It’s the 2nd leg of the 2018 Korean Triple Crown as 10 horses line up for the 21st running of the Korean Derby at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. And Divide Wind will join his stablemate Ecton Blade, who he beat by a length to capture the first jewel in the crown, the KRA Cup Mile, as favourite. The big race is the highlight of an 11-race card at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 which also includes the ARF Commemorative Race, to mark the opening of the 37th Asian Racing Conference. There are also 6 races at Busan from 12:40 to 17:05.
Divide Wind and Ecton Blade have been joined on the trip to Seoul by World Sun and Hiddden Champ. World Sun was a fast finishing 3rd in the Cup Mile and could challenge the two favourites here. As for Seoul, the challenge is led by Mask, who also ran well in the Mile for 4th and an upset is not impossible. Here is the race-by-race preview of all 17 Derby Day races at both Seoul & Busan with horse-by-horse comments for the ARF and Derby races?
Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
(1) SEUNGRI PLUS will be strong favourite to score here, having been getting progressively closer across his latest outings. He was 2nd to a good winner at this distance last time on April 7th and should have too much today. (4) MAIN RACER has shown some ability across three starts so far and can build on the 5th he managed last time while (5) RAON OPTIMUS enters after back to back 4th place finishes and should be looking to at least match here. (6) BARAM KING and (8) MAJJABEUN SON are others who can be considered.
|Selections||(1) Seungri Plus (6) Baram King (4) Main Racer (8) Majjabeun Son|
|Next Best||5, 3|
|Fast Start||1, 4, 9|
Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
(7) BLACK SPIRIT was an improved 3rd at 1300M on her last start at the beginning of March and returns here after a couple of months off with solid claims. She can come from just off the pace and finish strongly. (8) SANTOS showed prominently before weakening over 1300M two weeks ago. He drops back slightly in trip here and may benefit. (2) CLEAN FLOWER showed some signs of life with 5th place at 1300M last time and gets Manoel Nunes on board today. (6) ARGO UNIQUE and (11) DONGBANG JIJU are others with potential to improve on recent outings.
|Selections||(7) Black Spirit (8) Santos (2) Clean Flower (11) Dongbang Jiju|
|Next Best||6, 1|
|Fast Start||8, 9, 10, 11|
Seoul Race 3: Class 5 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(8) MACHA BUCHA ran a close 2nd at class and distance on April 7th having been prominent throughout and leading briefly close to home. He can go one better this time. (2) BOLD NINER comes in following back to back 4th place finishes at this distance and at 1200M and surely comes close again while (12) LEAD UP can overcome the widest draw to get close to the pace early and can match the 3rd she managed last tie. (4) EVER A ONE beat Macha Bucha at the distance two starts ago and while he didn’t go well at 1300M on reappearance last month, can be given another chance today. (9) STIRLING returns to action after a three-month absence and can be considered too.
|Selections||(8) Macha Bucha (2) Bold Niner (4) Ever A One (12) Lead Up|
|Next Best||9, 7, 1|
|Fast Start||8, 9, 12|
Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(8) L CAR romped home to easily win his second start on April 14th. It was at 1000M, so he is up in both class and distance today, but he could well have enough to prevail again. (3) EAGLE SKY could be the one to beat though. He improved significantly last start on April 15th when ridden by Johan Victoire for the first time, just beaten half a length at this distance and looks set to go well here. (7) EUMAK DAEJANG beat a couple of these on his way to 3rd at 1300M on April 14th and should have the beating of plenty once more. One of those behind him that day was (1) REBECCA and the slight drop in trip may benefit her today. (9) SPECIAL LIGHT ran 4th in a solid race at 1300M last month and is another to consider. He usually comes from well off the pace so will need things to set up just right for him. (4) CHEON MONG is up in class after a somewhat unexpected win at 1300M and while he perhaps has a bit more to find, shouldn’t be ruled out completely.
|Selections||(3) Eagle Sky (8) L Car (9) Special Light (1) Rebecca|
|Next Best||4, 7|
|Fast Start||1, 4, 7|
Busan Race 1: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(7) HOTHAE is up in class following a convincing win over this distance on April 13th. He made all that day and could well do so again here. It won’t be easy. (3) HANGIL too steps up following her maiden win which came at the fourth time of asking. Her triumph was over 1000M, so she faces an increase in distance as well but should be able to cope with it. (5) GEUJIKOJI had a hard time at a mile last time but should be more comfortable dropped back today. (1) BLUE DANCER defied her odds to run a good 2nd at class and distance three weeks ago and will not more respect here. (9) SWEET MEMORY steps up in trip after a 3rd and a 4th behind some useful ones in her latest two and can come under consideration.
|Selections||(7) Hothae (3) Hangil (9) Sweet Memory (1) Blue Dancer|
|Next Best||5, 4|
|Fast Start||1, 3, 7, 9|
Seoul Race 5: Class 4 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(1) JANGSAN WILD has won two from three so far and is up in both class and distance today. He had to work for his win last time but looks to have scope for more improvement and he’s the one they’ll need to beat today. He had to battle last time though and if the additional furlong is a concern then (6) DAESEUNG BIBEOB is the one to turn to. He drops back in trip after some good efforts around two turns and will surely run on strongly. (7) TEUKBYEOL STAR still somehow remains a maiden. She’s a good filly and rarely misses the money but can’t quite make the breakthrough. That will probably be the case again, but she’ll be firmly in the placing hunt. (5) FINE CHAMP and (10) SPEED CHEONGNYONG, the latter up in class, both enter in good form and should also be involved.
|Selections||(1) Jangsan Wild (6) Daeseung Bibeob (7) Teukbyeol Star (10) Speed Cheongnyong|
|Next Best||5, 4|
|Fast Start||1, 2, 9|
Busan Race 2: Class 4 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(9) MAKGANG BOLT has won his latest two in decent fashion, his latest at this class. He’s a front-runner and with an apprentice keeping his carried weight nice and low, he has every chance of making it three in a row. (2) YUKRYONGI ran poorly when favourite last time out four weeks ago but had been showing enough prior to that to suggest he’s worth another chance today and he should be a threat. (11) QUEEN THE QUEEN is up in class following back to back runner-up finishes, both at this distance. She’s never been worse than 3rd and despite the step up in level, she can maintain that record today. (10) CHARTERED DREAM came home 2nd and 5th respectively when they raced each other at class and distance on April 13th and both should be looking for places here.
|Selections||(9) Makgang Bolt (11) Queen The Queen (2) Yukryongi (10) Chartered Dream|
|Next Best||1, 7|
|Fast Start||7, 11|
Seoul Race 6: Class 4 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(1) LOVELY TEMPO ran 5th of 12 on debut three weeks ago and the Sepoy filly showed enough to suggest that she has wins in her. She should have come on for that run and steps up to 1300M with strong claims to get her maiden win. (2) KILUI PYOBEOM has hinted at a bit of talent across two starts so far and can improve today. He finished behind (11) HAPPY BOY last time out, the latter already having a 2nd and a 3rd place to his name and he can be involved here. At the other end of the experience spectrum, (3) ROYAL AMOS and (6) BEONGAEMA, who between them will have racked up seventy starts after today, both come in off consecutive 5th place finishes and in this company, both could go better.
|Selections||(1) Lovely Tempo (11) Happy Boy (2) Kilui Pyobeom (3) Raon Amos|
|Next Best||6, 7|
|Fast Start||1, 2, 3, 11|
Busan Race 3: Class 4 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
It’s hard to look past (9) BAEKDU JEONGGI. Thomas Gillespie’s colt has won three of his last four including at class and distance last time. He carries a bit more weight today but that shouldn’t be of too much consequence and he should have far too much in the latter part of the race. (7) YEONGUNG JEWANG is useful too and was a battling winner at class and distance on April 8th. He’ll be the main danger and will likely try to lead from the start. (1) RUNNING GIRL is up in class and while a little inconsistent, could be a threat. (2) PRIME RACE and (3) OHO DAEJANGGUN are others capable of giving the favourite a race.
|Selections||(9) Baekdu Jeonggi (7) Yeongung Jewang (3) Oho Daejanggun (1) Running Girl|
|Next Best||2, 4|
|Fast Start||5, 6, 7|
Seoul Race 7: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(6) LEONNING STROM has finished no worse than 3rd in five starts to date and ran out a very easy winner over 1300M at this class on April 15th. He steps back slightly in trip today and an apprentice gets on to keep the weight down and he is the one to beat once more. (3) GANGCHONUI BYEOL won his first two in fine fashion but suffered his first reverse when tried at this class and distance for the first time a month ago. He looked set to make all only to be overhauled by a long-shot that day and will be on pace again. He’s worth another chance. (1) JAJINMORI registered a solid 3rd place over 1300M last time and can place once more while (9) FIRSTIGE is up in class after a somewhat surprising win last time at 1000M and is the wildcard.
|Selections||(6) Leonning Strom (3) Gangchonui Byeol (1) Jajinmori (9) Firstige|
|Next Best||2, 8|
|Fast Start||3, 5, 7|
Busan Race 4: Class 3 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
(9) CHRISTIANO strutted to her hat-trick on April 20th over 1300M and steps up in class and also marginally in distance seeking four-in-a-row. She remains hard to oppose and should lead from gate to wire. (11) HIDDEN STAR ran a good 2nd on his first try at this class last month. He’s already won at this distance and should be a threat in the later part of the race. (4) RUNNING SOCKS has run 2nd on both tries at this level so far. He’s still inexperienced and tries 1400M for the first time and could get close – like Hidden Star, he is likely to challenge late on. (10) ITSAGAINT WARRIOR also comes in off back to back runner-up finishes although in his case they were at 1800M. He’s a front-runner who could cause Christiano some issues. (7) DUBAI TEUKGEUP best of the rest in a strong race.
|Selections||(9) Christiano (11) Hidden Star (4) Running Socks (10) Itsagaint Warrior|
|Next Best||7, 6|
|Fast Start||4, 6, 9, 10|
Seoul Race 8: ARF COMMEMORATIVE RACE / CLASS 2 (1200M) HANDICAP / KRW 90 MILLION
- BEST ROAD – Class and distance winner in December. Struggled a little in two starts since, finishing 7th behind Circle Dancer on latest. Highest rated of these and top weight by some margin.
- TAEHUI NALGAE – Up in class following three-length win at the distance on March 31st. Front-runner who shouldn’t be overmatched here.
- CIRCLE DANCER – Back to back 5th places in latest two, first beating Best Road and then behind Hoeng Un Gol. Can match those 5ths today.
- HOENG UN GOL – One of the most promising juveniles of last year, he’s showing signs of developing into a good sprinter. Began this year with back to back wins before running 2nd in a good race on his first try at this level a month ago. The favourite to lead from gate to wire.
- SCARLET WITCH – 9th behind Hoeng Un Gol last time out in what was her second start at this level following a good 4th of 12 in March. Decent sprinter but she does have a bit to make up on a few of these.
- WOW CAT – Only beat one home behind Hoeng Un Gol on what was her first start for nine months on April 14th. Previously won a trial and should be better for the run but still plenty to find.
- GRACE CITY – First start since last August. He went out a winner, scoring over this distance to get promoted to this class before suffering a chip fracture. Trialled up very nicely at the end of April and has the services of David Breux.
- GEMGANGJEGUK – Returned from almost a year out in March and only beat one home. Obviously needed the race but even before the layoff had found this level challenging.
- MR. CHAMPION – 6th of 12 behind Hoeng Un Gol on first try at this class on April 14th having been a good winner over the same distance the time before. Can settle just behind the early lead and could play a role in the finish.
- MUSIGNY – Two starts into a comeback following seven months off and has shown very little in either of them Outsider.
- SKY BAY – A winner of two from four so far with her defeats coming in stiff competition. Up in class following a four-length win last time at the distance, Manoel Nunes in the saddle and a chance.
Verdict: This is very much (4) HOENG UN GOL’s to lose. He won back to back races at the distance in January and February before ending up 2nd last time out in stiffer company than this. He should be on speed early. (11) SKY BAY is up in class following a four-length win at the distance in January and then a lay-off and she looks the biggest threat. (3) CIRCLE DANCER and (9) MR. CHAMPION were beaten by Hoeng Un Gol last time but can challenge for places here while (1) BEST ROAD is a class and distance winner and can be given another chance following two indifferent showings.
|Selections||(4) Hoeng Un Gol (11) Sky Bay (1) Best Road (9) Mr. Champion|
|Next Best||3, 2|
|Fast Start||2, 4, 6, 7|
Busan Race 5: Class 2 (1800M) Handicap / KRW 90 Million
(6) ROYAL RUBY, 2nd in last year’s Korean Derby, got back in the winner’s circle with a really good class and distance won two weeks ago when he beat (11) BOUND KOREA by almost two lengths. He carries an extra 4kg today but don’t rule out a repeat. Bound Korea is likely to be the main danger, but this is a very competitive race. (5) IRON TRAIN started poorly but ran on very well for 4th at a mile a month ago and should be in the frame. (1) USAIN NUT and (9) BAY KINGS are both up in class following smart wins at this distance in April and both should be competitive. (12) BLACK SAPPHIRE returns to action for the first time since last November. She had lost her way a little bit and comes back in fresh under Fergus Sweeney, who rode his first Korean winner on Friday.
|Selections||(6) Royal Ruby (11) Bound Korea (12) Black Sapphire (5) Iron Train|
|Next Best||1, 9|
|Fast Start||4, 7, 9, 11|
Seoul Race 9: KOREAN DERBY (KOR G1) CLASS OPEN / 1800M ALLOWANCE / KRW 800 MILLION
- CLEAN UP TEUKGEUP – A class 4 win by four-lengths over 1700M on March 18th enables him to take his chance here. Still relatively unexposed, he was beaten by an average one the time before that but looks to have scope for improvement. Additional distance should suit and he has a top jockey on board.
- LET’S YEONGCHEON – A winner of two from five with the latest being at 1700M. He was beaten a nose at the same distance when favourite in his prep for this on April 1st by promising import Malibu Bulpae. Made all for both his wins and likely to try to get on pace early again. He’s an outsider but nothing to lose by having a go in this small field.
- FIRE WIND – The only filly in the race, she’s won four of her eight starts including his latest two, both at the Derby distance of 1800M, the most recent being at class 3, six-lengths ahead of Sharp Kaylan who went on to win himself very handily last week. She’s had things very much her own way in both those races, leading comfortably from gate to wire and it will be nowhere near as straightforward here. She was also well beaten by Mask when they met back in January. Big talent but will need to be better to beat the Busan raiders.
- ICHEON SSAL – Looked a tremendous talent when he burst on the scene last year when flashing home late to win sprints and looking like a bit of distance would suit him perfectly. It hasn’t quite turned out that way as he’s been good but inconsistent. He hasn’t won since last August and on his only try around two turns, he could only manage 8th of 12. Dropped back to sprints recently he has improved with a pair of 2nd places and he surely will come right but this looks a hard ask.
- CHOINMA – 2nd to Ecton Blade in the Breeders’ Cup but perhaps hasn’t pushed on as much as hoped. Only two starts so far this year and was well back behind Mask in the Sports Seoul Cup. Skipped the Cup Mile, he can’t be ruled out but he’s going to need a big improvement.
- WORLD SUN – Beat Ecton Blade to win the Gimhae Mayor’s Cup last October but only managed 5th in the Breeders’ Cup here at Seoul in December. He didn’t get the clearest run in the Mile, but he finished off very nicely to claim 3rd place. That was his first try at the distance and there’s no reason why he can’t make the most of the additional furlong today. Big chance.
- ECTON BLADE – He won the Breeders’ Cup in December to be crowned champion juvenile and won over a mile on his season debut in February. He was a slight odds-on favourite for the KRA Cup Mile but didn’t quite look 100% on the day, both playing up and sweating up before the start and ultimately coming out second best to stablemate Divide Wind. There was less than a length between them though and he has to be given another chance here.
- HIDDDEN CHAMP – Won three in a row including back to back races over a mile to begin this year. Skipped the Cup Mile and instead ran 2nd over 1900M at the end of March behind Bright Star, who was 2nd in last year’s Oaks. Still a bit of an unknown quantity, he could be the wildcard and will almost certainly be on pace early which could make things interesting. A stablemate of World Sun.
- MASK – Has impressed since debut but really announced his arrival as a serious player by defeating Gaon Champ in the build up to the KRA Cup Mile. In the Cup Mile himself, he finished the quickest of the entire field to be a close at hand 4th. He has already won here at 1700M and looks set to be a major player.
- DIVIDE WIND – Only managed 7th behind stablemate Ecton Blade in the Breeders’ Cup here in December but is unbeaten in four starts since, including the KRA Cup Mile when he defeated Ecton Blade, World Sun and Mask. He settled in the middle of the pack and finished strongly, and you’d think the 1800M can be to his benefit and he has every chance of winning.
Verdict: The Kim Young Kwan training machine keeps on churning them out and this year is no exception. He got the first two place-getters in the KRA Cup Mile and (10) DIVIDE WIND and (7) ECTON BLADE both return here. Ecton Blade didn’t look great in the minutes leading up to the Cup Mile but still almost got home on top. He has a jockey change today and returns to the scene of his easy Breeders’ Cup win in December with every chance of going much better. He probably is the class horse of the field. Meanwhile, Divide Wins keeps on answering every question posed of him and keeps getting better and better. He looked a million dollars prior to the Mile and ran accordingly. I’m not about to pick the favourite in a Derby though, even one with just ten runners and while opposing Kim Young Kwan when he comes in double handed like this may be a quick way to the poorhouse, I’m going to take a chance on the two who chased his pair home. (6) WORLD SUN and (9) MASK finished off very nicely indeed in the Cup Mile and back on his home track, Mask could well relish the step up to 1800M and pull off a surprise win. (3) FIRE WIND and (8) HIDDDEN CHAMP are wildcards and likely to be on speed early along with Ecton Blade and that could benefit the potential closers.
|Selections||(9) Mask (6) World Sun (7) Ecton Blade (10) Divide Wind|
|Next Best||8, 3|
|Fast Start||3, 7, 8, 10|
Busan Race 6: Class 1 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 120 Million
(10) FINEST WARRIOR has won four from six so far and three in a row. On his latest start on April 8th, he beat four of these over 1400M and could add another victory today. He had to work for it last time though as (1) USEUNG LINE was just a neck behind in 2nd and that one will be a danger again while (3) BANJIUI JEWANG and (2) GASOK ENGINE were further back but may get closer back at 1200M today. (6) KING OF ACE was, at one point, set to be a star but has had plenty of injury setbacks. He romped through a trial at the end of April though and if fully fit he will be very dangerous. (7) CAPTAIN BLADE is another who can be forgiven his latest start when he was beaten by a couple of these and can improve back at 1200M today. (8) STEAL THE SHOW WHY is up in class following a very good victory in a quick race at this distance three weeks ago and can’t be completely discounted.
|Selections||(10) Finest Warrior (2) Gasok Engine (7) Captain Blade (3) Banjiui Jewang|
|Next Best||6, 8, 1|
|Fast Start||2, 6, 7|
Seoul Race 10: Class 1 (1800M) Handicap / KRW 150 Million
(1) FINAL BOSS was the winner of last year’s Derby, but he has been up and down since then. He was a gutsy winner of the Segye Ilbo Cup in January but was a scratching from the Owners’ Trophy in March. He returns today fit again and his class may see him through but under 58kg, this is a tough ask for him. (9) SINGGEREOUN GOM is up in class after a fine six-length win at this distance on March 31st. He looks to be still improving and with a 6kg weight advantage on Final Boss, he looks very tempting. (11) YAHO SKY CAT was a good winner over 2000M at this class on April 8th with three of these back down the track behind him and he must be taken seriously here. (4) CHEONGDAM DAERO has proven himself competitive at this level and is another who carries a light weight. (2) GAEULI JEONSEOL returned to form with a really good victory over class and distance in March and can’t be ruled out.
|Selections||(9) Singgeureoun Gom (1) Final Boss (11) Yaho Sky Cat (4) Cheongdam Daero|
|Next Best||2, 12|
|Fast Start||3, 11|
Seoul Race 11: Class 3 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
Another really competitive race to finish with. (4) ARCH ARCH beat (8) LEGEND KING as the pair came home in 2nd and 3rd over 1700M on April 15th. Back down in trip to 1400M today, they could be battling it out for the win this time with Legend King having every chance of overturning the form. (10) GEUNALKKAJI was a close 5th in a stiffer race than this at 1200M on April 1st and should get closer today. (11) MORFHIS finally got it right at the fifth time of asking on April 7th and is accordingly up in class today but should still be in the hunt. (12) ALL THAT SPEED was a touch disappointing last time but is good enough to warrant another chance.
|Selections||(8) Legend King (4) Arch Arch (10) Geunalkkaji (11) Morfhis|
|Next Best||12, 1|
|Fast Start||1, 3, 9|