KRA Cup Mile – Triple Crown 1st Leg Full Preview

The 2023 Korean Triple Crown gets underway on Sunday at Busan as a full field of sixteen head to the gate for the KRA Cup Mile (1600M KOR-G2). Eight have made the trip down from Seoul while eight represent the home track and the stage is set for the next star of local racing to emerge.

Betelgeuse (Pic: KRA)

Betelgeuse was kept off the Juvenile Series last autumn and instead racked up experience – and victories – against older horses at the Derby distance of 1800M as well as a mile. That extra bit of seasoning and toughness stood him in good stead when he did drop back to face his contemporaries in Busan’s Classic Trial, the Gyeongnam Shinmun Trophy (1400M Listed) on March 19th. He ran out an easy winner that day and will be favoured to do so again here. Choi Si-dae, who has ridden two Korean Derby winners but is yet to win the Cup Mile, will be aboard for trainer Baik Kwang-yeol.

The only unbeaten record in the race belongs to Something Lost. The Seoul raider win the capital’s Classic Trial, the Sports Seoul Trophy (1400M Listed) on the same afternoon that Betelgeuse was doing his thing in Busan. He has led all his races so far and was hanging on in the Trial, but he has done everything asked of him so far and will be one of the dangers. Lee Hyeok, who has ridden him in all his races so far, will be partnering him again.

Last year’s top juvenile Speed Young returned to form with a win over a mile at class 3 level in March and he’ll be another contender along with two-time distance winner Nut Play and impressive last start class 3 winner Dokki Bulpae.

The KRA Cup Mile is race 6 on Busan’s Sunday program with a local post time of 15:45.

1. CHOICE RUN – Since finishing down the field in the Breeders’ Cup he has won three on the spin up to class 3 level to take his chance here. They have all been at 1200M and on pace, but he draws well and could have a say.

2. SPEED YOUNG – The Breeders’ Cup winner suffered a surprise defeat on his first start of the year but returned to form with an impressive score over a mile at class 3 level on March 3rd. Proven at the distance and having already beaten plenty of these, he has solid claims.

3. DRAGON STAR – No wins at higher than class 5 but he gets his chance having run 3rd in the Sports Seoul Trophy and also has a 3rd at this distance when settling right back and running on. Has a strong finish and will be making up ground late.

4. BETELGEUSE – The highest rated horse in the race and a dominant winner of the Gyeongnam Shinmun. Has won up to 1800M and class 3 and has proven able to run on pace or from handy. He will be the favourite and he is very much the one to beat.

5. RUNNING POWER – Comes in off a class 4 win over this distance on March 17th when settling forward of midfield and finishing well. Not impossible he could step up here, but this is harder.

6. FANTASTIC KINGDOM – The winner of the Gimhae Mayor’s Tropjy over 1200M last November was sent off favourite for the Breeders’ Cup where he came home 4th having briefly led. Lameness means he hasn’t raced since, but he looked very well winning a trial two weeks ago. Big ask first-up though.

7. SOMETHING LOST – The only unbeaten one in the field, he comes in a perfect four from four and led almost the whole way to win the Sports Seoul Classic trial at 1400M in March. This represents another step up, but he has done everything asked of him so far and he can’t be dismissed.

8. NUT PLAY – He was finishing strongly in the Sports Seoul, but it is at a mile where he has shown his best so far, winning twice up to class 4 level. Seoul’s mile is a different configuration but there is no reason why Busan can’t suit, and he will be a big danger.

9. CHANGCHANG DAERO – A quick winner over this distance at class 5 level in February when on pace throughout before running 3rd over 1800M at class 4 in March. Will need to find more here but has minor money hopes.

10. KWAEHYANG – A very solid performer who was 4th in the NACF Chairman’s Trophy, 5th in the Breeders’ Cup and 5th in the Sports Seoul. That does though mean that a lot of today’s rivals have beaten him already. Versatile running style so the mile may suit.

11. WINNER YOUNG – Solitary win came at class 5 level over 1400M on Christmas Day, but he has a 3rd and a 2nd in two starts since, both around two turns. He is one of the stronger finishers in the race and Moon Se-young is aboard, so it is perilous to completely rule him out, but others are favoured.

12. SPO BLADE – An all the way winner over 1400M at class 4 level on April 2nd when carrying just 51kg. Proven able to run well both on pace and from behind but not among the top line of favourites.

13. LUCKY SUN – An also-ran in the Breeders’ Cup, he has been in good form since with a 2nd and most recently a win over 1800M at class 4 level. Doesn’t need to lead so the wide draw shouldn’t be a concern and while maybe not a winning chance, he can go close.

14. DOKKI BULPAE – The second highest rated in the race following a class 3 win at 1800M on March 19th when he led every step of the way. He is done no favours by the draw so may need some early luck, but if he can find a good position, he can be in the finish.

15. BACKTOTHELEGEND – Yet to win beyond class 5 and 1400M but was 5th of nine in the Gyeongnam Shinmun Trophy. Big race jockey aboard but will need to find considerably more here.

16. WORLD LEGEND – Runner-up to Betelgeuse in the Gyeongnam Shinmun he is a winner at this distance in a quick time at class 4 level. The wide draw can be a problem, but he has minor money chances.

Selections: (4) Betelgeuse (8) Nut Play (7) Something Lost (2) Speed Young