Race Reviews

Deep Mind Five-Star In Oaks For Kim Young-kwan

Never write-off Kim Young-kwan. It’s the golden rule of Korean racing but some of us still fall prey to it from time-to-time. Just when it looked as though the nation’s dominant trainer could go through a season without winning one of the three-year-old Classic races, up pops Deep Mind to trounce fifteen rivals and win the Oaks by eight-lengths. At odds of 23/1.

While neither were expected to win, Deep Mind wasn’t even trainer Kim’s first-string. That was Amazon Yeogeol, but under Seo Seung-un, Deep Mind bounded out of gate 14 and got across to the lead. It was a simple plan – get in front on a very wet track and let the rest of them get in trouble in the mud and spray behind. It worked.

Dae Wan Ma, Sports Seoul Trophy winner and 2nd in the KRA Cup Mile, was sent off as the prohibitive favourite but having settled in the front half of the pack, jockey Antonio Da Silva had to get to work on her a full three-furlongs from home. The response was muted and she finished well down the field.

Instead, Deep Mind galloped away from the pack for a dominant triumph. Heung Buja got closest in 2nd place ahead of Miss Fact in 3rd making for a trifecta dividend in excess of 20,000/1. Peter Wolsley’s Top Of World was 4th and Luigi Riccardi’s Mamma Roma a creditable 5th.

For jockey Seo Seung-un it was a first win in the race but for trainer Kim it was a fifth with him previously having won four consecutive editions between 2013 and 2016. It’s also a first Classic win this season for Busan-trained horse after Seoul based gallopers Global Chukje and Wonderful Fly took out the KRA Cup Mile and Korean Derby respectively.

Deep Mind is by Menifee and is out of Urrikot (by Creek Cat), who was bred and raced in Korea. It was the seventh race of her career and her fourth win.

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Sky Bay Lands Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup / Victoire Bags Seven / Gaon Champ Steps up

Sky Bay ran out the emphatic winner of the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup, the final leg of the 2018 Queens’ Tour at Busan last Sunday. The three-year-old US-bred filly ran away from the field in the home straight to win by five-lengths and secure a first Group race victory for trainer Lee Shin Young.

Sky Bay - KRA

Sky Bay was sent off as favourite for the 2000M test and was prominent throughout. While other early pace-setters Blue Flag and Catch Nine gave way, the Adios Charlie filly was too strong and fast-finishers Seouri Byeol and Damyang Hwanho never looked like getting close. With Sky Bay not having competed in either of the first two legs of the Queens’ Tour, 4th place-getter Cheongsu Yeogeol, winner of the Ttukseom Cup and 2nd in the KNN Cup, was crowned the overall Series winner

Sky Bay [Adios Charlie – KK’s Kitty (Yes It’s True)] was a $95,000 purchase from the OBS 2017 Spring Sale of two-year-olds and has now won five of her nine races. It is the biggest win of trainer Lee Shin Young’s career as she becomes the first Korean female trainer to saddle a Group winner.

For jockey Lee Chan Ho, one of the most naturally gifted riders Korea has produced but who has seen his career weighed down somewhat by suspensions for off-track issues, it was a second Group winner following Choegang Schiller’s triumph in the 2015 Asia Challenge Cup.

Speaking of jockeys, up at Seoul it was a sensational weekend for Johan Victoire. The French rider rode three winners on Saturday and then managed to top that feat on Sunday, partnering four more for a total of seven across the weekend.

Victoire, who is seventeen months into his Korean sojourn, has now ridden 73 winners from 729 rides in the country.

While Sky Bay’s win was impressive, the performance of the weekend, however, may have been up in Seoul. In the very last race on Sunday, Gaon Champ stepped up to class 1 for the first time and completely dominated, running in the second fastest time of the year over 1400M for an untroubled length-and-a-half victory.

Gaon Champ (Ecton Park) is a three-year-old colt whose only defeats so far have come at the hands of Mask, in the Seoul Classic trial back in March, and then in the KRA Cup Mile at Busan when he played up in the gates beforehand. He moves on to six wins from eight total starts and will hopefully be one to look out for in the bg sprints next year. He’ll probably not get the opportunity to carry just 51kg again though.

Road Winner Motors To Another Victory / Buhwarui Banseok Back On Top At Busan

 Road Winner added to his burgeoning reputation at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon the Dicreet Cat colt, who won the JRA Trophy on international weekend last month, running out a comfortable winner in Seoul’s class 1 feature handicap.

Road Winner - Korea Racing Authority

The return of SHAMROCKER, still one of the highest-rated horses in the Korean capital, meant the rest of the field were carrying light weights and while Shamrocker himself ran creditably for 6th, he was nowhere near Road Winner. Once jockey Antonio Da Silva released the hand-brake, the even-money favourite easily saw off the challenge of WINNER GOLD and a game HAEMARU to win the 1800M test by two-and-a-half lengths.

A three-year-old colt, Road Winner was a $20,000 purchase at the OBS 2017 Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds and with the win, moved onto five wins from seven starts with prize money of US$250,000.

At Busan, BUHWARUI BANSEOK returned to the winner’s circle in the south-coast track’s feature handicap. Bart Rice’s five-year-old ran a strong 5th in last season’s Grand Prix Stakes and had been solid throughout this year’s campaign which had yielded one win from five starts prior to today. He was sent off at odds in excess of 20/1 though as Kim Young Kwan’s CAPTAIN FORCE, a Minister’s Cup also-ran but a four-length winner over this class and distance in early September.

The three-year-old was never in the hunt though as, under apprentice jockey Jo Sang-beom, Buhwarui Banseok struck the front just over a furlong out and ran on to win by a comfortable three-lengths from 2nd placed-APPROACH, who was racing for the first time since his creditable 5th place in the KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore in July.

Next Sunday Stakes action returns to Seoul with the Group 3 Jeju Governor’s Cup for fillies and mares over seven furlongs.

Power Blade Heads For Surgery as Doraonpogyeongseon Wins Owners’ Cup

Power Blade will this week undergo surgery on the fractured sesamoid that ended his storied career one day before he was due to defend the Busan Owners’ Cup that he won last year. In his absence, Doraonpogyeongseon, the two-time SBS Sports Sprint winner, took top honours in the Group 3 contest at Busan Racecourse last Sunday.

The diagnosis on Power Blade was made public early Sunday morning , together with the announcement that once he recovers from surgery he will be retired to Stud.

In addition to sweeping all three legs of the 2016 Triple Crown, Power Blade (by Menifee) managed to place in Group company at the Dubai World Cup Carnival early in 2017, ran 2nd to Japan’s Graceful Leap in the Korea Sprint in September and rounded out the year by winning the Grand Prix Stakes, the traditional finale to the Korean racing year. While he was beaten on his only previous start of 2018, running 2nd to Silver Wolf in the Busan Ilbo Cup over 1200M in April, he was expected to get back in the winner’s circle last Sunday.

As it turned out, the up and coming US import Mighty Ssing (Congrats) was sent off as favourite ahead of fellow Seoul raider and last year’s champion filly/mare Silver Wolf (Oratorio). Doraonpogyeongseon (Kantharos), thought to be more a sprinter than a miler, was sent off only fourth-best among ten in the eyes of punters. Jockey Choi Si Dae rode the 5-year-old patiently, keeping him towards the back and on the rail and they steadily made progress rounding the turn, while Mighty Ssing went off in pursuit of early pacesetter King Of Ace.

Doraonpogyeongseon struck the front around a furlong and a half out and the rest had no answer as he strode away to a three-length win, the $50K purchase crashing through the Billion-Won prize-money barrier at the same time. Mighty Ssing was 2nd and Silver Wolf 3rd.

Doraonpogyeongseon Owners Cup Korea Racing Authority

Doraonpogyeongseon won the Owners’ Cup (Pic: KRA)

In other news, Seoul headed into its short summer break – there is no racing in the capital this coming weekend – with two bumper cards last Saturday and Sunday and it was the most successful weekend yet for trainer Simon Foster.

The Australian handler sent out his biggest number of runners since arriving at Seoul at the end of last year and was rewarded with three winners across the two days. Filly Lovely Nute (Menifee) was a seven-length maiden winner on Saturday while on Sunday, another Foster-trained filly Sky Jump (Thunder Mocassin) also got her maiden win. She may have weighed in at just 397kg but the manner of her six-length win suggests she has a bright future. The more experienced Pro Matheus rounded off a good weekend for Foster later on Sunday.

Seoul’s break means attention will switch to Busan which this coming weekend runs a rare Saturday card as well as an expanded Sunday one, in order to make up for the capital’s absence

Special Stone Wins The 2018 Korea Oaks

Special Stone has won the 2018 Korean Oaks. The Limitless Bid filly, sent off as a 22/1 chance among the sixteen-strong field, raced away to win the fillies’ Classic by a clear seven-lengths, ridden by trainer Kim Jeong-jun for Seoul trainer Kang Hwan-min at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Special Stone Korea Racing Authority

Special Stone wins the 2018 Korean Oaks under Kim Jeong-jun (Pic: Korea Racing Authority)

In a race that always looked fiendishly difficult to predict, Yeonghui Sidae was ultimately sent off as a very slight favourite, ahead of Blue Flag, Gyohaksangjang and Yeongcheon Derby. None of them would get close though with Blue Flag the best of the in 4th. By the time she crossed the line, jockey Kim Jeong-jun was celebrating his biggest career win to date.

Special Stone began steadily as an overly keen Star Cat set the early pace. Jockey Kim kept his mount to the rail and the pair steadily gained ground in the back straight, improving to 2nd on the turn for home. Once they hit the straight and others swung wide, Special Stone found the front and then found another gear, leaving the rest trailing far down the track.

Seoul horses completed an unlikely 1, 2, 3 with Firewind coming home in 2nd and Seouri Byeol beating out Blue Flag in the photo-finish for 3rd, the Tierce paying out on that combination at 25850/1.

Trainer Kang Hwan-min only took out his license a year ago and has now won a Classic having had only slightly over 100 starters.

Special Stone is by Limitless Bid, a Korea-based Japanese-bred stallion by Sunday Silence. He is out of Grey Stone, Korean-bred mare who did her racing at Seoul, winning 2 of 28 starts between 2010 and 2013. Special Stone was her first foal. Grey Stone was by Walkslikeaduck (Blushing John), who was imported to Korea in 2002.

Korea Oaks (KOR G2) – Busan Racecourse – 1800M – July 15, 2018

1. Special Stone (KOR) [Limitless Bid – Grey Stone (Walkslikeaduck)] – Kim Jeong-jun – 22.9, 7.6
2. Fire Wind (KOR) [Colors Flying – Chukje (Bellamy Road)] – Jeong Jeong-hee – 5.7
3. Seouri Byeol (KOR) [Limitless Bid – Busanui Byeol (Generous)] – Parl Eul-woon – 16.3
Distances: 7 lengths / 0.75 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Blue Flag 5. Gyohaksangjang 6. Yeongcheon Derby 7. Catch Nine 8. Mone Flying 9. Yeonghui Sidae 10. Peace Tour 11. Queen Of Captain 12. Magic Ten 13. Yuhwi 14. Star Cat 15. Uju Daewang 16. Nike Street

New Citadel Beaten On Return / Great King Rules At Busan

New Citadel was sent off as odds-on favourite on his return after six months out with a leg injury, but even though expected main rival Shamrocker was a late scratching, the four-year-old could only manage 3rd as Special Runner ran out the winner of Sunday’s Class 1 feature race at Seoul. The winner was ridden by Johan Victoire, completing a treble on the day for the French jockey.

An American import by With Distinction, New Citadel had won six of eleven prior starts in an injury-disrupted career and got closest to superstar Cheongdam Dokki in the KRA Cup Classic last autumn. His latest setback had seen him out since January, but punters believed he would have little difficulty seeing off a small field over 1800M. He was scarcely a factor though as Special Runner saw off the challenge of Wonder Bolt by half a length with New Citadel a further four-lengths adrift.

It was Special Runner’s first try at class 1 and seventh victory in total. For jockey Johan Victoire, it was a third winner on Sunday having earlier partnered Jungle Beat to victory in race 3 for Australian trainer Simon Foster and also guided filly Ecton Sinhwa to an easy win in race 8.

Victoire wasn’t the only foreign jockey to enjoy a successful weekend with Brazilian pair Antonio Da Silva and Manoel Nunes both among the winners at Seoul while Fergus Sweeney continued his impressive strike-rate at Busan. It wasn’t just foreign riders in the winner’s circle either as Irish trainer Thomas Gillespie’s Great King won Busan’s class 1 Sunday feature. The four-year-old Majestic Warrior colt was sent off as 5/1 chance for the 2000M “Road to Group 1” race and struck the front a furlong out to go on to score by a length and a half from Stealth and favourite Captain Force. It was Great King’s sixth career win and 25th of the year for Gillespie who lies joint 3rd in the Busan Trainers’ Premiership.

While New Citadel was unable to return to form at Seoul, on Friday at Busan there was a successful comeback. Ice Marine won last year’s Oaks trial at Busan and was sent off as favourite for the fillies’ Classic. She only finished 7th of 16 that day, returned lame and didn’t race again for almost an entire year. Having made a nondescript comeback on June 8th, she was rated no better than a 16/1 chance for Friday’s competitive Class 2 feature but, under jockey Song Keong Yun she flashed home late on the outside to pip Taeyangui Sinhwa by a neck on the line. If she can maintain that form, Ice Marine may be an interesting addition to the older filly and mare ranks, a division that isn’t especially strong.

 

This coming weekend, attention turns to the current crop of three-year-old fillies with this year’s Korean Oaks being run at Busan on Sunday.

Cheongdam Dokki Marches On In Mayor’s Cup

Cheongdam Dokki ventured outside of Seoul for the first time but the four-year-old made himself right at home on the South-Coast, beating a strong set of rivals to win the Group 3 Busan Mayor’s Cup on Sunday afternoon confirming his status as the top-rated horse in Korea.

Cheongdam Dokki Mayor's Cup Lets Run Park Busan

Cheongdam Dokki & Lim Gi Won winning the Busan Mayor’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

Sent off as the odds-on favourite for the 1800M race, often called the “Summer Grand Prix” such is its usual strength, Cheongdam Dokki broke from the widest gate was unable to get to his favoured position on the lead. That was because King Of Ace got out much the quickest and under Franco Da Silva went on to set the pace. Aboard Cheongdam Dokki, jockey Lim Gi Won was happy enough to let the leader get on with it and settled at the front of the chasing pack with Cheonji Storm and 2nd favourite Triple Nine just behind him.

As the field entered the home straight, King Of Ace began to weaken and Cheongdam Dokki assumed command and while fellow Seoul-raider Cheonji Storm threatened to mount a challenge, Cheongdam Dokki comfortably saw him off in the final furlong to win by three-lengths on the line. Triple Nine, a three-time President’s Cup winner and former Horse of the Year, hit top gear late in the race but could only come home in 3rd place one ahead of last year’s winner I’m Your Father.

It was a breakout performance from Cheonji Storm, who was 6th in the 2016 Korean Derby behind eventual Triple Crown winner Power Blade, and who has matured greatly since missing seven months of last season. Triple Nine, making just his second start of 2018 ran well but was always likely to be too late reaching top speed to challenge Cheongdam Dokki over 1800M.

The win took Cheongdam Dokki, an American import by To Honor And Serve, to 11 wins from 16 career starts and was his second Korean Group race triumph following his victory in last autumn’s Group 2 KRA Cup Classic. He is unbeaten in 2018 with his last defeat coming in December’s Grand Prix Stakes over 2300M. It also gave him a new domestic rating of 130, the highest of any horse since the rating system in its current form began and Cheongdam Dokki is now surely on a path to face the ultimate test in Korean racing – taking on the international visitors in September’s Keeneland Korea Cup.

Busan Mayor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 1800M – July 1, 2018

1. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Elusive Gold (Strike The Gold)] –  Lim Gi Won – 1.4, 1.0
2. Cheonji Storm (KOR) [Admire Don – Great Thought (Empire Maker)] – Johan Victoire – 2.9
3. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.5
Distances: 3 lengths / 3 lengths
Also Ran: 4. I’m Your Father (USA) 5. Buhwarui Banseok (USA) 6. Saengil Gippeum (USA) 7. King Of Ace (USA) 8. Dongbang Daero (USA) 9. Champ Line (KOR) 10. Iron Train (USA) 11. World Number One (USA) 12. Cheonjeok (USA) 13. Winner Red (USA)