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Da Silva Makes The Breakthrough

Antonio Da Silva has broken his maiden in Korea. The Brazilian jockey opened his account with  last to first effort on 7/1 chance Gutongsa in race 6 at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday afternoon.

Gutongsa (Spring At Last) was Da Silva’s (called Antonio Davielson in the race card) 12th mount since debuting full-time last weekend. He rides Hidden Indian in the Group 2 Ttukseom Cup on Sunday.

The win was also a first for new trainer Jun Seung Kyu on what was just his second every starter.

* Da Silva’s win comes a day after Korean Champion jockey Moon Se Young rode his first winner in Singapore. Moon guided the Alwin Tan trained Thunder Cat to a last gasp victory in the closing race 9 at Kranji on Friday night. Full result and race video here.

Coming Up In Korean Racing

The Korean Derby is now behind us and we won’t be getting a Triple Crown winner this year. We have to wait until July to see if impressive Derby winner Final Boss can win the Minister’s Cup too but in the meantime, we have a big month ahead of us. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up in June and July in Korean racing.

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All being well, Derby Winner Final Boss will aim for July’s Minister’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

June International Weekend (Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th)

The big one is of course the Korea Cup & Sprint in September but to mark the start of summer, the first weekend of June sees plenty of good racing. On the Saturday there will be excahnge races with the Selangor Turf Club, Turkey Jockey Club and China Horse Industry Association before two big group races on Sunday:

Sunday June 4 – SBS Sports Sprint (KOR G3 – Sprint Series), Seoul: The 2nd leg of the Sprint Series doubles up as this year’s edition of the Korea vs Japan race. Success Story won the Busan Ilbo Cup, the first leg of the series, and he is expected to be in Seoul to try to make it two out of two in advance of the final leg, the Korea Sprint, in September. Last year’s winner Perdido Pomeroy is also expected to be there but with Power Blade now likely to stay home and Busan Ilbo 2nd place-getter Seoul Bullet spelled, Busan’s challenge is not as strong as usual. That gives opportunities to Seoul horses including Brian Dean’s Choegangja, who is 5 for 5 for the Aussie handler and could well give Dean a chance to return to his old haunt of Kranji for the KRA Trophy in July.

Currently there are two Japan-trained entrants for the race; Kimon Avalon who ran a solid 5th in the race last year, and Party Dress, a winner of 5 from 21, both trained by Arayama Katsunori.

Sunday June 4 – Ttukseom Cup (KOR G2 – Queens Tour), Seoul – The Queens’ Tour to decide the year’s champion filly or mare gets underway with the shortest race of the series, the 1400M Ttukseom Cup. This division is not especially strong at the moment and favourites are likely to include last year’s Jeju Governor’s Cup winner Indian Star and KNN Cup winner Supreme Magic.

Sunday June 11 – Korean Oaks (KOR G2) Busan – There were 27 early entries for the fillies’ Classic  and we’ll get a clearer picture in the next week or so. Nevertheless, Ice Marine is set to be favourite. She won a valuable trial for the race in March and while her 6th place in the KRA Cup Mile meant she didn’t go for the Derby, she’s the standout so far. Plenty of unexposed ones could test her though.

They’re followed by:

Sunday June 28: Sports Chosun Cup (L) Seoul
Sunday July 9: Busan Mayor’s Cup (KOR G3) Busan – Informally known as the “Summer Grand Prix” it is, ater the Oaks, Busan’s 2nd most valuable race of the year. This year it will be run over 1800M. Past winners include Dangdae Bulpae, Tough Win (twice) and Gamdonguibada.
Sunday July 16: Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) Seoul – There’s no Triple Crown on the line this year but the final Classic of the year still has its intrigues. Final Boss’s Derby win was rated lower than that of Power Blade last year so can he burnish his credentials before taking on older, proven horses later in the season?
Sunday July 23: KNN Cup (KOR G3) Busan – They step up to a mile for the 2nd leg of the Queens’ Tour.
Sunday Jul 30: Ilgan Sports (L) Seoul

Night Racing

The nightracing season is shorter this year than last. From June, Friday meetings at Busan will switch to their night race times. Seoul will run Night meetings on Saturdays and twilight meetings on Sundays in July and August only.

Moon Se Young Set For Kranji Debut Friday

Multiple-time Korean Champion Jockey Moon Se Young will finally make his Singapore riding this Friday in the evening meeting at Kranji Racecourse.

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Moon Se Young is accustomed to winning. He faces his biggest challenge in Singapore (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Moon, who was granted his Singapore work permit two weeks ago, arrived too late for declarations for last week’s meetings in the Lion City but gets his first opportunities on Friday with two rides. First he’ll partner Gin Go Gin in race 2 for trainer Alwin Tan, known to Korean punters for his handling of inaugural Asia Challenge Cup winner El Padrino.

Later on in race 8, Moon will be on Board Walk for trainer Ricardo Le Grange. He’ll be referred to as SY Moon in the Singapore race card.

Moon’s license will run until August 7. Singapore Turf Club’s Michael Lee conducted an interview with the jockey on his arrival at Kranji.

Bart Rice Tops 100 Winners At Busan

Bart Rice has reached a well-deserved landmark. The South African trainer saddled his 100th Korean winner at Busan Racecourse last Friday.

Rice had been on 99 winners since mid-April having had some near-misses but it only took until the first race on Friday to put that right as filly Jeonsaui Huye (Peace Rules) justified her odds-on tag to land her maiden victory under Chae Sang Hyun. Win number 101 wasn’t far off too as the same jockey guided Que Sera Sera (Concept Win) home in front in race 6.

The third foreign trainer to be licensed in Korea following Peter Wolsley and Joe Murphy, Rice arrived at the end of autumn 2013 and spent time building up his stable before sending out his first runners in late January 2014. He won with his first starter:

That established an impressive strike rate that has continued right up to the present day. Jeonsaui Huye was Rice’s 632nd Korean starter making for a win rate that stands now at 15.8% overall and 18.8% for the past year. No fewer than 40% of his runners in the past year (and 37.4% overall) have placed in the first three. He was 5th in the Trainer’s Championship in 2016 and currently lies in 7th place this term.

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Bart Rice and assistant trainer Pam Rice along with Joe and Young Sook Dallao at Busan Racecourse 

Rice has also been involved with what is a new concept in Korea – foreign ownership – saddling winners for both Joe Dallao and Barry Irwin. The Team Valor green and red aren’t the only famous colours his string sport, however, as top Korean owner Choi Byung Bu (of Triple Nine fame) has also sent a horse Rice’s way; Triple Five, who the trainer took to Kranji in Singapore to run in the KRA Trophy last year.

Bart Rice, who will turn 41 later this year, now has 33 horses under his care at Busan. He may be yet to win a Stakes race but that is surely only a matter of time and along with fellow expat trainers Peter Wolsley and Thomas Gillespie (and recently joined by David Miller), Rice is contributing to significantly raising the standard of competition at Busan. That’s true for jockeys too as apprentice Choi Eun Gyeung, the first Korean female rider to be assigned at Busan for many years, has landed on her feet in being attached to Rice’s stable.

So it’s 101 up for Bart Rice. He has a horse in his stable called “For Bart“. While that particular one may not have done a lot in his only start to date, there are likely to be plenty more happy owners over the next 100.

 

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.