Winner’s Man scored a dominant win in the first leg of the 2022 Stayer Series, last year’s Korean Derby winner scoring by four-lengths in the Herald Business Trophy (2000M-Korean Listed) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.
In front of a post-shutdown record crowd of 26,000 on course, Winner’s Man was sent off as the even-money favourite ahead of Touch Star Man, the 2021 Grand Prix Stakes runner up, who shared second-favourite status with the up-and-comer Good Pilseung. There wasn’t much love in the market though for Moonhak Chief, who started the race a 7/1 fourth favourite.
Touch Star Man hampered his own chances by dipping as the field exited the gate, immediately putting him at a disadvantage while Winner’s Man broke well and got right behind the pace which was set by Jeongmun Sai, while Good Pilseung and Great King were to the fore as well. Moonhak Chief, meanwhile settled in midfield alongside Touch Star Man after the latter’s poor start.
That’s how it would remain until the top of the straight when jockey Seo Seung-un asked Winner’s Man for an effort and the Musket Man colt responded, striking the front and then never looking anything other than a winner, crossing the line four-lengths ahead of a blanket finish for 2nd place, which was held onto by a game Jeongmun Sai, with Heuk Jeonsa and Good Pilseung within a nose in 3rd and 4th.
Winning jockey Seo Seung-un, speaking to in-house broadcaster KRBC, admitted the race went better than he could have hoped: “I expected Jeongmun Sai and Great King to lead but my horse was better out of the gate than I expected, and we were right up there from the start.”
Seo also said that Winner’s Man had not given him cause for optimism in his work in the past week: “This horse is very smart. In the mornings, he just wasn’t doing anything, but when it came to race day, he knew it was time to be serious. He conserved his energy during the week and really let loose today.”
Seo Seung-un is notoriously self-deprecating in his post-race interviews, and continuing to KRBC, he wasn’t afraid to say out loud what many had been thinking: “The other main reason we could win is that Simjangui Godong and Haengbok Wangja didn’t come” he said, referring to the 2021 President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winners. “But I am looking forward to riding Winner’s Man against them,” he added, to a polite chuckle from the assembled local racing press.
There is no reason to doubt that Winner’s Man can defeat both of those when the inevitable match-up happens. Winner’s Man is by Musket Man and is out of Winner’s Marine (by Volponi, the long-shot winner of the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and who is now pensioned from Stud duties in Korea) and he moves on to ten wins from fifteen starts. He was bred by Kim Gi-seok of Saemi Farm and is trained by Choi Ki-hong for whom, after seventeen years as a trainer, Winner’s Man is proving the horse of a lifetime.
Moonhak Chief finished well back in the field and an initial vet check didn’t find any obvious issues although a full examination will take place.
The Stayer Series continues with the Group 3 YTN Cup at Seoul over 2000M on May 29th and concludes on the south coast with the Busan Mayor’s Cup, also Group 3 but run over just 1800M, on June 26th.
Next Sunday the big race action returns to Busan with the Korean Oaks, the second leg of the filly Triple Crown.