Korean Derby 2021 – Horse-By-Horse Preview

The second leg of the delayed 2021 Korean Triple Crown takes place at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon when eleven runners go to post for the Korean Derby (KOR G1). CLICK HERE FOR THE REGULAR RACE-BY-RACE PREVIEW.

The top five placegetters from the first jewel in the Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan a month ago, all return including Heat Yegam, the all the way winner of what was by some margin, the fastest Cup Mile on record.

Heat Yegam has drawn barrier five and will be hot favourite to score again but Heungbaragi, Chief Indy, Mr. Indie and Winner’s Man all return in a bid to prevent the Take Charge Indy colt from going one step closer to emulating Power Blade and sweeping the Triple Crown. Local racing media in Korea is confident they won’t, with twelve out of fifteen racing publications placing Heat Yegam on top.

Moon Hyung-chul, representing trainer Bang Dong-suk, said after the barrier draw on Thursday that Heat Yegam is ready. “It’s his first time traveling to another track to race but he’s adapted well, he works well, and we don’t need to do very much with him. (The Derby) is an extra furlong but that shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

Heungbaragi put in a huge race in the Cup Mile, overcoming barrier fifteen to run on strongly. Trainer Lee Joon-chel, who actually rode him in his first few races before taking up his trainer’s license this summer, laughed wryly when he drew the widest gate. “My foreman says he is in as good a shape as he has seen him. When he won at 1800M he led all the way and that won’t be easy to do but there are many ways to win a race and we will just have to see what happens on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.”

Lee certainly knows about winning. In just forty-two starts since getting his license, he has already sent out eight winners.

Winner’s Man was sent off as second-favourite in the Cup Mile and tried matching Heat Yegam for speed early on, only to end up weakening for 5th. The Musket Man colt has though raced and won twice at the Derby distance of 1800M, whereas Heat Yegam goes further for a mile for the first time.

Kim Ji-min, representing trainer Choi Ki-hong, reckoned punters didn’t see the best of Winner’s Man at the KRA Cup Mile. “He has done well at 1800M before and while Heat Yegam was very good in the Cup Mile, I think Winner’s Man is going well now and we are looking forward to it. As for rivals: “Obviously Heat Yegam and Heungbaragi are very strong, but I was very impressed with Chief Indy at the Cup Mile, especially as he was first-up after a layoff; 3rd place was a really strong performance.”

The Korean Derby will be run over 1800M and is race 8 on Seoul’s Sunday card with a post time of 17:05 KST. Here is a full run-down of the field.

1. MR. INDIE [Indie Band – Candace Gold (Seeking The Gold)] – A winner of three from six including over this distance at class 4 level. In the KRA Cup Mile, he was ridden hard early to get a position settling on the fence in midfield. He stayed on the rails saving ground, into the straight and kept fighting in the straight to maintain a clear 4th in a strong run. The Wolsley stable is in fine form, Seo Seung-un stays aboard, and he can go close.

2. WORLD CHANGE [Cowboy Cal – Geumsangeo (Volponi)] – Onr of two in the race fro trainer Kim Young-kwan, he skipped the Cup Mile and ran 4th behind Sky More over this distance on October 17th. He ean a fast time when pipping stablemate King Goliath over a mile at class 5 level in September. Jockey/Trainer combination will tempt some but a big step up is needed.

3. KING GOLIATH [Purge – Vicar Summit (Vicar)] – Narrowly defeated by stablemate World Change before running 2nd over 1800M at class 5 level on October 10th. He is yet to win beyond class 6 so this is evidently a big step up and while there is sure to be improvement in the tank, a minor money finish would be a great result.

4. ONNURI JILJU [Officer – Onnuri Plaza (Touch Gold)] – A class 3 winner over 1200M in Busan, he ran 2nd to Korean Oaks contender Doctor Fappiano over 1800M in September before running 10th in the Cup Mile when after having to use up energy to get to a promising position from a wide draw, he had little left to offer late on. Plenty of ability and with a much better draw today as well as possibly less early pressure, he can compete for the minors.

5. HEAT YEGAM [Take Charge Indy – Desert Heat (Mr. Prospector)] – Eight wins from nine and hard to go past following his dominant Cup Mile victory when he showed great speed to set a fast and comfortable (for him) 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 in a sensational run. He stretches out to 1800M for the first time, and this is his first run at Seoul, but he is the hot favourite.

6. CHIEF INDY [Take Charge Indy – City Splash (City Zip)] – A winner of five from nine and a winner at this distance at class 4 level. In the Cup Mile, his first race in almost four months, he 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. At the 150m when he came into the picture and kept taking ground off the leaders, finishing a solid 3rd. Can aim to match that here.

7. CHOEGANG GAME [Purge – Guts Game (Offcer)] – A winner of three form four so far he gets his chance following an emphatic class 5 win at the end of August when he came from off the pace to win easily in a fast time. This is of an order of magnitude harder than anything he has faced so far but he can sit back and run on here and may pass a few.

8. WINNER’S MAN [Musket Man – Winner’s Marine (Volponi)] – A two-time winner at this distance up to class 2 level in Busan and then 5th in the Cup Mile when from an unfavourable draw he was wide and kept pace with Heat Yegam until the top of the straight, still managing to run on well. Back up at 1800M and with possibly less intensity throughout, he can be a different prospect. Don’t rule out.

9. STEADY CHAMPION [Tiz Wonderful – Geumbit Mulgyeol (Johannesburg)] – Gets his chance following back-to-back wins over 1700M and 1400M at class 4 level here where he has sat handy early and led into the straight. He has run consistently fast times, but he is yet to meet anything of the caliber he faces here and this will be tough.

10. SKY MORE [Hansen – Baekpa (Revere)] – His dam won the Korean Oaks, and the Thomas Gillespie trainee is turning into a decent racehorse with four wins from his latest five starts including last time out at this distance at class 4 level in Busan when he led from gate to wire in a good time. Draws wide and it won’t be easy to get on pace here, but he can continue to improve and give a good account of himself.

11. HEUNGBARAGI [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] – Must be considered on his enormous run in the Cup Mile, overcoming the challenge of barrier 15 and showing good speed to get forward. He was very wide most of the journey losing ground on the corner before fighting on strongly in the straight making up much ground. It was a stellar performance. He has won at this distance leading all the way and while he is going to need some luck again from the outside gate, don’t write him off.