Day: November 14, 2018

Triple Nine, Cheongdam Dokki Among Grand Prix Nominations

Twenty-eight horses have been nominated for the Grand Prix Stakes, the traditional season-ending finale which is set for Seoul Racecourse on Sunday December 9th and will be run over the longest distance in use in Korean racing, 2300M. They include the now four-time President’s Cup Champion Triple Nine as well as Busan Mayor’s Cup and KRA Cup Classic victor Cheongdam Dokki and Korea Cup 2nd place-getter Dolkong.

Power Blade Grand Prix Fnish1

Power Blade won the Grand Prix in 2017 but is now retired althoough the other two horses in shot – Dongbang Daero & Cheongdam Dokki, could be back for another go (Pic: KRA)

With last year’s winner Power Blade having been retired this summer, there is only one previous Grand Prix winner among the nominations. That’s Clean Up Joy, who triumphed in the 2016 edition and would be tackling the race for the fifth time. For Triple Nine, 3rd last year, it would be fourth attempt with his best finish being 2nd to Clean Up Joy in 2016.

Ten of the nominated horses are trained at Seoul, including Cheongdam Dokki, Clean Up Joy and Dolkong, while the remaining eighteen are from Busan. The maximum field size for the race is sixteen. Busan-trained horses joined the race for the first time in 2009 and have won six of the subsequent nine runnings.

All four foreign trainers based in Korea are represented at this stage. Peter Wolsley, who won the race with Bold Kings in 2015 has put forward Ppudeut and Royal Ruby while Thomas Gillespie has Great King and Champ Line. Along with Dolkong, Simon Foster has nominated Choego Money while Bart Rice is set to once again send Buhwarui Banseok, who finished very strongly for 5th place a year ago.

First run in 1985, the Grand Prix remains the race every Korean owner, trainer and jockey wants to win. It’s place in the calendar at the end of the year and its unusual distance as well as until recently being one of the few Korean Group 1 races not restricted to locally-bred horses make it a unique challenge with the winner traditionally almost always becoming Horse Of The Year. That’s not necessarily the case these days but even in the Korea Cup era, the Grand Prix still hasn’t lost its luster.

Three horses have won the race twice. Po Gyeong Seon in the 1980s, Ka Shock Do in the 1980s and Dongbanui Gangja in the 2000s and the list of winners is a roll call of the biggest names in Korean racing over the past three decades. In addition to the two-time winners, such luminaries as Subsidy, Mister Park, Tough Win and of course Power Blade have come home in front in December. For all his achievements, Triple Nine is yet to add his name to the list. It might be fourth time lucky this December. Here’s the full list of preliminary nominations:

SEOUL
Cheonji Storm
Singgeureoun Geom
Wild Thunder
Cheongdam Dokki
Clean Up Joy
Tosconova Cat
Road Winner
Ultra Rocket
Dolkong
Choego Money

BUSAN
Champ Line
Great King
Baekmunbaekdap
Today
Triple Nine
Saengil Gippeum
Ppudeut
Royal Ruby
Buhwarui Banseok
Stealth
Indian King
Hello Venus
Jumbo Blade
Good Casting
Adeleui Chukje
World Sun
Dongbang Daero
Wooa

Sky Bay Lands Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup / Victoire Bags Seven / Gaon Champ Steps up

Sky Bay ran out the emphatic winner of the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup, the final leg of the 2018 Queens’ Tour at Busan last Sunday. The three-year-old US-bred filly ran away from the field in the home straight to win by five-lengths and secure a first Group race victory for trainer Lee Shin Young.

Sky Bay - KRA

Sky Bay was sent off as favourite for the 2000M test and was prominent throughout. While other early pace-setters Blue Flag and Catch Nine gave way, the Adios Charlie filly was too strong and fast-finishers Seouri Byeol and Damyang Hwanho never looked like getting close. With Sky Bay not having competed in either of the first two legs of the Queens’ Tour, 4th place-getter Cheongsu Yeogeol, winner of the Ttukseom Cup and 2nd in the KNN Cup, was crowned the overall Series winner

Sky Bay [Adios Charlie – KK’s Kitty (Yes It’s True)] was a $95,000 purchase from the OBS 2017 Spring Sale of two-year-olds and has now won five of her nine races. It is the biggest win of trainer Lee Shin Young’s career as she becomes the first Korean female trainer to saddle a Group winner.

For jockey Lee Chan Ho, one of the most naturally gifted riders Korea has produced but who has seen his career weighed down somewhat by suspensions for off-track issues, it was a second Group winner following Choegang Schiller’s triumph in the 2015 Asia Challenge Cup.

Speaking of jockeys, up at Seoul it was a sensational weekend for Johan Victoire. The French rider rode three winners on Saturday and then managed to top that feat on Sunday, partnering four more for a total of seven across the weekend.

Victoire, who is seventeen months into his Korean sojourn, has now ridden 73 winners from 729 rides in the country.

While Sky Bay’s win was impressive, the performance of the weekend, however, may have been up in Seoul. In the very last race on Sunday, Gaon Champ stepped up to class 1 for the first time and completely dominated, running in the second fastest time of the year over 1400M for an untroubled length-and-a-half victory.

Gaon Champ (Ecton Park) is a three-year-old colt whose only defeats so far have come at the hands of Mask, in the Seoul Classic trial back in March, and then in the KRA Cup Mile at Busan when he played up in the gates beforehand. He moves on to six wins from eight total starts and will hopefully be one to look out for in the bg sprints next year. He’ll probably not get the opportunity to carry just 51kg again though.