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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.

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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.

Triple Nine, Main Stay & Diferent Dimension Run At Meydan This Week

The 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival is starting to head towards its business end and following Power Blade’s 3rd place in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge last Thursday, three of the other Korea-trained horses, Triple Nine, Main Stay and Diferent Dimension will line up this week. Triple Nine races on Thursday while Main Stay and Diferent Dimension will go on Saturday.

Triple Nine ran on very nicely for 2nd on his Meydan debut last month and he is likely to be one of the favourites for his race, a 2000M Dirt Handicap which is race 3 on Thursday’s card. There are plenty of dangers though. Mizbah beat Hunting Ground, who himself beat Triple Nine last start, by no fewer than seven and a half lengths on January 5. While he carries an additional 5.5kg on Thursday, he is sure to be dangerous. Godolphin’s Emotionless was a highly thought-of juvenile in the UK in 2015 but only raced twice as a three-year-old. He was 6th on his Meydan debut in the first leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge at a mile and may well have come on for it. Click here for Race Card.

On Saturday Main Stay, who is already a winner at this year’s Carnival, makes his re-appearance. He faces a much tougher assignment this time around though as he takes on two Hong Kong raiders in the shape of Dundonnell and, especially Fabulous One as they begin their preparations for Super Saturday and World Cup Night. The rest of the field offers little to write home about although the Godolphin pair of Comicas and Acolyte, the latter a non-Carnival turf winner at the distance in January may be dangerous while the Sweden-trained duo of Breakdancer and Saving Kenny are unknown quantities. The start is going to be important and attempting to live with the two Sha Tin horses will be the target. Click here for Race Card.

Diferent Dimension is going to do things differently in that he’s going to become the first Korea-trained horse at the Carnival to run on the Turf. He goes in the ultra-competitive Mile handicap. The Peter Wolsley trainee has reportedly taken well to the surface and does have a good draw. He has the toughest ask of all the Korea-trained horses though and a competitive showing will be the goal against a group of horses with some very solid European form amongst them. Click here for Race Card.

In other Dubai news, the Dubai Racing Club has released initial World Cup Day nominations. This nomination stage is free and accordingly, all five of the Korean horses at the Carnival have been nominated for various races, something the Dubai Racing Club noted in their accompanying notes. It remains extremely unlikely that any of them will get into any of the races, however, with a run for one or more of them on Super Saturday considered to be the more realistic goal.

Power Blade Set For Stiff Meydan Test

Power Blade will need to be at his best as he faces a stern examination in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge in the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan this Thursday night.

The 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner was an encouraging 3rd on his Dubai debut three weeks ago but steps up in both distance and in opposition for this week’s 1900M test. It’s the 2nd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge and the top four place-getters from the first leg, run over a mile on the Carnival’s opening day on January 5th, all return.

The winner that day was Le Bernadin and the 8-year-old is set to be favourite here. Long River, Lindo Amor and Gold City ran 2nd to 4th and all three try their luck again. Fitzgerald ran poorly that day but prior to that won back to back non-Carnival races at Meydan while Second Summer is a Graded Stakes winner in the USA. Storm Belt showed little in his Carnival race three weeks ago but is a Meydan winner while Chile bred Furia Cruzada makes her Dubai debut but has solid form in Europe.

Despite being some way behind the winner and runner-up on January 12, Power Blade ran on very nicely for 3rd and hopes are high that he will at least be competitive once more as he becomes the first Korea-trained horse to compete at Group level at the Carnival. With the pattern of races on the deep Seoul and Busan sand being different to that on the Meydan dirt, the horses have taken some time to adapt and have tended to lose a bit of ground in the middle parts of the races, but with Pat Cosgrave, who has partnered most of the Korean runners so far this Carnival in the saddle once more, this can be overcome.

It’s now two weeks since Main Stay scored the breakthrough that Korea had been waiting for, comfortably landing a 1200M handicap. It wasn’t a strong race but crucially it was the first time a Korean horse was actually expected to win and with the pressure on, he delivered. It was a huge relief for all concerned and that hugely enjoyable evening – on which Triple Nine also ran a big race in 2nd over 2000M – helped to finally put to rest some nagging doubts, especially at home, as to whether horses from Korea really belonged at the Carnival. Now we know they do, if Power Blade runs to his best, another placed finish isn’t out of the question.

Seoul Bullet, 4th in Main Stay’s race, is recovering from a slight injury but the the other three Korea-trained horses are all likely to race over the next couple of weeks. Peter Wolsley’s Diferent Dimension, who ran well but weakened late on behind Power Blade on January 12 is expected to try his luck on turf while Main Stay and Triple Nine will return to the dirt within the next two weeks.

Power Blade runs in race 5, the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 at 20:50 Dubai time on Thursday evening. Click here for the full race card.