Month: March 2017

2017 Korea Triple Crown – First Preview

We’re less than three weeks away from the KRA Cup Mile – the Korean 2000 Guineas – which will be run at Busan on Sunday April 2. Last year, Power Blade swept all three jewels of the Triple Crown, the first horse to do so in its current incarnation. This year, we’re in the unusual position of a Seoul-trained horse, Final Boss, being the early favourite to emulate him.


Power Blade won the KRA Cup Mile on his way to the Triple Crown last year (Pic: KRA)

Only four Seoul horses are among the 21 currently nominated for the race but three of those four are strong. The unbeaten Lion Rock is a full brother to Triple Nine (who will race in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan on World Cup night on March 25th) joins Final Boss and the promising Taeyangui Jeonseol as contenders. Here’s a run-down of the current nominations with race records and trainer:

Blue Time (filly) (8/3/1/0) Oh Mun-sik – Won three in a row at the back end of 2016 but hasn’t really pushed on. 9th behind Ice Marine in the Gyeongnam Sinmun.

Morning Park (7/1/3/0) Oh Mun-sik – Yet to go further than 1300M and 5th of 12 on first try at class 4.

American Power (4/3/1/0) Kim Young-kwan – Won his first three but unexpectedly defeated by a nose by a 6-year-old gelding (Yankee Dream) on his first try at a mile last start. A contender.

Wonder Wall (9/3/4/1) Kim Young-kwan – Owned by Shunsuke Yoshida he’s come back into form after being 4th to Final Boss in the Breeders’ Cup. A win at a mile and a 2nd at 1800M last start.

Happy Gongju (filly) (5/3/0/2) Jang Se-han – 3rd to Ice Marine in the Gyeongnam Sinmun. Oaks likely to be the bigger target.

Adeleui Bom (9/2/1/1) Baik Kwang-yeol – Holds a 2nd place over a mile at class 4. Not one of the top contenders but not impossible.

Daeho Sidae (6/4/2/0) Baik Kwang-yeol – 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup and a winner at both a mile and 1800 since. Already a class 2 horse and arguably Busan’s top hope.

Party Tonight (8/0/3/1) Baik Kwang-yeol – One of only two maidens still in. Three 2nd places, one at this distance. Likely to be the one from the trainer who drops.

Illyu Star (8/4/0/1) An Woo-sung – Back among the wins last start. Previous try at a mile didn’t go particularly well.

Muhan Yeoljeong (8/3/1/2) An Woo-sung – 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup and a class 4 winner at a mile last time. He’s in the frame.

Seongsan Jilju (6/2/0/1) Yang Kui-sun – Won a couple of five furlong races but hasn’t looked especially smart at any further.

Ice Marine (filly) (9/5/2/0) Choi Ki-hong – Dominant winner of the Gyeongnam Sinmun puting her in pole position for the Oaks. She’s been beaten by some of these colts before though.

Yongwangdam (5/2/0/1) Mun Je-bok – Class 5 winner at a mile but 5th to Ice Marine in the Gyeongnam Sinmun suggests there is plenty to find.

Indian King (8/2/2/2) Mun Je-bok – Two class 4 3rd places at a mile suggests there could be more to come from this one.

Royal Ruby (7/4/1/1) Peter Wolsley – This one has been under the radar a little bit but has won over 1800M and looks a serious player.

Bulkkot Nori (6/3/0/1) Peter Wolsley – Won three of his first four and was 3rd over a mile at class 4 last start. Others  look more advanced at this stage.

Yeonggwanguihunter (6/2/0/0) Lim Keum-man – Not shown an awful lot so far and was 5th on his only try at class 4 so far.

Final Boss (8/6/1/0) Ji Yong-cheol (Seoul) – The Breeders’ Cup winner has gone on to win twice around two-turns this year. A Seoul horse going to Busan aside, he is the favourite and a strong one at that.

Daeseung Bibob (6/0/2/1) Ji Yong-cheol (Seoul) – Stable-mate of Final Boss which is perhaps the only reason for his inclusion.

Lion Rock (3/3/0/0) Lee Shin-young (Seoul) – Full brother to Triple Nine, he’s the only one who enters unbeaten. It may be too much too soon with the Derby & Minister’s Cup the main targets, but don’t rule out.

Taeyangui Jeonseol (5/3/0/0) Yoo Jae-gil (Seoul) – Back to back wins at 1700M puts this still unexposed colt firmly in the hunt.

The maximum field size is 16 so at least five will miss out and it is possible for others to nominate this week as well – Nasca Prince, who won at Seoul on Sunday, being a potential one, given that as it stands the Capital as usual isn’t taking up as many spots as it has been assigned.  As in all races in Korea, no more than 2 horses can be from the same trainer. Seoul last won the race with Cheongnyong Bisang, now improbably a ranch horse in the USA, in 2014, but Final Boss currently looks the one to beat here. We’ll have plenty more build up to the start of a fascinating Triple Crown series over next couple of weeks.

Always Winner All The Way Again

He did it in January in the Segye Ilbo Cup and today in Group company, Always Winner once more got the jump on the field and scored an all the way victory in the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy.

Always Winner Owners

Always Winner and Park Eul Woon return to scale having won the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy

Always Winner was sent off as a 20/1 outsider in the Segye Ilbo but hit the front early to beat a decent field that included four who returned to face him again. This time he was a little bit more respected, punters making him the 7/1 fourth choice.

Today under Park Eul-woon, Always Winner once more broke the best and found the front form the gate and once more it was a lead he would not relinquish as he ran on to win by half a length. Coming 2nd was favourite Cheonji Storm who, while expected to be on pace instead went right to the back of the field before flying home down the outside. A few more strides and he would have won – and surely will will plenty later this year.

Best Guy, 2nd in the Segye Ilbo, put in another creditable run in 3rd while Gorgeous Dream returned to some semblance of form in 4th. There was no luck for Brian Dean’s Jangsanjewang, however, who gave it a good go tracking Always Winner early in the race but just couldn’t get home.

Always Winner, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Shim Seung-tae was winning for the 7th time in 24 races.

Owners’ Association Trophy (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – March 12, 2017

1. Always Winner (KOR) [Creek Cat – Hallat’Eukgeup (Land Rush)] – Park Eul Woon – 7.8, 2.7
2. Cheonji Storm (KOR) [Admire Don – Great Thought (Empire Maker)] – Kim Yong Geun – 1.5
3. Best Guy (KOR) [Didyme – Madam Winette (Danewin)] – Kim Cheol Ho – 3.4
Distances: 0.5 lengths / 3 lengths – 13 ran

Seoul Owners Association Trophy: Runner-By-Runner Preview

Thirteen horses will line up on Sunday afternoon for Korea’s first domestic Group race of 2017, the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy. And there are plenty in with a shout in the Group 3 contest.

(Always Winner made all to beat a number of his rivals here in the Segye Ilbo Cup in January. Can he do the same on Sunday?)

The Owners Trophy is race 9 on an 11-race Sunday ard at Seoul which runs from 10:45 to 18:00. There are also 6 races at Busan from 12:35 to 17:05. Here’s a run down of the field:

1.  Cheonji Storm – 6th in last year’s President’s Cup and class 1 winner over 1800M on season debut a month ago. Steps back to 1200M for the first time since debut as a 2-year-old. Front runner and strong claims.

2 . Cheonnyeonuigippeum – Has suffered plenty of setbacks and last raced at the beginning of December, only beating two. Hard to see him having the required speed to be a danger here.

3 . Chang Se – Won a good race last summer but has gone cold in three starts since, most recently a one-paced effort over this distance on Feb 5th. Improvement not impossible but big upturn in form needed.

4 . Sambong – Consistent performer who, surprisingly, has never actually raced at 1200M before. Latest was 2nd behind Cheonji Storm at 1400M in February and he should be a danger again.

5 . Haemaru – Won this race last year and followed up with 2000M Stakes win a month later. Only returned to winner’s circle once since & was 5th in the Segye Ilbo Cup, despite suffering interference and laying out throughout. A closer, even in sprints, he’ll need some luck in running but it’s not impossible.

6.  Global Fusion –  3rd in the Segye Ilbo running on really well having been bumped at the start. Good winner at the distance the time before. Tactically versatile, Djordje Perovic take the mount for the first time and he has a chance.

7. Winner’s Glory – 4th in last year’s Korean Derby, he enters having won three in a row around two turns. Back to 1200M for the first time since he was a juvenile, he should be on pace early and has solid claims.

8. Theme Deunggeuk – Beaten by plenty of his rivals here in his last two races but both were over 1800M. He was a winner at class 2 over 1400M last November. Won’t be among the favourites but can give a decent account of himself.

9. Always Winner – Got the jump on the field to make all in the Segye Ilbo Cup ahead of five of these at odds of 20/1 in February. Tougher ask today but with a good start must be respected.

10. Best Guy – 2nd to Always Winner in the Segye Ilbo running on very nicely. He is a decent sprinter with class 1 wins to his name. Others will be favoured but another good run can’t be ruled out.

11. Jangsanjewang – Brian Dean’s gelding is a top-class sprinter who won his first class 1 outing at this distance last month. Trialled up very nicely last week, this is his toughest ask to date but he has every chance.

12. Gorgeous Dream – Looked a potential star winning 8 of his first 9 starts but has gone off the rails lately. Had excuses when beaten in November but fewer in his last two, including 7th in the Segye Ilbo Cup. Undoubetedly talented though and will be backed.

13. Gumanseok – Very solid competitor who won over 1800M in January beating a couple of these. Well back behind Cheonji Storm last time though. Steps back to this distance for the first time since this race last year, he always gives an honest account of himself.


Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (March 10)

Korea’s first Group race of 2017 takes place on Sunday with the G3 Owners Association Trophy at Seoul. More on that over the next couple of days. In the meantime, racing gets underway at Busan on Friday with a 10-race card from 11:30 to 18:00.

English race cards can be found here. Notes on races to be simulcast overseas are below:

Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

1. MUNHWA DAERO – Beaten a few in four starts to date but much to find.

2. HWANGGEUMBITYEONGU – 5th of 12 his best in January but only beat one home last time.

3. SAMSEONG BLADE – Debut maker from top owner & trainer. Decent trial and will be backed. (more…)

Eunha Chelma, Ice Marine Impressive Winners Of “Tiara” Step Races

Some markers were laid down among the 3-year-old filly ranks on Sunday as Eunha Chelma and Ice Marine respectively dominated the Sports Seoul and Gyeongnam Sinmun Cups at Seoul and Busan.

Eunha Chelma entered uneaten with two wins from two and maintained her 100% record by accelerating away from the field in the final furlong to win by three lengths from Brian Dean’s Rocket Queen.

Sports Seoul Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – March 5, 2017

1. Eunha Chelma (KOR) [Vicar-Intouchable (Elusive Quality)] – Lee Hyeon Jong – 4.0, 1.8
2. Rocket Queen (KOR) [Vicar-Starletbound (Gone West)] – Jeong Jeong Hee – 1.2
3. Amazonas (KOR) [Officer-Happy Queen (Revere)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 2.1
Distances: 3 lengths / Nose – 10 ran

At Busan, Ice Marine was already a known quantity having been 2nd in Busan’s top juvenile race (also called the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup) last October before having an off-day at Seoul in the Breeders’ Cup race in December. She began her 3-year-old campaign with a win over 1200M a month ago and headed into Sunday’s race as the odds-on favourite.

Ice Marine didn’t disappoint as she led every step of the way to record a very comfortable 6-length win on the line.

Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup (Listed) – Busan Racecourse – 1400M – March 5, 2017

1. Ice Marine (KOR) [Officer-Runkerry Point (Giant’s Causeway) – Song Keong Yun – 1.7, 1.2
2. Morning Baramse [Simon Pure-D’Lovely Cat (Unbridled’s Song)] – Jo In Kwen – 5.2
3. Happy Gongju [Officer-Happy Jo (Johannesburg)] – Yonekura Satoshi – 1.9
Distances: 6 lengths / 0.75 lengths – 11 ran

In other 3-year-old news at Busan, Peter Wolsley’s Royal Ruby (Chapel Royal) continued his impressive progress. He landed his third consecutive win and second at 1800M. He beat a decent class 4 line-up, winning a photo finish by a nose from Triple Nine’s little sister, the Thomas Gillespie-trained Black Sapphire.

Stakes action returns to Seoul this coming Sunday with the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy, the first Korean Group race of 2017.

Choegangja Four For Four For Brian Dean

Brian Dean looks to have a lively one on his hands. Choegangja stepped up to class 1 at Seoul for the first time on Saturday afternoon and and absolutely blitzed by no means hopeless set of rivals over 1200M. Swedish jockey Shane Karlsson was in the saddle.

Choegangja (Silver Train) is a four-year-old gelding who had shown promise but not a whole lot else, winning one out of six starts before he was transferred to Brian Dean last autumn. Since then he’s been unstoppable, winning four out of four and transitioning from class 3 to class 1 in the process. Yesterday, he got the jump on the field and never looked back, leading home Canada-bred filly Gaenari by four lengths in a quick time. If he continues his progress, he’ll be a Korea-sprint contender come September.

Aussie trainer Dean continues to get results under the no doubt challenging circumstances of being the first foreign trainer at Seoul. Only 3 of the 51 trainers at Seoul have sent out fewer horses than Dean in 2017 so far and yet he finds himself up in 9th place in the the Trainer Premiership with a vastly superior Win, Place and Show strike-rate than any other handler at the track. Owners may start to take note.

As for Karlsson, he too is showing useful figures. Choegangja was his 4th Korean winner (he won on him last start too) – all of them for Dean. Other trainers may wish to take note of that too.

Sunday Seoul & Busan: Preview (March 5)

Fillies take centre-stage at Seoul & Busan on Sunday as the most promising 3-year-olds race for big prizes in the Sports Seoul and Gyeongnam Sinmun Cups. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:40 to 17:05.

English racecards can be found here. Notes on the three overseas simulcast races are below:

Seoul Race 8: Class 4 / 1700M / Handicap / KRW 60 Million

1. MR. FORTUNE – Winner of 3 from 5 including one at this class. First time around two turns but can make all. Big chance. (more…)