The first Group race of the 2019 Korean season will be run at Seoul on Sunday and it could hardly be stronger as some of Seoul’s top performers step out over 1200M in the G3(KOR) SROA Chairman’s Cup (Owner’s Cup). They include Seoul’s top-rated horse, Cheongdam Dokki, champion mare Silver Wolf as well as up and coming stars Mask and Gaon Champ. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:40 to 17:10.
A winner of twelve of nineteen career starts, Cheongdam Dokki is a force at any distance and the five-year-old kicks off his campaign having concluded 2018 by running 2nd in the Grand Prix Stakes, a race in which he beat Dolkong, who is now at Meydan preparing to run in the Dubai World Cup. Since then he’s moved stables and makes his first start for Italian trainer Luigi Riccardi. Antonio Da Silva rides for the first time with the pair having looked sharp when smartly finishing off a trial in February. At his best, he will be very difficult to beat.
Silver Wolf is always difficult to beat. The mare, who won all three legs of the Queens’ Tour in 2017, beat Triple Crown and Grand Prix Stakes winner Power Blade on her way to victory in the Busan Ilbo Cup last year and although she came up slightly short in the very best company throughout the summer and autumn, she began this season with a strong win in the Donga Ilbo Cup over 1800M a month ago. Unlike many in this race, she doesn’t need to lead and if she gets a good trip, her class will see her very close.
As for the four-year-olds, last year’s Korean Derby runner-up Mask was an impressive winner of the Segye Ilbo Cup at the end of January, beating Sinui Myeongryeong, who also takes her chance here, by over two lengths. It was a strong performance and Mask is ideally drawn in gate 1 to sit behind the early leaders and come through powerfully in the latter part of the race.
Then there is Gaon Champ. Conservatively campaigned after suffering some setbacks – he’s only raced nine times in total, winning seven – he was last seen winning the Trainers’ Cup at this distance just before Christmas. While he hasn’t been spectacular, he has been consistently fast and may raise his game in his first test at the elite level.
Aside form the big-four there are plenty of others capable on their day, including last year’s victor Cheonji Storm and prolific class 1 handicap winner Cheonjiga. The grand old man of Korean sprinters is in attendance too although drawing gate 12 has done 2015 Asia Challenge Cup winner Choegang Schiller no favours. Full previews of every race (with Busan Selections at bottom):
Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
Quite a weak maiden to begin with and given that’s the case (9) AUSPICE, one of three debut-makers, must be given a chance. He led all the way in a competent looking trial two weeks ago and has nothing to fear first-up here. Of the ones who have raced before, (3) BLACK WINGWING and (10) YAHO M J CAT are the only ones to have registered top three finishes, both at this distance and they can be expected to be among the more fancied ones here, as can (2) RAON PATRICK who comes in after back to back 5th places and looks to have improvement in him. (11) INDEPENDENCE has weakened late on in his latest two over 1300M so may be better back at 1000M today.
|Selections||(9) Auspice (10) Yaho M J Cat (3) Black Wingwing (2) Raon Patrick|
|Next Best||11, 1|
|Fast Start||2, 4, 9, 10|
Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
Maiden for three-year-olds only. (9) O PI M J is the likely favourite having run 2nd and 3rd in his latest two both at 1000M. He’s run on nicely both times and the step up in trip today could suit him. (5) WONDERFUL PANGPANG struggled at this distance last time but has had seventeen weeks off since. He previously managed 3rd place in a similar race to this and can at least match that today. (6) BAEKSAEK GWANGCHAE and (7) MENI SPEED came home 3rd and 5th respectively when they raced each other at this distance on February 16th and both look to have scope for improvement here. There are two first-time starters and of them, (2) DIXIE AGAIN, from an in-form stable, looks to have the best chance of making an immediate impact.
|Selections||(9) O Pi M J (2) Dixie Again (7) Meni Speed (5) Wonderful Pangpang|
|Next Best||6, 1|
|Fast Start||2, 4, 5|
Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
(1) PUNGMUNEURO disappointed when well-backed to break his maiden at this distance on February 21st. It was an eventful race, however, and he is probably worth giving another chance to here, based on his performance prior to that. (8) GWANGPOK JUHAENG did perform in that race, coming home a much-improved 2nd and he will be one of the main dangers here, as will (7) GEOTAP, an improved 4th last time out. Other than those we are scraping about a bit although (2) REAL GANGJA, who unseated his rider on his latest start, and (3) EDWIN have both hinted at ability and could go well here.
|Selections||(1) Pungmuneuro (8) Gwangpok Juhaeng (7) Geotap (2) Real Gangja|
|Next Best||10, 6|
|Fast Start||5, 8, 10|
Race 4: Class 5 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
(3) NANGMAN STAR enters with recent form reading well at class and distance and following a 2nd and a 3rd from his latest two, can be backed to come out on top today. He’ll go back at the start but can finish strongly. Both (1) DELTA BROTHER and (2) HARD PRINCESS are up in class after maiden wins last time out. Delta Brother has far more potential form improvement and while it’s his first try at this trip, he should be a danger, likely leading from the start. (10) RAISE ME UP raised himself up into contention with a good 2nd place at class and distance last start, running on nicely to make up a lot of ground in the closing stages. (5) LUCKY BONGHWA and (6) BAEKDUI TAEYANG are others to consider.
|Selections||(3) Nangman Star (1) Delta Brother (10) Raise Me Up (5) Lucky Bonghwa|
|Next Best||6, 8|
|Fast Start||1, 7|
Race 5: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
(7) BANJIUI HAMSEONG is the one to beat here. He got his maiden win at the second time of asking in December and has since run in respectable 4th and 3rd place finishes at this level. He’ll be close to the pace from the start and should have too much. (2) MAGPIE is up in class having won over this distance a month ago. He will need to improve quite a bit but can’t be ruled out. (10) HANIL MAGIC was an improved 2nd at class and distance on February 17th and has placing chances again. (9) HEUNG KKAEBI and (11) INDY LADY have similarly proven themselves capable of finding the money at this level and should be in the hunt.
|Selections||(7) Banjiui Hamseong (2) Magpie (11) Indy Lady (9) Heung Kkaebi|
|Next Best||10, 4|
|Fast Start||2, 7, 9, 11|
Race 6: Class 4 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
(6) MATCH QUEEN has won her latest two in fine fashion to get promoted to this class and she enters as strong favourite to complete a hat-trick of wins here. She’s made all in all three of her wins to date and should do so again. It’s going to be hard to beat her but (10) EMORY SOCKS looks best placed to take advantage of any slip-ups. She was found slightly lame after her latest outing three weeks ago but is fit now and drops back in trip today, which should suit. (1) SOULY MAJESTIC has only raced twice and hasn’t done too much wrong. She steps up in trip for the first time and can get closer to the money. (5) FINAL ESSENCE and (7) GOLD BLUE MAGIC are others in the placing hunt.
|Selections||(6) Match Queen (10) Emory Socks (1) Souly Majestic (5) Final Essence|
|Next Best||7, 2|
|Fast Start||2, 5, 6|
Race 7: Class 4 (1700M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
(5) DEOBUREO SOOP will be strong favourite to score here. A class and distance winner in January, he then beat four of these on his way to 3rd place on February 16th, coming impressively from off the pace. He should have too much today. (8) SEUNGRI NARAE was 4th that day and is among the most likely to get close again while (9) STRONG RUNNER and (4) JEJUI HEUKSEON were further back but have both previously run very solid class and distance 3rd place finishes and are capable of going better here. Among those who didn’t go in that race, (3) MONSTER QUEEN looks to be the best.
|Selections||(5) Deobureo Soop (8) Seungri Narae (4) Jejui Heukseon (9) Strong Runner|
|Next Best||3, 7|
|Fast Start||4, 6, 7, 10|
Race 8: Class 3 (1700M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million
(4) COVERGIRL JUSTICE is the new 1300M track record-holder having absolutely smashed the previous mark, albeit in very speedy conditions, at the beginning of February. She’s up in class and in distance here but is favoured to strike again, leading from the start. (9) DAEGUN JEPAE is also up in class following a maiden victory, in his case a battling win over this distance four weeks ago. He will join Covergirl Justice in competing for the early lead. (7) CHOEGANG GOSU has run creditably in two tries at this distance leading up to this and should go close while (6) LOVE IT and (12) BLUE MA STAR are others who should be challenging at least for places.
|Selections||(4) Covergirl Justice (9) Daegun Jepae (7) Choegang Gosu (12) Blue Ma Star|
|Next Best||6, 2|
|Fast Start||4, 5, 9|
Race 9: Class Open “SROA Chairman’s Cup” (KOR G3) 1200M / Allowance / KRW 400 Million
- MASK – Won the Segye Ilbo Cup, a trial for this race at the end of January in commanding fashion coming from just off the pace. Well drawn to do the same and should sit just behind the early leaders. He’s in deeper water today but shouldn’t be far away.
- GAON CHAMP – Lightly raced but he’s won seven of the nine he’s taken on so far. Last seen winning the Trainer’s Cup just before Christmas. He’s not been asked to do very much so far but what he has, he’s done exceptionally well, and this could be a big year for him. The time off should have him just right and he can win.
- SILVER WOLF – One of the top race-mares to run in Korea, she returned to the winner’s circle with victory in the Donga Ilbo Cup over 1800M at the beginning of February. She’s won plenty of races at this distance too and is still among the best at Seoul at any trip. Others slightly favoured this time, but her class is not in doubt and it isn’t impossible.
- WINNER RED – Went through 2018 winless although in fairness tended to run in top-class company. Drops back to this trip for the first time since his debut all the way back in 2015. Won a trial last month but this is a hard ask. Needs a good start.
- PANORAMA SHOW – A touch disappointing in 6th when favourite over 1400M in January, he was getting plenty of weight when he won a class 1 handicap at that distance on February. He’s going to need to improve here.
- PARANG JUUIBO – Now a nine-year-old, recent form doesn’t inspire. He’s been winning trials but has been unable to repeat on the track. The booking of Alan Munro is a plus and with a fast start he can still beat a few.
- LEAD MONEY – She won the Jeju Governor’s Cup over 1400M last October but has struggled in two races since then, most recently well back behind Silver Wolf in the Donga Ilbo. Should appreciate the drop back in trip here if not necessarily the step up in company.
- CHEONGDAM DOKKI – Formidable at any distance, it’s a long time since he raced at this distance but that doesn’t mean much. Plenty of speed and overall the best horse in the race. This is though his first start since running 2nd to Triple Nine in the Grand Prix over 2300M and first for trainer Luigi Riccardi. Looked well in a trial last month and at his best, wins.
- CHEONJIGA – Has to be in the frame with three class 1 wins from his last four outings. On the flip side, he was getting weight all three times. He is a come from behind type and the race needs to set itself up for him. He will pass plenty, the question is just how many.
- CHEONJI STORM – The defending Champion. He put in one or two really strong performances last summer including 2nd to Cheongdam Dokki in the Busan Mayor’s Cup at a mile. However, he struggled in the latter part of the year and started this term no better when 6th behind Mask in the Segye Ilbo Cup. Trialled well two weeks ago but it will take more than that for him to be backable here. Bled last start.
- SUPER FLUID – Loads of potential but this may be a bit too much too soon. Finished 4th in a very quick Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy against fellow juveniles last autumn but is yet to be tested beyond class 3 company but he does get a nice light 53kg to carry.
- CHOEGANG SCHILLER – The eight-year-old is one start into a comeback and while he finished 8th behind Cheonjiga, he was carrying 60kg, a full 8kg more than the winner. He should have come on for that run and while the wide draw won’t help, don’t rule out him getting close.
- SINUI MYEONGRYEONG – Ran 2nd to Mask in the Segye Ilbo Cup in late January and has been beaten by Lead Money and Panorama Show in recent outings too. Rarely too far away but this is difficult.