Day: September 3, 2022

Korea Cup & Korea Sprint Sunday: Race-By-Race Preview (September 4)

The 5th Korea Cup and Korea Sprint are set to be run at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon and with Typhoon Hinnamnor getting ever closer, there is set to be heavy rain and probably thunderstorms all throughout the day. There are 10 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:00 to 17:05. The Korea Sprint is race 7 at 15:35 and the Korea Cup is race 8 at 16:35. Here are the previews of all races:

Moonhak Chief will finally have a successor as Korea Cup winner (Pic: KRA)

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

Juvenile maidens in the opener although all but one have raced at least once before. The favourite will be (2) BAEDARI WANGJA. He ran a good 2nd on debut over 1000M on July 31st when he settled back and ran on, beating three of today’s rivals in the process. He should have come on for the run and the additional furlong should suit. Logical second pick is (7) RAON THE COBRA who also debuted in that July 31st race, coming off the pace and running 4th. He too should appreciate and extra furlong to get stuck into. (6) PERFECT GUN MAN has raced twice already, both over 1000M and improving in the latter. At the same rate of improvement, he can go close here. (4) KWAEHYANG, 6th behind Baedari Wangja and Raon The Cobra on what was his second start, and (3) WONDERFUL INDY others in the frame.

Selections(2) Baedari Wangja (7) RaonThe Cobra (6) Perfect Gun Man (4) Kwaehyang
Next Best3, 1
Fast Start1, 4, 6, 7

Seoul Race 2: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(11) SUN DRAGON sat handy early on debut over 1000M, before taking things up entering the home straight and running on to win comfortably. He comes up in both class and distance here but is favoured to win once more, despite the wide draw. The main danger is (9) JISANGUN. He has consistently run good times and possesses the fastest one at this class and distance, recorded when a close runner-up at his latest start on July 24th, when handy throughout. He carries his fair share of weight but should be right in this. (1) RAON THE WILD could be an interesting one at probable big odds. He ran on pleasingly enough for 5th last time out, stays under a light weight and comes into a much better gate. (2) QUEEN OF RACING and (3) BLOOD MOON are others in the hunt.

Selections(11) Sun Draon (9) Jisangun (1) Raon The Wild (2) Queen Of Racing
Next Best3, 8
Fast Start5, 6, 11, 12

Seoul Race 3: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

Tricky race. (1) MORNING PEARL returned form six months out to run a good 4th over this distance on July 24th, on what was also her first try at this class following too many near-misses at class 6. She should have come on for the run and can be in the mix here. The probable favourite is (6) CHANGER. A winner at this distance two starts back at class 6 level, he was a front-running 4th at class and distance on July 30th. He’ll be on pace here and could go all the way. (9) DUSON DRIVE returned from six months out away to secure his maiden win over this distance on July 30th. He is up in class here but can measure up in this company. (7) RULES CLASS came from off the pace to run a strong 2nd at class and distance on July 9th in a fast time. He can settle back here and run into some money again. (2) DOLBAE another in the minor money hunt.

Selections(1) Morning Pearl (6) Changer (9) Duson Drive (7) Rules Class
Next Best2, 8
Fast Start2, 6, 8, 11

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

A small field of eight juveniles here with precisely half racing for the first time. There are two standouts, one with experience and one debuting. We’ll side with experience and (1) TWOTWO FLYING.  Following a couple of ordinary trials, he ran a useful enough 5th of nine on debut over 1000M on August 7th when handy throughout and finishing in a decent time. He should have come on for that run and nicely drawn on the inside, he can go even better here. (7) RAON THE TANGO is the promising debut-maker. He went through two trials, running faster in the second of them and crossing the line 3rd behind, but not far away from, two experienced racehorses, having settled back and run on. If he brings that form to the races, he has every chance. (5) FINAL SEVEN posted a good enough time in his heat to suggest he can go well first-up. (2) HAMPYEONG SHINE and (3) TAP DREAM others to consider.

Selections(1) Twotwo Flying (7) Raon The Tango (5) Final Seven (2) Hampyeong Shine
Next Best3, 7
Fast Start1, 2, 3, 7

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

This is a tricky one. (7) BLACK CHARM’s latest two including a class and distance runner-up finish in a fast time and then a 5th place in a strong race for the class is probably enough to earn him the pick. He got too far back last time behind running on well and if he can be ridden a bit further forward this time, he can win. He doesn’t win out of turn though, hence being still at this level. (12) SAENAE WIN was a winner at this class last time out in June when making all over 1300M. The draw is not good here and he comes up 3.5kg in the weights but he should be competitive. The draw is very kind to (1) BYEORAK and he can use it to get a potentially soft lead. He was behind Saenae Win in that June race, but he subsequently ran 4th over 1300M in July and meets him better at the weights here. He is a chance. (2) GLOBAL STORM is up in class following a win at start sixteen. He’ll be big odds here but is well drawn and he could sneak a place. (11) EUNHYE RECORD another in the hunt.

Selections(7) Black Charm (12) Saenae Win (1) Byeorak (2) Global Storm
Next Best11, 9
Fast Start1, 3, 4, 12

Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Maidens and it’s hard to look past (7) MIGHTY STORM here. He wasn’t ready when he debuted last November, but he was put away after that for seven months and since returning in June has raced three times and finished 4th in all three. His latest was his best, when he ran a good time in competitive company and any similar run will see him home on top here. (2) BURUI YEOSIN beat a couple of these on his way to 6th of eleven last time and that along with the good draw and the apprentice claim is enough to make him the second pick. Solitary debut-maker (8) YEONGUNG ROAD won a trial and although it wasn’t fast – he was the only one of the seven in his heat to be inside the qualifying time – he did it easily enough and he couldn’t pick a softer race to debut in. (5) NICE DAY and (11) TAKE ADELE others who could potentially get some minor money.

Selections(7) Mighty Storm (2) Burui Yeosin (8) Yeongung Road (5) Nice Day
Next Best11, 4
Fast Start4, 5, 8, 10

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1700M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(7) HATMURI is the pick here. After getting his maiden win at class 6 level two starts back, he then ran a strong 2nd behind a good winner at this class over 1300M on July 23rd. He steps up to two-turns for the first time but his running style to date gives every indication that it can suit, and he will be a warm favourite. It’s fair to say that (9) AMAZING WHIZ has mixed his form so far but he has a 2nd place to his name at class and distance and ran 4th on his latest outing on July 30th when settling right back and running on. He looks nicely in here and has solid claims for a place. So too (5) P N S GAMBOL, who has the fastest time among those who have tackled the 1700M before. That came on his latest outing on August 14th when he led for most of the way around, ultimately finishing runner-up and under today’s handicap rather than set-weight conditions, he even comes down a kilo. (1) FINAL CHARM and (12) CAMP SAVER others in the frame.

Selections(7) Hatmuri (9) Amazing Whiz (5) P N S Gambol (1) Final Charm
Next Best12, 11
Fast Start1, 2, 5, 12

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

There are two clear standouts in this maiden. (9) SPICE ECTON trialled promisingly and then ran 2nd on debut on August 7th. That day’s good looking winner Graphene King didn’t exactly pull up trees on re-appearance at class 5 this past Friday, but Spice Ecton showed enough running on from midfield to suggest that he may have some ability and with some natural improvement can win this. (8) SMILEY LARRY showed some of that natural improvement when following up his 3rd place on debut with a 2nd place over this distance in a fast time on August 7th. He was on pace that day although the race was devoid of early speed, and he will be challenging Spice Ecton for the early initiative here. (2) SPEED MAST is the clear third pick. He has been much better since a four-month layoff and comes in following a career-best runner-up finish over this distance last start when on pace. He is a place chance again. (1) ECTON POWER and (11) BRAVO HAMYANG are others who can compete for the minors.

Selections(9) Spice Ecton (8) Smiley Larry (2) Speed Mast (1) Ecton Power
Next Best11, 7
Fast Start2, 7, 9, 11

Joe Fujii on Korea Cup & Sprint: “Japanese horses have an Advantage”

When it comes to the Korea Cup and Korea Sprint, few know as much about winning than jockey Kanichiro “Joe” Fujii, the only person to have ridden the winners of both races, having guided Chrysolite to victory in the 2016 Cup and Moanin in the 2018 Sprint.

Moanin & Fujii won the Sprint in 2018 (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

Fujii, who remains in hospital in Japan after a devastating race-fall earlier this year, rode full-time in Korea from 2012 to 2015. After returning home, he became the go-to man for Japanese connections bringing their horses to run in big races in Korea, following his success on Esmeraldina in the Ttukseom Cup in 2015.

“I was so happy to get the opportunity to ride Chrysolite in the Korea Cup” recalled Fujii this Cup week.  He was a horse who didn’t like to race among other horses, so the way the race panned out was ideal. Kurino Star O led, and (Chrysolite) was able to sit off the speed and at the end he was very strong.”

Fujii’s 2018 Sprint win on Moanin, can potentially serve as a template for those who have missed out on drawing an inside gate as he emerged from gate nine, while Hong Kong’s Fight Hero, who he duelled with in the home straight and ultimately beat by a Head, started from gate thirteen.

“I knew Moanin was a good horse because he won a Group level race in the JRA but (the Korea Sprint) was his first time running in a 1200M race and I knew Korean horses are very quick out of the gate and very fast in the early part of the race so I couldn’t really keep up with the speed in the early stages. He was off the bridle all the way but once he got out, he really showed a good turn of foot and he fought with the Hong Kong horse. I was never really confident until the last 100 metres because, you know, Hong Kong horses can fight pretty hard.”

Chrysolite & Fujii won the Cup in 2016 (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

Fujii believes that the Japanese horses are in a strong situation compared to other horses coming to Korea, simply due to practical reasons. “I think Japanese horses have a good advantage because the surface of the racecourse is very similar. Transportation wise, Japan to Korea is pretty much next door so it is an easy trip.”

This time around there is one Japanese horse in the Korea Cup, three-year-old Sekifu, who is already a seasoned traveller, while six-year-old Raptus makes his first trip out of Japan to run in the Korea Sprint. Both are strong contenders.

“Sekifu is a horse that likes to get back in his races and can finish very strong. His jockey Fujioka (Kota) is a good jockey.” Similar to Moanin before his Sprint bid, Raptus has been mostly racing over 1400M and Fujii sees no reason that he can’t emulate his performance, especially with a not-so-secret weapon in the shape of his rider. “Raptus has been running in short races and I’m pretty sure he’ll be running in the first three or four. Raptus will be ridden by Miyuki (Hideaki) and he rode Kurino Star O (behind Chrysolite) so he knows the track well.”

As for the pair’s overall chances: “It’s hard to compare with the Korean horses and the other international horses, but (Sekifu and Raptus) have above average form in Japan, so if they do what they have been doing there, I’m sure they will be right up there.”

The Cup, Sprint and Ttukseom Cup weren’t the only big Korean races that Joe Fujii won. “I stayed in Busan and Kim Young-kwan was the champion trainer and he was giving me a lot of opportunities like Speedy First in the Derby and Gamdonguibada in the Grand Prix so that’s why the Japanese connections asked me to ride the Cup and the Sprint. At that time, I wasn’t a jockey in the JRA; I always wanted to be so these victories really opened up my road to becoming a jockey in the JRA.”

Fujii achieved his lifelong goal, but as has been well reported, he now has another, much bigger task ahead of him. “Four months ago, I had a spinal cord injury from the race fall. Ever since then I have been in the hospital. I have been doing a lot of rehab seven days a week, so it is a long long recovery road for me, I’m just trying to get the sensation back into my legs so it is a new challenge for me.”

“I stayed in South Korea for three years; I was so happy with all the people and all the connections giving me a great opportunity and without my South Korea experience I could never ever get into JRA so that was one of my dreams. I won all the big races, the Cup and the Sprint, the Derby and the Grand Prix so the South Korean fans are very important to me, and I hope one day that I can travel again and show my face at the racecourse.”