It’s time. The Keeneland Korea Cup and Sprint are upon us. I went into detail about the Korea Sprint at the Hong Kong Jockey Club website so we’ll focus on the Cup here.
A quick word on the Sprint though, I’m going to stick with Super Jockey although Super Winner will almost certainly begin as favourite and deservedly so on recent form. Wild Dude looks very dangerous. As hoped for, it’s a really open race which any number could win. As indeed is the Cup. Let’s get into it.
First off, the draw. At first glance, (16) POWER BLADE and (15) INFANTRY were the big losers. Jockey Kim Yong Geun’s theatrics at the barrier draw certainly suggested that, however, while nobody would have chosen gate 16, Power Blade began the Cup Mile from gate 10 and the Derby from gate 12. There are other reasons why it may be tough for Power Blade, which we will return to. As for Infantry, he can overcome it and having adapted to the sand reasonably well, is one of the main contenders.
The Japanese pair of (3) CHRYSOLITE and and (7) KURINO STAR O do look very dangerous. The track should hold no concerns for them and the draw has been very kind. With Joe Fujii on board, it is possible that Korean punters may make Chrysolite the favourite. He should settle reasonably handy and has a great chance.
(1) ORDER OF THE SUN is a capable sort but he was well-beaten by Infantry over a mile in July and that, combined with concerns on the sand, will make him less fancied that his fellow Singapore raider. Representing the UAE is (6) NEED TO KNOW. It’s not the racing season there right now so he hasn’t raced since April. Even with Tadhg O’Shea on board, this is a tough ask.
Europe is represented by Jane Chapple-Hyam’s (8) SOLAR DEITY. He’s an all-weather specialist who can’t be judged on his recent turf form (he’s been racing in very strong company) and while he won’t be among the favourites, a strong performance is possible under Darryll Holland, who rode this track when based in Korea at Busan. Moroccan bred (2) FAMOUS MARK represents France. He is another who hasn’t found it easy on the turf but was 3rd in a Listed race on dirt in Sweden in May and is another with a good draw today.
As for the Korean horses, Power Blade does have to catch the eye as we don’t really know how good he is yet. He won the Triple Crown without being seriously tested but this is a challenge of a whole different order and while he has only raced four times this year, can he be in peak condition once again? One hopes so but while a sizable minority in the Korean racing media have him to win, a top five finish would be creditable. That’s true too for stablemate (13) TRIPLE NINE, winner of last month’s Owner’s Cup over a mile.
Perhaps the most likely of the Korea-trained contingent is (5) BEOLMAUI KKUM. He made all to beat Triple Nine by five lengths in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July, finally taking out a big race. Some observers argue that he is one of the most gifted horses to ever run in Korea but suffered from overwork in his early career. At 6, he now looks to be at his best and if he runs at it on Sunday, he could even win. He will almost certainly look to lead from gate-to wire.
Joining Beolmaui Kkum on the early speed will be (12) SAENGIL GIPPEUM and possibly (9) GUMPO SKY. Both are more than capable at this distance but staying on in this company will be tough. (11) DYNAMIC DASH has just been found a little wanting in good domestic company in his last couple of starts while Seoul-based (14) DYNAMIC JILJU hasn’t really faced much in the way of quality opposition. (4) MIRAE YEONGUNG and (10) WONDER BOLT are likely to be slower away. Both have strong finishes and are capable of picking off a few in the closing stages.
Fingers crossed for a good and safe race.
Selections: (3) Chrysolite (15) Infantry (5) Beolmaui Kkum (7) Kurino Star O (16) Power Blade