The last Triple Crown season may only just have entered the books less than three months ago but we’re already just over a month away from the 2022 renewal and on Sunday, Seungbusa and Man Of The Year staked their claims by winning the main Classic trials at Seoul and Busan.
At Seoul, the 2021 Champion Juvenile, Complete Value, unbeaten in five starts last term, including the Breeders’ Cup championship race, was favourite for the Sports Seoul Cup, the capital’s principal trial. Also lining up were Nonghyup Chairman’s Cup winner Aspen Taeyang and Nonghyup and Breeders’ Cup runner-up Double Edge, among a ten-strong field.
It would be 5/1 chance Seungbusa who got the jump on the pack though, bounding out of gate eight under jockey Jang Chu-youl and into an early lead in the 1400M Listed test and from that moment on, the rest never looked like getting to him. The margin on the line was just over a length from the fast-finishing Complete Value, who got a little far back and was then wide around the turn. Aspen Taeyang was a further half-length back in 3rd.
Complete Value, perhaps caught a bit far back early and then a little wide around the turn, finished well and while he suffered his first defeat, there was nothing about the run that suggested he won’t still be a leading contender for the first leg of the Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile, in April.
Seungbusa is a colt by Mischievously and out of the Flatter mare T P Mc G. Bred by Bae Eun-jeong, he is owned by Kim Gwang-myeong and trained by Jung Ho-ik. He has now won five of seven starts in total and never finished worse than 3rd.
Trainer Jung Ho-ik was winning his first Listed or Stakes race of any kind since 2009 and he was understandably delighted although the gameplan was simple: “We needed to get in front of Complete Value and make him come past us. When Complete Value was gaining in the last part of the race, I was nervous but confident in our horse. He didn’t quite manage to get a big race win as a two-year-old, but he had been training well and we will carefully prepare him for what’s next.”
For jockey Jang Chu-youl, it had also been a long time between Stakes winning drinks. “I won my first big race in 2012 (Cheoneun in the G3 Owners’ Association Trophy), when I had only been riding for two years, and I admit I really didn’t think then that it would take ten more years to get back here. I know now just how hard it is and how much work is required to get here again.”
At Busan, Rookie Stakes winner and Gimhae Mayor’s Cup runner-up Man Of Year was sent off as favourite for the south-coast track’s Classic trial, the Gyeongnam Shinmun Cup.
And Man Of The Year duly obliged, sitting handy early before asserting his authority as the field turned for home and running on to win by a full three-lengths from Captain Yankee, with Beomi Naeryeo Onda a further four-lengths away in 3rd.
Man Of The Year is a colt by Federalist and out of the Menifee mare Over Speed. He was bred by Ko Seok-hoon and is owned by Shin Yoon-gyeong and trained by Kim Byung-hak. It was his trainer’s first Listed or Stakes winner of any kind since taking out his license in 2004.
Now a winner of two from seven, Man Of The Year was ridden by Franco Da Silva, who firmed up his status as one of Korea’s all-time leading visiting jockeys. He won the Korean Derby on Ecton Blade in 2018 and has ridden in excess of 250 winners since his 2016 debut.
The first leg of the 2022 Korean Triple Crown is the KRA Cup Mile and will be run at Busan on Sunday April 17.