It’s the big one, it’s the Grand Prix Stakes! The Korea Cup may have burst on to the racing calendar this year usurping the trip of Derby, President’s Cup and Grand Prix as the nation’s most valuable race but for now, the Grand Prix remains the most prestigious and the one race that is known outside racing circles in Korea.
Some of the most emotive names in Korea’s short racing history have won the race, the likes of Pogyeongseon, Ka Shock Do, Saegangja, Subsidy, Bally Brae, Dongbanui Gangja, Mister Park and Tough Win have won the race which is now in its 35th year. And we are guaranteed a new champion this year as for the first time in a decade, no previous winner will line up for the 2300M test at dusk on Sunday.
(Please take a moment out to look at our video preview – includes past races and trackwork of the leading contenders. More clicks mean we’ll have more chances to persuade the powers that be to approve a budget and resources to make more of these!)
Two-time President’s Cup winner Triple Nine will be the strong betting favourite but no favourite has won since 2009 when Dongbanui Gangja romped to his second Grand Prix. Could Triple Crown winner Power Blade top off an historic season or could Clean Up Joy claim victory for a Seoul trained horse for the first time since 2011. Or could another triumph, perhaps Success Story or Beolmaui Kkum? Or perhaps an outsider.
There is foreign interest in the race. Brian Dean saddles Muhudaeje, who will stay the distance but will be an outsider as will be Unbeatable who will be partnered by Djordje Perovic. However, both Yonekura Satoshi and Francisco Da Silva have chances on board Success Story and Beolmaui Kkum respectively.
Here are form comments for each runner:
The Grand Prix (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse (2300M) Sunday December 18, 2016 (16:40) – Weight for Age (4yo & Up: 57kg, F&M/3yo: 55kg)
1. Dongbang Daero (USA) C 4 [Curlin – Willa Joe (El Gran Senor)] 16/4/8/1
T: Oh Moon Sik, J: Choi Si Dae
Enters having beaten Beolmaui Kkum and Heba to win by 3 lengths over 1800M on October 30th. Late developer and no worse than 2nd in each of his last 9 starts. All wins at 1800M. First trip to Seoul. Usually settles in midfield.
2. Unbeatable (USA) H 6 [Eddington – Baxter Hall (Rahy)] 46/7/9/12
T: Lim Bong Chun, J: Djordje Perovic
1 win from 9 in 2016, he was a distant 2nd to Clean Up Joy in the KRA Cup Classic in October. 3rd try in this race, he was last in 2015 but does get the distance as proved when just beaten a neck by Cheonjeok last month.
3. Power Blade (KOR) C 3 [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] 12/8/3/0
T: Kim Young Kwan, J: Kim Yong Geun
The Triple Crown winner has been bested by Triple Nine in both his last two visits to Seoul, the Korea Cup in September and November’s President’s Cup. Trainer felt tactics failed in the latter race. Distance is a question mark but he gets a good draw and may well lead. A chance.
4. Space Port (USA) H 6 [Pleasant Tap – Space City (Carson City)]
T: Woo Chang Ku, J: Jo Sung Gon
3 wins from 10 outings in 2016, most recently at 1800M in October. 4th behind Cheonjeok and Unbeatable at this distance a month ago. He will settle at the back of the field and can close strongly but others should be too strong.
5. Triple Nine (KOR) C 4 [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] 19/11/6/1
T: Kim Young Kwan, J: Seo Seung Un
He comes in having won his second consecutive President’s Cup, easily defeating Power Blade in the process. 4th in the race last year, he is a better horse this time around. Tactically versatile but usually handy, his two predecessors as President’s Cup winner both went on to win this race. He has a big chance to join them.
6. Gumpo Sky (KOR) H 5 [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] 33/10/8/4
T: Kwon Sung Ju, J: Lee Yong Ho
2nd in last year’s race, he hasn’t raced since a hugely creditable 6th in the Korea Cup in September. A barrier trial well within himself last week offered few clues. Has been a front-runner throughout his career but opted out of setting the pace in the Cup and it paid dividends. Gets the distance.
7. Success Story (KOR) H 5 [Peace Rules – Power Pack (Lil’s Lad)] 22/10/8/4
T: Min Jang Gi, J: Yonekura Satoshi
A 2nd and three 3rd place finishes since returning from Dubai all in Stakes company. In those races, he’s been beaten by Triple Nine (three times), Power Blade and Beolmaui Kkum so he has form to overcome. Front-runner, he has won at 2000M but the distance is a question mark.
8. Goliath Marine (KOR) G 5 [Volponi – Queenie Bee (Geri)] 33/6/6/4
T: Choi Ki Hong, J: Lim Sung Sil
Flew home to finish 2nd to Heba over 2200M at Busan last month and this distance may suit but his only class 1 wins have come when getting a significant weight allowance. Very much a closer, he will aim to pick off horses in the closing stages.
9. Halla Chukje (USA) M 5 [Gottcha Gold – C D Player (Montbrook)] 32/5/6/2
T: Yu Jae Gil, J: Lee Hyeok
She was in good form in the first half of the year including a 2nd place in the Ttukseom Cup in June. Has struggled of late though and only beat one home in the Governor’s Cup at Busan last month. Usually likes to lead but surely won’t last long here.
10. Cheonjeok (USA) G 5 [Shakespeare – Celtic Song (Giant’s Causeway)] 39/4/5/6
T: Choi Bong Ju, J: Yoo Seung Wan
He comes in having made all to win over this distance on November 12th with Unbeatable, Muhudaeje and Space Port all behind him. That was though his first win since April 2015 and he will be hard pushed to repeat it here. He was though 3rd in the Cup Classic and can beat plenty.
11. Heba (USA) M 6 [Peace Rules – Sue’s Temper (Temperence Hill)] 47/10/7/4
T: Kwon Sung Ju, J: Lee Hyo Sik
7th in this race last year after a hard fought season that saw her crowned champion filly and mare. She finally returned to the winner’s circle last month, beating Goliath Marine over 2200M. Always an honest, reliable runner, she’s tactically versatile and not likely to be on the early speed here.
12. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) H 6 [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] 29/16/4/2
T: Baik Kwang Yeol, J: Francisco Da Silva
Having finally achieved a really big win when making all in the Mayor’s Cup at Busan in July, he comes in following a couple of disappointing performances. He went too fast too early in the Korea Cup and was then beaten by Dongbang Daaero when giving up weight and with an apprentice jockey aboard. Gate 12 may be a blessing in disguise here as it will be hard for him to lead.
13. Winner Red (USA) G 3 [Put It Back – Red Hot Jul (Essence Of Dubai) 11/5/3/0
T: Woo Chang Ku, J: Choi Bum Hyun
The up and comer of the field, he enters having won his last four races although he has never faced the kind of opposition there is here. The furthest distance he has run and won at is 1900M and while the draw isn’t ideal, he doesn’t need to lead. Next year he could be a real contender, this year he could be the wildcard.
14. Muhudaeje (USA) C 4 [Majestic Warrior – Crafty Queen (Crafty Prospector)] 19/4/3/2
T: Brian W. Dean, J: Jeong Jeong Hee
3 wins from 7 outings since moving to Brian Dean’s stable. He was 3rd at this distance behind Cheonjeok and Unbeatable last month but showed he can stay on well. That was his first try at class 1 so he is untried against the calibre of opposition he faces here and will be an outsider.
15. Clean Up Cheonha (USA) H 5 [El Corredor – Loh Collado (More Than Ready)] 21/8/6/2
T: Kim Dong Kyun, J: Jo In Kwen
5th in this race in 2015 but while he started this year with a January win, he hasn’t been able to push on and has only made three starts since. Showed signs of returning to form with 4th place in the KRA Cup Classic in October but still has plenty to find here.
16. Clean Up Joy (USA) G 5 [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeux Danseur)] 20/10/6/1
T: Song Moon Gil, J: Ham Wan Sik
3rd in last year’s race. An awkward starter, the trainer has requested and received the outside gate. Seoul’s highest-rated horse he was a facile 7-length winner of the KRA Cup Classic in October. He was beaten by Beolmaui Kkum, Triple Nine and Success Story in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July but at Seoul and at this distance, he’s a danger. He’ll be slowly away and look to improve in the back straight.