Korean Triple Crown 2018

World Sun Finally Shines In Minister’s Cup

World Sun, the hard-luck story of both the KRA Cup Mile and the Korean Derby, finally tasted Classic glory coming through with a late – and this time unimpeded – run to win the final leg of the 2018 Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup, at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

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Jockey Lee Chul Kyung reacts as he realises World Sun has beaten his mount, 80/1 chance Sharp Kaylan, in the Minister’s Cup (Pic: Korea Racing Authority)

Under Choi Si Dae, the Officer colt was taken right to the back of the field from the gate but this time, unlike in both the Cup Mile and the Derby, World Sun managed to find a clear run in the home straight and overhaul 80/1 long-shot Sharp Kaylan in the final strides. Korean Derby winner and odds-on favourite Ecton Blade was 3rd.

Sharp Kaylan set the early pace but it was a sensible one and jockey Lee Chul Kyung looked somewhat surprised to be four-lengths clear at the top of the stretch. Ecton Blade meanwhile had to ridden along by Franco Da Silva around the home turn. He would come into contention briefly at the top of the stretch but ultimately was out of it by the furlong pole.

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World Sun defeated Sharp Kaylan (Pic: Korea Racing Authority)

Unlike in the Derby, when he found himself in between two horses coming together and blocking his route, this time World Sun found clear track in front of him and it came down to a final furlong duel between him and Sharp Kaylan. The Busan horse was too strong  though, going past to win by half a length on the line., Sharp Kaylan’s jockey Lee Chul Kyung emitting an anguished howl as they crosses the line in recognition of just how close he had come to riding his first Classic winner.

Kim Young Kwan missed out on training the winner of all three legs of the Triple Crown – Ecton Blade’s stablemate Captain Force could only manage 5th., one place behind Derby runner-up Mask.

2018년6월17일 농림축산식품장관배 월드선 최시대 (3)

World Sun in the Minister’s Cup winner’s circle (Pic: Korea Racing Authority)

For trainer Baik Kwang Yeol it was a second success in the race and came ten years after his previous win when Gaeseon Janggun scored in 2008.  He also won the Derby in 2015 with Yeongcheon Ace for the same owner as World Sun, Lee Jong Hun., who also owns Group winners Beolmaui Kkum (who was trained by the same trainer) and Success Story (with Min Jang Gi).

Jockey Choi Si Dae was winning the race for the first time to go along with previous wins in the Korean Derby, Korean Oaks, Busan Mayor’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes.

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – June 17, 2018

1. World Sun (KOR) [Officer – Dancing Desire (Mr. Greeley)] – Choi Si Dae – 8.4, 2.2
2. Sharp Kaylan (KOR) [Sharp Humor – Kaylan’s Rose (Jambalaya Jazz)] – Lee Chul Kyung – 11.3
3. Ecton Blade (KOR) [Ecton Park – Vyung Ty Grr (Regal Intention)] – Francisco Da Silva – 1.0
Distances: 0.5 lengths / 1.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Mask 5. Captain Force 6. Choinma 7. Hiddden Champ 8. Cheonnyeonui Gang 9. King Jjang 10. Yeonggwanguiwinner

So three Triple Crown legs yielded three different winners.  With a win an 2nd and a 3rd, Ecton Blade is the overall “winner” of the series, Now we’ve got the rest of the season to find out who’s the best.

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Ecton Blade & Franco Da Silva Win The 2018 Korean Derby

Ecton Blade (Ecton Park) won the 2018 Korean Derby at Seoul Racecourse Park on Sunday afternoon.

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Pics by Ross Holburt

How they went:

1.  Ecton Blade – Settled prominently behind Hiddden Champ and had things his own way. Once he struck the front he never looked like being beaten

2. Mask – Really good performance, finishing well down the outside for a fine 2nd. He’ll be a danger in the Minister’s Cup too.

3. Choinma – Made for two Seoul horses in the top three. Raced in midfield and kept to the rail in the straight holding off Divide Wind by a neck.

4. Divide Wind – Began poorly and never looked settled. Clearly considered the second string from his stable despite his KRA Cup Mile win. Jockey – a very good jockey – slightly fortunate to only get a three-day suspension for the incident which saw World Sun cut-off in the home straight.

5. World Sun – Settled at the back as expected but just as in the KRA Cup Mile got a bad trip. Had the door slammed shut by Divide Wind as he was trying to find a run in the home straight. Would never have got to the winner though.

6. Hiddden Champ – Looked very coltish in the parade ring and sweated up badly on the way to the gate. Went to the lead as expected but never looked truly settled and faded when put under pressure.

7. Fire Wind – Close to the pace in the early part of the race but found the competition too stiff at the business end of the race. All being well she should be back for the Oaks.

8. Clean Up Teukgeup – Made little impression throughout.

9. Icheon Ssal – Last all the way around until passing a tiring Let’s Yeongcheon in the closing stages.

10. Let’s Yeongcheon – Tried to keep up early but was under pressure early on and weakened to last before the final furlong.

Korean Derby Day 2018: Race-By-Race Preview (May 13)

It’s the 2nd leg of the 2018 Korean Triple Crown as 10 horses line up for the 21st running of the Korean Derby at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. And Divide Wind will join his stablemate Ecton Blade, who he beat by a length to capture the first jewel in the crown, the KRA Cup Mile, as favourite. The big race is the highlight of an 11-race card at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 which also includes the ARF Commemorative Race, to mark the opening of the 37th Asian Racing Conference. There are also 6 races at Busan from 12:40 to 17:05.

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Divide Wind won the KRA Cup Mile. Can he add the 2nd leg of the 2018 Triple Crown? (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Divide Wind and Ecton Blade have been joined on the trip to Seoul by World Sun and Hiddden Champ. World Sun was a fast finishing 3rd in the Cup Mile and could challenge the two favourites here. As for Seoul, the challenge is led by Mask, who also ran well in the Mile for 4th and an upset is not impossible. Here is the race-by-race preview of all 17 Derby Day races at both Seoul & Busan with horse-by-horse comments for the ARF and Derby races?

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

(1) SEUNGRI PLUS will be strong favourite to score here, having been getting progressively closer across his latest outings. He was 2nd to a good winner at this distance last time on April 7th and should have too much today. (4) MAIN RACER has shown some ability across three starts so far and can build on the 5th he managed last time while (5) RAON OPTIMUS enters after back to back 4th place finishes and should be looking to at least match here. (6) BARAM KING and (8) MAJJABEUN SON are others who can be considered.

Selections (1) Seungri Plus (6) Baram King (4) Main Racer (8) Majjabeun Son
Next Best 5, 3
Fast Start 1, 4, 9

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

(7) BLACK SPIRIT was an improved 3rd at 1300M on her last start at the beginning of March and returns here after a couple of months off with solid claims. She can come from just off the pace and finish strongly. (8) SANTOS showed prominently before weakening over 1300M two weeks ago. He drops back slightly in trip here and may benefit. (2) CLEAN FLOWER showed some signs of life with 5th place at 1300M last time and gets Manoel Nunes on board today. (6) ARGO UNIQUE and (11) DONGBANG JIJU are others with potential to improve on recent outings.

Selections (7) Black Spirit (8) Santos (2) Clean Flower (11) Dongbang Jiju
Next Best 6, 1
Fast Start 8, 9, 10, 11

Seoul Race 3: Class 5 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(8) MACHA BUCHA ran a close 2nd at class and distance on April 7th having been prominent throughout and leading briefly close to home. He can go one better this time. (2) BOLD NINER comes in following back to back 4th place finishes at this distance and at 1200M and surely comes close again while (12) LEAD UP can overcome the widest draw to get close to the pace early and can match the 3rd she managed last tie. (4) EVER A ONE beat Macha Bucha at the distance two starts ago and while he didn’t go well at 1300M on reappearance last month, can be given another chance today. (9) STIRLING returns to action after a three-month absence and can be considered too.

Selections (8) Macha Bucha (2) Bold Niner (4) Ever A One (12) Lead Up
Next Best 9, 7, 1
Fast Start 8, 9, 12

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(8) L CAR romped home to easily win his second start on April 14th. It was at 1000M, so he is up in both class and distance today, but he could well have enough to prevail again. (3) EAGLE SKY could be the one to beat though. He improved significantly last start on April 15th when ridden by Johan Victoire for the first time, just beaten half a length at this distance and looks set to go well here. (7) EUMAK DAEJANG beat a couple of these on his way to 3rd at 1300M on April 14th and should have the beating of plenty once more. One of those behind him that day was (1) REBECCA and the slight drop in trip may benefit her today. (9) SPECIAL LIGHT ran 4th in a solid race at 1300M last month and is another to consider. He usually comes from well off the pace so will need things to set up just right for him. (4) CHEON MONG is up in class after a somewhat unexpected win at 1300M and while he perhaps has a bit more to find, shouldn’t be ruled out completely.

Selections (3) Eagle Sky (8) L Car (9) Special Light (1) Rebecca
Next Best 4, 7
Fast Start 1, 4, 7

Busan Race 1: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(7) HOTHAE is up in class following a convincing win over this distance on April 13th. He made all that day and could well do so again here. It won’t be easy. (3) HANGIL too steps up following her maiden win which came at the fourth time of asking. Her triumph was over 1000M, so she faces an increase in distance as well but should be able to cope with it. (5) GEUJIKOJI had a hard time at a mile last time but should be more comfortable dropped back today. (1) BLUE DANCER defied her odds to run a good 2nd at class and distance three weeks ago and will not more respect here. (9) SWEET MEMORY steps up in trip after a 3rd and a 4th behind some useful ones in her latest two and can come under consideration.

Selections (7) Hothae (3) Hangil (9) Sweet Memory (1) Blue Dancer
Next Best 5, 4
Fast Start 1, 3, 7, 9

Seoul Race 5: Class 4 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

(1) JANGSAN WILD has won two from three so far and is up in both class and distance today. He had to work for his win last time but looks to have scope for more improvement and he’s the one they’ll need to beat today. He had to battle last time though and if the additional furlong is a concern then (6) DAESEUNG BIBEOB is the one to turn to. He drops back in trip after some good efforts around two turns and will surely run on strongly. (7) TEUKBYEOL STAR still somehow remains a maiden. She’s a good filly and rarely misses the money but can’t quite make the breakthrough. That will probably be the case again, but she’ll be firmly in the placing hunt. (5) FINE CHAMP and (10) SPEED CHEONGNYONG, the latter up in class, both enter in good form and should also be involved.

Selections (1) Jangsan Wild (6) Daeseung Bibeob (7) Teukbyeol Star (10) Speed Cheongnyong
Next Best 5, 4
Fast Start 1, 2, 9

Busan Race 2:  Class 4 (1000M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

(9) MAKGANG BOLT has won his latest two in decent fashion, his latest at this class. He’s a front-runner and with an apprentice keeping his carried weight nice and low, he has every chance of making it three in a row. (2) YUKRYONGI ran poorly when favourite last time out four weeks ago but had been showing enough prior to that to suggest he’s worth another chance today and he should be a threat. (11) QUEEN THE QUEEN is up in class following back to back runner-up finishes, both at this distance. She’s never been worse than 3rd and despite the step up in level, she can maintain that record today. (10) CHARTERED DREAM came home 2nd and 5th respectively when they raced each other at (more…)

KRA Cup Mile 2018 – Full Preview

For race-by-race previews of the 11-race Sunday card at Seoul, click here

The 2018 Korean Triple Crown kicks off at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon with the KRA Cup Mile – “The Korean 2000 Guineas”. Nine runners set out hoping to emulate the feat of Power Blade two years ago, when he swept all three jewels to become the first winner of the Triple Crown in its current format. Now a five-year-old Power Blade remains in training and it’s his stablemate and namesake, Ecton Blade, who is set to begin as favourite.  

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Ecton Blade won the Breeders’ Cup in December and will be favourite for the Cup Mile (Pic: KRA)

Ecton Blade was a dominant winner of the Breeders’ Cup, Korea’s top juvenile race, last December, and was an impressive eight-length winner on his only start of 2018 so far. A two-time winner already at this distance, he is going to be tough to beat. Trainer Kim Young Kwan once more has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. He’s won this race three times already and in addition to Ecton Blade, also sends out Divide Wind, comfortable winner of the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup, a trial for this race, a month ago. Punters will surely send them off as favourite and 2nd favourite.

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Divide Wind (Pic: KRA)

Seoul sends down three runners and two of them look to have credible chances. Mask and Gaon Champ came home 1st and 2nd in the capital track’s trial for this race and while it was Mask who prevailed that day, Gaon Champ, who was unbeaten going into that race, has a good chance of overturning that form today. World Sun and Yeongcheon Derby round out the ones who seem to have credible chances, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that in this race anything can happen – last year’s winner, Indian King, started at odds of 70/1.

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Mask defeated Gaon Champ in the Sports Seoul Cup (Pic: KRA)

Race 5: Class Open (1600M) – The KRA Cup Mile (KOR G2) / KRW 500 Million  

1. YEONGGWANGUIWINNER – Took five attempts to get his maiden win but has gone on to add two more including making all at this distance last time. 3rd behind Yeongcheon Derby at a mile in January. Likely to want to be on the early speed.
2. YEONGCHEON DERBY – The only unbeaten one in the field, the filly hasn’t raced since comfortably winning at this distance in January, beating Yeonggwanguiwinner in the process. A bit of a wildcard, she is a stablemate of World Sun. She has made all to win all three so far. She will try to get to the front from the gate.
3. MASK – Impressive winner at 1700M in January and then ran down and defeated Gaon Champ over 1400M in the Sports Seoul Cup a month ago. Has won from the front and from just off the pace. Likely to take a sit here, a place will be a minimum aim.
4. MONE FLYING – Started very promisingly but seemed to lose her way a little before coming back into form with a very good win over 1300M at Seoul in February. This seems a very tough ask though. Generally settles in the middle of the field.
5. GAON CHAMP – Looked a huge talent when romping home in his first three. Returned to action in the Sports Seoul Cup last month when he was run down by Mask in the closing stages. Up to a mile for the first time, he can overturn the form on Mask, but it would be a surprise – though not impossible – were he to beat the Busan favourites. Has led his races so far and will surely look to do so again.
6. WORLD SUN – The first of these to make a stake a claim as a juvenile winning the Gimhae Mayor’s Cup ahead of Ecton Blade last October. Ecton Blade returned the favour in the Breeders’ Cup and World Sun was a lacklustre 3rd to Divide Wind in the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup, his only start of 2018. Jockey Lim Sung Sil may well be happy to take a sit at the back of the field and if the others go too fast, there is a chance it could open up for him.
7. YEONGGWANGUI CHAMP – Three wins from six and 3rd on first try at this distance at class 4 last month. Yet to be tested in this kind of company though and likely has plenty to find. Expected to settle in the middle of the field.
8. ECTON BLADE – Runner-up to World Sun in the Gimhae Mayor’s Cup but a commanding winner of the Breeders’ Cup in Seoul to become Champion Juvenile. Recorded an effortless win on first try at this distance on solitary start of 2018 so far. Stablemate of Divide Wind and very much the favourite, he will look to be on speed from the start.
9. DIVIDE WIND – Well back in the Breeders’ Cup but has been gone on to record three straight victories, including at this distance in January, and was impressive when comfortably scoring in the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup over 1400M. Stablemate of Ecton Blade and likely to be the primary danger. Tactically versatile but probably content to let others to lead early here.

Verdict: It does look like Kim Young Kwan has done it again as he goes into the first leg of the Triple Crown boasting the favourite and second-favourite. Of his pair, (8) ECTON BLADE is the one to beat. The Champion juvenile has only raced once in 2018 so far, scoring in facile fashion over a mile in February but he arrives at the Cup Mile reportedly in even better shape and ready to win. Stablemate (9) DIVIDE WIND has really impressed in three starts since an underwhelming performance in the Breeders’ Cup and looks the main danger. (3) MASK and (5) GAON CHAMP came home 1st and 2nd in last month’s Sports Seoul Cup – although the order was somewhat of a surprise – and the two raiders from the capital are certainly capable of finding the places, even if they will have to raise their game to beat the favourites. (6) WORLD SUN looks best of the rest.

Selections (8) Ecton Blade (9) Divide Wind (5) Gaon Champ (3) Mask
Next Best 6, 2
Fast Start 1, 2, 5, 8

Race 4: Class 3 (1800M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million

Trainer Kim Young Kwan and jockey Lee Hyo Sik will partner with the favourite in the KRA Cup Mile and they do so here too. (2) SIGANUI JIHYE ran 2nd when favourite at class and distance just two weeks ago. He led from the gate that day and held on until being passed in the closing stages. She should be on speed again today and this time should go all the way. (6) WIN GO MAN pulled off a surprised win over a mile three weeks ago beating (4) MUJEOK SINHWA and (3) USAIN NUT in the process. Win Go Man needs a little but more respect today but up at this distance, Usain Nut at least – and possibly Mujeok Sinhwa too – should really be overturning that form. (1) ITSAGAINT WARRIOR was a very useful 2nd on his first try at this distance in February and comes in fresh after eight weeks out. (8) BRAVO MARINE moves back up to this distance after some positive recent showings and could be in the placing frame.

Selections (2) Siganui Jihye (3) Usain Nut (1) Itsagaint Warrior (8) Bravo Marine
Next Best 6, 4
Fast Start 1, 2, 7

Race 6: Class 1 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 110 Million

Hard to look past the Kim Young Kwan and Lee Hyo Sik combination again. (7) FINEST WARRIOR has won three of five starts so far and the Majestic Warrior gelding finds himself up at class 1 for the first time. His wins have been impressive though and the manner especially of his latest two suggest he has little to fear here. He should be close to the pace early and can win. (1) GASOK ENGINE was 3rd behind Drop The Beat and Haeya in a well-run race at this distance last time. He’s beaten a number of these in recent starts and should push the favourite close here. (2) MUJEOK WONDERFUL was a close at hand 4th in that race and can go well again too. (8) STEALTH has been up and down in recent starts but was 2nd on his last try at this distance in January in a better race than this and can’t be ruled out. (9) BANJIUI JEWANG enters after back to back competitive 3rd place finishes and can aim to at least match those today.

Selections (7) Finest Warrior (1) Gasok Engine (8) Stealth  (2) Mujeok Wonderful
Next Best 9, 6
Fast Start 1, 7, 9, 10

Korean Triple Crown 2018: All The Cup Miles So Far

The Korean Triple Crown season is upon us with the first jewel, the KRA Cup Mile, set to be run at Busan this coming Sunday, April 8th. We’ll have a full preview of the big race in the forthcming days but in the meantime let’s take a look back at all previous runnings of the Cup Mile.

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Indian King won the KRA Cup Mile in 2017 (Pic: KRA)

 

The track configuration at Seoul Racecourse has never allowed for races to be run at a distance of a mile – although this is set to change within the next year – so, when the Busan Racecourse was designed, that was to be a key feature. The track was completed in 2004 and the first Cup Mile, held on a Friday in September 2005, was won by US import Siseon Jeap (Precise End).

The following year the race got a name change, the KRA Chairman’s Cup and a distance change to 1800M. Golding (Gold Alert), who would continue to be a stalwart at Busan until 2011, took the honours. In 2007, it was back to being the Cup Mile and Luna (Concept Win) landed the biggest win of her career. Australian jockey Garry Baker became the first of three foreign riders to date to have won the race.

In that same year, J.S. Hold won all three races of the Seoul Triple Crown but for 2008 Busan horses were invited to take part for the first time and the track invited to host the first leg. As a result, the Cup Mile was shifted to the first Sunday in April. Here is a list of the winners every year since then and what’s become of them:

2008: Rainmaker [Revere – Wandering Katie (Tejano)] – The 3/1 favourite won the race by two and a half lengths but then finished last in the Derby and would never win a race again. He suffered some injury setbacks and was finally retired in 2010. He was registered for breeding and covered the occasional mare but was ultimately retrained for Equestrianism.

2009: Sangseung Ilro [Concept Win – Ms. Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] – The first of two superstar winners, she was a 16/1 outsider (the first and possibly only correct tip ever given on this blog’s twitter feed!) and despite behind the scenes shenanigans with Eiki Nishimura getting jocked off in favour of Jo Sung Gon, she went on to win the Korean Derby. Long odds-on favourite for the Korea Oaks. she was caught on the line by Pang Pang and then, at 80% fitness, ran 3rd in the Minister’s Cup when trying to seal the Triple Crown. Until Power Blade, she was the only Cup Mile winner so far to go on to win the Derby. Sangseung Ilro won two more Stakes races as a 4-year-old before being retired for broodmare duties. One of the best fillies ever produced in Korea.

2010: Money Car [Newsprint – Pinocchio (Big Sur)] – The first of just two winners from Seoul, he came into the Cup Mile with 5 wins from 6 starts and was a dominant 11-length winner. Odds-on favourite for the Derby, he looked home and hosed a furlong out but was run down on the line by Cheonnyeon Daero. He only ran once more, his career ended by injury. Out at pasture for a few years, he was registered for breeding in 2013 and occasionally covers mares at Hyunma Farm on Jeju Island.

2011: Soseuldaemun [Meisei Opera – This Ole Way (Vigors)] – This was a 3-year-old crop that, filly Useung Touch and solid handicapper Singgereounachim aside, didn’t really live up to its early promise. Toshio Uchida, “Mr. Pink” rode 7/1 chance Soseuldaemun to a 2-length win but the colt didn’t travel well to Seoul for the Derby and, 20 kilos lighter, finished 7th. He only raced twice more, with a very solid 3rd in the Gyeongnam Do-Min Ilbo followed by a return to Seoul for the Minister’s Cup where he was last of 14. Not registered for breeding, he was retired to Myeongsin Farm on Jeju.

2012: Gyeongbudaero [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – One of the finest Korean-bred racehorses who is only now peaking. He was Busan’s champion Juvenile in 2011 and was the 3-length winner of the Cup Mile. A month later, he finished 3rd in the Derby, just a length behind Jigeum I Sungan and was 3rd behind the same horse in the Minster’s Cup. The same year, he was also 3rd in the President’s Cup. 13 of his 29 starts have come in Stakes races and it was in 2014 where he rose to the very top of Korean racing. Having won the President’s Cup at Seoul in November, he returned to win the biggest race of all, the Grand Prix Stakes, that December.

2013: Sting Ray [Forest Camp – Straight Cash (Straight Man)] – A victory at the time for the Korean breeding program with dam Straight Cash being a winner of the JRA Trophy in Korea. Sting Ray was the odds-on favourite for the Cup Mile and duly won by 4-lengths. He finished 6th in the Derby a month later and went on to be a solid class 1 handicapper befire his eventual retirement in April 2017.

2014: Cheongnyong Bisang [Volponi – Miss Alwuhush (Alwuhush)] – The 20/1 chance filly became Seoul’s second winner of the KRA Cup Mile when taking a 2-length victory last year. Another filly, Queen’s Blade, had been sent off as the odds-on favourite and she would come good a month later in the Korean Derby in Seoul with Cheongnyong Bisang back in 4th. Blighted by injury, he was inexplicably sent to the United States, where his story took a quite unexpected turn.

2015: Rafale [Colors Flying – Dongbang Choego (Al Naba)] – 2nd behind Doraon Hyeonpyo in the previous year’s Breeders’ Cup, Rafale begin his three-year-old campaign with a win but only managed 4th place in his final prep for the Cup Mile. Nevertheless, it was enough for him to be sent off as co-favourite with Doraon Hyeonpyo for the big race. Under You Hyun Myung, he struck the front late on and beat Doraon Hyenpyo by half a length. That would be as good as it got for Rafale as he finished 3rd in the Derby and then 5th in the Minister’s Cup before tendinitis brough a premature end to his career after just ten starts and five wins. He remains alive at Sinhwa Farm on Jeju Island.

2016: Power Blade [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] – Champion juvenile the previous year, Power Blade was odds-on favourite for the Cup Mile, obliging by four-lengths and swept to all three legs of the Triple Crown with supreme ease. He went on to represent Korea at the Dubai World Cup Carnival in 2017, placing at Group level before returning to Seoul to run 2nd in the Korea Sprint and then to win the Grand Prix Stakes.

2017: Indian King [Biwa Shinseiki – Indian Diamond (Indian Charlie)] – British jockey Darryll Holland became the fourth foreign jockey to win the Cup Mile, guiding 75/1 outsider Indian King to a narrow win having taken the initiative early in the race. He ran solid 4ths in both the final two legs of the Triple Crown but suffered an injury setback shortly afterwards. He has recently returned to training.

Final declarations for this year’s race will be made on Wednesday. A full preview of the big race will follow.

Classic Trials: Mask Beats Gaon Champ To Win Sports Seoul / Divide Wind Cruises At Busan

With the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the Triple Crown just a month away, there were Classic trials at both Seoul and Busan. At Seoul, Mask handed Gaon Champ his first defeat while at Busan, it was a Kim Young Kwan-trained one-two as Divide Win led home Captain Force.

Having already stepped up to – and won at – 1700M, Mask was likely headed to the Triple Crown trail anyway but he was only sent off as third-best in the betting for the Sports Seoul Cup behind the hitherto undefeated Gaon Champ and Seoul’s top juvenile of 2017, Choinma. It was Gaon Champ who showed the way early and at the top of the stretch looked poised to go on keep his 100% record intact.

Mask was too strong. Under the urging of Shin Hyung Chul, he came alongside Gaon Champ, who was all-out under Park Tae Jong, and went past in the final half furlong to win by just under a length. Choinma was a long way back in 3rd.

Mask (Testa Matta) has now won three from seven in total but crucially, both of this year’s outings. He’ll not find it easy in Busan though.

Sports Seoul Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – March 4, 2018

1. Mask (KOR) [Testa Matta – Fire And Vice (Latent Heat)] – Shin Hyung Chul – 6.0, 1.4
2. Gaon Champ (KOR) [Ecton Park – Ruby Queen (Badge Of Silver)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.1
3. Choinma (KOR) [Menifee – Kkummaeul(Curia Regis)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 1.1
Distances: 0.75 lengths / 8 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Sharp Kaylan 5. Sinui Myeongryeong 6. Seourui Byeol 7. Eclair Beauty 8. Meni Bada

Down South, the Kim Young Kwan machine grinds on relentlessly and even without Champion juvenile Ecton Blade lining up, it seemed inevitable he was going to saddle the winner of the Gyeongnam Shinmun.

Divide Wind (Menifee) was favourite and he made short-work of the field, running away in the closing stages to win by three-lengths on the line. Stablemate Captain Force (Peace Rules), a half-brother to 2016 Oaks winner Ottug Ottugi came home 2nd.

Gyeongnam Shinmun Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1400M – March 4, 2018

1. Divide Wind (KOR) [Menifee – Grand Slam (Grand Pass)] – You Hyun Myung – 2.6, 1.2
2. Captain Force (KOR) [Peace Rules – Main Objective (Lion Heart)] – Lee Hyo Sik – 1.2
3. World Sun (KOR) [Officer – Dancing Desire (Mr. Greeley)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.2
Distance: 3 lengths / 1 length
Also Ran: 5. Captain Guy 6. Baedu Jeonggi 7. May Star 8. Bugyeong Bolt

In other news at Busan, Drop The Beat bested Haeya in the feature class 1 handicap, a sprint over 1400M.

Weekend Round-Up: Ecton Blade & Triple Crown Trail, Rainha, Moonhak Chief

Three-year-olds were the standout performers in Korea last weekend with some of the best of the crop turning in eye-catching performances at both Seoul & Busan.

Ecton Blade won the Breeders’ Cup race at Seoul in December and so headed into the New Year as the leading Triple Crown contender. 2nd placegetter in that race and Seoul’s top juvenile of last year Choinma could only manage another 2nd place on his own seasonal debut two weeks ago but Ecton Blade made no mistake at Busan on Sunday.  He’s already won over 1600M before and went into Sunday’s race 3, at the KRA Cup Mile distance as the prohibitive favourite, fully justifying it by sauntering to an eight-length win. Stiffer tests await.

Ecton Blade’s win leaves the top sixteen three-year-olds (sixteen being the maximum field-size) with Triple Crown eligibility currently looking like this:

1. Ecton Blade [Ecton Park]
2= Sinui Myeongryeong (filly) [Hansen]
2= Choinma [Menifee]
4. Yeonghui Sidae (filly) [Hansen]
5. Captain Force [Peace Rules]
6. Divide Wind [Menifee]
7. Magic Ten (filly) [Rock Hard Ten]
8. Hoeng Un Gol [Forest Camp]
9. Meni Bada [Menifee]
10. World Sun [Officer]
11. King Jjang [Simon Pure]
12= Green K (filly) [Chapel Royal]
12= Global Line [Rock Hard Ten]
12= Hae Hu [Peace Rules]
12= Bugyeong Daebak (filly) [Forest Camp]
12= Blue Flag (filly) [Menifee]

Ecton Blade’s trainer Kim Young Kwan has an embarassment of riches that has seen 20 of his 40 runners so far in 2018 win. Even my elementary maths can calculate that’s a scarcely believable 50% strike rate and 70% of his runners have finished in the Quinella. Perhaps the richest of all the talents could be Rainha.

The exiting filly stepped up to a mile for what was her third career start and Rainha maintained her 100% record in a dismissively easy manner, cruising around on the bridle for a four-length win. Having been imported in-utero, she’s not on the Classic trail but nevertheless looks a very promising talent.

Rainha is owned by Shunsuke Yoshida and her dam is Allwise (Mr. Greeley) who had three foals in Japan before being relocated to Nokwon Farm on Jeju Island in late 2014 while in foal to Gold Allure. That resulting foal was Rainha. In the meantime, her filly by Heart’s Cry, born a year earlier and called Historia, last November won the TVK Sho at Tokyo Racecourse and now boasts a record of three wins from nine starts in the JRA.

Also in the non-eligible three-year-old ranks is Moonhak Chief. The US import by Pioneerof The Nile stepped up to class 2 and also to 1800M for the first time at Seoul on Sunday. And mightilu impressive he was too,  being ridden patiently by Lim Gi Won early on beofre stikign the front with just over a furlong to go and running on to win by a comfortable two lengths. He’s now won five of his seven outings.

In other news, Doraonpogyeongseon (Kantharos) went down by a nose in Busan’s Sunday sprint feature. Under an apprentice jockey so as he wouldn’t have to carry 60kg, the third-placegetter in the Korea Sprint couldn’t quite get up over 1200M, beaten a nose by Ever In Ever (Sharp Humor)/