Day: December 25, 2021

Grand Prix Stakes 2021 – All The Runners Preview

The temperature will be several degrees below zero and dusk starting to fall on Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon when Moonhak Chief bids to become the first horse since Dongbanui Gangja more than a decade ago to record back-to-back victories in Korea’s historically most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1-2300M). CLICK HERE FOR RACE-BY-RACE PREVIEW OF ALL SEVENTEEN SUNDAY RACES AT SEOUL & BUSAN.

Moonhak Chief won the Grand Prix 2 years ago (Pic: KRA)

With no race last season, it’s now two years since Moonhak Chief followed up his 2019 Korea Cup victory by scoring by a length and a half that December. Only two of the rest of that day’s field return, Cheongdam Dokki and the retiring Dongbang Daero, but a host of new challengers have arisen in the meantime, meaning Moonhak Chief is going to need to be at his very best if he is to retain his crown.

Peter Wolsley won this race with Bold Kings in 2016 and the Australian trainer saddles Mr. Afleet this time, fresh off his triumph in the KRA Cup Classic back in October. That’s day’s close runner-up Haengbok Wangja is another leading contender and given the way he was finishing in the Classic, may even start as the favourite.

The President’s Cup, the top race restricted to Korean-bred horses, has provided two winners in recent years with Indie Band in 2013 and Gyeongbudaero in 2015 and the 2021 winner Simjangui Godong also takes his chance, as does proven Group winner Tiz Plan.

Touch Star Man, who won two legs of last year’s Triple Crown series, will be attendance, representing trainer Kim Young-kwan, who has won the race five times.

The Grand Prix Stakes is race 8 on Seoul’s 10-race Boxing Day card. Here is a full run down of all sixteen runners:

1. CHEONGDAM DOKKI (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Elusive Gold (Strike The Gold)] – His 4th attempt at the race with his best being 2nd in 2018. An excellent winner at 1800M in October before a flat performance in the KRA Cup Classic. He then ran 5th to Moonhak Chief back at 1800M on November 27th. Only returned to work last week and while there is no doubting his quality, this looks a very hard ask. Great draw though.

2. GALLOP CURLIN (USA) [Curlin – Colona (Pulpit)] – Gets his chance following a good win over 1800M at class 2 level earlier this month when midfield and running on. Tactically versatile and well-drawn but this is a big step up into the unknown in terms of distance and competition.

3. MOONHAK CHIEF (USA) [Pioneerof The Nile – Tallulah Lula (Old Trieste)] – Winner of the last edition of this race two years ago having won the Korea Cup that September. Seventh in the Cup Classic but returned to the winner’s circle on November 27th comfortably scoring over 1800M although he did get spooked by the finishing line light and stopped very quickly. At his best he is the one to beat.

4. CRAZY CONTI (USA) [Constitution – Ghostly Darkness (Ghostzapper)] – Came from well back to run a strong 3rd over 2000M at Busan two weeks ago in his first start since September. Beaten by Mr. Afleet and Touch Star Man in the summer so there is form for him to overturn here but he may appreciate the distance.

5. GEUMA ACME (KOR) [Hongji – Ms. Travelin (Lycius)] – A super 2nd in the President’s Cup to Simjangui Godong, coming from off the pace. Yet to win at higher than class 3 is a concern when stepping into this company, but the additional distance can suit. Alan Munro, who rode him in his last three starts, rides Jjang Kong instead.

6. HUNCH (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Sergeant O-Rourke (Forestry)] – Wasted a great draw by blowing the start in the Cup Classic, won by stablemate Mr. Afleet, in what was his first start since August. He has won at class 1 over 2000M in a fast time though and with a clean getaway can be competitive but may not be ready to beat the elite just yet. Minor money chance.

7. JJANG KONG (USA) [Tizway – Carietta (Stephen Got Even)] – Runner-up to Cheongdam Dokki in October before running a 3rd in the Cup Classic when handy all the way and battling on to the line. He likes it race close to the lead, so the draw works out well. He’s stubborn enough to get the 2300M and it would be no surprise seeing him in the minor money.

8. HAENGBOK WANGJA (USA) [Daredevil – First Installment (Broken Vow)] –  up and comer having just been promoted to class 1 before running a great race in the KRA Cup Classic when on the pace and wide most of the way and momentarily leading at the 200m and coming again at Mr. Afleet the finish. It was a super effort, and plenty will back him to win here.


Grand Prix Boxing Day Sunday: Race-By-Race Preview (December 26)

The final racing day of 2021 is on Boxing Day and it features the traditional season ending Grand Prix Stakes. There are 10 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 11:10 to 16:40. Here are the previews:

Any excuse to post a picture of Triple Nine – The Grand Prix winner in 2018

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Twelve previously unraced juvenile fillies open the Boxing Day card. She’s drawn wide but we’ll go with (12) CONCORD QUEEN, who did at least record the fastest time among any of these in her trial. The track was wet and fast but that was true for most of these in their respective heats. She said just off the pace and ran through the line well and has strong claims first-up. The only trial winner is (6) SIRIUS ALPHA, which might be enough to make her favourite. She led all the way in her trial in a fair time and from a good draw is likely to be leading again. (4) DOLBAE posted a decent time in her trial and from a good gate and with a top jockey booking is set to be backed. (3) K N OLD QUEEN and (8) LAST PUNCH are others in the hunt.

Selections(12) Concord Queen (6) Sirius Alpha (4) Dolbae (3) K N Old Queen
Next Best8, 9
Fast Start1, 4, 6, 7

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Juvenile maidens with eight of the fourteen racing for the first time. We’ll take a chance on one of those first-timers as (2) USURP ran a strong 2nd in his trial on a fast time, running through the line well. Starting out at 1200M may suit and he gets a great draw. (6) OCEAN STORM won a trial before debuting on November 19th, when she ran on on-pace 2nd over 1000M. She should have come on for the experience and will be expected to be close here. (9) SKY JEJUHYANG also won a trial before performing adequately on debut when she ran 3rd at 1000M sitting handy throughout and is another who may well have come on. Other debut-makers (8) GRAND SUN and (14) JOSEPHINE QUEEN also won their trials and can enter the calculations. Watch the market for any clues.

Selections(2) Usurp (6) Ocean Storm (9) Sky Jejuhyang (8) Grand Sun
Next Best14, 1
Fast Start1, 2, 6, 9

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(6) NEOREUL EUNGWONHAE has raced twice, improving in the latter to a strong 2nd over 1000M on November 27th. She steps up in trip for the first time but there is nothing to indicate it won’t suit and from a probable on pace or handy position, she can win. (4) TAEYANGMA had a hard time from a wide gate when sent off as favourite over this distance on November 28th, ultimately finishing 6th. From a much better draw today, he must be given another chance. (2) BURUI KKOT ran 4th behind Neoreul Eongwonhae at start number two on November 27th, running on well from a wide draw. The gate is much better today, and she comes down another 2kg to just 50kg which should put her in the finish. (8) WONDERFUL KITTY and (12) MAGIC RUSH are others with at least placing chances in an open race.

Selections(6) Neoreul Eungwonhae (4) Taeyangma (2) Burui Kkot (8) Wonderful Kitty
Next Best12, 7
Fast Start5, 6, 13, 14

Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

It’s time that (9) CATCH THE SKY got his maiden win and bade farewell to the lowest level of racing. He comes in following a 2nd and a 4th at this distance, registering the fastest time among these for the mile along the way. He goes back and runs on and he can win here. (3) YEONSEUNG BRAVO beat three of these on his way to 2nd place over this distance on December 5th when sitting handy throughout. The same apprentice rider keeps the weight down again and from a nice draw he can be close at hand again. (1) RAON THE MILLION was 4th in that race having led until the home straight. He draws the inside here and should be on pace again and can be in this a long way. (4) BARBELL STORM and (13) CARIBBEAN DAY are others in the frame for places.

Selections(9) Catch The Sky (3) Yeonseung Bravo (1) Raon The Million (4) Barbell Storm
Next Best13, 8
Fast Start1, 3, 4, 8

Seoul Race 3:  Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

(4) HEUNGHAENG DAEBAK came close to winning on debut on December 4th when leading almost the entire way around over this distance only to be denied late on by Wonderful Sam. The time was good, albeit on a wet track, and from an ideal gate he should lead again and have too much for this ordinary looking field. (12) BIG ENERGY took a few starts to figure out what he was meant to be doing but his recent form reads quite well. With three 4th place finishes and a 2nd. Alan Munro climbs aboard today which catches the eye and further improvement is possible. (14) BYEORAK also seems to be getting there with a 4th place when stepped up to 1200M last start. The extra half furlong may help him get closer again. He has a bad draw, though, unlike (2) ALL FOR YOUR DREAM, who has a runner-up finish and a pair of 5ths from three starts so far. He may be ridden a bit closer a bit earlier this time around and can be in the finish. (8) SUNNY BLADE another in the hunt.

Selections(4) Heunghaeng Daebak (12) Big Energy (14) Byeorak (2) All For Your Dream
Next Best8, 3
Fast Start2, 3, 4, 7

Busan Race 3: Class 5 (1800M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Very tricky race with plenty of credible contenders. If it wasn’t for the draw, (14) LANE KILLER might be a more confident top pick. He was a good winner at class 6 level over a mile and has run 2nd and 5th in two goes at this class and distance. He was ridden quite hard to get and early lead last time but given the extreme wideness this time he may just be dropped in, and it may end up paying dividends. (4) HONEY STAR has no problems with the draw, He steps back up in trip after a decent 4th over a mile at his latest start and has had the beating of a few of these in his last two outings. He is versatile but likely to be on or close to the pace here and has solid claims. So too (1) GOLDEN KAISER, who has been knocking at the door in his recent efforts and should get a good run from the inside gate. (11) GEUMA GOOD POINT ran 3rd to Lane Killer’s 2nd on November 19th having led for much of the race. Expect to see him up front early again. (8) THE FIRST FACTOR possibly the best of a competitive rest.

Selections(14) Lane Killer (4) Honey Star (1) Golden Kaiser (11) Geuma Good Point
Next Best8, 2
Fast Start1, 4, 8, 11

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

A big and very competitive field. We’ll go with (7) WINNER IS WELL, who returned from six months out to run a strong 3rd at class and distance. He draws marginally better today and may well have come on for that run and has as good a chance as any. (5) CHALLAN HANNAL had a hard time when tried at 1700M at his latest start but should be much happier back at a distance at which he has the fastest time among those here who have tried it. (2) YEONGWANGUI CAPTAIN ran a good 4th on his first try at this distance on October 23rd. He came from midfield that day but should be on pace here and can go close. (3) RAON THE TEUKGEUP comes up in class and in distance having scored over 1200M in November. He ran on strongly and can measure up here. (14) WORLD RACER is a perfect one for one and while he comes up in class and distance and draws the widest gate, all of those can be overcome. He swept home like an express train in that debut win at 1200M and shouldn’t be ruled out here.

Selections(7) Winner Is Well (5) Challan Hannal (2) Yeongwangui Captain (3) Raon The Teukgeup
Next Best14, 10
Fast Start2, 7, 8, 12

Busan Race 4: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

Another tricky race. (11) I WILL BE FREE struck at start number two on November 21st having run 2nd on his debut. Both were at 1000M but the way he ran suggests the slight increase today won’t be an issue and he has every chance of making it two in a row. Having won an October trial, (12) CAPTAIN YANKEE debuted over this distance on November 11th, making all to win very easily. He comes up in class today and the draw isn’t ideal as he will want to lead again, but he will be vying for favourite status. (2) GEUMBIT SKY, on the other hand, draws very nicely. He too was a front-running winner over this distance at class 6 level at his latest start, when he was returning from five months off and looking significantly better. He should be in the finish again here. Similarly (13) SHY DRAGON, another all the way winner at class 6 level last time, although in her case over 1000M, can measure up in this company too. If you prefer experience at this level already then (8) ECHO MOON might be one to consider.

Selections(11) I Will Be Free (12) Captain Yankee (2) Geumbit Sky (13) Shy Dragon
Next Best8, 6
Fast Start2, 11, 12, 13

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1700M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

Four of these raced each other at class and distance on December 4th. (4) JOEUN GWANGYE was sent off as favourite that day, off the back of a fast 4th over 1400M the start before. He only managed to come 3rd in the end having gone back and run on but is probably worth another chance in similarly weak company today. That day’s winner was (3) RUFFIAN PARK. He was securing his maiden triumph at start number eighteen and sat handy throughout before finishing off well. He comes up 2kg in the weights but has claims again. (11) MAGIC JOY was a good winner on his first try at this distance at class 6 level in November. This isn’t the toughest of races to try class 5 for the first time and he should be competitive. (6) RUN RUN RUN is yet to win but has been consistent and has placed at both his last two starts, both at this distance. He came from a long way back to be a close 3rd at his latest outing and can be dangerous here. (2) JIGEUMYEOGIE, from a nice draw, is another in the frame.

Selections(4) Joeun Gwangye (3) Ruffian Park (11) Magic Joy (6) Run Run Run
Next Best2, 10
Fast Start1, 4, 9, 11

Busan Race 5: Class 4 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

Fillies (and one mare) here. (2) SEUNGNI MAGICQUEEN races for the first time since running 6th in the Luna Stakes, the first leg of the filly Triple Crown back in October, when she was the first Busan-based runner to cross the line. Prior to that she registered back-to-back wins up to 1300M at class 5 level. Form a good draw she should be close to the pace here and should be returning to winning ways. (11) ADELE ROSARIO comes up in class after a smart all the way win over 1200M on November 21st. Prior to that she was considered good enough to be given her chance in the Gimhae Mayor’s Cup and while that didn’t work out, she evidently has talent. While she is the only juvenile in the race, she should have the beating of plenty. (3) FLAT BABE was a winner at this class over 1400M two starts back and while she could only manage 6th over a mile at her latest start, she warrants another chance here. (14) MISS INDIE and (5) SONHADOR among several others with strong claims.