A familiar face will be in action on Saturday as jockey Masakazu Tanaka returns to Korea to take up an initial four-month engagement at Seoul Racecourse. There are 11 races from 14:00 to 21:00.
Now 34, Tanaka, who has spent the majority of his career riding in New Zealand, joined Busan Racecourse in June of 2013 and returned solid results, riding 24 winners in his first seven months up to the end of that year.
2014 was challenging for the Japanese rider, but Tanaka still emerged with 29 winners from 330 rides. It would be in 2015, however, when his persistence paid off and he became acknowledged as one of the top jockeys in the country. He rode 49 winners that season, taking him to 5th place in the jockey championship.
Although he couldn’t secure a Stakes race victory, he landed a 3rd place on New York Blue in the Asia Challenge Cup in 2014 and the following year another 3rd, on Ildeung Hanghaesa in the President’s Cup, at that time Korea’s joint-richest race. He left Busan having ridden 101 winners from 907 rides and returned to New Zealand where he has been riding since.
Tanaka, who this time will be based in Seoul, has four rides in the capital on Saturday but the odds are against him making an immediate winning return although some of the other foreign jockeys at the track should be in the winner’s circle at some stage with Johan Victoire, Manoel Nunes and Antonio Da Silva all on plenty of live mounts.
The day’s feature is a class 2 handicap over 1800M (race 10). Samjung Tapit, Thunder Light and Tosconova Cat, who came home 2nd, 4th and 6th respectively in last month’s TJK Trophy will be among the favourites in an ultra-competitive eleven-runner race.
Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
Just seven runners to kick us off with and it’s as weak a maiden as you’ll find. (2) HANIL GANGJA ran reasonably well in three outings around the turn of the year before being taken lame. He returned to training a couple of months ago trialling up in early June in good order and he should have far too much here. He will try to lead from gate to wire although he will be challenged for the early lead by (4) GOODCHOICE, who has show a couple of glimpses across eight outings so far and should be aiming for a career-best finish here. (6) SAND CHAMP has only raced twice so far, and the jockey booking makes one take note here. (5) JEONGMUN Y and (7) SUNSHIN MARINE the others with scope for improvement.
|Selections||(2) Hanil Gangja (4) Goodchoice (6) Sand Champ (7) Sunshin Marine|
|Next Best||5, 3, 1|
|Fast Start||2, 4|
Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
The second maiden of the day is only marginally stronger than the first. (2) DAESEUNG AGAIN is the clear standout having run 4th and 3rd in his first two starts. He came close to making all last time, just being headed in the closing stages and this time can go all the way. (1) DALLYEORA RAON steps back to the minimum trip following a decent 3rd place 1300M last time. He’s also returning from seventeen weeks out and can go well first-up here. (4) GWANGPOK JUHAENG and (5) SO ARA DAEWANG have both demonstrated progress over their limited starts so far and while for both, this is slightly harder than their latest assignments, both can be competitive.
|Selections||(2) Daeseung Again (1) Dallyeora Raon (4) Gwangpok Juhaeng (5) So Ara Daewang|
|Next Best||3, 6|
|Fast Start||2, 8|
Race 3: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
Japanese jockey Masa Tanaka, who rode 100 winners at Busan in a previous Korean stint, makes his debut as full-time Seoul jockey here but the Japanese rider may have to wait a little longer for his first winner as his mount in this juvenile maiden, (1) CHEONJI GISANG, won’t be among the favourites. That’s not to say the colt did badly in his trial though, but it’s a competitive affair. Three have raced before and of them, (6) CHANGPA was a solid 4th on June 16th, running on nicely and if she has come of for the run, she’ll be the one to beat. Among the first-timers, (7) GUREUM WANGJA and (9) UP LIGHT looked most impressive in trials. The pair of them will likely join Changpa on the early speed and all three should still be involved at the business end. (4) JACOB and (8) RAYMOND are others to keep an eye on and as ever in races like this, watch the market for clues.
|Selections||(6) Changpa (7) Gureum Wangja (8) Raymond (9) Up Light|
|Next Best||4, 1, 11|
|Fast Start||6, 7, 9|
Race 4: Class 5 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(1) BODEURAM and (3) WAIT AND SEE are both up in class after maiden wins at the distance last time. Both are from in-form stables and both look to have more to offer at this level with the filly Bodeuram slightly favoured to make the step up faster. Main danger to both is (4) ARGO GALLOPER. He remains a maiden but now has three 3rd place finishes and a 2nd place at this distance. The 2nd came last time out when he was well-beaten by a good winner having led early on but still finished comfortably ahead of the rest and should be a factor here. The experienced (8) PERFECT BIC C was 4th behind Argo Galloper that day but can run closer here. (7) JUNGJEON MAMA returned to racing following nine months off in June and ran creditably enough over 1200M. She drops back today to the distance her solitary win came at and she also shouldn’t be too far away.
|Selections||(1) Bodeuram (4) Argo Galloper (3) Wait And See (7) Jungjeon Mama|
|Next Best||8, 2|
|Fast Start||3, 4, 5|
Race 5: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
Competitive race, this. (6) CAMP TOUCH remains a maiden after seven attempts but was just a length away when running a good 2nd on June 17th at this distance. She can take a sit behind the early leaders here and finish strongly. One of those early leaders is likely to be (2) HANYANG GONGJU, who has weakened a little late on in both her tries at this class so far but drops back slightly in trip today and can benefit. Also away to a quick start will be (7) FLYING JOY, who enters with recent form reading well and can go close. (5) BAIKAL JEONSA showed signs of returning to form last start with a good 4th over 1300M and can build on that today while (9) SOKDO SHINHWA has been 4th in each of her latest two and can aim to at least repeat.
|Selections||(6) Camp Touch (2) Hanyang Gongju (7) Flying Joy (5) Baikal Jeonsa|
|Next Best||9, 8|
|Fast Start||2, 3, 4, 7|
Race 6: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(6) WHITE PUNCH beat two of these on his way to 2nd place at class and distance on June 17th. While he never looked like troubling the winner that day, he finished off nicely and has a good chance of going one better today. The two behind White Punch in that race were (8) J BAEK and (7) SPEED YEONGUNG, coming home in 4th and 5th respectively. Both can aim to match or better those finishes with Speed Yeongung the one with the greater scope for improvement. (3) VICTORY STAR has won at this class already, prevailing over 1300M in April, and while she has been a bit ordinary in two efforts since then, she can be considered here. Similarly, (9) RUBY BEOLKIN won at this class over 1300M in April and has performed creditably in both her subsequent starts. She runs at this distance for the first time today and has an excellent chance of going close.
|Selections||(6) White Punch (9) Ruby Beolkin (7) Speed Yeongung (3) Victory Star|
|Next Best||8, 1|
|Fast Start||5, 7, 9|
Race 7: Class 4 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
Having won two of his latest three, (7) DORAON ACHIM HAE is up in class today but the manner of his five-length score over this distance a month ago suggests he is far from done. He doesn’t need to lead his races, so the widest draw is of little concern and under a patient ride, he can win again. (3) KWAEHAN YEBONGSAN and (4) HAEGARAM came home 2nd and 3rd respectively when they raced each other over 1200M on June 16th and the pair of them look like being the main dangers here, with Kwaehan Yebongsan likely the early leader. (1) CHARMING GOOD and (2) HUIMANG POINT both have plenty of useful experience and are capable of placing in this company.
|Selections||(7) Doraon Achim Hae (4) Haegaram (3) Kwaehan Yebongsan (1) Charming Good|
|Next Best||2, 5, 6|
|Fast Start||3, 6|
Race 8: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(10) JEJUI BARAM made all to win by six-lengths over 1000M on June 23rd. It was his second career win and had been coming as he had been getting progressively closer in his previous two. He is up in class here but should have the talent to be overcome that. Of perhaps more concern is that it is his first try at further than the minimum distance and the fact that he’ll be coming out of the widest gate but again, both can be dealt with and he is very much the one to beat. (7) MAHA HUIMANG returns following eight months off and the colt, who had shown plenty of ability before the layoff, looked very good only last week when comfortably winning a trial. So long as he didn’t leave his race there, he can be a big danger. So too can (8) WELLBEING JOY. She came home 5th of 12 on her first try at this level last time out and can push on today. US import (1) USEUNG TEUKKI has shown signs that he is starting to figure things out while there is one debut-maker, (5) SKANDA. The Dialed In colt didn’t exactly set the world alight in trials but this isn’t a race that is especially deep in talent and he may be interesting first-up.
|Selections||(10) Jejui Baram (8) Wellbeing Joy (7) Maha Huimang (1) Useung Teukki|
|Next Best||5, 4|
|Fast Start||1, 4, 7, 10|
Race 9: Class 3 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
(6) NEORANEUN CHUKJE was a class and distance winner in April and enters having last start run 3rd in a competitive trophy race at 1400M. He has led in the majority of his races so far and will be expected to do the same today with every chance of winning. (2) HAEORABI may be yet to win but the Into Mischief colt is up in class having never been any worse than 4th in his seven outings to date. That’s a run he should keep going here, even if he does once again find one or two too quick. (1) PARK SOCKS, winner of back to back races in April and May, steps back in trip here and can be a factor while the experienced (4) GOLD HORAH can more than hold her own in this company. (5) JEONGSANG CHAMP had a poor day at the office on his first try at this level five weeks ago but can be given another chance today.
|Selections||(6) Neoraneun Chukje (2) Haeorabi (5) Jeongsang Champ (1) Park Socks|
|Fast Start||5, 6, 7|
Race 10: Class 2 (1800M) Handicap / KRW 90 Million
Wide open handicap. (1) TWO KAY has won both his latest two at 1700M and 1400M in fine style. He is up to this distance for the first time and is carrying more weight, but he remains a firm contender and will likely try to lead all the way. He’ll be challenged for that early lead by (4) SAMJUNG TAPIT and this one could be the one to beat. He was a six-length class 3 winner at this distance on March before running 2nd in the competitive TJK Trophy race, again at this distance, on June 2nd. He beat a couple of these in the process and could be too good here. The two that Samjug Tapit beat that day were (7) THUNDER LIGHT and (9) TOSCONOVA CAT and both those will be dangers here. Tosconova Cat was actually favourite for the TJK Trophy off the back of a strong win at this distance a month earlier and while he only managed 6th that day, he is very nicely weighted here. (2) HOWIMUSA has plenty of experience and ran a solid class and distance 4th last start five weeks ago.
|Selections||(4) Samjung Tapit (9) Tosconova Cat (1) Two Kay (7) Thunder Light|
|Next Best||2, 5|
|Fast Start||1, 4, 10|
Race 11: Class 3 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
Since finishing 3rd on debut last December, (5) LUCKY CHUNYANG has gone on to become unbeaten in five subsequent starts with his latest victory being a comfortable class and distance win on June 9th. He was perhaps a touch fortunate in that his expected main rival that day got a bad start and never recovered, but while he carries more weight today, he could win again. This is possibly his toughest assignment yet though and he may not even start as favourite. (1) EAST GULCH is also a class and distance winner and while he could only manage 3rd when favourite at class and distance on June 9th, is very capable of winning again. (6) MUNHAK PRINCESS will go the lead alongside Lucky Chunyang. She found the Ttukseom Cup on June 3rd a little bit too much too soon for what was just her fourth career start but she should be much happier with the company today. (2) GLOBAL LINE, another front-runner, and (3) PANORAMA SHOW others in the frame.
|Selections||(5) Lucky Chunyang (1) East Gulch (6) Munhak Princess (3) Panorama Show|
|Next Best||2, 7|
|Fast Start||2, 5, 6|