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 2nd place in early October and then overcame a bad start to run a decent enough 5th on his reappearance last month. He looks the main danger along with (5) CHEONNYEON HAPPY, who ran an improved 2nd at 1300M on his latest start. (6) CHEONGDAM JEPAE and (10) ROYAL SHALOM are others who look to have scope for improvement here.
|Selections||(3) Sentosa (7) Songam Barbie (5) Cheonnyeon Happy (6) Cheongdam Jepae|
|Next Best||10, 8|
|Fast Start||3, 8, 10|
Race 2: Class 4 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 75 Million
More juvenile maidens this time with two debut-makers among them. (8) DAEGUNUI CHANG was sent off as favourite on debut in October following an impressive trial but only managed 3rd having hung outwards throughout to the extent he was ordered back to trial. He was equally impressive in that trial and up in trip, if he minds his manners today, he can win. (1) THUNDER BLADE was 4th, just half a length behind Daegunui Chang in that October race and returned on November 11th to beat a couple of these on his way to 2nd place over this distance. That was a good performance and he has every chance of going one better. (3) GOLD HAMMER was 3rd behind Thunder Blade in that race. He’s now been 3rd in all three outings and could well repeat. (4) GOLDEN DIAL and (5) ECHO FIRST ON can both build on solid debuts.
|Selections||(8) Daegunui Chang (1) Thunder Blade (4) Golden Dial (3) Gold Hammer|
|Fast Start||8, 10|
Race 3: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
Fillies (and one mare) only here. (1) RISING SOCKS ran 2nd in a similar race to this on November 4th. She was well-beaten by a very good winner and she’s not the fastest of starters, so she will have to come from behind, but a similar run today will put her right in the frame. (2) BODEURAM ran a strong 3rd over 1000M on her latest outing and while a previous try at this trip didn’t go well, she looks ready for another crack. (3) HEUNG BUJA and (4) FIRST RANK are both up in class following maiden wins and both should be competitive at this level. (7) STAR LIST remains a maiden after seven tries but has proven capable of winning money in this kind of company and can do so again.
|Selections||(1) Rising Socks (4) First Rank (2) Bodeuram (7) Star List|
|Next Best||3, 6|
|Fast Start||3, 4, 7, 8|
Race 4: Class 5 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(4) GYORYONG UNU has had a bit of a wild time so far. He went walkabout on debut when seemingly set for an easy win and on his reappearance his jockey was unseated coming out of the gate. After that he registered a facile maiden win but followed up being slow away and only beating one home in an admittedly tough contest last month. In this company, so long as his bad luck doesn’t strike again, he should win. (9) SAEROUN CAPTAIN is up in class after an easy five-length maiden score a month ago and will be a danger while the jockey booking suggests there is reason to be more confident about the chances of (6) FANTASTIC QUEEN this time around. (1) SPEED YEOWANG and (2) MACHO HIME are others who are better than recent form implies and who can improve here.
|Selections||(4) Gyoryong Unu (9) Saeroun Captain (6) Fantastic Queen (1) Speed Yeowang|
|Next Best||2, 8|
|Fast Start||3, 4, 9|
Race 5: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
A winner of two from five so far, (8) SHANGHAI JORDAN led for much of the way over this distance on November 11th on what was his first try at this level. He ultimately had to settle for 3rd place but it was enough to demonstrate that he is likely to have wins in him at this class and the first could come today. That very same race saw (7) WOOSEORA ICHEON put in a very poor shift as favourite, ultimately finishing well back. He was favourite for a reason though as previous form was good and gets another chance here. (1) DUSON WANGJA is up in class after a maiden win at the fifteenth time of asking. It had been coming though so there is no reason why he can’t compete in this company. (4) SEUNGRI NARAE too is up in class and should be in the placing frame. (3) HEUNG BARAM is likely to join Shanghai Jordan on the early speed and may stay on.
|Selections||(8) Shanghai Jordan (7) Wooseora Icheon (1) Duson Wangja (4) Seungri Narae|
|Next Best||3, 2|
|Fast Start||3, 8|
Race 6: Class 4 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(10) CHOEGANG GOSU has two 2nd places across four starts to date (there were seven months between his second and third outings) and his run last time at the end of October suggests a win is on the cards sooner rather than later. He can settle on the outside of the leaders here and finish strongly. (2) TOP BRAIN ran a couple of times in the summer before being put away for a few months. He looked good when winning a trial last month and comes straight into contention here. At the other end of the experience-spectrum, (6) SEVEN’S LUCKY was just beaten a head into 2nd place last time out and is more than capable of going close against this type of opposition. (1) DEVIL MAN and (9) BEST GUNHAM are others to take into consideration.
|Selections||(10) Choegang Gosu (2) Top Brain (6) Seven’s Lucky (1) Devil Man|
|Fast Start||2, 6, 9|
Race 7: Class 5 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
(7) SEUNGRI PLUS remains a maiden after eleven attempts but enters here in good shape following a 2nd and a 3rd from his last two starts. He was beaten less than a length in his latest and the step up to 1700M today could be what he’s been waiting for. (1) SISPUMA WINNER was a decent class and distance 3rd on November 11th and should be aiming for at minimum a repeat. This is the strongest of races so both (2) ASTER and (8) POX RANGER may be expected to improve on their most recent efforts. (5) DOUBLE A has done all her recent work at 1000M and is interestingly put up significantly in trip today. She’s the wildcard pick.
|Selections||(7) Seungri Plus (1) Sispuma Winner (2) Aster (8) Pox Ranger|
|Next Best||5, 6|
|Fast Start||1, 5, 7|
Race 8: Class 6 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
- SPEED SHOCK – Hung outwards for the duration of his third consecutive 7th place finish last time. Will need to improve today.
- BARAMUI MISO – Remains a maiden but up in class after two 2nd places from four starts. Up in trip too which may suit. Promising and with solid claims here.
- C.K. QUEEN – 5th behind Daemyeong Solar at class and distance on latest start a month ago was an improvement. 5th a realistic target today.
- CUPID STORM – Competitive at this level, he didn’t get the best of trips when 6th last time at 1300M. Has a 3rd place at this distance and can go well.
- GAZUA – Won on second start in September but has struggled in three subsequent outings at this level. First try at the trip which may suit his style but hard to recommend.
- NANGMAN STAR – Yet to win in twenty-two attempts and has shown little sign of putting that right in recent efforts.
- ONNURI ALBA – 3rd at class and distance in August and a competent enough 5th of 8 last time in similar race to this. Should be looking to get closer today.
- DAEMYEONG SOLAR – Yet to win in ten attempts but hasn’t been outside the top four in her latest six. Solid 2nd on first try at trip a month ago and very good chance of going one better today.
- SPECIAL QUEEN – One of two twenty-two race maidens here, she’ll almost certainly find on or two too quick again but won’t be overmatched and should beat a few. Top jockey booking today.
Verdict: (8) DAEMYEONG SOLAR remains a maiden after ten attempts but came close to ending that on her first try at this distance on November 11th when she ran 2nd having led for much of the way. She’ll go to the front again and it could be her day. If she falls short one more, (2) BARAMUI MISO is the one most likely to take advantage. She’s run well for a 3rd and two runner-up finishes from four outings so far and while she’s up in class today, she shift-up to 1700M should suit. (4) CUPID STORM and (9) SPECIAL QUEEN are other maidens who should challenge for at least places. (7) ONNURI ALBA is one of only two in the field who have actually won a race and she too is capable of challenging here.
|Selections||(2) Baramui Miso (8) Daemyeong Solar (9) Special Queen (7) Onnuri Alba|
|Next Best||4, 6|
|Fast Start||2, 7, 8|
Race 10: Class 3 (1800M) Allowance / KRW 75 Million
(1) WONDERFUL CHAMPION has had a very solid three-year-old campaign and has won two of his last three with the other being a good 4th in a Trophy race on international weekend. He ran out a six-length winner at this class over 1700M and while he is up to 1800M for the first time and, perhaps more pertinently, carries an additional 5kg today, he is the one they’ll need to beat. Carrying the same weight is (4) WONDERFUL JACKPOT. He comes in having won at this level over 1900M at the end of October and will be a big danger. (6) JEULGEOUN HAMSEONG and (7) SWEET ROCK both found themselves overmatched in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup at Busan last month and both should be more comfortable today. (9) HIBIKI was only beaten half a length at class and distance a month ago and is another in the hunt.
|Selections||(1) Wonderful Champion (4) Wonderful Jackpot (9) Hibiki (6) Jeulgeoun Hamseong|
|Next Best||7, 3|
|Fast Start||1, 3, 8, 12|
Race 11: Class 2 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 90 Million
- SHARK RUN – Ran in the first two legs of the Queens’ Tour in the summer and was a creditable 5th on latest outing at this class and distance last time. 5th or better a good target here.
- SAEBYEOGI – Returns for the first time since winning at 20/1 back in August. Up in class today and up against it but well drawn to get on speed.
- SUN LIGHTING – Talented but unreliable. Badly out of sorts in latest two and hard to recommend at this class just yet.
- KOREA JEONGSANG – First start since March. Trialled up well but hard to recommend first-up.
- STAR CAT – Also-ran in the Korean Oaks having led early, she’s up in class after a good win at this distance a month ago. Will aim to lead and can stay on.
- OKAY QUEEN – 4th at class and distance last start at the end of October, beating Shark Run. If she can get a decent early position, she can go well again.
- DAE JYUSIN – First outing since an also-ran in a Trophy race in September. Proven at this class though. Drops back in trip for first time since January. Interesting outsider.
- JANGSAN WILD – Four wins in a row and six from eight in total. Up in class today and one of his only two defeats to date was at this distance. Better horse now and big danger.
- EAST GULCH – Promoted to this class after a strong of 3rd place finishes. 7th of 12 on first crack at it a month ago.
- KING’S WARRIOR – 8th behind Choinma and East Gulch last time but has placed three times at this class. Will need to improve.
- CHOINMA – 3rd in the Korean Derby. Slowly away last time when 3rd as odds-on favourite over 1800M and finished 3rd. Back in trip today and likely the one to beat.
- MALIBU BULPAE – Up in class after good win at the distance two weeks ago. Draw not a problem and nicely weighted. Solid placing chances.
Verdict: It’s hard to believe that (11) CHOINMA hasn’t won a race since completing a double in Seoul’s top juvenile races in the autumn of 2017. He ran well in all three Triple Crown contests with 2nd places in both Cup Mile and Derby. He drops back in trip today and in this company is the one to beat. (8) JANGSAN WILD is up in class following four consecutive wins. The distance remains a slight concern, but he should be on pace early and if he stays, he has a chance of making it five. (12) MALIBU BULPAE won well on a wet track two weeks ago and is another up in class with a chance. (1) SHARK RUN and (6) OKAY QUEEN others in the hunt.
|Selections||(11) Choinma (8) Jangsan Wild (12) Malibu Bulpae (1) Shark Run|
|Fast Start||2, 5, 8|