Horses with the word “Raon” in their names took home eight Korean Listed or Graded races in 2022 and as the 2023 Stakes race season kicks off at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday with the Segye Ilbo Trophy (1200M KOR-Listed), two of those winners in the green silks of owner Son Chun-soo are set to be at the top of the market as the six-year-old mare and defending champion Raon First, clashes with up-and-coming stablemate and potential heir-apparent, four-year-old filly Raon The Spurt.
Last year’s winner RAON FIRST is the top filly or mare in Korea, with twelve wins from twenty-two starts and a hugely versatile repertoire as shown by her 3rd place in the Korea Sprint (1200M – IG3) last August and then her sensational victory in the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) in November. It was a first ever victory for a filly or a mare in the nation’s most valuable race for older in-country bred runner, with Korea Cup champion Winner’s Man back in 3rd. Raon First finished off what had been a remarkable campaign with an in no way disgraced 6th place in the Grand Prix Stakes (2300M KOR-G1) as Winner’s Man returned to the summit.
In the early half of her three-year-old campaign, RAON THE SPURT was forced to play second fiddle in the Triple Tiara (filly Triple Crown) races, running 3rd in the Luna Stakes and then 2nd to Tiara winner Golden Power in both the Korean Oaks and Gyeonggi Govenor’s Cup. She finished off the season strongly though, winning the Singapore Turf Club Trophy at 1200M, running 2nd to Wish Me in the Jeju Govenor’s Cup (1400M KOR-G3) and then winning the Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Cup (2000M KOR-G3) at Busan. Her star is very much in the ascendency.
Jockey Choi Bum-hyun has ridden both of the Park Jong-kon trained pair in recent starts. For their first head-to-head meeting, he rides Raon The Spurt.
It’s not necessarily a two-horse race though. WISH ME has done something she never usually does and drawn a good gate for a front-runner. She had to contend with gate eleven when 2nd to Raon The Spurt in the Singapore Turf Club Trophy over 1200M in September, before reversing the form with a stunning track-record breaking performance in the Jeju Governor’s Cup from gate twelve. She found 2000M was not her go last time out, but back in sprinting territory and from the plum barrier two, she can’t be ruled out.
While it’s the fillies and mares who are most favoured, the race is open to males as well and a strong set have shown up. DAEHAN JILJU was a break-out 4th in the Korea Sprint last September before running 2nd to that day’s winner Eoma Eoma in the Kookje Shinmun Trophy (1400M Listed) at Busan on October. He is capable of running fast times and the wide draw should prove no distraction. Group winner EAST JET as well as the in form JANGSAN LASER, 4th in the President’s Cup, are among others who can provide testing material.
Only one Busan-trained horse has made the trip to the capital. That’s HAPPY FEVER, a six-year-old who, while he doesn’t win out of turn, enters in consistent form and has posted fast times. At his best he can challenge for some minor money. Jockey Kim Hye-sun has come with him to ride at her former track and has picked up five additional rides across the weekend.
The Segye Ilbo Cup is race 8 on an 11-race program at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon with a local post time of 16:35.
Selections: (4) Raon The Spurt (1) Raon First (2) Wish Me (12) Daehan Jilju