Moonhak Chief, 2019 Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner returned to racing for the first time in just shy of a year at Seoul Racecourse on Friday afternoon. And it was a winning return too as the former Horse of the Year downed a hot class 1 field including the star of last summer Tiz Plan, by a full six-lengths.
Moonhak Chief dominated the Korea Cup in September 2019 before a disappointing showing behind Dolkong in the KRA Cup Classic a month later. He would return to form in the Grand Prix Stakes in December before opening what promised to be a glorious 2020 season by beating Cheongdam Dokki in early February just as the pandemic was taking hold.
Moonhak Chief was on the sidelines with a tendon injury while Cheongdam Dokki and the emerging Tiz Plan dueled for big purses over the abbreviated summer racing season but showed he hadn’t lost a step on his Friday return.
A field containing Moonhak Chief, Tiz Plan and the great – if fading – mare Silver Wolf, probably deserves better than to race at 5pm on a Friday afternoon in a deserted racecourse with no betting or live broadcast for a 1st prize of 28 Million Won (US$25,000). Such is Korean racing’s lot these days with customers no nearer being allowed back on track and the Government no nearer budging on allowing online betting.
Coming out of adjoining gates for the 2000M test, Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan came together at the start and under Johan Victoire, Tiz Plan seized the early initiative tracking leader The Gumpu. Once in the back straight though, Moon Se Young moved up a gear on Moonhak Chief and once the Pioneerof The Nile entire took command of the race, the result was scarcely in doubt.
Tiz Plan ran on well but could only get within six-lengths of Moonhak Chief while Tony Castanheira’s The Gumpu ran on for an excellent 3rd. Silver Wolf ran a creditable 5th of twelve but was a full thirteen-lengths behind the winner.
For Moonhak Chief it’s a thirteenth win from twenty-three starts. There will be other days for Tiz Plan and Cheongdam Dokki will surely have a say at some point as well. Then there is Blue Chipper, who may well make his return in a similarly underfunded race at Busan next Friday. Will they get to face each other with a suitable purse on the line with a suitable crowd watching and punting on them at any point? With a legislative lifeline looking ever more unlikely, just as it was a year ago, that will be up to the virus.
- During January, with all three tracks racing simultaneously on Fridays, the Busan races have been available for international simulcast. With the Seoul coronavirus situation stabilizing a little as well as hopefully the temperature being a little warmer making race times less susceptible to changes, it will be the Seoul races (where there are 15 across the day, rather than the 10 at Busan) which will be broadcast overseas in February). Somewhat amusingly, it means that we have missed Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan this week and could well mean we miss Blue Chipper next week!