Triple Nine will bid to make it fourth-time lucky when he lines up for the 37th Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. Among a strong field of sixteen runners, he faces Cheongdam Dokki, who has bested him twice already this year, as well as Korea Cup runner-up Dolkong in the season-finale at the rarely used distance of 2300M. The Grand Prix Stakes is race 9 (16:45 local time) of an 11 race Sunday card at Seoul which runs from 10:45 to 18:00. There are also 6 races at Busan from 12:40 to 17:10.
Three-time President’s Cup winner Triple Nine has finished 4th, 2nd and 3rd in the last three editions yet Korea’s biggest domestic prize has eluded him up until now. The feeling is that this is his best – and possibly final chance. Cheongdam Dokki came out on top when the pair met in Busan in July’s Mayor’s Cup and then at Seoul in the KRA Cup Classic on October. However, a year ago the younger horse was odds-on favourite for this race which he led at a furious pace before weakening slightly late on as Triple Nine and two others ultimately came past.
Triple Nine was the big winner from the barrier draw. Emerging from gate 2, he will be able to run his own race. The front-running Cheongdam Dokki will have to get across from gate 14 to get to his desired position on the lead and will have to get past Triple Nine’s sprinting stablemate Today to do so. He certainly has the early speed to successfully accomplish it, but at what potential cost late on?
It would be wrong to describe this as a two-horse race though. It isn’t. Since 1997, only two betting favourites have prevailed and while real long-shot winners are rare it is a race which punters find tricky.
Dolkong is no longshot. Possibly the most talented of the lot, an injury-plagued career has seen him restricted to ten starts of which he has won six. He’s met Cheongdam Dokki three times and has beaten him twice including when running 2nd in September’s Korea Cup. Both distance and draw are a slight concern for him, but few come in to the Grand Prix with everything in their favour. If he can run to his best – and trainer Simon Foster has shown nothing but confidence in him – he is more than capable of downing both Triple Nine and Cheongdam Dokki.
Buhwarui Banseok ran a huge race in 5th last year and he returns once more with a likely strong late run. Up and comers Road Winner and Moonhak Chief will also have plenty of eyes on them. Most eyes though will be on Triple Nine as he seeks to cement his legacy by finally winning the biggest one of all.
Race 9: Class Open “Grand Prix Stakes” (KOR G1) 2300M Weight for Age / KRW 800 Million
- ULTRA ROCKET – A very solid 4th behind Triple Nine in the President’s Cup having won a Trophy race at 1800M on interntional weekend in September. Beaten by Choego Money at 2000M in the summer. He’s perhaps not quite of the elite and sneaking some minor prize money would be an excellent result.
- TRIPLE NINE – Maybe not as naturally gifted as a Cheongdam Dokki or a Dolkong but just so reliable. He comes in having completed his fourth consecutive win in the President’s Cup and tries to get fourth time lucky here. He can run his own race, settled close to but not on the early speed and he will make up ground late on. The gold standard of Korean thoroughbreds, this could be his year and he is slight favourite.
- CHAMP LINE – First start since July when he was 9th of 13 behind Cheongdam Dokki in the Busan Mayor’s Cup. A very solid horse who perhaps hasn’t quite managed to live up to his early promise. He’ll run well but perhaps isn’t quite at the level of the favourites.
- TOSCONOVA CAT – Well back in the Korea Cup in September before running 3rd to Choego Money at this distance at the end of September, albeit ten-lengths in arrears. He dropped back to 1400M for a class 1 win in October. Still only 3-years-old, he has promise but he will be an outsider.
- CHOEGO MONEY – He won at class 1 over this distance by nine-lengths at the end of September but disappointed when favourite in a tune-up for this two weeks ago at 1800M. While solid at class 1, he is unproven at the elite level and he carried a light weight in that September win. That recent performance will likely deter plenty, but he can still be a wildcard here.
- ROAD WINNER – A winner of five from seven so far, he’s very much on the way up. Won the JRA Trophy on international weekend in September before taking out a class 1 handicap in October, both at 1800M. This is unchartered territory both in terms of distance and calibre of opposition, but he can acquit himself well. Could challenge to get on pace early and can place.
- MOONHAK CHIEF – Seoul’s new great hope, he ran 3rd to Cheongdam Dokki and Triple Nine in the KRA Cup Classic in October. He ran on very nicely and should get today’s trip. Well drawn to sit in the middle of the pack and finish strongly, this may be a year too soon, but he will get plenty of backing for at least a place.
- BUHWARUI BANSEOK – Ran very well in this race last year for 5th place, finishing the strongest of all. He’s been up and down since then and was 5th behind Cheongdam Dokki and Triple Nine in the Busan Mayor’s Cup before winning his lead up race to this in October. His jockey is riding the track in a race for the first time but is very capable. A real chance of bettering last year.
- STEALTH – Never really got going in the President’s Cup last month when he ran 8th but he is a nice horse and he will run on for the whole 2300M. Has beaten a few of these recently and he could run into some prize money as others tire later. He will go right to the back and close.
- GREAT KING – Struggled in the Korea Cup here in September but came back into form with a four-length win over Royal Ruby at Busan a month ago. He was front-runner that day and is likely to be on pace early again here. He ran well enough at 2200M in September so should stay on with an outside chance of placing.
- TODAY – A stablemate of Triple Nine. More renowned as a sprinter, he qualified for this by virtue of the points he accrued by running 3rd in the KRA Trophy at Kranji, Singapore this summer at 1200M. Never raced at further than a mile although he did win on his only try at it. A likely fast starter who surely won’t win at this distance but may cause some issues for Cheongdam Dokki early.
- ADELEUI CHUKJE – Has established himself as a solid class 1 competitor and is in-form and likely to appreciate the distance. He won a lead-up race for this over 2200M at Busan in late September but was getting weight that day and this will be significantly stiffer.
- ROYAL RUBY – He was 2nd in the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2017 and ran 2nd to Great King at odds in excess of 40/1 on his latest start. Has good experience of Seoul and he should thrive at this distance. He will go back at the start and look to close strongly. Top half finish can be expected. Trainer Peter Wolsley won the race with Bold Kings in 2015.
- CHEONGDAM DOKKI – While he may have lost a little of his shine with his run in the Korea Cup, he still finished 4th and then returned to the winner’s circle in the KRA Cup Classic in October, beating Triple Nine for the second time this year. He set some brutal fractions in this race last year before ultimately being bested late on. The draw is not ideal as he will want to get to the front. If he can do that without using too much energy, they may not catch him this time.
- SAENGIL GIPPEUM – Seems to have been around forever even though he is only five. Generally takes his chances in the big races but it’s been a long time since the most recent of his eight wins and he’ll be a big outsider here. Jockey Choi Eun Gyeong gets her first ride in the race.
- DOLKONG – First start since running 2nd in the Korea Cup in September. Through his injury-interrupted career he’s met Cheongdam Dokki three times and beaten him twice. The distance may not be optimum for him, but it isn’t for many of these, including Cheongdam Dokki and Triple Nine. If he is absolutely right and runs to his best, he can win.
Verdict: This is billed locally as (2) TRIPLE NINE vs (14) CHEONGDAM DOKKI and it may well turn out to be although if (16) DOLKONG brings his best, he is capable of beating both of them. Cheongdam Dokki will do his best to get across from his wide draw and take the lead and then it will be up to everyone else to try and get past him. As ever the rarely used distance makes it a fascinating contest and while the favourites will most likely contest the finish, the likes of (8) BUHWARUI BANSEOK may have a say late on. Up and comers (6) ROAD WINNER and (7) MOONHAK CHIEF may find this is a year too soon but will also be expected to beat plenty.
|Selections||(2) Triple Nine (14) Cheongdam Dokki (16) Dolkong (8) Buhwarui Banseok|
|Next Best||6, 7, 13, 10|
|Fast Start||6, 10, 11, 14|
Here is the race-by-race for the other 10 races at Seoul:
Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
Juvenile maiden fillies to begin with and all but one have raced before. There aren’t any real standouts but (3) SENTOSA looks most likely having run competently across three starts to date with the best being 3rd place in a quick race at this distance in October. From gate 3 she can gain control early. (7) SONGAM BARBIE was just beaten a neck into (more…)