Month: January 2018

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 19)

There are 11 races at Busan on Friday from 11:30 to 18:00. Here are the previews:

Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

(4) DAEDONG GISANG was a much improved 2nd when tried at this distance for the first time on December 22nd and shapes to figure here. (1) GHOST WARRIOR was well back in that race but got an unfortunate trip and can be given another chance having been close before. (5) SHARP BELL looked sharp when returning from six months out two weeks ago, running 3rd over 1000M. She’s back up to a distance at which she has performed well in the past and she looks in contention. (2) ADELE HERO steps back in trip and may improve after encouraging recent runs while (3) CHANGE KHAN raced three times without distinction last year and returns from six months off. Her barrier trial didn’t catch the eye, but the jockey booking does. There is one debut-maker, (6) GASOK SPEED. She was good in trials and has to be given a chance first up here.

Selections (4) Daedong Gisang (1) Ghost Warrior (6) Gasok Speed (5) Speed Bell
Next Best 3, 9
Fast Start 3, 6, 7

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

(6) UNSEOK has improved over the course of three starts so far and beat a couple of these on his way to 2nd place over the distance last time. True, he was a long way back behind the winner that day, but that winner has gone on to strike again and Unseok looks the one to beat here. (3) WONDERFUL STORY and (4) YONGGU came hoe 5th and 6th that day and could improve but a bigger danger may be (7) BAEKDU JEONGGI. Thomas Gillespie’s colt has a 3rd and 4th from two starts so far and steps up in trip for the first time today and it may well suit. (2) I’M YOUR STAR will be expected to improve as well.

Selections (6) Unseok (7) Baekdu Jeonggi (2) I’m Your Star (4) Yonggu
Next Best 3, 1
Fast Start 1, 2, 5

Race 3: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Not a strong race this so we’re going to give another chance to (4) RARARA. She could only manage 7th of 12 last time but it was a significantly stiffer contest than this and she had plenty of bad luck along the way. With a better trip today, she can win. (7) (more…)

J.S. Hold, First Korean Triple Crown Winner, Has Died

J.S. Hold, who in 2007 won the first ever Korean Triple Crown, has died. The 14-year-old passed away on January 6th from complications of colic on Jeju Island, where he had been living since his retirement in 2008. 

J.S Hold

J.S. Hold 2004-2018. Here winning the Minister’s Cup in 2007 (Pic: KRA)

J.S. Hold [Ft. Stockton – Hwansangjiljoo (Passetreul)] made his debut on Minister’s Cup day in October 2006 in the very first race on the card, a juvenile allowance over five furlongs. He finished 4th, a full fifteen lengths behind the winner Ganghomyeongjang. Although already, by Korean standards of the time, a physically impressive specimen, there were few indications that J.S. Hold would never be beaten again. His and Ganghomyeongjang had unfinished business.

The first win arrived a month later in a similar juvenile contest. Third in the betting, J.S. Hold went straight to the front this time and never looked back, winning by an eye-catching fourteen lengths. Another facile victory in December, this time a six-length score over Gi Ra Seong and Top Point, both of whom would go on to be multiple winners themselves, saw J.S. Hold head into 2007 as one of the favourites for the new Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown series, intended to bring more of a sporting aspect into racing in Korea, would take two existing contests on the calendar, the Ttukseom Cup and Minister’s Cup and make them into races for three-year-old domestic bred horses, joining the Korean Derby, which would be in its tenth year, as a Triple Crown.

By the time they got to the first race, the Ttukseom Cup over 1400M in April, J.S. Hold was hot favourite having added a further three easy victories between January and March up to the Derby distance of 1800M by a combined twenty-four lengths. It was evident, this was no normal Korean racehorse.

Second-favourite for the Ttukseom was Ganghomyeongjang, who since defeating J.S. Hold on what was both of their debuts, had managed to avoid him while accruing three more victories of his own. It was a mismatch. Moon Jung Kyun on J.S. Hold allowed Ganghomyeongjang to lead from the gate but went past him at the top of the stretch and eased away to a seven-length win.

The Korean Derby followed in May and it was expected to be a formality. It was but the manner of it was still astonishing. J.S. Hold left the field in the back straight and cantered home uncontested with the margin on the line eleven lengths. Ganghomyeongjang had to settle for 4th with Natural Nine and Namchonuijijon – who would both go on to have long and successful careers, in 2nd and 3rd.

With the Triple Crown being modeled at that time on the British version rather than the American, the final leg wasn’t until October, almost five months after the Derby. Accordingly, J.S. Hold was sent out in July against older horses. Chief among them Myeongmun Gamun, who would go on to win the President’s Cup twice, and Secret Weapon also firmly established in the Seoul elite. Punters sent J.S. Hold off as the odds-on favourite and he duly delivered. striking the front two furlongs out and romping away to win by five lengths.

It was then, however, that J.S. Hold, until now reasonably sound, began to experience leg problems which added to a nagging, if not serious, eye issue. Plans for a further prep race for the Minister’s Cup were shelved and it became touch and go as to whether he would make the big race itself. He made it and despite his problems being well-documented, began as long odds-on favourite, such was his perceived superiority. This time it wasn’t so straightforward.

The pace in the 2000M race was set, as expected by Ganghomyeongjang with J.S. Hold slowly away but improving up the back to move up into 2nd place at the top of the stretch but with still four-lengths to make up. This time though he didn’t cruise past Ganghomyeongjang as if he wasn’t there. This time Ganghomyeongjang was still very much there. Still there as they passed the furlong pole and still there at the 100M. J.S Hold was game though. With Ganghomyeongjang all out, Moon Jung Kyun found just a little more and the Ttukseom Cup and Derby winner finally got his nose in front just 30 metres from the line. He crossed it almost a length in front and history was made. J.S. Hold had won the Triple Crown.

He wasn’t fit though and his trainer later admitted that he probably shouldn’t have run. One month after the race, J.S. Hold was diagnosed with tendinitis and accordingly didn’t run in the President’s Cup (won by Myeongmun Gamun, who he had so easily defeated), or the Grand Prix, In fact, he never ran again, In June of 2008, he passed a qualifying trial and was entered in a Class 1 handicap but he never made it to the final declaration stage. In October of 2008, almost exactly one year after his great triumph, J.S. Hold returned to Seoul Racecourse on a race day to be officially retired. He and jockey Moon Jung Kyun cantering down the home straight and through the finish line to the exceptionally rare sound of warm applause from the assembled ranks of usually cynical punters (the full ceremony can be watched at this link).

What would happen to J.S. Hold began a welcome discussion into the care of retired racehorses in Korea. Prior to his retirement ceremony it was noted that with little interest in using Korean bred stallions – even a Triple Crown winner – for breeding, his future may not be secure and a minor uproar ensued in the local racing media. Guarantees were swiftly made for him by his owner, which were honoured, and he lived his remaining years in retirement on Jeju Island, covering a few mares each year until succumbing to illness at a sadly still relatively young age.  A handful of his progeny are racing today. The discussion that was started has  continued to the point where, almost ten years later, things still have a long way to go to be perfect and, like other places, horses’ post-racing fates still depend on what their owners can or will do for them, but the days of having to automatically fear the worst, are over.

J.S Hold 2

If I may conclude by being self-indulgent for a paragraph or three, J.S. Hold was the horse who got me into Korean racing. By the time of his Triple Crown, I had been living in Seoul for a couple of years and visited the racecourse every few weeks for a recreational punt but while admiring the gleaming facilities, I wasn’t especially impressed by the racing itself and preferred to spend most weekends watching football and getting my racing fix by punting on races back home.

Then J.S. Hold came along. I happened to be at the track during one of his prep races for the Ttukseom Cup and noticed that this was a very different beast to the usual lot. This was, to put it bluntly, a racehorse – something I might have seen at Newmarket (or at least Yarmouth). A few months later I was with a group of friends (yes, I did have some) on Minister’s Cup day and the moment he went past Ganghomyeongjang in the final strides was the moment I was hooked. This was racing – this was sport. A couple of weeks later I started this blog, the header image of which is still a picture taken that day.

J.S. Hold wasn’t the first superstar Korean-bred racehorse and in the years since others have come through, notably his successor in winning the new Triple Crown, Power Blade. But J.S. Hold was special and he won’t be forgotten.

Trial Reports: Jan 12/13 (Royal Ruby, Goliath Marine, Lucky Nova)

Seoul – January 12 (4 trials)

US import Malibu Bulpae (Malibu Moon) ran on very strongly to cross the line eight lengths ahead of the rest on what was a very cold morning in Seoul. He arrived in Korea last June and this was first time qualifying.

Argo Hwanggeumkkot (Louis Quatorze) blitzed his heat, finishing 12-lengths and two full seconds clear. The five-year-old got his solitary victory in January last year but struggled in six attempts at class 3 and last raced in September.

Class 2 horse Special Joy (Kitten’s Joy) won heat 3 easily but will need to do another starting test having been very slowly out of the gate. He last raced in September.

Cupid Lady (Peace Rules), sent back to trial having finished a tailed off last over 1800M in November, won the final heat comfortably. She’s won four of nine in total

Busan – January 13 (4 trials)

Turnpike (Corinthian) looked very comfortable winning his heat at Busan last Saturday. Peter Wolsley’s four-year-old has won 4 of 15 and last raced in September 2017. In the same trial, David Millar’s Sillaui Dalbam (Menifee) finished off nicely for 2nd. He last raced in August 2017.  They passed a tiring Black Shield (Einstein) who led from the gate. Kim Young Kwan’s three-year-old filly is yet to make her racing debut.

Lucky Nova (Vicar), who won four of her first five races between May and August last year re-qualified. She ran a close 2nd in her heat to Lucky Time (Street Hero) , who had a very promising season as a three-year-old in 2016 but suffered setbacks in 2017.

Goliath Marine (Volponi), 4th in the 2016 Grand Prix Stakes was sent out for a tune-up easily winning his heat. He last ran in the President’s Cup in November, his 8th of 9 completing a disappointing latter half of the year for him. Royal Ruby (Chapel Royal), 2nd in both the KRA Cup Mile and Korean Derby and 4th in the Minister’s Cup re-qualified in the same heat. He hasn’t raced since the final leg of the Triple Crown last July.

Three-year-old filly S S Young (Spicule) was a very comfortable winner of the first heat of the day, making all on the bridle. She is yet to race.

(Trials take place at Seoul Racecourse on Friday mornings and Busan Racecourse on Saturday mornings, commencing at 10:20am).


Weekend Round-up: New Citadel, Today Begin 2018 With Wins

New Citadel and Today were the biggest names in action this past weekend in Korea, the pair beginning strong favourites for their respective assignments at Seoul and Busan.

Today was an easy winner of Busan’s Sunday feature, tracking early leader Gasok Engine under just over a furlong out before cruising past for a three-length victory. Today (Drosselmeyer) moved on to eight wins from ten starts and is looking a fine sprinter althugh he has won at a mile too.

At Seoul, New Citadel had to work much harder for victory on what was his first start sicne running 2nd to Cheongdam Dokki in the KRA Cup Classic last October. He was sent (more…)

Sunday Seoul & Busan: Race-By-Race Preview (January 14)

Bitter cold gave way to snow on Saturday but Sunday should be fine and there’s plenty of racing to keep us occupied at both Seoul and Busan. New Citadel and Sinjo Daehyeop face off in Seoul’s feature race while Today is favourite to land his eighth win in ten outings in the main event at Busan. Seoul runs 11 races from 10:45 to 18:00 and Busan 6 from 12:40 to 17:05. The previews follow but first here’s a picture of jockey Park Tae Jong participating in the Olympic Torch relay in Incheon this past week:

Park Tae Jong torch

Prk Tae Jong carries the Olympic flame (Pic: KRA)

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

Moon Se Young may not be champion jockey now for the first time that anyone can remember but he looks nailed on to win on what will be his first ride of 2018. (1) THE JIJON has a 2nd, 3rd and a 4th in three outings to date and surely leads all the way to get it right this time. (3) YONGUI JUDO and (4) M.J. CAPTAIN have shown glimpses of ability so far and look the most likely to chase the favourite home – and give him problems if he slips up. As for the others, (2) SPEED HWANGNYONG didn’t really do anything wrong on debut last month so he gets another chance here while (11) GAJA GAJA returns to action for the first time since last July, trialled up in a reasonable manner and has the new champion jockey, Djordje Perovic on board. 

Selections (1) The Jijon (3) Yongui Judo (4) M.J. Captain (11) Gaja Gaja
Next Best 2, 5
Fast Start 1, 4, 5, 10

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

This looks a much more open affair. Not a huge amount of experience on show but one or two have shown promising signs. Chief among those is (4) BAEKDUI TAEYANG, an improved 4th when stepped up to this trip in his second start on December 2nd. (5) ACE CANT goes at 1300M for the first time today and looks as though he may benefit from it. (6) EMERALD KING struggled in what was a slightly harder race than this time when resuming from an eight-week spell having previously run close at 1200M and can go better here. (3) LAST CONCERT and (8) MENI SMART are others in the hunt.

Selections (4) Baekdui Taeyang (5) Ace Cant (8) Meni Smart (6) Emerald King
Next Best 3, 11
Fast Start 1, 2, 8

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

(4) JEJUI HEUKSEON was a good 2nd on debut (albeit ten-lengths behind an impressive winner) at this distance in November. She was unable to follow up two weeks later in a stiffer contest at 1200M but looks in good shape to go close in this all-filly affair. More experienced is (8) FIRST QUEEN and she’s not been too far away in recent efforts. She tends to leave herself just a little too much to do but could get it right here. (7) CHEON YUN and (1) KYU JEU came home 4th and 5th at the distance last time and can figure while (6) TAMNA YEOSIN comes in off an encouraging run over 1000M last time and can improve.

Selections (4) Jejui Heukseon (8) First Queen (6) Tamna Yeosin (7) Cheon Yun
Next Best 1, 3
Fast Start 3, 5, 6

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million 

Wide open this one and although there are a couple up in class coming off good wins in the shape of (7) CHAPEL ACE and (9) PRIMO, it’s going to be the ones who have experience of this level who are favoured. (10) SWEETLY HUMOR was a good 2nd, having briefly led close to home, over the distance on December 17th and can at least match that today, likely leading from the start. (2) HANSEONG KING also comes in having placed at the distance last time while (11) LIVE POWER drops back in trip after a good 2nd at 1700M back in November. (8) GWACHEON TUHON was well back behind Sweetly Humor last time but has done enough in the past to warrant a further look.

Selections (10) Sweetly Humor (2) Hanseong King (11) Live Power (9) Primo
Next Best 8, 6, 12
Fast Start  

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(5) SAUVIGNON looks a likely warm favourite in this fill. A maiden winner at the distance in November, she then ran a good 4th on her first try ay this class a month ago. This field looks eminently beatable. (2) VICTORY STAR finds herself up in class here despite remaining a maiden. Two 3rds and a 2nd see her promoted but there’s little to (more…)

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 13)

12 races at Seoul on Saturday with the first at 10:45am and the last at 6pm. Wrap up warm! Here are the previews:

First day of New year

The heavy artillery was out to welcome punters into the racecourse last week – It’s going to a be cold one this time around though – bring a thick coat! (Pic: KRA)

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Only three of these have raced before and in all honesty, none of them have impressed. That said, expect both (2) O.K. DAY, on the strength of the jockey/trainer combination and (3) ROAD MAN, having not done terribly on debut, to get some backing. It is, however, to the debut-makers that we turn to for top picks. Both (1) RAON ZEUS and (7) YAHO SMART CAT have won trials, the latter in a more eye-catching fashion. (4) GANGTOMA too looked competent enough and may be considered. As always with these kind of races, keep an eye on the market.

Selections (7) Yaho Smart Cat (1) Raon Zeus (4) Gangtoma (2) O.K. Day
Next Best 3, 8
Fast Start 2, 5, 7

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

2nd in a decent contest a month ago having been 3rd in debut in November, (4) THUNDER MARINE has every chance of going one better today. He took a while to get going from a wide draw and also hung inwards throughout last time but is pretty much in pole position here and can lead all the way. (2) NONGBON DAERO came even closer to a maiden win last time, just being beaten a nose over the distance and he is the main threat. (7) CAMP TOUCH debuted in that race behind Thunder Marine last month and although she finished 7th of 12, that was by no means a disgrace and she can come on for it here. There are a couple of first-time starts and (5) CHOWON GUNJU looks the one most likely to go well first-up.

Selections (4) Thunder Marine (2) Nongbon Daero (7) Camp Touch (5) Chowon Gunju
Next Best 9, 6
Fast Start 1, 4, 6

Race 3: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Competitive all-filly race this. (4) GEOSEN MAPUNG was sent off as odds-on favourite last start on December 19th and very nearly led all the way before ultimately ending up in 2nd. She should get on the early speed once more and can be given another chance to get it right here. (11) FOREVER WINNER came home 2nd in a similar race to this at the end of November and can overcome a wide draw to challenge once again here. (3) CITY ANGEL had a bad day when well backed last start but has shown speed and can be considered while (2) JEONGSANG MUJEOK and (10) THE PRIMA came home 3rd and 4th in a similar race in what was for both their debut on November 26th and both can look to match those today.

Selections (4) Geoseon Mapung (11) Forever Winner (2) Jeongsang Mujeok (3) City Angel
Next Best 10, 8
Fast Start 3, 4, 10, 11

Race 4: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(8) BACK TO BACK was a good winner over 1200M on December 9th and while he is up in class today, he looks to have every chance of securing back to back victories. He’ll settle just behind the early pace and can finish strongly. Joining him up in class and firmly in the hunt are (1) BOLD SHINING and (9) LEONNING STROM. Both were decent winners last start although the latter’s came at this distance and he’s favoured at this stage to make a more immediate impact at this level. (7) JAELONGI is yet to win but comes in off a quick, if unexpected 2nd place over class and distance last month and can be considered. At the other end of the experience spectrum is (2) YEONGAM ARIRANG. He was a class and distance last September and while he’s been underwhelming in two outings since, this looks the kind of race he can pick up some minor money in.

Selections (8) Back To Back (9) Leonning Strom (1) Bold Shining (7) Jaelongi
Next Best 2, 11
Fast Start 5, 6, 7, 10

Race 5: Class 4 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

Really open contest this which could go one of any number of ways. (10) DAEGI SOKDO was a 20/1 class and distance winner on December 16th, beating three of his rivals here in the process. Can it happen again? Possibly but others will be favoured. Principal among those others is (11) RAON KINGDOM. A good winner of slightly stiffer looking contest than this one over 1200M at the beginning of December, he steps back in trip (more…)

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 12)

It’s Friday. It’s Busan. There are 11 races at the south-coast track with the frat at 11:30 am and the last at 6pm. Here are the previews:

Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

(4) FIRE POINT was a decent 2nd on debut over the distance just before Christmas, overcoming both a bad start and losing a shoe and Peter Wolsley’s filly should overcome this modest lot. (2) B.K MASTER and (3) FAST AWAY’s latest efforts have been encouraging and they can get close today. The latter is likely to be on the early speed along with (5) HEUGSEOL GONGJU and that one too has shown a couple of glimpses of ability. (6) TRUMPET MAJOR the best of a limited rest.

Selections (4) Fire Point (3) Fast Away (2) B.K. Master (5) Heugseol Gongju
Next Best 6, 7
Fast Start 3, 5

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

Small field but with plenty of interest. Triple Nine’s little brother (6) GREAT ROCK debuted pleasingly enough with 4th place over 1300M on December 22nd and certainly looks capable of winning this. The principle danger is (3) USEUNG TEN, who took to this distance well on what was his second start a month ago. He was 3rd that day ahead of (7) INTERCEPTOR in 4th and that one too has shown promise although perhaps needs to find a bit more if he is to get a win. (2) SHUFFLE RUNNER and (5) ICE LEG others who are not without chances in a useful little contest.

Selections (6) Great Rock (3) Useung Ten (7) Interceptor (2) Shuffle Runner
Next Best 5
Fast Start 2, 3, 4

Race 3: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(1) MISS TANK hasn’t exactly been quick, but she’s shown competence in each of three outings so far, finishing no worse than 4th. Each time she’s led for at least part of the race and will be favoured this time to hold on all the way around. None of the others with experience have demonstrated any talent yet although (3) APRIL STAR did at least improve last time. That leads us to strongly consider the two first-timers in the race. Both (4) BIG FOOT and (5) SINGAEBYEOK trialled up well and couldn’t really ask for a better race to debut in so we’ll put them in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Selections (1) Miss Tank (4) Big Foot (5) Singaebyeok (3) April Star
Next Best 6, 7
Fast Start 1, 4

Race 4: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(2) QUEEN THE QUEEN was a well-backed 3rd on debut and returns here following just over two months off and should be firmly in the hunt here. However, there is a dangerous looking debut-maker here. (7) SWEET PARK won a trial in fine fashion three weeks three weeks ago and looks very nicely in here first-up and we’ll make her the pick. Fellow first-timer (5) KOREAN QUEEN looked decent enough when trialling up behind an established horse at the end of last month and could play a role in the finish too. Among the remainder, while neither (1) VIP KING nor (6) PERFECT BOSS have shown much in the way of speed so far, both look to have potential to improve here.

Selections (7) Sweet Park (2) Queen The Queen (5) Korean Queen (1) VIP King
Next Best 6, 4
Fast Start 1, 7

Race 5: Class 5 (1600M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(5) HIDDEN CHAMP was an exceptionally handy winner over 1300M before Christmas and which he is up in class here, he looks the type who’s going to love the distance and is set to be a strong favourite here, likely leading all the way. There are a couple of other (more…)