KRA Cup Mile 2021 Review

A little late but: It was billed as the hottest opening leg to a Korean Triple Crown ever but in the end Heat Yegam turned it into a procession with a scorching gate to wire win in the KRA Cup Mile (KOR G2) at Busan last Sunday afternoon.

The first race of the three-year-old Classic series had been delayed from its usual April spot by six months due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the racing industry. That delay led to what is usually green and unexposed field in the Cup Mile, reaching the starting line this time with in-excess of sixty previous race wins between them.

Heat Yegam was sent off as the betting favourite and from gate nine he got a beautiful start while some of the expected speedsters on his inside faltered and was quickly into an early and surprisingly easy lead. Big rival Winner’s Man was quickly on his shoulder but having come out of gate twelve was being made to work hard. Meanwhile Seoul’s big hope, Heungbaragi, was content to sit handy and wide with jockey Choi Bum-hyun having quickly abandoned any hopes of leading from gate fifteen.

By the top of the stretch, Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man held a four-length advantage over the rest of the field, but it was clear the latter was feeling the effects of the early pace. Heat Yegam though was fresh and while he drifted a little in the final furlong and a half, he cruised home two-lengths to the good. Heungbaragi – who having been wide for most of the race, ended up on the inside fence – ran a strong race in 2nd, while another Seoul raider, Chief Indy closed ominously for 3rd. Mr. Indie was 4th and Winner’s Man a brave 5th.

The win itself may have been soft but the performance was anything but. Heat Yegam completed the first six furlongs just one-tenth of a second outside the track record for that distance – no wonder Winner’s Man couldn’t cope any longer – and then ran on to record an overall time only a second shy of the track record for a mile, held by Blue Chipper.  It was his eighth win in nine starts.

For jockey You Hyun-myung, post-race feelings were a mixture of elation and relief. “Going on my experience with this horse so far, I had to expect him to win,” You told the Korea Racing Broadcasting Channel (KRBC) after the race. “There was always going to be a lot of pressure at the start, so I just wanted to get out of the gate in a straight line with no trouble. As it happened, we got away very well and, in the end, everything was much smoother and easier than I expected.” 

Next up will be the Korean Derby in Seoul on November 7th, as Heat Yegam seeks to emulate J.S. Hold and Power Blade in winning a Triple Crown. You Hyun-myung thinks the horse will be ready. “

Heat Yegam was bred by the Yeonhak Agricultural Corporation at the Yeonhak Farm on Jeju Island and was sold privately to owner Kim Joon-hyun for 150 Million Korean Won as a yearling in September 2019. Sired by Take Charge Indy, during that stallion’s brief sojourn in Korea before his American farm bought him back due to the unexpected success of his Stateside progeny, he is out of Desert Heat, a mare from the final crop by the legendary sire, Mr. Prospector.

How they ran:

1st  Heat Yegam – started favourite today  showed great speed to sit a tad wide but a fast comfortable rhythm, on the corner he applied some pressure to get a good break on the field and while he drifted out in the early part of the straight came back towards the finish. This was a sensational run and the fastest ever KRA Cup Mile run to date.

2nd Heungbaragi – He had a challenge from barrier 15 but showed  good speed to get forward however he was very wide most of the journey lost ground on the corner and then fought on strongly in the straight making up much ground. A stellar performance

3rd  Chief Indy – Settled wide and midfield then on the corner the jockey elected to go inside near the fence where he was balanced up and urged forward. It was at the 150m when he came into the picture and kept taking ground off the leaders. A great run and further distance will also suit him.

4th Mr. Indie – He was ridden hard early to get a more forward position settling on the fence midfield then slotted forward just behind Mach Titan. He stayed on the rails saving much ground, into the straight and he was a clear 4th he kept fighting in the straight to maintain 4th in a strong run.

5th Winner’s Man – Ridden hard early to be on the shoulder of Heat Yegam and was wide from a less favourable gate. Couldn’t maintain that pace after such a fast opening but plenty of merit in the way he ran on for 5th. He may be a different prospect in Seoul at the Korean Derby.