Busan hosts the first real heavyweight clash of 2023 on Sunday, and it really doesn’t get much bigger as Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes runner-up Raon The Fighter drops back in trip to renew hostilities with Korea Sprint winner Eoma Eoma in the Busan Ilbo Sprint (Sunday April 2: Race 6 G3-1200M).
Raon The Fighter was mightily impressive in smoking a Class 1 field over 1800M in early March and seemed set for a rematch with Winner’s Man, who downed him in the closing stages of both the Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes last season, in the Herald Business at Seoul later this month. Instead, he returns to the sprinting ranks and a rematch with the horse he made his name by beating, Eoma Eoma.
That was all the way back in late 2021 during that year’s late season crowded Stakes schedule when RAON THE FIGHTER downed the odds-on Eoma Eoma by a remarkable six-lengths to maintain what was then an unbeaten record in style. Eoma Eoma returned the favour in this race last April, but the pair have not met since.
EOMA EOMA himself has come a long way since then, winning the Korea Sprint on international day last September, famously downing Japan-trained Raptus to win the Korea Sprint (G1-1200M) at Seoul last September before rounding out his season at Busan with a narrow win over Dauhan Jilju in the Kookje Shinmun (Listed-1400M). His only start of 2023 so far, saw him comfortably see off a class 1 field under handicap conditions at Seoul in February.
The draw favours Eoma Eoma. He has gate seven while Raon The Fighter has to contend with the widest gate (fifteen, although in reality fourteen following the scratching of Dolkong) but such is the brilliance of Raon The Fighter that at his best, he may well have the beating of Eoma Eoma again. At this stage it is hard to say who punters will even make favourite, let alone who will actually win.
The others are not necessarily just racing for 3rd place although the betting market will certainly reflect that. YES PERFECT hauls himself into the reckoning after a super win at the distance in March and of the favourites do over-race, he will be coming back to them late on. SSONSAL, DAMANGUI GIL and DAEHAN JILJU look the best of the rest.
Not among the starters is Dolkong with the nine-year-old having suffered a recurrence of his sesamoid injury during trackwork on Thursday. All hopes are now that he can be saved and finally retired.
1. DAEMANGUI GIL – 3rd in last October’s Kookje Shinmun (Listed-1400M) he has since scored three consecutive runner-up finishes at Class 1 level at distances between 1200M and a mile, being beaten by Ssonsal and Yes Perfect. Likes to settle back and run on, he will be finishing strongly and is a place chance.
2. BEOLMAUI STAR – Ended his three-year-old campaign in fine style with back-to-back class 1 scores over 1200M and 1400M before being slowly away then ridden up hard and wide before weakening over a mile on his only start this term in January. He hasn’t raced since then but looked very quick when winning a trial in early March. Can be on or close to the pace from a nice draw and in this a long way.
3. DAEHAN JILJU – An excellent 4th in the Korea Sprint (G1-1200M) was followed up with 2nd to Eoma Eoma here in the Kookje Shinmun (Listed-1400M) with the latter needing every yard to catch and pass him. Failed to fire from the widest gate in the Segye Ilbo (Listed-1200M) in January but draws better today and with a better start can get closer.
4. SKY MANGCHI – The lowest rated in the race but is on the up with five wins from twelve, including his latest start over 1400M at class 3 level. This is a big step up in class and he may be overmatched.
5. PREEMAX – Hasn’t won beyond class 2 but comes in off 3rd place behind Wow Wow in the Segyle Ilbo (Listed-1200M) in January. Can settle handy or midfield and run on but this is a big ask.
6. GREAT BOSS – Drops back in trip for the first time in a while having seen his rating tick over to class 1 level following a runner-up finish over 1400M on February 19th. A hold up horse who likes to power home late, he will be running on, but he may not catch the best of these.
7. EOMA EOMA – The Korea Sprint winner is the defending champion having won this race by three-lengths in 2022 and was also victorious at Busan in the Kookje Shinmun (Listed-1400M) last October. His only run since was a handicap win over 1200M at Seoul in February. He draws well here, can get on pace, and could prove hard to hold out.
8. OREUDA – Yet to win at higher than class 3 but he has posted some fast times for the distance. Comes in off a runner-up finish at class 2 level when handy throughout, but at level weights and in elite company, he looks up against it here.
9. DOLKONG – NON-RUNNER.
10. YES PERFECT – Enters off back-to-back class 1 wins over 1400M and most recently this distance on a super quick time on March 12th when coming from off the pace and bolting in by seven-lengths. That performance puts him firmly in the frame here, especially if there is some pace to run at – and surely there will be.
11. WONDERFUL RUBY – Long time class 2 competitor who runs solid but not spectacular times and shows no signs of being class 1-bound. Gets a 2kg allowance as a mare but should be outclassed in this company.
12. WOW WOW – Stablemate of Eoma Eoma. Came from off the pace to win the Segye Ilbo Trophy (Listed-1200M) at Seoul at the end of January on a day when closers had plenty of success. Beaten into 2nd by Raon The Spurt over 1400M on March 5th when conditions were less favourable. Can go well but will need a lot of things to go right for him.
13. SINGSING MARY – Connections like having a go so they always enter her in elite company when they can, and she usually beats a few but not enough to trouble the scorers and that will be the same here.
14. SSONSAL – 4th to Eoma Eoma in the Kookje Shinmun (Listed-1400M) here last October before winning at class 1 over this distance and then most recently running 3rd behind Yes Perfect and Daemangui Gil over 1400M on February 12th when giving both a lot of weight. Can settle midfield and run on so the draw is not a problem, and he is a place chance.
15. RAON THE FIGHTER – Korea Cup and Grand Prix runner-up, he looked sensational on his season reappearance at 1800M on February 19th. Returns to sprinting for the first time since running 2nd in last May’s SROA Chairman’s Trophy (G3-1200M). He is a Group winner at the distance and has the fastest time of any of these over the 1200M. He has beaten Eoma Eoma before and has every chance of doing it again. The only concern is the wide draw. He has the early speed, but he may also need some early luck.
Selections: (15) Raon The Fighter (7) Eoma Eoma (10) Yes Perfect (14) Ssonsal