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.
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:
Clean Up Joy