Month: December 2017

Power Blade’s Grand Prix The Best Yet

On Sunday, we probably saw the best Grand Prix Stakes we ever have. The 2015 edition, won by Bold Kings, was outstanding, while for those of us who go in for that sort of thing, Tough Win’s 2011 victory over fellow “troika” members, Mister Park and Smarty Moonhak will always be special, even if the race itself wasn’t that exciting.  Power Blade’s victory this year, on the other hand, was in a race that involved a win by a genuine star in a contest that wasn’t settled until the final stride.

Power Blade Grand Prix Fnish1

Power Blade wins the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)

Cheongdam Dokki, the three-year-old favourite, set a pace that was quite brutal by Korean standards. In a Grand Prix Stakes, only Ugildongja in 2009 and Beolmaui Kkum in 2014 had set anything close to his early sectionals – and both finished well back in their respective fields. Cheongdam Dokki didn’t. The final time of Power Blade broke the 2300M track record by over a second and was precisely three seconds quicker than the fastest previous Grand Prix – the aforementioned 2009 edition, which was won by Dongbanui Gangja.

The horses who went with Cheongdam Dokki – or at least tried to – simply had nothing left for the closing stages; Diferent Dimension, Dynamic Dash and last to succumb, Silver Wolf, fading through the pack. The only one who kept pace early and had something to offer was the outstanding Triple Nine. Lim Sung Sil, possibly fearing that Cheongdam Dokki was simply too good, began to get after Triple Nine as they began the long turn for home, a full four-furlongs out, in order to keep up with the leader. At the same time Oh Kyung Hwan on Power Blade and Park Jae I on Dongbang Daero opted to save energy and allowed their mounts a more leisurely trip, ultimately paying huge dividends in the closing stages.

It is therefore perhaps testament to the sheer ability of Triple Nine and the huge potential of Cheongdam Dokki that they still managed to finish 3rd and 4th respectively after such stiff early efforts. Less than three lengths separated the winner and 5th placed Buhwarui Banseok.

Power Blade Grand Prix Winners Circle

Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic: KRA)

Dongbang Daero had finished 3rd behind Saengil Gippeum in what was a trial for the Grand Prix over 2200M at Busan at the beginning of November. Saengil Gippeum blew them away that day but Dongbang Daero had finished the quickest, running on very nicely to become involved in a finish in which there was just half a length separating 2nd and 6th. Buhwarui Banseok was also involved in that finish and he too ran on very well on Sunday.

Last year’s winner Clean Up Joy didn’t look the part before the race and never really featured, ending up in 7th place.

It became clear around two furlongs out that Cheongdam Dokki wasn’t going to be able to keep things up the whole way around. Triple Nine got first crack at him but Power Blade and Dongbang Daero simply had too much in reserve and Power Blade’s class saw him home by a Head on the line.

It is a shame that neither Triple Nine nor Power Blade will be returning to the Dubai World Cup Carnival as both look eminently capable of winning a race this time around. Connections have other plans, however, and hopefully they’ll get a nice long rest through the worst of the winter – although in all honesty, it would be no surprise to see one or other lining up in a nondescript Class 1 handicap come February. The pair of them have been such good ambassadors for Korean racing over the past three seasons, that they went overseas even once is something we can be grateful for. That trip, plus their showings in the Korea Cup and Sprint demonstrated that the pair of them could hold their own to a good (not elite, but good) standard anywhere.

Trainer Kim Young Kwan can divide opinions, but there can be no denying that when a horse of his comes out to run in a big race, his team will have it in peak condition and Triple Nine and Power Blade are the epitome of this – Triple Nine’s Godolphin Mile aside (and he was in desperate need of a spell then), they never seem to have an off-day.

Both now have claims to be the top Korean-bred horse ever. Power Blade’s Triple Crown and Grand Prix matching up with Triple Nine’s President’s Cup hat-trick. Their prize money earnings are almost identical with both breaking the 3 Billion Won barrier at the Grand Prix.  They’ve raced each other seven times now with Triple Nine leading the head-to-head by 4 to 3  – although Power Blade has now won three of their last four meetings.

We head into 2018 with plenty to be excited about on track. Cheongdam Dokki’s development along with the pair who ultimately didn’t run in the Grand Prix, Dolkong and New Citadel. Then there is the emergence of a new domestic three-year-old crop which looks stronger than this year’s. Still on top for now though are Power Blade and Triple Nine and next year they will still only be five and six-years-old.

 

 

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Magnificent Power Blade Wins the Grand Prix Stakes 2017

Power Blade, the 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner on Sunday topped even that, racing to victory in Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes.

Power Blade Grabd Prix

Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic. J. Kim)

3-year-old phenom Cheongdam Dokki was sent off as favourite for the 2300M season-finale with Triple Nine 2nd best in punter’s eyes ahead of Power Blade who started in excess of 12/1. Cheongdam Dokki did indeed set the pace in the early part of the race but once he got into unfamiliar territory in the home straight, he bag to tire. Triple Nine got first crack at him but ultimately it was Power Blade and – to the surprise of most – 150/1 Dongbang Daero who came through to dispute the finish, Power Blade triumphing by a Head on the line. Triple Nine was a game as ever 3rd with Cheongdam Dokki 4th and Bart Rice’s Buhwarui Banseok a very good 5th.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 10, 2017

1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonachong (Lost Mountain)] – Oh Kyung Hwan – 13.1, 2.1
2. Dongbang Daero (USA) [Curlin – Willa Joe (El Gran Senor)] – Park Jae I – 17.0
3. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.0
Distances: Head / 1.25 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) 5. Buhwarui Banseok (USA) 6. Champ Line (KOR) 7. Clean Up Joy (USA 8. Silver Wolf (AUS) 9. Dynamic Dash (USA) 10. Saengil Gippeum (USA) 11. Cheonjeok (USA) 12. Diferent Dimension (USA)

More to follow.

Sunday Seoul & Busan: Grand Prix Stakes Day Race-By-Race Preview (December 10)

Sunday is Grand Prix Stakes Day! Full preview of the big race is here. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 while down at Busan there are 6 races from 12:40 to 17:05. Here’s the full race-by-race preview of the other races on the card:

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(10) M.J. CAPTAIN beat (11) ARES THUNDER as the pair ran 4th and 5th over the distance on November 11th. The former also has a 2nd place to his name and could make the breakthrough here. For Ares Thunder that was an improvement and he can go well as well. The Yoshida-owned (3) CONKER has shown steady improvement over five races so far and comes into consideration with a likely fast start while (6) RUBY BEOLKIN hasn’t been too far away in recent efforts and can make a bid for the places.

Selections (10) M.J. Captain (3) Conker (11) Ares Thunder (6) Ruby Beolkin
Next Best 12, 5
Fast Start 1, 3, 5, 10

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Five first-timers go here but it’s the ones with experience that are likely to be favoured. (5) CHEONJI BOBAE is the pick. She’s been prominent in both starts so far and managed 2nd over this distance on November 11th. (1) TAMNA YEOSIN was an improved 4th in a decent contest at this distance a on what was her second outing. She led for much of that race and can come on more here. (6) LOVELY NUTE and (7) THUNDER WARRIOR should have learned from their debuts and can improve while of the first-time starters, (2) GOLDEN SKY and (10) GARA GARA GA look the pick.

Selections (5) Cheonji Bobae (1) Tamna Yeosin (7) Thunder Warrior  (10) Gara Gara Ga
Next Best 6, 2, 11
Fast Start 1, 5, 10, 11

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Fillies only here and plenty in the hunt. (9) ROYAL BOKSUNI is the only one among them to have even a 2nd place finish to her name, which she achieved two starts ago in a very similar race at this distance. She’s drawn in the same gate today and can get on the early speed and go all the way. That day, (10) CHOWON YEOJEONSA was 7th but she showed improvement at 1000M three weeks ago and can be given another chance here. (3) WIND (more…)

Grand Prix Stakes 2017: Full Preview

It’s the big one. The Grand Prix Stakes 2017 is here and 3yo potential phenom Cheongdam Dokki will clash with Triple Nine, Power Blade, Clean Up Joy and a host of the biggest names in Korean racing in the season-ending showpiece at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon (see the rundown on those four horses in the video below if you can get past my ridiculous bow-tie):

While the no-show of New Citadel and Dolkong is disappointing, this Grand Prix still has the potential to be special. Is Cheongdam Dokki as good as some think he is? Can Triple Nine finally win a Grand Prix at the third attempt? Can Clean Up Joy recover from his defeat at the hands of Cheongdam Dokki to retain the crown? Or perhaps something else can win. Favourites rarely win the Grand Prix with the unfamiliar distance and the time of year contributing to lots of uncertainty at each edition.

Cheongdam Dokki and Triple Nine look set to dispute favouritism with Power Blade and Clean Up Joy likely to be next best in the market. But there are plenty of wildcards. Queens’ Tour winner Silver Wolf takes her chance while the likes of Saengil Gippeum and Diferent Dimension should relish the opportunity to have a go at this distance. Buhwarui Banseok and Champ Line are not without their merits either. Dongbang Daero, Dynamic Dash and Cheonjeok round out a high class field. The race starts at 4.40pm Korea time and is available for betting on the PMU in Europe, TAB in Australia, and most ADW’s in the United States as well as at the turf clubs in Singapore and Malysia.

1 TRIPLE NINE (KOR) Having finished 4th in the Korea Cup in September and then suffering his second reverse to Power Blade, he came back into form to win his third straight President’s Cup last month, defeating his stablemate in the process. He can take a long time to hit top-gear but we know this distance can suit. 4th in 2015 and 2nd last year, it’s not impossible he could finish on top this time. Interesting – and perhaps not ideal – draw.
2 DYNAMIC DASH (USA) 7th behind Saengil Gippeum last month having led early on and 3rd behind Diferent Dimension the time before that. It’s been a long time since the most recent of his nine career wins and he’ll be one of the outsiders here.
3 SAENGIL GIPPEUM (USA) An excellent seven-length winner of Busan’s trial for this race over 2200M on November 5th brings him into contention. He was beaten by Diferent Dimension the time before but the manner of his win last time does warrant consideration for a surprise here. Unlikely to lead early but will probably be not too far from the pace.
4 DIFERENT DIMENSION (USA) Managed a 3rd place on turf at this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival and returned to the winner’s circle in Busan over 2000M on October 22nd, making all over 2000M and beating Saengil Gippeum. Missed out on an intended run in this race last year, the distance should suit and a placing finish is possible. Generally leads or races very close to the early lead.
5 CHAMP LINE (KOR) Trained by Thomas Gillespie. Won five consecutive races up to April but has just gone gold a little since. Still 4th place last time behind Saengil Gippeum gives cause for optimism that form is on the up.
6 DONGBANG DAERO (USA) 8th in this race last yeat, he’s only won once since then but is rarey too far away. 3rd behind Saengil Gippeum at 2200M last month and an outside chance of cneaking into the money here. Recently, his running style has been to close.
7 SILVER WOLF (AUS) She won all three legs of the Queens’ Tour to become champion filly/mare this year, easily winning the finale over 2000M. She showed her versatility too with 5th place in the Korea Sprint. Obviously, today’s test is a stiff one but she’s well drawn to get close to the early lead and looks to be the wildcard. Stablemate of Clean Up Joy.
8 CHEONGDAM DOKKI (USA) The one to beat. Seven from eleven in total and winner of his last four including a comprehensive demolition of Clean Up Joy in the KRA Cup Classic. He hasn’t always been the most straightforward of colts but has behaved better in his last two. He’s won those latest four gate to wire and despite the increased distance it would be a surprise were he not to try to dominate this too. It’s not easy to do that in December in Seoul but he looks good enough.
9 BUHWARUI BANSEOK (USA) A slightly disappointing 6th behind Saengil Gippeum over 2200M last month but this is a very solid class 1 colt. First time at the distance and first time at Seoul. Tactically versatile, he’s trained by South African Bart Rice and should give a good account of himself.
10 CHEONJEOK (USA) 13th in last year’s race and the lowest rated this year and likely to be the outsider. 5 wins from 51, the most recent of those being in March. Last of 8 behind Cheongdam Dokki in the KRA Cup Classic in October. Top jockey booking though.
11 POWER BLADE (KOR) The 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner and Group 2 placed in Dubai. 2nd in the Korea Sprint to a Japanese horse, he beat Triple Nine at both 1400M and 1600M at Busan before coming up short in the President’s Cup here at Seoul over 2000M last month. 3rd in this race last year. Jockey change today – he is a tough ride – and while the distance may not be ideal, he can never be ruled out.
12 CLEAN UP JOY (USA) Last year’s winner. He began this year with three consecutive victories but then struggled in Busan in the Mayor’s Cup in July. He was a well-beaten 3rd behind Cheongdam Dokki in October’s KRA Cup Classic but by no means ran badly. He remains a strong horse and certainly can’t be ruled out but it could be that a couple of others have just got a bit better in the meantime. He will come out of the widest gate by request of his trainer.

Selections: (8) Cheongdam Dokki (1) Triple Nine (11) Power Blade (12) Clean Up Joy

Next Best: 7, 3, 4

Fast Start: 3, 4, 8

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (December 9)

There are 12 races at Seoul on Grand Prix-eve, Saturday with the 1st at 10:45 and the last at 18:00. Here are the previews:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Six first-timers, five who have each run once and one who’s run twice. That one who’s raced twice already could well be favourite as (6) CITY ANGEL was a decent 2nd on November 12th, beating (9) ACE CANT and (1) BEST BULLET in the process. He should be on pace early and can go all the way. Ace Cant can improve too and will be backed as will (3) BOLD SHINING who did nothing wrong on his own debut on October 22nd. (10) HANIL GANGJA and (11) THUNDER MARINE also acquitted themselves well and may be considered. As for the debut-makers, it’s probably a case of “watch the market” to see if anything stands out – (7) SEOUL SOL, could be the one.

Selections (11) Thunder Marine (6) City Angel (9) Ace Cant (3) Bold Shining
Next Best 10, 7, 1
Fast Start 3, 6, 7

Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Two standouts here, both of whom come in having finished in 3rd place in their respective latest outings. Both were at this distance and both in similar times against similar opposition so there isn’t much to choose between (3) DUAL CHOEGANG and (7) YEONGLAK TAEWANG. They’re both three-year-olds by Duality and are both still maidens. Perhaps the one difference between them is Yeonglak Taewang is more likely to be on the early speed. This is not a strong race so we’re looking for something to step up. Jockey bookings point to (4) MAJJABEUN SON but (9) BLUE ROCK has shown some glimpses of ability and his last start, back following six months out, can go better. (10) YONGUI JUDO improved on her second start last month and could also be in the frame.

Selections (7) Yeonglak Taeyang (3) Dual Choegang (4) Majjabeun Son (10) Yongui Judo
Next Best 9
Fast Start 6, 7, 9

Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Much better race here with plenty of potentially decent juveniles bidding for a maiden win. (6) BACK TO BACK looked good on debut and while he only managed 3rd as favourite following a swift trial, he showed enough to suggest he has wins in him. (1) EMERALD KING has back to back 3rd places both at this distance and while he’s not shown much in the way of speed so far, also looks capable of going better. (9) JEJUI HEUKSEON debuted over 1300M and while she was ten-lengths behind a good winner, was still a solid 2nd ad can be considered while (7) DOUBLE GOLD couple benefit from the additional furlong today. He’s been 4th and 3rd in two outings at 1000M, running on nicely both times. (2) MONEY ZIF and (11) BISUL GONGJU are others to consider.

Selections (1) Emerald King (6) Back To Back (9) Jejui Heukseon (7) Double Gold
Next Best 11, 2
Fast Start 3, 7, 10, 11

Race 4: Class 4 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 75 Million

(3) ROAD WINNER was a good three-length winner at this class over 1300M on November 5th and while he carries a couple of extra kilos today, can win once more, probably looking to set the pace in this small field. (4) MYEONGGA JEWANG was an all the way winner, but over 1000M on November 11th and looks to have scope for development. (5) POSEIDON MARINE debuted soundly in 3rd at this distance and also looks to have a solid (more…)

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (December 8)

Grand Prix Stakes weekend kicks off with an 11-race card at Busan on Friday. The first race is at 11:30 and the last at 18:00. Here are the previews:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(8) SAEROUN BARAM was an encouraging 4th on debut at the end of October and looks to have every chance of coming on more here. He beat (6) EDGE OF WINNER by a length that day and that one too looks to have a chance of improving. Bart Rice’s (9) IHYEN looked competent in trials and is sure to be well backed with a top jockey booking while (1) HURRICANE DREAM debuted well all the way back in January before suffering setbacks and finally returns here. Her trial wasn’t impressive but not was it concerning. (12) DONE IT MY was a decent 2nd over this distance time and should be close once more.

Selections (8) Saeroun Baram (9) Ihyen (12) Done It My (1) Hurricane Dream
Next Best 6, 7
Fast Start 2, 5, 9

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 55 Million

A much improved 2nd place on what was just his 2nd start on November 17th makes (5) CHOEGANG BULLET a likely strong favourite to score this time around. He should be away quickly and can lead from gate to wire. (2) PERFECT BOSS was an encouraging enough 5th on his first start and can improve today while it’s the same story for (6) JOEUN HAE. Five of the eleven go around for the first time and among those ones, (7) TORNADO KING looks the pick.

Selections (5) Choegang Bullet (7) Tornado King (2) Perfect Boss (6) Joeun Hae
Next Best 4, 11
Fast Start 5, 6

Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Fillies only here and while (3) CHERRY BLOSSOM didn’t find things easy in the Gold Circle Trophy back in September, she returns here after eleven weeks off in much more amenable company and can get her maiden win here. The two “Yeogeols”, (2) HAEDONG YEOGEOL and (4) OKDAN YEOGEOL appear to be the main threats with the latter turning in some decent performances recently and will surely not be at class 6 for much longer. (5) EOMJI CHEOK came home 3rd in a weak race at 1000M a month ago and looks to be on the up too while (11) SECHAGE also has scope to go better here.

Selections (3) Cherry Blossom (4) Okdan Yeogeol (2) Haedong Yeogeol (5) Eomji Cheok
Next Best 11, 6
Fast Start 3, 4

Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 55 Million

Both (7) DYNAMIC GO and (10) I’M YOUR STAR have shown promise. The former was perhaps unlucky not to win on debut on October and followed up with a strong 4th place over 1000M a month ago. I’m Your Star meanwhile debuted in a competitive race at 1200M in October, likewise finishing a good 4th. Both try the distance for the first time but both should be on the early pace and can dispute the finish between them. (9) (more…)

Obituary: Whywhywhy (2000-2017)

Sad news from the farms as American bred stallion Whywhywhy has passed away aged 17. 

On the racecourse, Whywhywhy [Mr. Greeley – Thorough Fair (Quiet American)] was a stand-out juvenile. Trained by Patrick Biancone, he won three of five races in his two-year-old season in 2002 including the G1 Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park as well as the G3 Flash Stakes at the same track and the G2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. He only ran four times as a three-year-old, not picking up any further wins and he was retired midway through 2003.

Whywhywhy proved reasonably successful at stud, siring nine Stakes winners in the USA with the best known being 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Nownownow after which he was standing for a fee of $10,000 at Gainseway Farm. This had dropped to $3,500 by the time he was purchased by Korean interests in 2011. In Korea, he stood privately at Challenger Farm on Jeju Island.

He didn’t sire any superstars in Korea but was producing very solid horses with a win rate comparable to the top sires in the country. He was 13th on the Leading General sire list in 2016 and currently lies in 12th in this year’s table with all eleven stallions ahead of him having had more runners.

Whywhywhy hadn’t covered for the past two seasons due to a leg injury but given his early popularity, it was hoped that he would return to duties. According to the farm where he stood, he had suffered from debilitating back problems for a number of years and it was complications arising from this that led to his early death which occurred on September 1st. A fuller report has been requested.

The loss of Whywhywhy is probably the highest profile in Korea this year but follows the deaths of two pensioned stallions who were prominent in the early development of the Korean breeding industry in the late 1990s, Psychobabble (Carleon) passing in March at the age of 26 and Silent Warrior (Nashwan) in February at age 25.