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Korean All-Time Leading Money Winner Triple Nine To Return Sunday Following Thirteen Month Absence

Triple Nine, four-times President’s Cup winner and all-time leading money earner in Korean racing, has been declared to run at Busan Racecourse on Sunday. It will mark the now eight-year-old’s first outing in a race since winning the Grand Prix Stakes as a six-year-old in December 2018.

Triple Nine KRA

Triple Nine is scheduled to return on Sunday (Pic: KRA)

The race is the last on Busan’s six-race Sunday card and is a class 1 handicap over 2000M. With his domestic rating of 130, Triple Nine will carry 60kg putting all eleven of his rivals out of the handicap. He will therefore be giving all of them at least 8kg in weight.

The race is the last on Busan’s six-race Sunday card and is a class 1 handicap over 2000M. With his domestic rating of 130, Triple Nine will carry 60kg, putting all eleven of his rivals out of the handicap. He will therefore be giving all of them at least 8kg in weight.

It had been originally hoped that Triple Nine would be back to seek a fifth President’s Cup win in November and he accordingly re-qualified a month ahead of that race. However, a recurrence of a fetlock joint condition set him back in his training and he didn’t make the start line. He trialed again in November looking competent but only returned to full work just prior to the turn of the year.

A winner of five Korean Group 1 races, he also holds a win in the Group 2 busan Owners’ Cup and in 2017 raced at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Although he didn’t manage to pick up a win, he ran well enough to earn a spot in the Godolphin Mile on World CUp night.

Bred by Isidore Farm and owner by Choi Byung-bu, who also owns Blue Chipper, Triple Nine has won fifteen of his thirty-one races for prize money of 4.2 Billion Korean Won. Trainer Kim Young-kwan has engaged Cypriot jockey Ioannis Poullis, who rode New Legend to win the 2019 President’s Cup.

Fifth Korea Cup & Korea Sprint Set For Sunday September 13 in Seoul

The 2020 Korea Cup and Korea Sprint will be run at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday September 13. This year’s editions will be the fifth running of the races, both of which boast a purse of 1 Billion Korean Won.

Moonhak Chief

Moonhak Chief won the fourth running of the Korea Cup (Pic: KRA)

In the previous four runnings, the interntational invitational Korea Cup and Korea Sprint have featured horses trained in the USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE, France, Great Britain and Ireland. The 2019 Cup was won by Korean Horse of the Year Moonhak Chief while the Sprint went to Blue Chipper, who went on to finish 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

On the domestic front, the Triple Crown kicks off on April 5th with the KRA Cup Mile at Busan. The Korean Derby is at Seoul on May 10th with the Korean Oaks run one week later at Busan on May 17th. The final jewel in the Crown is the Minister’s Cup at Seoul on June 14th while the fillies who have gone the Triple Tiara route have the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup, also in tha capital, on June 21st.

After the Oaks, Busan’s next most valuable race, the Mayor’s Cup, won in 2019 by Dolkong, is in its usual position on the last Sunday in June.

Big autumn features the KRA Cup Classic and President’s Cup are both in their traditional spots in early October and November respectively, while the season finale Grand Prix Stakes will have its thirty-ninth running take place on Sunday December 13. All three are at Seoul.

Two new Listed races are on the calender at Busan, both named after horses who were stars of the early years of Busan Racecourse. The Luna Stakes will be run over a mile on April 26th while on September 27th, the Areumdaun Jilju Stakes will take place at 1200M. They will be the first races in Korea to be named in honour of past racehorses.

The first Listed race of the season is the Segye Ilbo Cup at Seoul this coming Sunday January 19. The first Group race is the SROA Chairman’s Cup (KOR G3) on March 15.

The full 2020 calender will be posted on the official KRA website soon. In the meantime, racegoers should be aware that there is no racing at any of the tracks in Korea on the weekend of January 24/25/26 due to the Lunar New Year holiday.

 

Today & Baengmunbaekdap To Race Each Other At Dubai World Cup Carnival Meeting Thursday

Today and Baengmunbaekdap will both make their Dubai World Cup Carnival debuts on Thursday. The Kim Young-kwan trained pair line up against one another in Race 5 on the Meydan card, a Dirt Handicap over 1600M.

today

Today (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

With the Dubai handicapper having assessed both at a mark of 98, Today and Baengmunbaekdap look nicely in, getting 3kg from top weighted Thegreatcollection. Second highest rated in the race is Ambassadorial, who ran 3rd in last September’s Korea Cup in Seoul before ending an also-ran in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in November.

Godolphin are well represented as usual and their relatively unexposed four-year-old Dubai Icon, a winner of three straight races in the UK last year, can be a danger while Doug Watson’s Midnight Sands has won three in a row at Meydan.

Even in Korea, few could confidently say which of the pair is the better. They last met in the Listed Kookje Shinmun Cup over 1400M at Busan in November when Baengmunbaekdap – a 20/1 chance – ran out the three-length winner ahead of the odds-on favourite Today.

That was Baengmunbaekdap’s most recent start. He ran (a very distant) 2nd to Blue Chipper in the Owners’ Cup at a mile in July but struggled on all three of his trips to Seoul in 2019, albeit at longer distances, including 7th behind Ambassadorial in the Korea Cup. Today rounded out his season by finishing 4th in the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December.

Today began his career as very much a sprinter, winning ten of his first twelve starts and running 3rd in the KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore in 2018. Since then he has been up and down the distances with his most recent win being at 2000M last January. He then didn’t race again until September and the Korea Sprint.

Baengmunbaekdap

Baengmunbaekdap (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

Both Baengmunbaekdap and Today are very solid horses and while neither are superstars, they perhaps won’t need to be in order to at least be competitive here. If either one runs to their best, a place finish is a realistic target. Pat Cosgrave, who won on Main Stay for Korea at the Carnival in 2017, as well as partnering both Triple Nine and Power Blade to good finishes, will ride Baengmunbaekdap, while Dane O’Neill will be aboard Today.

As for Blue Chipper, a stablemate of both Today and Baengmunbaekdap, it is hoped that he will return to full work next week following a bout of travel sickness. If things go to plan, The Godolphin Mile is his target, while the Korea Sprint winner also holds an entry for The Riyadh Dirt Sprint, a 1200M race on the undercard of the Saudi Cup.

The race is Race 5, Mina, on Thursday evening’s Carnival card at Meydan with a post time of 20:50 Dubai time (1:50am Friday morning in Korea). See www.emiratesracing.com for more information.

 

Late Menifee Regains Leading Sire Crown

Menifee, who passed away last June, has regained the title of Leading Sire in Korea for 2019, ending the year 840 Million Korean Won clear of nearest rival Hansen. Ecton Park, who won the title in 2018, was 3rd.

Menifee

Menifee (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Menifee and Hansen had exactly the same number of runners, 135, across the year with Menifee’s making more starts but Hansen’s winning more races. Crucially, Menifee got more big race winners, principally New Legend in the President’s Cup, while Hansen’s top earner was the two-year-old Doctor Carson.

Leading General Sires 2019

Leading General Sire 2019

Ecton Park (Isidore Farm) retains his status as the Leading Privately Standing Sire in Korea (Menifee and Hansen both being KRA sires) and there are other welcome entries in the top ten for the privately standing Testa Matta (Nokwon Farm) and Thunder Moccasin (Pegasus Farm), the latter especially having been a revelation over the past year.

The highest placed stallion on the list who is based outside of Korea was Pioneerof The Nile in 18th place. 1.5 Billion of the 1.7 Billion he accrued was earned by his Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner Moohak Chief.

While Hansen’s progeny are yet to break through at the Group 1 level in Korea, their sheer consistency at winning at lower levels means that it seems only a matter of when and not if he takes over at the top. Hansen comfortably ran out the Leading Sire of 2-year-olds with Menifee back in 4th place. Officer, whose Roller Blade won all three legs of the Juvenile Series was in 2nd place with newcomer Old Fashioned in 3rd.

Leading Sires of 2-Year-Olds 2019

Leading 2yo Sire 2019

Accordingly, Old Fashioned led the list of First Crop (in Korea) Sires ahead of Musket Man. A word too for Gyeongbudaero, the President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner in 2015, who has produced five winners from thirteen individual runners.

Leading First Crop Sires 2019

Leading 1st Crop Sires 2019

Full tables as well as information on every stallion, broodmare and racehorse currently in Korea, can be found at the Korean Studbook site: http://studbook.kra.co.kr/neweng/main.jsp

Korea’s 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival Challenge Kicks Off Thursday At Meydan

For the fourth time in five years, Korea will be represented at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Four horses have travelled to the UAE and Great King will be the first to run as he takes his chance at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday’s opening night.

Great King

Great King, seen here at the 2018 Grand Prix Stakes, will make his Dubai Carnival debut on Thursday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Blue Chipper heads the Korea-trained contingent, however, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile 3rd place-getter did not travel so well and is currently behind in his preparation. That leaves Great King, Today and Baengmunbaekdap as likely January runners with Blue Chipper now targeted at a February start to his campaign.

Great King, trained by Thomas Gillespie, will line up on turf for the first time as he tackles the Dubai Racing Club Classic Sponsored by Emirates NBD Wholesale Banking Listed Handicap over 2410M. The race is the last on the card, going to post at 9.25pm local time (2.25am Korea time).

A winner of nine of thirty-four career starts, Great King is an American-bred entire by Majestic Warrior. The six-year-old was in good form in the autumn of 2019, winning consecutive class 1 handicaps over 2000M and 2200M at Busan in September and October. He then rounded out his season with a slightly disappointing 7th of 10 in the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in early December before heading straight into pre-export quarantine.

On paper, it looks a very stiff ask for Great King, who not only will be racing on turf for the first time but will also be stretching out to an unfamiliar distance with 2300M the maximum race length in Korea. Not only that but amongh his eleven rivals are several ominous lookng Godolphin contenders such as Lucius Tiberius, Mountain Hunter and Zaman while William Haggas’ Pablo Escobarr also looks a formidable foe.

Great King will though be carrying a lighter weight than he has for a full eighteen months and in Sam Hitchcott, has a jockey with a lot of experience over the Meydan track. Great King is an unpredictable horse at the best of times, capable of following a very strong run with a very flat one – and vice versa. Three years ago eyebrows were raised when Korea-trained Diferent Dimension was entered on the turf in a strong Carnival Handicap. He finished 3rd.

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.