Eoma Eoma finally got the Graded race win his talent has always promised in the SBS Sports Sprint while Australian trainer Peter Wolsley saddled his fifth Korean Graded winner as Mr. Afleet took out the KRA Cup Classic on a big Sunday afternoon of action at Seoul Racecourse.
The SBS Sports Sprint (1200M-KOR G3) was one of the few Graded races that managed to get run in 2020 and on Sunday, Morfhis returned to defend his title while East Jet and Blue Chipper took their place in a star-studded lineup. Eoma Eoma was only 3rd in last year’s race but had progressed to such an extent in the meantime, including smashing the 1400M Seoul track record, that he was sent off as hot favourite, despite drawing the widest gate.
In the event, that draw meant that Eoma Eoma would be wide all the way around and would be tested every step of the way by East Jet as Alan Munro kept his Strike Again gelding, winner of last year’s SROA Trophy on the rail and in the lead throughout. Moon Se Young meanwhile on Eoma Eoma simply couldn’t find his way inside with not only East Jet but also Blue Chipper and Yeongung Louis keeping him outside.
Class told, as in the home straight and still wide, Eoma Eoma was relentless and despite a very game run by East Jet, Eoma Eoma eventually swept by just meters from the finishing line to win by half a length. It was a tenth career win on his twelfth start for the American bred four-year-old colt, who is by Algorithms and out of the Run Away And Hide mare Lignite.
East Jet was a strong 2nd while there was a potential breakout performance by lightly-raced three-year-old Yeongung Louis [Violence – Don’t Stop To Shop (Unbridled’s Song)] in 3rd. It proved a hard day at the office though for defending champion Morfhis, who ran 5th, and even harder for Blue Chipper, who faded to 9th. It’s a first Graded win for Eoma Eoma, but few would back it being the last.
An hour later, once more the widest gate prevailed as Mr. Afleet won the 36th running of the KRA Cup Classic (2000M-KOR G2).
The 2019 Korea Cup winner Moonhak Chief led from the gate, but Mr. Afleet [Afleet Alex – In Escrow (Vindication)] took command in the home straight and saw off the attentions of the up and comer Haengbok Wangja to claim victory by a nose in a photo-finish.
Moonhak Chief would fade to 7th while Cheongdam Dokki, seeking a third win in the race after victories in 2017 and 2018 briefly showed just behind the leaders but ultimately weakened to last (an initial post-race check showed no obvious issues). With Tiz Plan also misfiring, there was a sense of a possible changing of the guard although the six-year-old Jjang Kong running 3rd and the evergreen eight-year-old Shamrocker, a remarkable 4th quickly belied that idea.
Speaking after the race, winning jockey Seo Seung-un told in-house broadcaster KRBC that everything went to plan “The draw wasn’t good, but I was surprised how easy it was to get to the position that I wanted to be in. I followed Moonhak Chief across and from then on it was simple.” When quizzed on whether he thought he and Mr. Afleet would be back in the winner’s circle at Seoul in December’s Grand Prix Stakes, Seo had something else in mind. “Of course, the Grand Prix is the target but he is eligible for the (Busan) Owners’ Cup (1600M on November 21st) so they might go there, but I just hope for the Grand Prix” before adding: “it isn’t up to me, anyway.”
Seo Seung-un will be traveling back to Busan minus a substantial percentage of his winnings after stewards penalized him to the tune of $1,000 for unacceptable whip use in the home straight. Haengbok Wangja’s jockey Kim Yong-geun was also found guilty and punished for the same offence. In their ungainly windmilling, both were lucky they didn’t unbalance their mounts to the extent of taking them out of contention and both thoroughly deserve their (lenient) punishment.
It was another training triumph for Peter Wolsley, who back in 2007 became the first foreign trainer to be granted a license in Korea. It took him several years of sheer hard graft to establish himself, but in January last year Mr. Afleet chalked up Wolsley’s 500th Korean winner. On Sunday, the same horse gave him his fifth Korean Graded Stakes winner and his first since Bold Kings came to Seoul and won the Grand Prix Stakes in 2015. This coming Boxing Day, Mr. Afleet may just make the unassuming man from Bendigo a two-time Grand Prix winner.