear although to punters’ credit, tempers remained intact.
With snow now blizzard-like at Seoul, race 8 was cancelled in any case although to the relief of almost all, the tote system came back online to allow Busan race 5 to go ahead as planned. The two feature races were then run before with dusk falling but the snow not yet abating, Seoul races 10 and 11 were cancelled on safety grounds in accordance with jockeys’ wishes.
And so ended an eventful day’s racing. Or mostly racing. It’s March in a couple of days and we should be done with this kind of nonsense. Next Sunday sees early Korean Oaks trials at both Seoul and Busan.