The first Korean Listed or Stakes race of 2018 takes place at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon and a good one it is too as thirteen runners, including last year’s Derby winner Final Boss, go in the Segye Ilbo Cup over 1200M. In total there are 11 Sunday races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:40 to 17:05. Here are the previews:
Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
An improved 3rd on what was her third start on January 6th leads us to put (9) SEOUL STORY on top in this all-filly (and one mare) event. She raced prominently that day and seems to be figuring things out. The primary danger is (12) BURUI SOKDO, 2nd on debut a full twelve-lengths behind the promising Galaxy Power but nevertheless showing promise herself. The wide draw is perhaps not ideal but can certainly be overcome. (1) ROAD WOMAN and (5) ORANGE SOCKS have shown some glimpses of potential talent and may improve while among the four first-time starters, (11) QUEEN FORCE ONE is the standout. She looked good in trials and has a top jockey on board first-up.
|Selections||(9) Seoul Story (12) Burui Sokdo (11) Queen Force One (1) Road Woman|
|Next Best||5, 8|
|Fast Start||2, 5, 9, 12|
Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
(5) GLOBAL NEWS will be overwhelming favourite to win this. He was a very solid 2nd to Nam Son and ahead of one who won yesterday in what is turning out to have been a very decent race on debut in December and if he runs anything like that, there is nothing here that can challenge him. He should get and easy lead and an easy win. Slim pickings among the rest. (4) GRAND DOLPUNG was well down the track debuting in that very same race as Global News but may improve while of the debut-makers, (2) HAPPY MAUNTAIN and (3) SKY STORM perhaps have the best chance of doing well in their first outings.
|Selections||(5) Global News (4) Grand Dolpung (2) Happy Mauntain (3) Sky Storm|
Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
(9) GUREUM SONJITHAE managed a decent 2nd place back in November over 1300M which led him to be sent off as favourite for his reappearance over the same trip just before Christmas. It didn’t quite work out as she came home 5th but stepped back to the minimum today and with seemingly slightly softer opposition, she can win this. (1) RAON DOLPUNG was an improved 3rd when tried at this trip for the first time on Christmas Eve and should be the main threat, likely joining the favourite on the early speed. (2) JEWANGUI BYEOL was a creditable 5th on debut in a different race on the same day and can build on that today. (4) EMERALD KING and (8) AREUMDAUN CHEONSA both went poorly last start but can improve.
|Selections||(9) Gureum Sonjithae (1) Raon Dolpung (2) Jewangui Byeol (4) Emerald King|
|Fast Start||1, 8, 9|
Seoul Race 4: Class5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(8) BRANDON beat (3) STRONG MAN as the pair raced 1st and 3rd at class and distance on a very wet track on Christmas Eve. Both were outsiders that day and the conditions will be very different but both are very much in the frame again. (12) LUCKY BONGHWA may be yet to win in six attempts but he’s never been any worse than 5th and has generally been beaten by decent types. He’ll be looking to get into a forward position early from the widest gate and if he manages it, he can be close. (5) DAECHEON ACE is perhaps the one who enters in the best form though. 2nd and 3rd in his last two, both competitive contests at this class, he’s ideally drawn to get the early lead and can go all the way this time.
|Selections||(5) Daecheon Ace (12) Lucky Bonghwa (8) Brandon (3) Strong Man|
|Next Best||7, 10|
|Fast Start||5, 7, 8, 12|
Seoul Race 5: Class 4 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
Aussie import (4) PRINCE MEMORY led for much of his debut on December 17th but just came up short over 1200M. The Sepoy gelding drops back to the minimum distance today and has solid claims for a maiden victory here. (1) TONGIL DAERO steps up in class following an all the way win over the distance at domestic class 5 three weeks ago and can follow-up. Those two will likely be contesting the early lead. (11) BEST YEJI was a winner at this class and distance last time and warrants respect. (3) LEADING RACER closed strongly for 3rd place behind Prince Memory and while he’s yet to win in twenty attempts, his recent form reads well and he can be involved. (10) PHILIPPOS, (12) POSEIDON MARINE and debut-maker (2) OLD IRISH BRET others in the frame in a very competitive race.
|Selections||(4) Prince Memory (1) Tongil Daero (2) Old Irish Bret (10) Philippos|
|Next Best||12, 11, 5|
|Fast Start||1, 4, 5, 11|
Busan Race 2: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(8) RED CLOUD comes in having been runner-up in three of his four starts so far. He hasn’t been favourite on any of those occasions and has been beaten by good horses (the same one twice) each time. Today, he should be favourite and should lead all the way. (4) MR. KOREA finished 6th behind Red Cloud last time. He didn’t have the luckiest of trips that day though and can get closer here. The time before, Mr. Korea beat (2) DAMYANG GONGJU as the pair came home 1st and 2nd at class 6. Damyang Gongju went on to get her maiden win a month later and steps up in class here with a chance herself. She should join Red Cloud on the early speed. (3) SUPER MAGIC and (11) VICAR SARANG are others in the placing hunt.
|Selections||(8) Red Cloud (2) Damyang Gongju (4) Mr. Korea (11) Vicar Sarang|
|Next Best||3, 10|
|Fast Start||2, 8|
Seoul Race 6: Class 5 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
(9) K.N. BLUE has shown some ability so far and while he was a little overmatched in a tough juvenile race on Christmas Eve, he steps up to two turns for the first time with strong claims. The trip is the unknown, but he’s tended to run on well in his races and will have every chance under a patient ride by Moon Se Young. (3) YEOKDAE CHOESANG has plenty of experience at this distance if not of actually winning and she resumes nine weeks after she was only beaten a nose into 2nd at it. It was the closest she’s gone so far, and we can expect to see her competing from the front here. (1) GOLD SOCKS and (5) BULHUUI MYEONGGOG finished 3rd and 5th respectively at class and distance on Christmas Eve and both can get close again. (6) SPEED IS KHAN is up in class following a 3rd and two 2nd placed finishes in three efforts so far and looks to be the wildcard.
|Selections||(9) K.N. Blue (3) Yeokdae Choesang (5) Bulhuui Myeonggog (1) Gold Socks|
|Next Best||6, 11|
|Fast Start||1, 3, 7|
Busan Race 3: Class 4 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
Just three-year-old imports here hence the smaller than usual field size. Half of them debut but it’s hard to oppose (8) NEW YORK MANGCHI. He was just beaten a neck on debut over the distance on New Year’s Eve with the winner of that race, Cubaui Yeoljeong, having run reasonably well again this past Friday. A gate-to-wire win seems most likely. (7) HIDDEN STAR also put in a creditable debut, finishing 3rd three weeks ago and looks a clear second choice here. For the rest, we’ll turn to the debut-makers and Bart Rice’s (5) TIZ EMPRESS looks the pick of those having trialled nice and smartly at the end of last year. (6) LUCKY PRIME too caught the eye in the mornings.
|Selections||(8) New York Mangchi (7) Hidden Star (5) Tiz Empress (6) Lucky Prime|
|Next Best||3, 4|
|Fast Start||3, 8|
Seoul Race 7: Class 4 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
Good competitive race this. (8) MASK came 2nd to the very promising Sinui Myeongryeong in a tough juvenile race on Christmas Eve, only beaten half a length. In fact, although he’s only won one of his five outings so far, Mask has consistently raced against the best of his year group and has impressed each time. He could win what is his first time going any further than 1300M. There are no distance concerns about (7) TAMNA KING. He beat two of these on his way to 2nd place behind Hibiki last month at the distance and looks a big threat here. One of those behind him was (11) TEUKBYEOL STAR, who finished 3rd. She finished in that position in last year’s Korean Oaks as well and remarkably remains a maiden. She should be close again but may have to settle for a minor money finish again. (9) FINE CHAMP is a proven winner at the distance and must be taken into consideration while (4) FIRE WIND steps up in trip for the first time but does look to have some talent and is likely to join the early pace-setters.
|Selections||(8) Mask (7) Tamna King (9) Fine Champ (4) Fire Wind|
|Next Best||11, 2, 3|
Busan Race 4: Class 4 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
Small field but good race. (3) YEONGCHEON DERBY is two for two and was a four-length winner of the Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Trophy on just his second start in November. He hasn’t raced since, being a late scratching from a planned run on December 22nd due to a muscle injury in his hind-quarters. He’s back fit now and takes on a mile for the first time and has to go straight into the frame. Tough race though. (9) YEONGGWANGUIWINNER is up in class and distance after consecutive wins at 1300M, both time beating Red Cloud, who we saw in race 2. (6) YONGWANGDAM enters following a really good 2nd place at class and distance on New Year’s Eve and will be a threat. Stewards wrote an essay about the performance of (1) HIGH SPEC, who finished 4th behind (5) HWANSANGUI JILJU when favourite three weeks ago. The gist of it was that they felt had the jockey made some better decisions, the horse would have placed higher. Said jockey gets an opportunity to put things right here.
|Selections||(3) Yeongcheon Derby (9) Yeonggwanguiwinner (6) Yongwangdam (1) High Spec|
|Next Best||5, 4, 8|
Seoul Race 8: Class 4 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
(1) TIZ PLAN was a winner on debut and has followed up with creditable 5th place finishes in tough races. He can settle behind the early lead today and this race looks there for the taking for him. She’s the only previous winner in the field although (4) MONTEVIDEO has come close on two of his three starts so far, crossing the line first on his second outing in October before losing the race in the stewards’ room. He went on to run a good 2nd in his only race since and will be the likely pace-setter today. (8) SEOUL EOMJI and (9) MAKJIMA have shown some traces of ability too and could be involved while (6) WELLNESS K may have finished last on debut in December but the jockey booking will tempt some.
|Selections||(1) Tiz Plan (4) Montevideo (9) Makjima (8) Seoul Eomji|
|Next Best||5, 6|
Busan Race 5: Class 3 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
(2) PASHA has been favourite, albeit not hot favourite, twice in a row now has just come up short on both occasions. Last time he had a wide draw and couldn’t take up his favoured position so got stuck in the kickback and raced poorly behind both (4) SAEROUN BEOPCHIK and (7) YEGEURINA. Those excuses shouldn’t apply today and he can be given another chance. (6) FINEST WARRIOR has a win and two 2nd place finishes from three efforts so far. On his way to that latest 2nd, he beat (1) ACE KOREA and (5) TOKYO BLUE very handily over 1200M and steps up to this distance for the first time looking a serious danger.
|Selections||(2) Pasha (6) Finest Warrior (1) Ace Korea (5) Tokyo Blue|
|Next Best||7, 4|
|Fast Start||3, 4, 6|
Seoul Race 9: Class Open “The Segye Ilbo Cup” (1200M) Allowance / KRW 250 Million
- GUMANSEOK – Still going strong(ish) as he kicks off his season as 9-year-old. It’s more thsn a year since his last win though and he hasn’t been any better than 6th in seven efforts since. Well back behind Gasokbulpae and Final Boss in the Trainers’ Cup last time.
- RAON ROUIS – Back to back victories at this distance in September and October saw him up to the elite level but he has struggled in his latest two, finishing behind a number of his rivals here. “Full” brother to Raon Magic.
- BEST GUY – 10th behind Cheonji Storm on a wet track in November aside, his recent form reads good. He was 2nd to Cheogangja in slow conditions at this distance just before Christmas and shouldn’t be too far away. 2nd in this race a year ago.
- ALWAYS WINNER – Won this race last year and followed up with a further Listed success a month later. Recent form has been cold but if he gets off to a fast start and gets the lead, anything can happen.
- RAON MAGIC – Seven wins from eight starts with his latest being a facile gate to wire win over the distance at class 2 on December 2nd. This is, of course, a considerable stiffer assignment and he’s yet to put in a really fast time. He’s not needed to though and has done all that’s been asked of him so far. He’ll be on the early speed and it’s not impossible.
- CITY STAR – Came back into form with a battling win over 1400M on December 17th and skipped a trip to the Dubai World Cup Carnival with at least one eye on this race. Usually settles in midfield with a strong finish, this is his first time back at this trip since winning at it last March. He’s the third highest rated here and is a contender.
- FINAL BOSS – Last year’s Korean Derby winner, he’s been up and down since but ended 2017 with 3rd place behind Gasokbulpae in the Trainers’ Cup. A bit of a frustrating talent, he still has the potential to be very good. Last time he went at this trip it took him too long to get involved so he must make sure he doesn’t leave himself too much to do.
- SANGGAM MAMA – Track record holder at 1400M which he achieved while on a run of four straight wins between last August and October. He couldn’t maintain that run, finishing 7th – but not far back – behind Cheonji Storm in November before ending the year with a less impressive 10th of 11 behind City Star. He needs to be on the early pace.
- MENI MUSIC – The only mare in the race she made all to win over this distance just three weeks ago. It was at class 2 so she’s taking on much stiffer company today and though she can hold her own, she’ll have to find plenty of improvement again to place.
- GASOKBULPAE – He briefly held the track record at this distance last summer and after running last in the Korea Sprint, seemed to benefit from three months off. He came back a winner of the Trainers’ Cup, beating Final Boss and others who go here and he’s a live contender today. He’ll want to be close to the early speed. With his last two jockeys both ruled out for different reasons, it’s a big opportunity for Antonio Da Silva.
- CHEONJI STORM – Returned from seven months out to fly home late on the outside on a wet track at the end of November at this distance with three of his rivals here well down the track. Plenty of talent, if the race sets up for him, he has a real chance of winning
- YAHO SKY CAT – After a great start to his career, he’s developed into a dependable class 1 horse who picks up some minor prize money every now and then without ever looking like winning. 6th of 12 in this race last year and that would be about par today.
- GLOBAL FUSION – 3rd in this race last year, he hadn’t done a lot since and would probably come in as rank outsider were it not for an unexpected when 3rd behind Best Guy on December 23rd. The track was running very slow that day, but it was a return to form. Whether he can keep it up is the question.
Verdict: It’s the first Listed or Stakes race of the year in Korea and wide open it is too. (11) CHEONJI STORM gets the very narrow nod though following his exceptional performance last start. True, conditions are likely to be very different today, but he looks to be finally living up to his very real potential. Depending on which (7) FINAL BOSS shows up, the Derby winner should be heavily involved and he is the second choice with (3) BEST GUY, (6) CITY STAR and (10) GASOKBULPAE other leading contenders in what should be a really good sprint.
|Selections||(11) Cheonji Storm (7) Final Boss (6) City Star (3) Best Guy|
|Next Best||10, 5|
|Fast Start||2, 4, 5, 8|
Busan Race 6: Class 1 (2000M) Handicap / KRW 110 Million
This is a “Road to G1” race and brings together a talented set of runners. (11) BUHWARUI BANSEOK overcame a poor start to run a huge race in last month’s Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul. That was the second time in a row he’s done that but he’s a properly good horse and it could come right today. (8) APPROACH beat three of these on his way to 2nd place, just a nose behind Success Story on New Year’s Eve and he will be a front-running danger here while (7) PPUDEUT returned from a lengthy absence to run out an excellent winner over 1800M last month. He’s up in class but beautifully weighted and could win. (4) DYNAMIC DASH also went to Seoul for the Grand Prix but was a little less impressive than Buhwarui Banseok. Nevertheless, back at 2000M, he can go well as can (9) DAEHO SIDAE, 3rd of 7 on his class 1 bow three weeks ago after being bumped around at the start.
|Selections||(11) Buhwarui Banseok (8) Approach (7) Ppudeut (9) Daeho Sidae|
|Next Best||4, 6, 5|
|Fast Start||1, 2, 8, 10|
Seoul Race 10: Class 2 (1800M) Handicap / KRW 90 Million
(7) GEUMA ZEUS was a somewhat surprising winner over class and distance on December 23rd, beating three of these in the process and while today looks harder and he carries an extra 4kg, he does warrant respect. Among those beaten that day, (3) PENACOVA has the best chance of overturning the form having just weakened a little late on that time. (6) SPERO is was a solid 3rd on his first try at this level over 1900M on December 10th having led until the closing stages. He made all to win over this distance the time before that and should be on speed again. (10) ULTRA ROCKET was 4th in the Trainer’s Cup just before Christmas, a tough race over 1400M and tries this distance for the first time. He is a two-time winner over 1700M though and should be able to cope well. (9) CHEONGDAM DAERO and the up in class (1) OKAY GOOD are others to consider.
|Selections||(10) Ultra Rocket (6) Spero (3) Penacova (7) Geuma Zeus|
|Next Best||9, 1|
|Fast Start||1, 5, 6|
Seoul Race 11: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(1) CHARMING GOOD’s recent form reads very nicely and following a 2nd and a pair of 3rd place finishes, he can be backed to get it right today. It won’t be easy though. (6) HAEGARAM beat (4) SEVEN’S LUCKY and (10) CHEONHA JEWANG as the three of them finished within a neck of each other running 1st, 2nd and 3rd at class and distance on Christmas Eve – none of them were particularly well-fancied that day but all three will have their backers here. (11) YEONDARA came from off the pace to win at this class over 1400M last time out and should also be a threat while (7) GWANGMA HILL is a winner at this level over 1300M and should also be in the frame.
|Selections||(1) Charming Good (7) Gwangma Hill (11) Yeondara (10) Cheonha Jewang|
|Next Best||6, 4|
|Fast Start||4, 5, 7, 11|