Two of Korea’s most popular horses returned to the winner’s circles at Busan and Seoul yesterday with Triple Nine and Clean Up Joy prevailing in valuable Sunday handicaps.
Three-time President’s Cup winner Triple Nine had put in a strong effort in December’s Grand Prix Stakes, trying to counter early leader Cheongdam Dokki but ultimately finished 3rd behind stablemate and rival Power Blade. Following three months off, he returned to action on Sunday in the 2000M “Road To Group 1” feature on the south coast.
The race attracted a strong line-up and Triple Nine had to work for his win, with You Hyun Myung sitting towards the back of the field as the early pace was set, inevitably, by Success Story. Although he had plenty of traffic to negotiate in the home straight, the gap did open up and Triple Nine, carrying 60kg, ran on nicely to win by two lengths. Buhwarui Banseok, who also ran so well in the Grand Prix, came home in 2nd place ahead of Good Casting who, a disappointing effort over 2200M last month aside, has been a revelation in recent months.
It’s a good start to the season for the now 6-year-old Triple Nine which will likely have a bid an unprecedented fourth President’s Cup and another tilt at the so-far elusive Grand Prix as its ultimate targets.
Clean Up Joy has already won a Grand Prix, having been victorious in 2016’s season finale when he beat Triple Nine by just over a length. Although his 2017 started strongly with three consecutive wins, including in the YTN Cup, he lose his way a little in the second half of the year.
A chastening experience when not looking 100% in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in the summer was followed by 3rd place for Clean Up Joy in the KRA Cup Classic, a race he’d won in each of the two previous seasons as three-year-olds Cheongdam Dokki and New Citadel announced their arrival on the elite scene. He could then only run 7th in the Grand Prix before beginning 2018 with another defeat at the hands of Cheongdam Dokki.
Clean Up joy had a significantly simpler task then Triple Nine, facing only six rivals in Seoul’s “Road To G1” event. Such was his rating superiority that all of them were out of the handicap and accordingly carried 52kg to Clean Up Joy’s 60kg. Under Park Tae Jong, he hit top gear at the two furlong pole and cruised away for a visually impressive seven-length score.
There will be tougher tests to come.