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Good Friday At Busan: A Basic Introduction

It’s that time of year again. All 10 races at Busan will be beamed to Australia on Good Friday. We’ll have a runner-by-runner guide to every race on Thursday but in the meantime, just as last year, here are some general things to be aware of about racing at Busan.

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For part of the day, Busan will be the only thoroughbred meeting

The Track: The track surface is sand. There is often a lot of kickback and as a result, horses tend to wear plenty of headgear, usually pacifiers and jockeys give one another plenty of room. Due to the nature of the surface, when it is wet, it usually runs faster. There is an inner and outer track as well as chutes for races over five furlongs and a mile. 1800M races start on the inner track and move to the outer track for the finish.

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Races: There are six race classes at Busan. Class 6 is for maidens and uses set weights. Classes 1-5 are separated by rating and are handicaps. Classes 5 & 6 are exclusively for Korean-bred horses, imports must start at class 4.

Tab number and barrier number are the same and jockeys wear a cap that corresponds with their number (number 1 always wears a white cap, number 2 yellow, number 3 red etc.)

Again, due to the track surface, a lot of horses like to run on or very close to the pace so starts can be quick with a lot of jockeys trying to get a prominent early position. They are not allowed to shift inwards until 100M after the start which can sometimes (but not always) be a hindrance for wide draws at sprint distances.

Jockeys and Trainers: The top 10 in the 2017 Jockey and Trainer Premierships (starting on January 1st) currently look like this:

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As in many jurisdictions, there can be a big gap in ability between jockeys. Foreign jockeys at tend to do well. There are currently five foreign jockeys at Busan and four of them are in the top 10 in the Premiership. Former Cypriot Champion Marios Mina is currently among the most in-form at the track. Among the top ten jockeys, Francisco Da Silva and Ham Wan Sik are suspended on Friday.

Australian Peter Wolsley leads the Trainers’ Premiership. The Bendigo native is in his 10th year in Korea and is currently two winners ahead of perennial champion trainer Kim Young Kwan. South African Bart Rice and Ireland’s Thomas Gillespie also maintain strong strike rates and are in the top ten. A fourth foreign trainer, Kiwi David Miller, is just becoming established at Busan and has started to get results in the past couple of months.

Favourites: Although there have been upsets of late, favourites do oblige on a regular basis. When looking at the Korean odds, it is important to remember that in Korea, punters overwhelmingly favour exotic bets with the quinella and the trio being the most popular. The regular win and place pools are comparatively small so while those pools will generally be accurate in terms of who is favourite or 2nd favourite, they may not tell the whole story the further down the board you go.

General: In Korea, the betting pools close 30 seconds prior to the advertised start time and the loading process begins then. As a result, races usually jump exactly on time.

Full preview of all 10 Friday races to follow in the next 24 hours. 

Curtain Closes On Landmark Dubai Carnival

Had we been told before the 2017 Godolphin Mile that Triple Nine would ultimately finish just one place behind pre-race favourite North America, we may have been very excited. Well that’s what ultimately happened. That North America weakened to finish at the back of the main group with Triple Nine, for whom it proved a race too far, many lengths further adrift, might have been disappointing but does nothing to detract from what was a wonderful Carnival from a Korean perspective.

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Triple Nine at the Godolphin Mile (Screengrab from Dubai Racing TV)

Naturally, there are a bucket load of excuses that could be put forward for why Triple Nine didn’t do himself anything like justice (wrong trip, bad draw, muddy track of the type he lost to Beolmaui Kkum on last year, tired after a long campaign and so on and so forth) but it doesn’t really matter. It’s racing. It happens.

As it was, the closest Triple Nine came to a win ay Meydan was his first appearance on January 19th, when he closed strongly but just a little late to run 2nd to Hunting Ground over 2000M. The gutsy Triple Crown winner Power Blade landed consecutive 3rd places over a mile and 1900M before the pair of them both ran 5th in their respective Group races on Super Saturday.

Then, of course, there was Main Stay. He and Seoul Bullet both lined up for the 1200M Dirt Handicap on January 19th and for the first time there was real pressure not only to perform well but to actually win the race. As Dubai Racing TV pointed out as the horses came out onto the track “this race really is the Koreans’ to lose”. Seoul Bullet was slow out of the gate but ran on for 4th but Main Stay made no mistake. The race was won with a furlong to go and Terry Spargo’s “Chalk one up for Korea” call has been played at Seoul & Busan Racecourses every week since.

Seoul Bullet would pull up lame and play no further part in the Carnival as indeed would Main Stay after his second run three weeks later.

While Main Stay gets to go down in the history books, arguably the most significant result was that achieved by Diferent Dimension when he defied odds of 33/1 to come 3rd over a mile on turf on February 11th.

It was the first time for a Korean horse to run on turf at the Carnival and the race was well received back home not only because of the result but also for the way the horses ran tightly together as opposed to the wide margins on dirt. Plans are at an advanced stage for a turf track to be installed alongside the sand one at Seoul Racecourse and if the project is to be successful,  a substantial shift in mindset among horsemen in Korea in going ot be required. Actual proof that a Korea-trained (albeit by an Australian) horse can run well on turf is surely the best way to start that process.

Korea’s runners at this year’s Carnival were made possible by the performance of Success Story last year, his pair of 3rd places giving courage to owners and trainers. The unique nature of the Carnival also makes it ideal for a nation wishing to develop its racing, such as Korea. The horses get to spend a number of months in Dubai as do the grooms and workriders. They get to work alongside local grooms and riders and train alongside horses from all over the world providing an opportunity both to observe and to learn. Top international jockeys ride the horses – this year Ireland’s Pat Cosgrave handled the bulk of riding duties of the Korean string and a fine job he did too, both in work and in the races; his exhausting ride in Power Blade’s second outing standing out.

That regular Carnival races are competitive but not overwhelming also gives encouragement. The most exciting thing now is to see who emerges as a contender to make the trip in 2018.

Korea’s results at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival:

Triple Nine
1/19: 2000M (Dirt) – 2nd
2/9: 2000M (Dirt) – 4th
3/4: 2000M (Dirt – G1) – 5th
3/25: 1600M Godolphin Mile (Dirt – G2) – 11th

Power Blade
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 3rd
2/2: 1900M (Dirt) – 3rd
3/4: 1600M (Dirt – G3) – 5th

Main Stay
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 1st
2/11: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Diferent Dimension
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th
2/11: 1600M (Turf) – 3rd
2/16: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th

Seoul Bullet
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

2017 Korea Triple Crown – First Preview

We’re less than three weeks away from the KRA Cup Mile – the Korean 2000 Guineas – which will be run at Busan on Sunday April 2. Last year, Power Blade swept all three jewels of the Triple Crown, the first horse to do so in its current incarnation. This year, we’re in the unusual position of a Seoul-trained horse, Final Boss, being the early favourite to emulate him.

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Power Blade won the KRA Cup Mile on his way to the Triple Crown last year (Pic: KRA)

Only four Seoul horses are among the 21 currently nominated for the race but three of those four are strong. The unbeaten Lion Rock is a full brother to Triple Nine (who will race in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan on World Cup night on March 25th) joins Final Boss and the promising Taeyangui Jeonseol as contenders. Here’s a run-down of the current nominations with race records and trainer:

Blue Time (filly) (8/3/1/0) Oh Mun-sik – Won three in a row at the back end of 2016 but hasn’t really pushed on. 9th behind Ice Marine in the Gyeongnam Sinmun.

Morning Park (7/1/3/0) Oh Mun-sik – Yet to go further than 1300M and 5th of 12 on first try at class 4.

American Power (4/3/1/0) Kim Young-kwan – Won his first three but unexpectedly defeated by a nose by a 6-year-old gelding (Yankee Dream) on his first try at a mile last start. A contender.

Wonder Wall (9/3/4/1) Kim Young-kwan – Owned by Shunsuke Yoshida he’s come back into form after being 4th to Final Boss in the Breeders’ Cup. A win at a mile and a 2nd at 1800M last start.

Happy Gongju (filly) (5/3/0/2) Jang Se-han – 3rd to Ice Marine in the Gyeongnam Sinmun. Oaks likely to be the bigger target.

Adeleui Bom (9/2/1/1) Baik Kwang-yeol – Holds a 2nd place over a mile at class 4. Not one of the top contenders but not impossible.

Daeho Sidae (6/4/2/0) Baik Kwang-yeol – 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup and a winner at both a mile and 1800 since. Already a class 2 horse and arguably Busan’s top hope.

Party Tonight (8/0/3/1) Baik Kwang-yeol – One of only two maidens still in. Three 2nd places, one at this distance. Likely to be the one from the trainer who drops.

Illyu Star (8/4/0/1) An Woo-sung – Back among the wins last start. Previous try at a mile didn’t go particularly well.

Muhan Yeoljeong (8/3/1/2) An Woo-sung – 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup and a class 4 winner at a mile last time. He’s in the frame.

Seongsan Jilju (6/2/0/1) Yang Kui-sun – Won a couple of five furlong races but hasn’t looked especially smart at any further.

Ice Marine (filly) (9/5/2/0) Choi Ki-hong – Dominant winner of the Gyeongnam Sinmun puting her in pole position for the Oaks. She’s been beaten by some of these colts before though.

Yongwangdam (5/2/0/1) Mun Je-bok – Class 5 winner at a mile but 5th to Ice Marine in the Gyeongnam Sinmun suggests there is plenty to find.

Indian King (8/2/2/2) Mun Je-bok – Two class 4 3rd places at a mile suggests there could be more to come from this one.

Royal Ruby (7/4/1/1) Peter Wolsley – This one has been under the radar a little bit but has won over 1800M and looks a serious player.

Bulkkot Nori (6/3/0/1) Peter Wolsley – Won three of his first four and was 3rd over a mile at class 4 last start. Others  look more advanced at this stage.

Yeonggwanguihunter (6/2/0/0) Lim Keum-man – Not shown an awful lot so far and was 5th on his only try at class 4 so far.

Final Boss (8/6/1/0) Ji Yong-cheol (Seoul) – The Breeders’ Cup winner has gone on to win twice around two-turns this year. A Seoul horse going to Busan aside, he is the favourite and a strong one at that.

Daeseung Bibob (6/0/2/1) Ji Yong-cheol (Seoul) – Stable-mate of Final Boss which is perhaps the only reason for his inclusion.

Lion Rock (3/3/0/0) Lee Shin-young (Seoul) – Full brother to Triple Nine, he’s the only one who enters unbeaten. It may be too much too soon with the Derby & Minister’s Cup the main targets, but don’t rule out.

Taeyangui Jeonseol (5/3/0/0) Yoo Jae-gil (Seoul) – Back to back wins at 1700M puts this still unexposed colt firmly in the hunt.

The maximum field size is 16 so at least five will miss out and it is possible for others to nominate this week as well – Nasca Prince, who won at Seoul on Sunday, being a potential one, given that as it stands the Capital as usual isn’t taking up as many spots as it has been assigned.  As in all races in Korea, no more than 2 horses can be from the same trainer. Seoul last won the race with Cheongnyong Bisang, now improbably a ranch horse in the USA, in 2014, but Final Boss currently looks the one to beat here. We’ll have plenty more build up to the start of a fascinating Triple Crown series over next couple of weeks.

Choegangja Four For Four For Brian Dean

Brian Dean looks to have a lively one on his hands. Choegangja stepped up to class 1 at Seoul for the first time on Saturday afternoon and and absolutely blitzed by no means hopeless set of rivals over 1200M. Swedish jockey Shane Karlsson was in the saddle.

Choegangja (Silver Train) is a four-year-old gelding who had shown promise but not a whole lot else, winning one out of six starts before he was transferred to Brian Dean last autumn. Since then he’s been unstoppable, winning four out of four and transitioning from class 3 to class 1 in the process. Yesterday, he got the jump on the field and never looked back, leading home Canada-bred filly Gaenari by four lengths in a quick time. If he continues his progress, he’ll be a Korea-sprint contender come September.

Aussie trainer Dean continues to get results under the no doubt challenging circumstances of being the first foreign trainer at Seoul. Only 3 of the 51 trainers at Seoul have sent out fewer horses than Dean in 2017 so far and yet he finds himself up in 9th place in the the Trainer Premiership with a vastly superior Win, Place and Show strike-rate than any other handler at the track. Owners may start to take note.

As for Karlsson, he too is showing useful figures. Choegangja was his 4th Korean winner (he won on him last start too) – all of them for Dean. Other trainers may wish to take note of that too.

Triple Nine & Power Blade Set For Stern Super Saturday Tests

Power Blade and Triple Nine take to the Meydan dirt one final time tonight as they become Korea’s first representatives on “Super Saturday” at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Triple Nine has a 2nd and a 4th to his name in Carnival races so far while Power Blade has run 3rd in both of his starts. Tonight they are operating at another level altogether.

Power Blade will run in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over a mile (Race card):

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The race is not quite as strong as it could have been but Power Blade still looks up against it. Heavy Metal, who comfortably beat Power Blade in his first Meydan run, returns and looks as dangerous as ever while the even higher rated Polar River and Le Bernardin also take their chances. Stormardal and Godolphin’s Alabaster also can’t be ruled out. Power Blade is available at 16/1 with most operators and given the way he gamely runs on, that might be worth something each-way.

Just over an hour later, Triple Nine has an even tougher assignment as he takes part in a Group 1 3rd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge at 2000M (Race card):

tn3 Japan’s Lani is the most recognisable name on the list but the 3rd place-getter in last year’s Belmont Stakes won’t necessarily be favourite. Furia Crizada and Second Summer were 1st and 2nd  in the second leg of the challenge last month (with Power Blade 3rd). Triple Nine closed very strongly in his first Meydan outing but was a little one-paced and failed to change leads running on for 4th in his second. He is surely better than the 33/1 being offered by most operators.

Tonight is another hugely significant moment as Power Blade and Triple Nine run in these races on merit. If they can pull off a surprise and hit the board, it would be wonderful. If not, the way they and the other Korean horses have run at the Carnival before tonight has already ensured that Korea will be back next year.

www.emiratesracing.com

Korean Champion Jockey Moon Se Young Granted Singapore License

The Singapore Turf Club has announced that eight-time Korean Champion jockey Moon Se Young has been granted a three-month visiting jockey’s license to ride at Kranji.

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Kranji-bound: Moon Se Young (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Now 36, Moon debuted in 2001 and upon returning from national service, won his first Championship in 2008. Injury prevented him from repeating the feat in 2009 but in each subsequent year he has ended the season as Seoul’s Champion jockey, partnering more than 100 winners every time.

Moon rode his first Listed race winner in 2003 and his first Korean Group winner in 2004. He won Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes on Bally Brae in 2007 and the Korean Derby on Jigeum I Sungan in 2012. In total he has ridden more than 1300 winners and is only the second Korean jockey to surpass more than 1000.

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Moon Se Young being greeted by the female members of the weighing room after his 1000th winner career winner

A brief suspension and a trip to Macau (where he rode for a short time in 2012/2013) for a Jockey Challenge meant Moon had made an uncharacteristically slow start to 2017, however, he roared back into form this past weekend winning the last four races on Sunday’s card at Seoul including his 3rd Donga Ilbo Cup win. That came on Meni Money, whose dam Pocketful Of Money, Moon partnered to win the KRA Cup Classic in 2007.

While the presence of Djordje Perovic in the Seoul weighing room had at last presented him with some domestic competition, Moon has long harbored ambitions to test himself in superior riding company. Additionally, with Busan-trained horses dominating the major races in Korea in recent years (internal Jockey Union rules prevent Seoul jockeys riding Busan horses and vice-versa), Moon’s opportunities in the very biggest races have been limited, leading him to look elsewhere for a new challenge.

Moon Se Young will relocate to Kranji for an initial 3-month period as soon as his work permit is issued.

 

Mina & Mezzatesta Notch First Busan Winners

It was a good start to the weekend for both Marios Mina and Andrea Mezzatesta as the visiting jockeys both partnered their first Korean winners at Busan on Friday afternoon.

Cypriot rider Mina went first, guiding 13/1 shot Jilju Daejang to victory by a nose in race 3. His Italian counterpart, Mezzatesta would strike one race later as 6/1 chance Coming Again obliged in race 4.

Mina and Mezzatesta are among five overseas jockeys currently licensed in Busan. The ther others are Britain’s Darryll Holland, Japan’s Yonekura Satoshi and Italian Mirko Sanna.