The winners of last year’s international Korea Sprint and Korea Cup both made their 2023 debuts on Sunday but while Eoma Eoma ran out a comfortable winner at Seoul, Winner’s Man could manage no better than 4th in the feature event of the afternoon at Busan.
Winner’s Man, who also won the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes to take his Group 1 tally to three, was sent off as the odds-on favourite for the class 1 1800M south coast feature. Always prominent, the five-year-old briefly struck the front under Seo Seung-un in the home straight but unlike in his big race wins, he failed to kick on and with half a furlong to go it was clear it wasn’t going to be his day.
Victory ultimately went to the Franco Da Silva ridden Flat Babe, runner-up in last November’s Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup, with veteran King Of Glory rolling back the years with a fast finishing 2nd and Tuhonui Banseok, 3rd in the Grand Prix edging out Winner’s Man in a photo for 4th.
A five-year-old mare by Flat Out, Flat Babe has been something of a revelation in the last few months, rapidly moving from a solid but unspectacular class 3 campaigner to class 1 winner in the space of four races since being upped to racing around two turns. She looks set to be a serious contender in this year’s Queens’ Tour for fillies and mares.
As for Winner’s Man, connections pointed afterwards to it being the first time he had carried 60kg in a race – he was giving 8kg to the winner – in addition to him racing at his heaviest ever bodyweight of 550kg – up 18kg since the Grand Prix. Winner’s Man’s anticipated next run will be in the Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-G3) at Seoul on April 16th. There he will renew his rivalry with Raon The Fighter, so impressive last week in his own seasonal opener.
Perhaps it was because of Winner’s Man’s performance earlier in the afternoon, as well as the disconcerting sight of regular jockey Moon Se-young’s name next to another horse, that led to Eoma Eoma being sent off at better than even money for his first outing as a six-year-old at class 1 over 1200M at Seoul.
With the race under handicap conditions, Eoma Eoma would, like Winner’s Man, have been assigned 60kg but trainer Song Moon-gil opted to use apprentice O Su-cheol and take advantage of his 2kg claim. Moon Se-young accordingly climbed aboard Jangsan Laser who was strongly backed into a close second-favourite.
Those who kept faith with Eoma Eoma were rewarded as Algorithms entire was quick out of the gate to be on the early speed with East Jet, racing very keenly and pulling hard. Apprentice O Su-cheol kept his cool though and once he let Eoma Eoma stride out in the home straight, the US-bred sped away for a three-length win with his rivals always at arm’s length.
The next five home were separated by just a length with Moon and Jangsan Laser in 2nd while the venerable Morfhis ran 3rd with a typical Morfhis late run. The victory, Eoma Eoma’s fourteenth in total, completed a treble on the day for apprentice O Su-cheol, who may not get the call once the star horse returns to Group racing, but enjoyed surely the best day of his career so far.
That next run for Eoma Eoma is likely to be the Busan Ilbo Sprint (1200M KOR-G3) on the south coast on April 2nd.