The Stakes race season got underway at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday, and it was a mare who claimed the spoils as Raon First scored a comprehensive victory in the Listed Segye Ilbo Trophy.
The Segye Ilbo was missing from the abbreviated Stakes Calendar in 2021 but returned to its usual spot as the first big race of the year in Korea and the 1200M sprint was, for the first time, open to all Korean-bred runners, regardless of whether they are trained in Seoul or Busan.
Busan supplied a genuine contender in the shape of Classic winner Touch Star Man, and punters sent him off fourth in the market with Owners’ Cup winner Meni Hero favourite, ahead of the solitary filly or mare in the race, Raon First, and the Group-winning sprinter East Jet. Punters would prove correct with their top four, although not quite in that order.
From gate six, East Jet got the best of the start, racing into an early lead alongside outsider World Day, with Raon First sitting handy under jockey Choi Bum-hyun on the rail in 5th place. On the rail and in box seat is where she would stay as the leaders peeled off at the top of the straight and as soon as Raon First struck the front, there was only every going to be one winner.
East Jet came home in 2nd place, three-lengths in arrears, while Meni Hero came third. Touch Star Man, racing at a sprint distance for the very first time since his debut seventeen starts back, emerged from the pack for fourth with Roller Blade rounding out the prize-getters in 5th.
It was the Park Jong-kon trained Raon First’s ninth career win on her fifteenth start and followed her first Group race score in the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) in December. That race was restricted to her fellow fillies and mares, although she had already proved herself in open company when winning at class 1 last October.
Today’s opposition was a cut above those she beat in either of those races and having won at distances up to 1800M, there are plenty of options open for the five-year-old, be it in the Queens’ Tour or even the Sprint Series races.
Raon First is by Musket Man and out of the Southern Image mare, Pink Candy. She was bred by her owners, Raon Company, at their farm where they stand the American stallion Musket Man. Raon First has a four-year-old “full” sister, Raon Pink, who won the Luna Stakes in 2021 before running 2nd in the Korean Oaks. Raon have a currently unrivalled array of talent at their disposal, spearheaded by their unbeaten star, Raon The Fighter.
Earlier at Seoul, the KRA Cup Mile and Minister’s Cup placegetter Chief Indy (by Take Charge Indy) defeated Korean Oaks winner Choegang Black (by Purge), the pair coming home 1st and 3rd over 1800M at class 3 level. Chief Indy was one of four winners on the day for reigning champion jockey Moon Se-young, one of which was a dead-heat as the judges failed to split his Saryeoni Queen with Thunder Wind, ridden by Antonio Da Silva, in race 7.
At Busan, Barbarian added to his burgeoning reputation, dropping back in trip after recent successes to easily win the feature class 1 event over 1400M under You Hyun-myung. A five-year-old entire, Barbarian, who is by Competitive Edge and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare White Haven, registered his eighth win at start number sixteen and his first at class 1 level.
There is no racing in Korea this coming weekend, due to the Lunar New Year break. Racing returns to Busan on Friday February 11th and Seoul on Saturday February 12th.