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Dolkong Ruled Out Of Grand Prix & Dubai After Sesamoid Injury

It’s Grand Prix Stakes week but Dolkong, one of the biggest stars in Korean racing, won’t be lining up for the traditional season-ending race this coming Sunday. The five-year-old has suffered a proximal sesamoid fracture in his left foreleg.

Dolkong KRA Cup Classic

Dolkong winning the KRA Cup Classic in October (Pic: KRA)

The injury was discovered after Dolkong comfortably won a trial on November 22nd, an outing intended as a tune-up for the Grand Prix on December 8th. He was then scheduled to return to the Dubai World Cup Carnival and potentially attempt to get into the inaugural Saudi Cup.

Dolkong came to international attention when winning the Listed Curlin Handicap at Meydan in February. He followed it up with 3rd place in the Maktoum Challenge Round 3, earning a sport in the World Cup itself.

After returning to Korea, Dolkong shifted stables but was straight back in form, winning the Busan Mayor’s Cup in June. A somewhat lackluster performance in the Korea Cup followed but he returned to winning ways in the KRA Cup Classic in October and was set to be favourite for the Grand Prix before injury struck.

The injury is reportedly treatable and while owner Lee Tae In has held out hope of him returning to the track (Dolkong previously returned from a ten-month injury absence in his four-year-old season), if he is ultimately unable to race again, he will be retired to Stud. For now he remains at Seoul Racecourse for treatment.

Mun Jung-won: 1979-2019

Mun Jung-won, a jockey based at Busan Racecourse, has died. He was 40.

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Mun was found dead at his jockey quarters on Friday morning. Police attending found no suspicious circumstances.

Mun Jung-won debuted as a jockey in June 2004 and relocated to the new Busan Racecourse the following year. Across his career he rode 156 winners from 3404 rides although in the past year he had found opportunities limited with 2 winners and a handful of placings from 141 mounts.

Local media has reported the contents of a note that the police found at the scene. Last Friday’s Busan races were cancelled out of respect.

Mun is survived by his wife and children.

The Korea Suicide Prevention Center can be reached at 1393, LifeLine Korea at 1588-9191, and Help Call for Youth at 1388. Lines are available 24/7.

Roller Blade Takes Clean Sweep In Juvenile Series

Roller Blade kept out of trouble in a wet and wild Breeders’ Cup (KOR G2) at Busan Racecourse, emerging strongly up the rail to become Korea’s Champion Juvenile of 2019.

Roller Blade had previously won both of Seoul’s preliminary legs of the Juvenile Series and therefore completed a clean sweep with his Busan success. Drawn on the inside, the Officer colt kept out of trouble and stayed on the rail to win by two and a half lengths from K N Road on the line.

Save The World had won Busan’t first two legs of the Series and with home advantage was sent off as pre-race favourite. From a wide draw though, he missed the start and scarcely looked a factor. Run of the race though perhaps came from Determination, who overcame a heavy bump in the early stages and then a very wide stretch run, to finish strongly for 3rd.

So Roller Blade is Champion juvenile and the crop – with the addition of Doctor Carson and Raon First, who were very impressive in winning other valuable two-year-old races last week, looks in a good way heading towards the Triple Crown trail next year.

Full recap of the series to follow on the KRA International Facebook page

President’s Cup 2019: Runner-By-Runner Notes

For the first time since 2014, a horse not named Triple Nine is going to win the President’s Cup. The four-time winner of the richest all-aged race in the country that is restricted to Korean-bred runners – and resultingly, Korea’s all-time leading money-earner – came back into training in late summer with a tilt at five in a row in mind, but a setback in early October means he hasn’t made it.

Triple Nine KRA 1

Four-time winner Triple Nine won’t be defending his President’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

A full field of sixteen have though and they will line up in race 9 this Sunday over the 2000M at Seoul. We’ll have selections up later in the weekend but for now, here are all sixteen contenders.

President’s Cup (KOR G1) 2000M / KRW 800 Million

  1. WONDERFUL FLY – The easy winner of the Korean Derby in May, he struggled in the Minister’s Cup the following month. He then won at class 3 over 1400M but had a hard time on his class 2 bow over 1800M at the end of September. That Moon Se Young gets off him to ride Simjangui Godong perhaps tells its own story but there was a more than capable replacement in Alan Munro. Will be a front-runner but whether he can stay on at this trip in this company is questionable.
  2. SHARK DAEJANGGEUN – Well back behind Simjangui Godong on a wet track in July’s Ilgan Sports but redeemed himself somewhat when 2nd in the JRA Trophy over 1800M on international weekend. Yet to win at higher than class 3. Generally operates as a deep closer so may need some luck but he can pass plenty late on.
  3. NASCA PRINCE – A good class 1 winner over 2300M in May so his staying credentials are not in doubt. His form perhaps is though with him coming home 19th and 7th in two subsequent starts, both at 1800M. Nicely drawn to get to the front early and he can give a good account of himself although others are favoured.
  4. KINGSTON HARBOR – One of two in the race for trainer Baik Kwang-yeol. A three-year-old, he didn’t make it onto the Classic trail but won three in a row between May and July to get to class 2 level. Since then he has put in two 3rd place finishes, both at 1800M. Likely to settle just behind the early pace, this is his first try at the distance and in this company. Can go well but perhaps too much too soon.
  5. SIMJANGUI GODONG – Ran 2nd in the Derby and 6th in the Minister’s Cup but has been very good since then, winning the Ilgan Sports Cup and HRI Trophy in back to back starts in July and September and most recently scored over a mile at class 2 at a mile. Four of his five wins have come on wet tracks, but he looks to be the improver of the field and jockey Moon Se Young gets on him instead of the Derby winner. He’ll be close to the pace early and has a big chance.
  6. TOHAM ACE – An up and comer from Thomas Gillespie’s stable, he recorded a five-race winning streak between March and August this year which saw him go from class 5 to class 2. That streak came to an end when 3rd behind Final Energy at 1800M on September 27th. He tests the distance for the first time and You Hyun-myung comes up from Busan to ride him. Goes best when at the front, this is a tough ask, but improvement is possible.
  7. FINAL ENERGY –Managed an excellent 5th behind Blue Chipper in the Korea Sprint over 1200M here in September before returning to Busan and winning in a very fast time for 1800M ahead of Toham Ace at class 2 level at the end of September. It’s his first time over the additional furlong today but he should be equal to it and has a big race jockey aboard. He has a chance.
  8. DOKGO JIGI – A winner of eight from eleven, this is his first start since June, when he was a class 1 winner over 1800M. A mild bout of colic and injury have kept him out since then but he looked well enough when trialling up last week. His only defeat this year was his first try at class 1 back in April. He generally settles just off the pace and while this is a very tough ask first-up, he is a class act.
  9. NEW LEGEND – Began his racing career in the United States, picking up a win at Arlington Park, before returning to Korea last autumn. He won his first four efforts easily before finding his match once he reached elite level company. Nevertheless, he has more than held his own with his only really disappointing run coming in the Korea Cup. He was 4th to Moonhak Chief here in the YTN Cup in his only previous try at this distance but this looks the ideal race for him. He has a chance.
  10. MYEONGPUM CHUKJE – One of the better three-year-olds, he was 5th in the KRA Cup Mile, 4th in the Derby and then 2nd in the Minister’s Cup. Since the conclusion of the Triple Crown, he has picked up one win in three starts and while it was only at class 3, it was over 1900M. He’s a colt who seems to need a bit of distance so this should suit and while he has suffered reverses to four of his rivals today among his latest five starts, he could run into some minor money.
  11. ROCK CHOICE – Joined the Triple Crown trail in the final leg and duly won the Minister’s Cup extremely handily at odds in excess of 20/1. He then returned to Busan and promptly won at class 3 over 1800M but has failed to make an impact in two subsequent starts at class 2 level. The Minister’s Cup win was the only race he’s been ridden forward in, but he has won from behind before, albeit in weaker company. Can’t be completely ruled out.
  12. MAJOR ALPHA – A very consistent type, he got his first class 1 victory at odds of 40/1 when dropped back to 1400M in August. He bled for the first time in that race and was accordingly stood down for a month and sent back to trial, which he passed at the end of September. He has a 3rd place at class 2 to his name at this distance. While up against it here, he’ll come from off the pace and can pass some in the latter stages of the race.
  13. ULTRA ROCKET – A very good 4th in this race last year, he has subsequently established himself at class 1 level and comes into contention after a good win in the HKJC Trophy at 1800M on International weekend in September. He usually comes from off the pace with a strong finish which, given his draw, looks to be the likely tactics again here. He could go close.
  14. ECTON BLADE – The 2018 Korean Derby winner has had an interrupted career since then, with only one subsequent victory to his name and that was all the way back last August. He returned just three weeks ago from eight months off and while he was well beaten, it was clear he needed the run. Obviously scope for improvement but this is a tough race and he’ll be among the outsiders.
  15. CLEAR GEOM – A somewhat surprising winner of the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup, the concluding leg of the “Triple Tiara” at this distance in June, she has since backed up that form with two wins from three more outings. She upset both Myeongpum Chukje and Wonderful Fly last start on September 29th over 1800M. She likes the distance and as both a three-year-old, and the only filly, she is getting weight from the entire field making her an interesting wildcard.
  16. CAPTAIN FORCE – Stablemate of New Legend, he is one of the few genuine established top-class performers in the field with four wins at class 1 to his name. He comes in having won his latest start, which was over this distance, in very handy fashion. That was back in early June, so he has been off for five months. He did go through a barrier trial in October, which he won in good fashion. Likes to be close to the front so the draw does him no favours, but if he s at his best, he has an excellent chance.

 

Blue Chipper En-Route to LA & Planned Breeders’ Cup Start

Blue Chipper flew out of Incheon Airport late on Monday evening en-route to Santa Anita and a planned start in the delightfully named Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita on November 2. If all goes to plan, he will be the first Korea-trained runner to participate in a Breeders’ Cup race.

Blue Chipper Owners Cup

Blue Chipper (Pic: KRA)

Having traveled up from Busan last week, Blue Chipper spent four days in pre-export quarantine in the International Isolation Stables at Seoul Racecourse (the same ones that the international horses are stabled in during the Korea Cup & Sprint) before departing from nearby Incheon Airport at 11:50pm on Monday evening, scheduled to arrive at LAX on Monday evening US time.

Blue Chipper [Tiznow – Dixie City (Dixie Union)] was bred in Kentucky by Diamond A Racing Corp. He was selected and purchased at Keeneland by Busan-based trainer Bart Rice on behalf of owner Choi Byeong-bu. Now he’s a four-year-old gelding who has won seven of his eight lifetime starts. He was a four-length winner on debut as a juvenile at Busan in September 2017, trained by Rice.

He then suffered what is to date his only defeat when last in the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup, Busan’s top race for imported two-year-olds. Blue Chipper ran once more that year, returning to winning ways with a three-length score on New Year’s Ever over 1200M.

Blue Chipper did not race again for more than a year with a number of setbacks meaning he spent almost his entire three-year-old year spelled, with only occasional trips to the racetrack to trial. He finally returned to action in April of 2019, now in trainer Kim Young-kwan’s stable, and picked up where he left off, scoring by thirteen-lengths over 1200M.

That win was followed up by two more with a combined winning margin of eighteen lengths before Blue Chipper tackled a Korean Graded race for the first time, the Busan Owners’ Cup (KOR G3) at the end of July. It was his first try at a mile but that didn’t trouble him as he romped away from a high class field to win by ten-lengths in track-record time.

International weekend was up next at Seoul and Blue Chipper was sent to the 1 Billion Won Keeneland Korea Sprint (KOR G1) back down at 1200M. Despite being drawn in gate 13, he was sent off as favourite and duly made it to the pace early. He would eventually shake off local rival Gaon Champ and run on to win by a length and a half becoming the first locally-trained horse to win the Korea Sprint.

Seemingly out of challenges in Korea for the time being, and with connections aware that he was registered for the Breeders’ Cup as a weanling, Blue Chipper will now be taken overseas and will move back up to a mile for his biggest challenge. If he adapts to the Santa Anita dirt, he’s not to be taken lightly.

Having had positive experiences with international jockeys on Korean horses at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, the decision was made to engage a Santa Anita-based rider and Flavien Prat, who won the race on Battle Of Midway in 2017, has accepted the ride.

How good is Blue Chipper? We don’t yet know and that’s basically why he is going. What we do know is that Bart found a good one that day at Keeneland and a number of seasoned observers of Korean racing have told this blog that he is the best horse they have seen run in Korea. While they are very different types of horse, that includes the Dubai star, Dolkong.

He will be up against it at Santa Anita. The dirt is very different to the sand he has experienced in Korea – although his sire, Tiznow, and damsire Dixie Union, did finish 1st and 2nd at Santa Anita in the Affirmed Handicap back in 2000. Then there is the obvious medication issue – there are no plans for Blue Chipper to run on lasix. That’s all without taking into account his opponents, among whom is expected to be Omaha Beach and Mr. Money. All through his brief career so far, Blue Chipper has stepped up.

Round-Up: Cup & Sprint International Runners / Juvenile Winners / Victoire Injury / Seoul Mile Races

It was an eventful weekend of racing in Korea both on and off the track. First up, the selected International Runners for September 8th’s Keeneland Korea Cup & Sprint were announced:

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The ongoing trade dispute between Korea and Japan which has escalated into a full-blown diplomatic crisis over the past few weeks meant that Japan-trained horses were unable to be invited. This is somewhat of a blow to the event as Japanese horses bring high ratings to a race (organizers had spent some months pursuing one Japanese sprinter in particular who would have brought plenty of star power with him) which would have expected to have been IG3 this year but will now most likely have to wait at least another year before achieving that status.

On the other hand it leaves both races wide open and the USA is bringing a strong challenge for both races with Lone Sailor among those entered in the Cup and the mare Holy Legal in the Sprint. Hong Kong also have a horse in each race in the shape of Glorious Artist and Ugly Warrior.

Accepted Korean entries will be announced later this week with Dolkong expected to be among them in the Cup. However, he is set to be without new regular jockey Johan Victoire. Victoire, who was also expected to partner French raider Bakoel Koffie in the Sprint, suffered a heavy fall in Sunday’s race 7 at Seoul.

Johan Victoire

Johan Victoire

Victoire was riding Dolkong’s stablemate Jjang Kong when favourite Cheungdam Genie crossed in front of him on the corner leaving Jjang Kong with nowhere to go and Victoire unseated. He was taken to hospital for observation with a suspected broken shoulder and will undergo further tests on Monday.

It’s a big blow for the 32-year-old who has ridden 112 winners in just over two years riding in Korea. He gained his first local Group win on Dolkong in the Busan Mayor’s Cup. Cheungdam Genie, who finished 2nd in the race was disqualified and jockey Lee Hyeon Jong banned for three meetings for careless riding.

That incident overshadowed what was the first of two races over the new Mile distance at Seoul on Sunday. That race was won by last year’s Korean Oaks winner Special Stone while the second of them, another class 2 handicap, went to the returning Thunder Blade.

Feature races of the day at both Seoul and Busan were valuable juvenile events over 1200M. At Busan, Save The World (Menifee-Royal Scene) ran out a six-length winner while up in Seoul, Choegang Team (Old Fashioned-Sellsey) was similarly impressive. Both are unbeaten after two starts apiece with their next big tests likely to come in October.

 

You Hyun Myung Rides 1000th Winner

You Hyun Myung has ridden his 1000th career winner. The two-time Busan Champion Jockey became the third Korean rider to reach the milestone with victory on Grand Jilju in race 3 at Busan on Friday.

The forty-year-old You debuted in 2002 at Seoul before relocating to the then brand-new Busan Racecourse in 2005. He rode his first Group winner in 2006 when he partnered the famous Luna in a winning effort in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup.

“I’m really happy to have finally done it” the jockey told KRBC on returning to the winner’s circle. “I felt quite a bit of pressure as no-one has done it at Busan before. I really wish that the generation of jockeys who are coming up behind me will do it too and I also hope they can do it faster than I have”.

DIvide Wind 2018

His biggest win to date was in 2010 Grand Prix on Mister Park while he also has two KRA Cup Miles (Rafale in 2015 and Divide Wind in 2018) and a KNN CUp (Haeya in 2018) to his name. His most recent big win came in the G3 Owners’ Cup in July on Blue Chipper, who he may well partner in the Korea Sprint next month.

The only other Korean jockeys to have reached 1000 winners are Park Tae Jong, currently on 2083, and Moon Se Young (1545), both of whom have spent their entire careers at Seoul, which offers more races.