Race Reviews

Tiz Barows Is The Chosun One

Tiz Barows unleashed a burst of acceleration that none of his twelve rivals could match as he fully justified his odds-on status to run away with the Sports Chosun Trophy (2000M Listed) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Tiz Barows won the Sports Chosun with plenty to spare (Pic: KRA)

Having finished 4th in last year’s Korean Derby and entering off two strong wins from his last three outings, Tiz Barows was sent off at odds of 1.5 locally for the Sports Chosun, which was restricted to horses rated 80 or less, and under in-form jockey Antonio Da Silva, the four-year-old obliged in style.

Jeongmun Bolt set the early pace, but Tiz Barows was always handy and once Da Silva squeezed the accelerator in the home straight, the response was instant and devastating as the pair quickly left the field in their wake to win by a full four-lengths. Queens Tour, the only filly or mare in the race and the only runner to have won at the ten-furlong distance before, closed strongly for 2nd, half a length ahead of Choego Black in 3rd.

(Pic: KRA)

For Tiz Barows, who is by Tizway and is out of the Jambalya Jazz mare Kaylan’s Rose, it was a fifth win on his eleventh start and his third from his last four. Trained by Seo In-seok he is owned by Japanese owner Inokuma Hirotsugu, whose colours were famously sported to victory by Roger Barows in the Tokyo Yushun – Japanese Derby – in 2019. While Tiz Barows hadn’t quite reached his peak when he had his own Derby shot, he looks class 1 bound at the very least.

Antonio Da Silva speaks to in-house broadcaster KRBC after the Sports Chosun (Pic: KRA)

While all but one of Seoul’s Saturday races were lost to a flooded track, on Friday at Busan, in similarly wet conditions, a former double Classic winner did make a somewhat unexpected return to form. Hit Yegam beat Winner’s Man in both the KRA Cup Mile and the Minister’s Cup in 2021 and ran second to the future Korea Cup winner in the Korean Derby.

Since winning that Classic, which was held in December of 2021 due to pandemic restrictions earlier in that year, Hit Yegam had drawn a blank in nine consecutive outings and had finished no better than 10th in any of his latest four. With Friday’s track conditions heavily favouring front-runners though, jockey Choi Eun-gyeong took full advantage of Hit Yegam’s inside draw and early gate speed and he led from gate to wire in the class 1 1200M handicap, holding off the closing pre-race favourite Daemangui Gil by half a length to record his tenth win from twenty-one starts.

Next Sunday there is a double helping of Stakes race action at Seoul.  Raon The Fighter and Eoma Eoma renew their rivalry in the SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3), the second leg of the Sprint series, while stablemates Raon First and Raon The Spurt headline the second leg of the Queens’ Tour, the Ttukseom Cup (1400M KOR-G2).

Winner’s Man Too Good In Successful Herald Business Defence

Winner’s Man won the opening leg of the Stayer Series a year ago on his way to a clean sweep, and at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, he demonstrated he has lost none of his superiority at the longer distances with a comfortable defence of the Herald Business Cup (2000M KOR-G3).

Winner’s Man goes clear of Tuhonui Banseok in the Herald Business (Pic: KRA)

The 2022 Korea Sprint and Grand Prix Stakes winner had been known to throw in the odd lackluster performance, such as when 3rd in last November’s G1 President’s Cup and especially when 4th in his tune up for this, a handicap over 1800M at Busan in February. Winner’s Man though returned to action this time leaner, having come down 15kg in body weight since that setback, and was sent off the 1.5 favourite in the local win pool.

Raon The Spurt, the only filly, set the pace as Winner’s Man slotted into 4th place among ten in the early exchanges with Black Musk and Tuhonui Banseok, the Grand Prix Stakes 3rd, between them. As the field made their way down the back straight, just after halfway, Seo Seung-un took Winner’s Man up closer to join Raon The Spurt and the rest was inevitable.

Winner’s Man struck the front shortly after they turned into the home straight and while Tuhonui Banseok briefly closed the gap up the inside rail, when Seo asked for an effort, Winner’s Man responded and opened up clear daylight again, ultimately crossing the line three-lengths to the good over the Bart Rice-trained Tuhonui Banseok. Barbarian made it a one-two-three for Busan-trained gallopers with Raon The Spurt a brave 4th the best of the Seoul home team.

Seo Seung-un and Winner’s Man (Pic: KRA)

Winner’s Man [Musket Man – Winner’s Marine (by Volponi)] moved on to fifteen wins from twenty-two starts. For jockey Seo Seung-un, it was a thirteenth Group winner, and his fifth on Winner’s Man.  For trainer Choi Ki-hong, who only has eighteen horses in training, it was a fifth Group win (a year ago, the Herald Business only had Listed status).

The next leg in the Stayer Series is the YTN Cup (2000M KOR-G3) back at Seoul on May 21st before the series moves to Busan for the Busan Mayor’s Cup (1800M KOR-G2) on July 2nd. Winner’s Man won both those races in 2022 and barring setbacks, few will be betting against him repeating the feat this time around.

In other news, spare a thought for Lee Dong-ha. A week ago, the jockey got the biggest winner of his career to date when partnering Eodigana to success in the Donga Ilbo Trophy. He followed up with a winner this Saturday and another in race 1 on Sunday. Racing has a habit of bringing you crashing back down again – often literally. Lee suffered a heavy fall in race 5 on Sunday and was transported to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone.

Next week the three-year-old classics get underway with the Luna Stakes, the first leg of the Triple Tiara for fillies being run over a mile at Busan on Sunday.

Raon The Fighter Cruises To Busan Ilbo Glory

Raon The Fighter made a high-class field, including the reigning Korea Sprint champion Eoma Eoma, look very ordinary as he ran out a dominant winner of the first Group race of the season, the Busan Ilbo Sprint (1200M KOR-G3) at Busan on Sunday afternoon.

Raon The Fighter and Lim Gi-won go clear in the Busan Ilbo Sprint: (Pic: KRA)

Widely acknowledged as Korea’s best middle-distance runner, Raon The Fighter had been runner-up to Winner’s Man in both the Korea Cup over 1800M and Grand Prix Stakes at 2300M in 2022.

With a Group 1 win the target for him in 2023, instead of facing Winner’s Man over that horse’s preferred 2000M in the Herald Business Trophy at Seoul later this month, Raon The Fighter was dropped back to the sprinting ranks for the first time since finishing runner-up in the first two legs of last year’s Sprint series.

The move paid off in spectacular fashion. Despite being drawn in the widest gate, Raon The Fighter was sent off as the slight betting favourite – but at odds against – ahead of Eoma Eoma. In the event, it was a race that Eoma Eoma, the defending champion, never got to grips with this time around.

Coming out of gate seven, Eoma Eoma was unable to match the opening speed of Beolmaui Star who under Jung Do-yun, raced into an early lead leaving the Moon Se-young ridden second favourite to dispute 2nd and 3rd up the short back straight with Daehan Jilju, who has so nearly beaten him in last autumn’s Kookje Shinmun. Aboard Raon The Fighter meanwhile, Lim Gi-won had the luxury of sitting wide just off the speed, allowing the rest to get on with it, clearly in the knowledge he had an awful lot of horse underneath him.

Just how much horse Lim had at his disposal became clear once into the home straight. First Raon The Fighter blew past Eoma Eoma as if he wasn’t there and then set off in pursuit of Beolmaui Star, who was still out in front to the tune of two and a half lengths with two furlongs remaining. By the three-hundred-metre mark, the lead was gone and by the furlong pole, the race was over.

As they crossed the finish line, Raon The Fighter was five lengths in front and pulling away. Beolmaui Star held on comfortably for 2nd in what was a breakout performance, while Ssonsal emerged up the rail under Franco Da Silva to snatch 3rd. Eoma Eoma finished back in 6th, eight-lengths behind the winner.

The build-up to the race had been overshadowed by the untimely death of Dolkong, after a trackwork accident on Thursday.  While Raon The Fighter’s performance did little to mitigate the sadness of that event, the manner of his victory was reminiscent of some of Dolkong’s best.

Raon The Fighter is by Bayern and out of Clarinda (by Empire Maker). He is trained at Seoul by Park Jong-kon and is owned by Son Chun-soo. He moves onto fourteen wins from eighteen starts. It was his fourth Group victory and while a Group 1 remains elusive – especially with such limited opportunities to secure one – he is now the early favourite for this September’s international Korea Sprint. Last year he held entries for both the Cup and Sprint before ultimately being sent to the Cup.

The Sprint Series will continue at Seoul on May 14th with the SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3).

Next weekend, Son Chun-soo’s Raon machine grinds on. Raon First and her younger sister Raon Pink are both among the entries in the Donga Ilbo Trophy (1800M Listed), the first Queens’ Tour series race of the year for fillies and mares. Raon First will be the hot favourite.

Son Chun-soo then has Raon The Spurt scheduled to take on Winner’s Man in the Herald Business (2000M KOR-G3) at Seoul on April 16th, followed by Raon Giant taking her chance in the Luna Stakes (1600M Listed) at Busan on April 23rd, the first leg of the Triple Tiara for three-year-old fillies.

Raon The Spurt, Speed Young Return To Winning Ways

Raon The Spurt was a beaten favourite in the Listed Segye Ilbo Trophy in January, but the four-year-old filly went some way to making amends with an authoritative performance in Sunday’s Class 1 feature at Seoul, downing Segye victor Wow Wow by three-lengths.

Raon The Spurt won the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup last November (Pic: KRA)

After a successful three-year-old campaign that saw her finish runner-up in the Triple Tiara series before winning the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup at Group 3 level against older fillies and mares, Raon The Spurt was sent off as favourite in the Segye Ilbo. But on a day when the going was brutal for front-runners, she ran out of petrol in the home straight, finishing back in the pack as Wow Wow took the glory.

There were no such issues this time around in Sunday’s class 1 finale over 1400M. Punters kept faith with Raon The Spurt, sending her off as the even-money favourite. Under Lee Hyeok, who replaced the suspended Choi Bum-hyun in the saddle, Raon The Spurt was quickly into the lead and she proceeded to keep the rest of the field at arm’s length throughout, with Wow Wow ultimately getting the closest. Long-shot Preemax was 3rd.

The win was Raon The Spurt’s seventh from fourteen starts and stands her in good stead ahead of this year’s Queens’ Tour series, which begins in April. Raon The Spurt is by Musket Man and is out of Tomiken Spring (by Japanese sire Suzuka Mambo). Her three-year-old “full” sister and stablemate with trainer Park Jong-kon, Raon The Quality, has three wins from six starts and is penciled-in to race in Seoul’s Classic Trial on April 19th.

On Friday at Busan, Speed Young worked his way back into Classic contention with a fine win at class 3 level over a mile.

A Menifee colt, Speed Young, who won the Breeders’ Cup champion juvenile race over 1400M in December, had begun his three-year-old campaign in disappointing fashion, weakening badly in the final furlong over a mile in January.

By contrast over the same trip on Friday, Speed Young struck the front on the home turn and stayed on strongly to down a field that included top-rated three-year-old filly Jeulgeounyeojeong.

Trained by Bang Dong-suk, who saddled Hit Yegam to two legs of the Triple Crown in 2021, Speed Young doesn’t hold an entry into the Listed Gyeongnam Shinmun Trophy, Busan’s official Classic trial on March 19th. However, his rating is already high enough to ensure him a spot in the gate for the first leg of this year’s Triple crown, the KRA Cup Mile, at Busan on Sunday April 30th.  

Meanwhile the saga of Park Tae-jong’s 2,200th career winner will drag on into another weekend. The jockey, who has won more races than any other in Korean racing history, has been on 2,199 since February 5th and drew a blank from seven rides across the weekend, a runner-up finish on Joeun Gwangye  in race 10 on Sunday. His winless streak now stands at thirty-four.

Racing returns to Korea at Busan on Friday.

Antonio Notches Four While Luigi Moves to Within One Win of Top of Seoul Trainer Premiership

Temperatures plunged below zero across Korea at the weekend, but jockey Antonio Da Silva was in red-hot form, riding four winners across Sunday’s valuable card. Meanwhile on the penultimate weekend of the season, Luigi Riccardi saddled his 100th winner in the country to move within one victory of Park Jong-kon at the summit of the capital’s Trainer Premiership.

Antonio Da Silva with Luigi Riccardi looking on back in 2019 (Pic: KRA)

Da Silva got his first on the board in race 2, partnering Tony Castanheira’s Choegang Mirae to a five-length maiden victory. He followed up in race 4, the first of six Trophy races on the day benefitting the Retired Racehorse Welfare fund.

His ride on the juvenile Nut Play, who was stepped up to a mile for the first time, was typical Da Silva, boldly settling back despite having drawn the coveted inside gate over the Mile distance that has tended to favour front-runners. He waited patiently before finding the narrowest of gaps in the home straight and then unleashing his mount, who romped to an eight-length victory.

Further successes for Da Silva would come in race 6 with Tiz Barows, who was winning for the first time since finishing 4th in this Year’s Korean Derby, and in race 8 on Wonpyeong Cod, who got the better of a final furlong duel with favourite Double Edge.

Brazilian Da Silva debuted full time in Korea in 2017 after riding in Singapore and now has 295 winners in the country. He has three Group wins on his local resume having partnered Dolkong in the G2 KRA Cup Classic and Moonhak Chief in the G1 Grand Prix Stakes, both in 2019, and then Choegang Black in the 2021 Korean Oaks.

Choegang Black was the first Korean Group race winner for Luigi Riccardi and the Italian trainer, who also debuted at Seoul in 2017, passed another milestone on Sunday by reaching one hundred winners in the country.

Having saddled juveniles Black Motion and G Motion to victory on Saturday, Riccardi sent out debut-maker Wonderful Slew in Sunday’s race 1 and the filly (whose 2nd dam is Worldly Pleasure, the dam of American champion Game On Dude) ran on for a narrow half-length win under jockey Jeong Jeong-hee, who also partnered both of Riccardi’s winners on Saturday.

Those victories temporarily moved Riccardi up to 2nd place in the 2022 Seoul Trainer Premiership, before Seo In-seok struck back with Tiz Barows to join him on 42 winners for the year and move ahead on the tie-break by virtue of having one more runner-up. The pair are just one winner behind Park Jong-kon, who backed by the firepower of Raon, heads the Premiership with 43.

There is just one more weekend of racing to come and it isn’t inconceivable that it could all come down to the final race of the year, a class 3 sprint over 1200M at 6pm on Christmas Day. That race could see one of Riccardi’s up-and-comers Trotting Riley face off with Park’s Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy winner Raon Giant with potentially the title on the line.

Racing resumes in Korea with a nine-race program on Friday December 23rd. On Christmas Eve there are ten races at Seoul while Christmas Day itself sees eleven races at Seoul and six at Busan to round out the season.  

Winner’s Man Bests Raon The Fighter in Grand Prix Battle for the Ages

Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter turned the 40th running of the Grand Prix Stakes (2300M) into a match race and just as in the Korea Cup, it was Winner’s Man who ultimately prevailed as the pair duelled the final two-furlongs at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter drive for the line in the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)

With Raon The Fighter having blitzed the KRA Cup Classic while Winner’s Man laboured to 3rd in the President’s Cup on their respective post-Korea Cup outings, punters were predicting a form reverse and sent Raon The Fighter off as the odds-on favourite.

From the plum draw of barrier two Moon Se-young took Raon The Fighter straight to the front and immediately dictated the pace the race would be run at. By the time they left the back straight and began the long turn for home, only Winner’s Man, who as he had done in the Korea Cup, improved up the field in the back straight under jockey Seo Seung-un, along with President’s Cup winner Raon First, remained with him.

Remote of the finish with Tuhonui Banseok looming (Pic: KRA)

Raon First was promptly seen off and Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter would duel throughout the long Seoul Racecourse home straight. Raon The Fighter held firm, but Winner’s Man loomed up alongside with a furlong to run. Still Raon The Fighter didn’t buckle and matched him stride for stride for half the remaining distance. But Winner’s Man was relentless. At the one hundred metre point, he finally struck the front and this time Raon The Fighter had no more.

It had been a battle of wills and a battle of the two best horses in the country. Winner’s Man now carries off the accolade of Horse of the Year having vanquished Raon The Fighter at 1800M in the Korea Cup and 2300M in the Grand Prix, but Raon The Fighter lost nothing in either of those defeats. And given he remains arguably both the best sprinter and middle-distance horse in Korea, yet has runner-up finishes in both those longer distance Group 1 races, the debate as to which is better won’t go away.

The rest of the field might as well have been running in a different race but there was a stand-out performance by Tunhonui Banseok. The Bart Rice trainee had only raced eleven times previously, but under Park Jae-i, he navigated his way through a tiring field in the closing stages to get within a length and a quarter of Raon The Fighter on the line. Nine-lengths further back, the three-year-old Saryeoni First led the rest home in 4th.

How quickly things change. A year ago, after Haengbok Wangja’s emphatic win in the race, aged just four, he seemed set to dominate. Yet no horse who took part in last year’s race was among the first nine home this year, Simjangui Godong, 5th last year, was best placed in 10th. Haengbok Wangja himself only beat two home, while there was disappointment too for fellow Dubai Carnival hopeful King Of The Match. He was one of those two the 2021 champion finished ahead of.

(Pic: KRA)

Winner’s Man is by Musket Man who is owned, perhaps a touch ironically, by Raon The Fighter’s owner Son Chun-soo and is the centrepiece of the emerging Raon breeding and racing empire. Winner’s Man himself is owned by Lee Gyeong-hui. He is out of Winner’s Marine (by Volponi) who was bred and raced in Korea. Musket Man is now assured of finishing the year as Leading General Sire.

For trainer Choi Ki-hong it was his first Grand Prix and his fifth Group race win – all of them with Winner’s Man. Jockey Seo Seung-un rode his first Grand Prix winner. Having already ridden a President’s Cup and Korea Cup winner, he is just missing the Korea Sprint and Korean Derby from the Group 1 set.

Seo Seung-un with owner Lee Gyeong-hui and Winner’s Man (Pic: KRA)

With the running of the Grand Prix, the 2022 Stakes race program has finished, although there are still two more weeks remaining of the season, which concludes on Christmas Day. In Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter, racing heads into 2023 with two genuine stars on its hands.

Speed Young Downs Fantastic Kingdom For Juvenile Crown

Fantastic Kingdom came up short in his bid for a clean-sweep of top juvenile races, as Speed Young romped by for a comprehensive victory in the Breeders’ Cup (1400M KOR-G2) at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Speed Yong wins the Breeders’ Cup – no, not that Breeders’ Cup (Pic: KRA)

Having prevailed in the Busan Rookie Stakes, the Areumdaun Jilju Stakes and the Gimhae Mayor’s Trophy, Fantastic Kingdom was sent off a slight favourite over the filly Jeulgeounyeojeong who had pushed him all the way in the Gimhae, over the shorter distance of 1200M a month ago.

The filly was scarcely a factor though as Fantastic Kingdom sat on an early pace that was set by Sun Dragon and Lucky Sun. Both “Suns” would fall away quickly as Fantastic Kingdom took up the running three furlongs from home. He looked set to go on, only for Speed Young, who had drawn the widest but one gate and then sat back in the field, to loom up.

With just over a furlong to run, Speed Young sped by and ran on to win by a comfortable five-lengths with Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy 3rd placegetter Nanometa also emerging from the rear to claim 2nd place ahead of a tiring Fantastic Kingdom in 3rd.

The winner, who was racing for just the third time, was sent off slightly in excess of 10/1, fourth overall in the market. The relatively short odds reflected that in addition to his Areumdaun Jilju Stakes 2nd, he was just one of four who had previously won over the 1400M, coming from off the pace and beating a filly in Smarty Dolpung who herself went on to win in fine style on Friday.

Speed Young is from the final crop by Menifee and is out of Tapestry (by Fusaichi Pegasus). He was bred by Nokwon Farm and was purchased for 100 Million Korean Won by owners D R M City at the November 2021 KTBA Yearling Sale – a sale at which D R M signed for five of the top seven sale-toppers. He is trained at Busan by Bang Dong-suk, who sent out Hit Yegam to win two legs of the Triple Crown last year. You Hyun-myung, who rode Hit Yegam to both those wins, also partnered Speed Young.

Given that it was the only Group race on the schedule, the victory was enough to see Speed Young win the Juvenile Series and for Nanometa to leapfrog Fantastic Kingdom to claim 2nd. Only time will tell but the early indications are that this year’s two-year-old crop has been a good one and we could be set for a fascinating Triple Crown series in 2023, which will kick off in April with the KRA Cup Mile.

Next week the Stakes season draws to a close with the traditional season finale of the Grand Prix Stakes (2300M KOR-G1) at Seoul on Sunday afternoon. Korea Cup winner Winner’s Man is scheduled to run as is that day’s runner-up and subsequent KRA Cup Classic winner Raon The Fighter. President’s Cup heroine Raon First is also expected to be in the starting gate as is defending champion Haengbok Wangja as well as Simjangui Godong and Dubai Carnival hopeful King Of The Match with seventeen remaining in at this stage.

Juvenile Series: Fantastic Kingdom Wins Again, Hangang Ace Unseats Park Tae Jong as Saenae Town Scores

Fantastic Kingdom maintained his dominance of the juvenile ranks at Busan by winning the Gimhae Mayor’s Trophy, but at Seoul Hangang Ace spilled his jockey at the start ensuring that a new name would claim the NACF Chairman’s Trophy. That name would prove to be Saenae Town who came through late to score in a topsy-turvy finish.

At Seoul, Munhwa Ilbo Trophy winner Hangang Ace was sent off as warm favourite for the NACF Chairman’s Trophy (1200M Korean Listed). His challenge would end barely three strides out of the gate though as he stumbled, causing jockey Park Tae-jong to tumble forward and onto the sand.

That left Sun Dragon, the second favourite who had skipped both the Rookie Stakes and the Munhwa Ilbo, to set the pace. This he did with gusto, and he seemed set for a gate to wire victory until the very final strides when Saenae Town, 4th in the Munhwa Ilbo a month ago, swept by under Song Jae-chul in the shadow of the post.

Sun Dragon was 2nd a head in arrears while a stewards’ inquiry determined that a length behind them, Kwaehyang, who crossed the line in 3rd place, had interfered with Nanometa in 4th and their placings were reversed.

Saenae Town is by Purge and is out of Oh My Creek (by Creek Cat), who raced in Korea. He was bred by Nokwon Farm and is owned by Moon Geum-cheol and trained at Seoul by Seo Hong-soo. The victory kicked off a remarkable end of Sunday’s card for trainer Seo, who proceeded to send out the winner of the remaining three races as well.

At Busan, it wasn’t easy for Fantastic Kingdom, but he managed to hold off a determined challenge from Jeulgeounyeojeong to add the Gimhae Mayor’s Trophy (1200M Korean Listed) to his previous successes in the Busan Rookie Stakes and Areumdaun Jilju Stakes.

Fantastic Kingdom was beaten on debut but has since won four in a row to top the juvenile rankings. He is by Concord Point and out of Union Belle (by Dixie Union). He was bred by Jung Hwan of Taesan Farm, is owned by Moojigae Rentcar and is trained at Busan by Lim Keum-man. Seo Seung-un piloted.

Jeulgeounyeojeong was just half a length back in 2nd place and intriguingly has already won over 1400M which is the distance of the Breeders’ Cup (KOR-G2), the race which will decide the ultimate destination of the title of Champion Juvenile on Sunday December 4th. With Saenae Town also threatening to get stronger as the distances get longer as well as a host of other juveniles who were steered away from this weekend’s features, and Fantastic Kingdom may not have things all his own way next month.

Next weekend, the top locally bred horses in the country will gather at Seoul for the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) on Sunday afternoon. Korea Cup hero Winner’s Man currently tops the expected field.

Raon The Fighter Dominates KRA Cup Classic

Raon The Fighter delivered a consummate display of excellence at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, effortlessly crossing to the front and proceeding to run the rest out of the race to win the KRA Cup Classic (2000M KOR-G2) in front of a raucous 27,000 strong crowd.

Having duelled with Japan’s Sekifu throughout the majority of last month’s international Korea Cup (1800M-IG3) but ultimately tire late on as Winner’s Man came through to take a spectacular victory, Raon The Fighter was sent off as the odds-on favourite to return to winning ways in the principal lead up to the season finale Grand Prix Stakes. The only questions were whether he could get a good position from the widest gate and whether he could see out the extended trip of 2000M, a distance he was tackling for the first time. Those who posed those questions, quickly regretted doing so.

Other than in the Korea Cup, Raon The Fighter’s only defeats had come in sprint races when stumbling at the start and then working too hard to get on terms. This Sunday, he broke beautifully from gate thirteen and jockey Moon Se Young was able to steer him across to the front immediately.

Had anything even wanted to take him on for early speed, it is doubtful whether they could have done such was Raon The Fighter’s authority, although King Of The Match and Tuhonui Banseok would gamely sit within striking distance exchanging 2nd and 3rd positions throughout. Two little accelerations from Raon The Fighter, first at the top of the home straight to put him firmly in the clear, and then again a furlong out when into unchartered territory distance-wise at the furlong pole, and Moon Se Young was left looking behind him to see if there were any dangers.

There were no dangers. Raon The Fighter was eased home for a five-length win with King Of The Match getting closest in 2nd and then a seven-length gap back to Tuhonui Banseok in 3rd. Behind them, 2021 Grand Prix Stakes winner Haengbok Wangja was 4th while Geuma Mystic and Moonhak Chief came home in 5th and 6th.

Raon The Fighter debuted in November 2020, just after racing resumed behind closed doors and for severely restricted prize money. He would have five wins on the board before prizes were restored to meaningful levels the following July and didn’t get to run in a Group race until November 2021 when he destroyed Eoma Eoma in the SROA Chairmans Trophy (1200M KOR-G3).

The KRA Cup Classic is Raon The Fighter’s third Group win having also won the Busan Owners’ Cup (1600M KOR-G3) this July. The four-year-old entire, who is by Bayern and out of Empire Maker mare Clarinda, is owned by Son Chun-soo of the ever-growing Raon racing empire which stands the stallion Musket Man. He is trained by Park Jong-kon, who now almost exclusively trains Raon horses. For trainer Park, it was a fourth KRA Cup Classic after Mari Daemul in 2013 and Cheongdam Dokki in 2017 and 2018. For jockey Moon Se-young, it was a third win in the race, having partnered Pocketful Of Money in 2007 and Cheongdam Dokki in 2017.

The logical next step for Raon The Fighter would be the Grand Prix Stakes in December and a possible rematch with Winner’s Man, who will most likely be contesting the President’s Cup next month. There are two big stars in Korean racing right now, and they will collide again soon enough.

Raon The Fighter Lands Emphatic Knockout In Owners’ Cup

Raon The Fighter roared back into the winner’s circle at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, running his rivals off their feet for a statement victory in the Owners’ Cup (1600M KOR-G3).

Raon The Fighter was the easy winner of the Owners’ Cup (Pic: KRA)

On his thirteenth career start, Raon The Fighter was sent off at a price greater than even-money for just the third time ever. That came off the back of two shock defeats in the Sprint Series, as he finished 2nd in both the Busan Ilbo Cup and SROA Chairman’s Cup in April and May. He was luckless both times both times, but those setbacks were enough for punters to be wary and also for connections to replace regular jockey Lee Hyeok with Moon Se-young.

From a good draw and on a hot and humid afternoon in Busan, Raon The Fighter turned the race into a procession. This time there was no stumble at the start, as there was in the Busan Ilbo. Nor was there a bump with Black Musk and then a speed duel with Hit Yegam happened in the SROA.  Instead, Raon The Fighter got a clean break and an easy lead as You Hyun-myung opted to take a sit on Hit Yegam.

Hit Yegam and Simjangui Godong were still within a length at the top of the home straight, but once Moon Se-young let his mount off the bridle and asked for an acceleration, Raon The Fighter’s response was instant. Moon was able to stop riding fifty metres from the line and ease home for a four-length triumph, stopping the clock just eight-seconds outside Blue Chipper’s track record, set in this race in 2019.  

Behind Raon The Fighter, King Of The Match closed significantly faster than anything else, but he couldn’t get past the ever game Simjangui Godong, the pair dead-heating for 2nd place, a full seven-lengths clear of Daemangui Gil in 4th.

Disappointments of the race were SROA winner Black Musk, who was 7th and especially Success Macho, who having suffered his first ever defeat in this race last year, was never a factor and only beat home one.

Raon The Fighter could very easily be thirteen for thirteen and closing in on Mister Park’s all time. It remains true though that he has only been beaten by Eoma Eoma and Black Musk and in mitigating circumstances.

His next outing will surely be in either the Korea Cup (1800M G3) or the Korea Sprint (1200M G3), the two international races at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday September 4th and one of the most exciting things about Raon The Fighter is we still have no idea what his best distance is. Nominations have been received from several countries for both international races, including Asian powerhouses Japan and Hong Kong, as well as from Europe. Whichever race he opts for, Raon The Fighter could very well offer the visitors a stern examination. Both King Of The Match (Korea Cup), an intriguing talent who like Raon The Fighter, is still only four-years-old, and Simjangui Godong (either Korea Cup or Korea Sprint) are likely to be involved on international day too.

Raon The Fighter is by Bayern and out of the Empire Maker mare Clarinda. He was imported in-utero although Bayern himself is now in Korea too, standing at Great Hill Farm on Jeju Island.

The Owner’s Cup marks the final Stakes race of the first part of the season. The tracks (including the Jeju Pony Racecourse) now take it in turns to take a week off. Jeju goes on vacation first meaning next week Busan goes solo on Friday, Busan and Seoul race on Saturday, and Seoul has a standalone meeting next Sunday. The next Graded races in Korea are the International Korea Cup (1800M G3) and Korean Sprint (1200M G3) at Seoul on Sunday September 4th.