Donga Ilbo Trophy Form Comments: Raon First Favourite as Queens’ Tour Kicks Off but Could In-Form Flat Babe Surprise?

This year’s “Queens’ Tour” for fillies and mares is split into two separate three-race series and Raon First headlines the opener leg of the “Spring and Summer” tour in the Donga Ilbo Trophy (Listed – 1800M) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Raon First won the President’s Cup last November (Pic: KRA)

One of the most versatile horses in training in Korea, Raon First ran 3rd in the International Korea Sprint over 1200M last September before beating a field including Korea Cup winner Winner’s Man to win the Group 1 President’s Cup over 2000M in November.

Raon First is the defending champion in the Donga Ilbo, having scored by a comfortable four-lengths twelve months ago and she will be favourite, but there is no guarantee she will have things all her own way. The big danger is Flat Babe, who proved a revelation towards the end of her four-year-old season, rising from class 3 to class 1 and crowning the achievement by defeating an elite level field containing Winner’s Man in February over today’s distance. 

Flat Babe (Pic: KRA)

It will be unchartered territory for most with 58kg on their backs for the first time. All that is except for the solitary three-year-old in the race. The up and coming Sure Win has won two of her latest three and the Bernardini filly gets a whopping 6kg allowance on the rest of the field.

Twelve go in total in the Donga Ilbo which is race 8 on the 11-race Sunday card at Seoul:

1. SURE WIN – The only three-year-old in the race, she has won two of her latest three including last time out when on pace over this distance. That was at class 4 level so this is a stiff test, but she draws well and has a 6kg weight advantage over all the others.

2. QUEENS TOUR – A strong 4th in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup last September but well back over 2000M at class 2 level behind Eodigana and Cheonji Yeogeol on her only 2023 outing so far.  Tactically versatile and jockey booking a plus, but while she may be named after the series, others are favoured.

3. FLAT BABE – A revelation recently with 2nd place in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup followed by a class 1 win over Winner’s Man at this distance on February 26th. She was getting 8kg from the Korea Cup winner, but she stopped the clock in a time faster than any of these have achieved for the distance. Can settle back and run on and is the main danger here.

4. CALM STRONG – Won the KNN Cup (1600M-G2) in this series last year at big odds and followed up with a class 2 win over this distance in August before losing her way a little. Returned to form with a 3rd place over 1200M at class 1 level four weeks ago when under a light weight. Place chance.

5. IRON MUSKET – Tackles two turns for the first time and comes off a seven-length win over 1400M at class 4 level in March. Has run fast times at shorter distances so no reason why she can’t step up although it’s unfamiliar territory in terms of weight and competition.

6. SURISURIMA – Registered back-to-back 3rd place finishes at class 3 level last autumn before rounding off the year with a 4th at class 2. Shown little in two outings this campaign and while she does have the second fastest time of any of these for the distance, is an outsider here.

7. RAON PINK – “Full” sister to her stablemate Raon First, although hasn’t quite lived up to expectations after a strong three-year-old campaign.  She was unconvincing at the back end of last year and after three months off ran 8th of ten on her return over 1400M in February. Minor money would be a good finish.

8. WONDERFUL DEVIL – Won back-to-back races at classes 4 and 3, the latter at his distance in January but has struggled in two starts since. Likes to settle back and run on and can pass a few but would require significant improvement to find the money.

9. CHEONJI YEOGEOL – A long way back in the Gyeongnam Govenor’s Cup last November and was well beaten by Eodigana in February but can’t be completely ruled out based on her win two starts back at class 2 level over 2000M.

10. RAON FIRST – The best mare in the country, she was 3rd in the Korea Sprint (G1-1200M) last September before winning the President’s Cup (G1-2000M) in November. Missed the start when 3rd in the Segye Ilbo Trophy (Listed-1200M) in January. She is rated a full twenty-seven points ahead of the next best and at level weights, she should be crushing this field.

11. EODIGANA – 3rd to Flat Babe’s 2nd in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup last November and most recently 2nd over 2000M at class 2 level. Goes best when on or close to the pace and at her best, she can be a place chance in this company.

12. JEJUUI HEUKSEON – Managed a 4th place at class 3 level two starts back but there’s nothing to suggest that her thirty-seven-race losing streak is about to end here.

SELECTIONS: (10) Raon First (3) Flat Babe (1) Sure Win (5) Iron Musket