Race Reviews

Blue Chipper Back On Top At Busan

Blue Chipper returned to the winner’s circle at long last at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon as Korea’s 2019 Breeders’ Cup hero registered an effortless class 1 win over seven-furlongs.

With the Covid-induced financial crisis still biting, Sunday’s Busan feature was contested for a 1st prize of just KRW 24 Million (US$21,400). Nevertheless, in addition to Blue Chipper the race also attracted the likes of Ssonsal, the up-and-coming sprinter who came in off the back of four consecutive wins, as well as multiple winner King Of Glory and Dubai World Cup Carnival alumnus Today among a full field of fourteen.

None stood a chance as under jockey Djordje Perovic and coming out of gate five, Blue Chipper quickly assumed command of the race, before motoring away from the field in the home straight. Ssonsal, who had to overcome the widest draw, got closest, finishing three-lengths in arrears.

It’s been a long way back for Blue Chipper, who last tasted victory in the Korea Sprint (KOR G1) at Seoul Racecourse in September of 2019. Knowing that he held a Breeders’ Cup nomination, connections then opted to take a chance on him in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup First Mile at Santa Anita where, under an enterprising Flavien Prat ride, Blue Chipper finished 3rd behind Spun To Run and Omaha Beach.

Blue Chipper was then pointed at the Dubai World Cup Carnival and a tilt at the Goldolphin Mile. Disaster struck, however, when on arrival he was found to have travel sickness, the complications of which ruled him out of competing at Meydan.  By the time he was passed fit to fly, he returned to a Korea where racing, with no legal remote betting, was amid the still ongoing Covid crisis.

Having returned to training in December – and moved to trainer Min Jang-ki’s stable – Blue Chipper was given a low-key return to racing in February in a race which had no legal betting markets either at home or overseas. Going over a mile he showed at the front early but visibly tired in the final furlong ultimately ending up in 5th. He came out of that race in good order though and the improvement was there for all to see on Sunday.  

Where to next is the million-dollar (hopefully not the 24 Million Won) question for Blue Chipper. Now six-years-old, the Tiznow gelding seems unlikely to travel again given the risks involved and with no confirmed Stakes schedule for Korea as the pandemic continues to squeeze prizemoney, it may be some time before he even gest to face the likes of Seoul-based rising-star Eoma Eoma in Korea.

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Jockey Kim Hye-sun rode her first winner back since returning from maternity leave just a week ago. The thirty-two-year-old, who is married to fellow jockey Park Jae-I, partnered Haeundae Bada to victory in race 1 at Busan on Sunday.  It was career victory number 284 for Kim, who is the most successful female thoroughbred jockey in Korean history. She rode Jejui Haneul to victory in the Korean Oaks in 2017.

In the three-year-old ranks, Winner’s Man returned to winning ways at Busan on Saturday. The Musket Man colt was beaten by the very good Golden Winner on his first try around the Korean Derby distance of 1800M last month and while he suffered another scare this time around, he had enough about him to hold off long-shot Man Of Top by a head at class 3 level for his first success around two turns. Winner’s Man now has a record of five wins and two runner-up finishes from seven starts.

Eoma Eoma Super at Seoul but Blue Chipper Upset on Busan Return

Eoma Eoma began 2021 the way he left off in 2020 with an easy Class 1 win over 1400M at Seoul, but Blue Chipper could only manage 5th place in his long awaited return to action at Busan as Mr. Afleet took out the feature race on the south coast.

Seoul’s feature class 1 event was essentially a Group race run under handicap conditions over 1400M. With Morfhis having taken out the SBS Sports Sprint last summer as well as a pair of full prize-money class 1 races, his rating had risen to the extent that he had to carry 60kg as was giving away 8kg to all of his prominent rivals.

Morfhis was game coming through late as usual to finish in 4th place, but he was always going to struggle to catch Eoma Eoma who, under Moon Se Young, led from gate to wire to score by three-lengths from Do Kki Blade in 2nd and Jjang Kong in 3rd.

For Eoma Eoma it is now six wins from eight starts and punters and fans alike will be desperately hoping that circumstances will allow he and Morfhis – along with the likes of East Jet – to clash at level weights for a big prize at some point this year.

At Busan, Blue Chipper was making his return to racing for the first time since running 3rd in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

It wasn’t to be for the now six-year-old who missed all of his five-year-old season after getting travel sickness on the way to the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Blue Chipper led out of the gate in the Mile-long Busan feature, which like the races at Seoul, was being contested for reduced prize-money, but started to tread water once they entered the home straight.

Mr. Afleet, trained by Peter Wolsley and ridden by Seo Seung-un, went on to win the race by four-lengths from Core Blade.

For Blue Chipper, who missed his planned final gallop earlier in the week due to heavy rain, a mile was always going to be a tough ask first up and so long as he pulls up without any issues, perhaps little should be read into his performance. There will hopefully be bigger things to come for him later in the year.

Heungbaragi, Heat Yegam Claim Juvenile Wins / Racing To Continue Under Raised Distancing Levels

This year’s juvenile crop got a rare opportunity to run for a big prize at both Seoul and Busan on Sunday with the Jeju Governor’s Cup prize split into two heats and run as what would have been the second leg of the Juvenile Series, both of them over 1200M.

At Busan there were only eight runners but still plenty of intrigue as Winner’s Man and Heat Yegam put their 100% records on the line. While Winner’s Man was favourite, it was Heat Yegam, under You Hyun-myung, who prevailed, leading gate-to-wire for a four-length victory. Winner’s Man was 2nd with Good Socks a further nine-lengths in arrears in 3rd.

Heat Yegam [Take Charge Indy – Desert Heat (Mr. Prospector)] is from the first of what will ultimately be three Korean crops by Take Charge Indy. He’s the third foal from his dam to race in Korea – the other two have both won races but Heat Yegam looks significantly better than either of them.

Up at Seoul the equivalent race attracted a full field of fourteen, including the first five home in August’s Rookie Stakes. Choegangyeongcheon, who only debuted the day before the Rookie, was sent off slight favourite but reared in the gates prior to the start and while passed fit to run, was never a factor.

Instead it was Rookie winner Heungbaragi who made light work of the widest draw to hit the front early and run on for an eye-catching two-and-a-half length win. Super Champion came home in 2nd place with the filly Jedi in 3rd.

Heungbaragi [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] moves on to three wins from three starts. He is the first foal out of his dam, who did her racing in Korea. He could well be a career-defining horse for veteran jockey Lee Joon-chel.

With Busan having joined Seoul under “Level 2” social distancing rules, both tracks were devoid of spectators over the weekend. Only Jeju Racecourse and four provincial OTBs were able to accept a limited number of customers and accordingly, with the exception of the juvenile races, there was reduced stakes money all around (and horses will not be penalized by the handicapper for their successes or otherwise).

It was feared that the government may raise the level to 2 for the entire country on Sunday afternoon but instead they settled on maintaining the Seoul and Busan levels while raising the rest of the country to 1.5. This means that weekend racing can continue but there will be changes.

Only Jeju will race on Friday while Seoul and Busan will both race – with truncated cards – on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Seoul will conduct its card first with Busan immediately following while this will be done in reverse on Sunday. Races will continue to be run for reduced Stake money. The only places which will be open for spectators and betting are the Jeju Racecourse and the Daegu and Daejeon Off-Course Betting centres. Attendance at all three will be limited to 20% of capacity.

Dia Road Dethrones Silver Wolf in Ttukseom While Alan Munro Lands 1st Korean Stakes Win on East Jet in SROA Trophy

Dia Road firmly established herself at the top of the filly and mare division by taking out the Ttukseom Cup (KOR G2) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon and in doing so, beat perennial champion Silver Wolf for the second consecutive time. One race later, British jockey Alan Munro recorded his first Korean Stakes race victory when guiding East Jet to a smart victory in the Seoul Racehorse Owners’ Association (KOR G3).

Coming into the Ttukseom Cup, the first leg of the Queens’ Tour, Dia Road [Captain Coltish – Gieongnal Geunal (Menifee)] had won seven of her eight prior races, including that meeting with stablemate Silver Wolf in the Donga Ilbo Cup prior to the shutdown earlier this year when she had a 5kg weight advantage.

At level weights this time, Dia Road was slowly out of the gates but by the end of the back straight, jockey Kim Yong-geun had threaded a way through the field and was up just behind the leaders. She struck the front at the top of the home straight and powered away from the rest to record a six-length win from early pacesetter Raon First and closer Ice Marine. Silver Wolf, who took a long time to find space for a run, came home 5th.

If all goes to plan – and that is a big “if” with Korean racing in an uncertain position due to the recent COVID-19 resurgence, the four-year-old Dia Road and the eight-year-old Silver Wolf will most likely meet again in the final two legs of the Queens’ Tour – of which Silver Wolf is already a two-time winner – in the autumn.

The SROA Trophy (KOR G3) brought back together some of the nation’s top sprinters including the first five home in last month’s SBS Sports Sprint. Most pre-race attention focused on the young up and comer Eoma Eoma who after three straight wins, had suffered her first career defeat when a gutsy 3rd in the SBS Sports Sprint a month ago.

Despite a much better draw, this time Eoma Eoma had to settle for 2nd place as East Jet [Strike Again – Lend (Coronado’s Quest)], the only other three-year-old in the race, made short work of a wide draw to get right on pace with the leaders and then proved too strong in the straight, holding off Eoma Eoma by just under a length. SBS Sports Sprint winner Morfhis produced his customary late charge but had to settle for 3rd.

First Korean Stakes winner for Alan Munro (Pic:KRA)

East Jet was ridden by Alan Munro, who was recording his first Koream Stakes race victory. Munro, who only returned earlier this month from a broken wrist suffered prior to the KRA Cup Mile has now ridden 67 winners from 570 rides in the country since debuting in February 2019.

Tiz Plan Denies Cheongdam Dokki In Busan Mayor’s Cup

Tiz Plan ground down Cheongdam Dokki in a seesaw stretch duel to win the Busan Mayor’s Cup on Sunday afternoon, sealing his first Group level victory and denying Cheongdam Dokki a second sweep of the Korean Stayers’ Series.

Whereas in the first two legs of the Series, the Herald Business and YTN Cups at Seoul, Cheongdam Dokki had simply run away from his rivals and put both races to bed before his , this time jockey Johan Victoire, with a furlong less to worry about, kept Tiz Plan much handier in the early stages and while Cheongdam Dokki did lead, at no time did the gap look insurmountable.

Leading by just over a length at the top of stretch, Cheongdam Dokki was reeled in by Tiz Plan and the two went nose to nose. Dokki briefly regained the upper hand before a final effort from Tiz Plan saw the younger horse draw level once more and finally pull away to win by a length and a half. As usual, Shamrocker came home in 3rd place.

Tiz Plan [Tiznow – Amusing Plan (Pleasantly Perfect)] was bred by Three Chimneys Farm and arrived in Korea as a two-year-old in 2017. His win was his tenth from twenty starts.

For trainer Park Jae-woo, who gained his license in 2011, it was a first Group race victory. Jockey Johan Victoire was winning this race for the second year in a row having been successful on Dolkong a year ago. Victoire also won the G3 SBS Sports Sprint last month.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic preventing any wagering from taking place in Korea and with the Korea Cup accordingly not being run this year, the racing calendar remains somewhat up in the air. However, it is possible that Tiz Plan and Cheongdam Dokki could meet again in the KRA Cup Classic at 2000M in early October.

Touch Star Man Lands Triple Crown Opener At Busan

Touch Star Man struck the front in the final furlong and held off all-comers to win the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the 2020 Korean Triple Crown, at Busan this afternoon.

One major contender had already fallen by the wayside earlier in the week when it emerged that Breeders’ Cup winner Roller Blade didn’t have the correct paperwork in order to enter. Another had to drop out ten minutes before the race when Determination reared up when parading and dislodging Alan Munro who was taken to hospital for x-rays on a suspected broken wrist (unfortunately this was subsequently confirmed).

That left Save The World as the leading contender but just as he had done in the Breeders’ Cup last December, the Menifee colt was slow out of the gates and was playing catch-up from the start.

That left outsider Golden Winner showing the way early with Thunder King and K N Road for company while Touch Star Man settled at the front of midfield. The former two would quickly capitulate in the home straight, but K N Road stuck gamely to his task as Touch Star Man and Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup winner Doctor Carson emerged as the main challengers.

Ultimately jockey Jung Do-yun would find a little bit more from Touch Star Man who went on to win by a length from K N Road with Doctor Carson a further three-lengths in arrears. Despite his dreadful start, Save The World ran a big race coming home in 4th.

Touch Star Man is by Testa Matta and out of Useung Touch (by Menifee). Useung Touch herself runner-up in the Korean Derby in 2011.

For jockey Jung Do-yun, the victory was his first in a Group race. For trainer Kim Young-kwan it was his fourth in this race alone following successes with Sangseung Ilro in 2009, Power Blade in 2016 and Divide Wind in 2018. Power Blade would, of course, go on to sweep all three legs of the Triple Crown.

The next leg of the Triple Crown is the Korean Derby which is currently scheduled for Sunday August 2nd over 1800M at Seoul.

Roller Blade Takes Clean Sweep In Juvenile Series

Roller Blade kept out of trouble in a wet and wild Breeders’ Cup (KOR G2) at Busan Racecourse, emerging strongly up the rail to become Korea’s Champion Juvenile of 2019.

Roller Blade had previously won both of Seoul’s preliminary legs of the Juvenile Series and therefore completed a clean sweep with his Busan success. Drawn on the inside, the Officer colt kept out of trouble and stayed on the rail to win by two and a half lengths from K N Road on the line.

Save The World had won Busan’t first two legs of the Series and with home advantage was sent off as pre-race favourite. From a wide draw though, he missed the start and scarcely looked a factor. Run of the race though perhaps came from Determination, who overcame a heavy bump in the early stages and then a very wide stretch run, to finish strongly for 3rd.

So Roller Blade is Champion juvenile and the crop – with the addition of Doctor Carson and Raon First, who were very impressive in winning other valuable two-year-old races last week, looks in a good way heading towards the Triple Crown trail next year.

Full recap of the series to follow on the KRA International Facebook page

Silver Wolf Shows Her Superiority in KNN Cup

It always threatened to be a mismatch and that’s how it turned out as Silver Wolf once more asserted her dominance over the filly and mare ranks with a dismissively easy victory in the KNN Cup at Busan on Sunday afternoon.

The seven-year-old Aussie-bred mare kept her perfect record for 2019 intact by claiming the second leg of the Queens’ Tour, having already won the Ttukseom Cup and assuring herself of a second victory in the series with one race still to come.

In truth no other result was likely. With a local rating of 125, a full 32 higher than next best Sky Bay, if it had been a handicap, Silver Wolf would have put the rest of the field twelve points out of the scale.

Ultimately it was Sky Bay who put up the best fight, as last year’s Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup winner led from the gate and into the home straight.

But Sky Bay could do nothing as Yoo Seung-wan and Silver Wolf, who had sat comfortably in the middle of the pack throughout the early stages of the race, loomed up on the outside and cruised on by with a furlong to go for a four-length win on the line.

Silver Wolf has been conservatively campaigned for four wins from four  this year although she has only faced males on one occasion – when she comfortably dispatched them in the Seoul Owners Association Trophy at odds of 9/1.

Silver Wolf’s win moves her on to sixteen wins from thirty-two lifetime starts, ten of them in listed or graded company. She has now won well in excess of US$2.5Million and sits behind only Triple Nine and Power Blade in the list of all-time money winners in Korea.

Come October, we will most likely see Silver Wolf back at Busan to contest the final leg of the Queens’ Tour, the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup over 2000M and provided she avoids any setbacks in the meantime, she will surely win that too.

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (July 6)

Saturday sees 10 races at Seoul with the first summer schedule of the year in the capital. The 1st race is at 14:30 and the last at 21:00:

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Twilight at Seoul

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

A modest maiden to begin with. A couple have shown promise so far and (6) SINBU has as good a chance as any of making his breakthrough. He has disappointed punters before but if he can get to the lead, this could be his day. (4) NEOSEONG BYOKROK comes in off two 3rd places and a 4th from his latest three outings and he too should be there or thereabout. An apprentice jockey takes off some weight today and that could make the difference. (11) RAON JOY was a much improved 3rd last start and can build on that despite today’s draw not being ideal. (10) RED SUN is a half-brother to the very good Royal Ruby and didn’t do too much wrong on debut over 1200M a month ago. (8) STUNNING AGAIN looks best of the rest.

Selections (4) Neoseong Byokrok (6) Sinbu (10) Red Sun (11) Raon Joy
Next Best 8, 2
Fast Start 1, 5, 6, 10

Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

Another maiden with not a whole lot of depth. (4) VALLEY QUEEN was away well last time and while she ended up in 3rd place, showed enough to suggest she has a win in her. She’s well drawn to lead again and if she does, she can go all the way this time. (9) SILVER DRAGON reacted badly to a bump coming out of the gate on debut back at the end of April. Top jockey Kim Yong-geun stays aboard for her return and improvement looks possible today. (3) KOREA DAEJANGBU has been knocking on the door of the places across six attempts so far. He was slow away last start so if he fixes that he should be looking at a best finish to date today. (12) KINGLY struggled over 1200M last start but could be better back at the minimum today. (2) JEONGDONG SARANG looks best of the rest.

Selections (4) Valley Queen (9) Silver Dragon (3) Korea Daejangbu (12) Kingly
Next Best 2, 6
Fast Start 1, 4, 12

Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million

A small field of maidens tackling the 1300M. It’s been a challenging couple of months for Simon Foster but a winner last week suggests some light at the end of the tunnel and (5) COILRO can make it a bit brighter with victory here. He got a heavy bump at the start last time when he finished 4th, but with a clean start today and with Alan Munro piloting, he has a big chance. The main danger is (2) COMPLETE MOTION. He was 3rd – albeit well beaten by a very good winner who’s already gone on to score at a higher level – last start at this distance and can build on that here. (8) TOUR DIA improved to a career-best 3rd last start and can continue to progress here under an in-form apprentice jockey. (6) DAEGIRI, up in trip for the first time, looks best of the rest.

Selections (5) Coilro (2) Complete Motion (8) Tour Dia (6) Daegiri
Next Best 1
Fast Start 3

Race 4: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(2) FLYING BULLET made all to comfortably get her maiden win over this distance last start. She’s up in class today but well drawn to get to the front early once more and under a very light weight, has strong claims to repeat. (6) CRAZY Q was a more surprising maiden winner on her latest outing and perhaps has a bit more to find but can still be competitive. (1) BANJIUI HAMSEONG had a poor day at the office last start but was in decent form prior to that and is worth another go today. (7) NAEGA KKEUTPANWANG and (3) HUIMANG STAR came home 3rd and 4th respectively with just half a length between them when they raced each other at class and distance on June 8th and both should be aiming for the places here. (5) WINT SEVEN ran a promising 5th last time out at 1200M, with the margins narrow. He ran on strongly and the extra half furlong today can be in his favour.

Selections (2) Flying Bullet (3) Huimang Star (1) Banjiui Hamseong (5) Wint Seven
Next Best 7, 6
Fast Start 1, 3, 4

Race 5: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(8) ROLLER BLADE won the first juvenile race of the year three weeks ago in style. For his second assignment, he is up in class, distance and is taking on older horses already. But the manner of his victory suggest he will be able to take all three in his stride and win again against a less than intimidating set of rivals. (7) PRIME QUEEN only managed (more…)

Clear Geom Shocks Favourites In Gyeonggi Governor’s / Burui Gori Steps up To Take Sports Chosun

The upsets keep on coming in the three-year-old division this year. Just a week after Rock Choice ran out the 20/1 winner of the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown, it was the turn of the fillies in the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup. And while Oaks winner Deep Mind and previously unbeaten Dia Road dominated the market, it was 16/1 outsider Clear Geom, who took the spoils.

Deep Mind ran out an impressive eight-length winner in the Oaks last month and was sent out as a slighly better than even-money favourite for the 2000M Group 3 (Korean) test. As she did in the Oaks, she went straight to the lead but this time found herself beaten early, her race run by the top of the home straight. That left Dia Road, who had been stalking the leader since the start, in firm command.

Dia Road looked a surefire winner a furlong out, but that was to reckon without Clear Geom, who under Moon Se Young launched a late charge down the outside to steal the honours by half a length on the line. An even later arrival on the scene was Miss Fact, in 3rd.

Clear Geom [Clear Attempt – Kwaegeom (War Zone)] was racing for the seventh time, having won two of her previous six but was yet to score at higher than class 5. She was ridden for the first time by Moon Se Young, who registered his third Group success in just over a month, to add to the Korean Derby on Wonderful Fly and the YTN Cup on Moonhak Chief. For trainer Kim Soon-Keun it was a second Group winner – Moonhak Chief was his first in a seventeen-year career.

One race earlier, Burui Gori [Afleet Again – Union Belle (Dixie Union)] continued to burnish his credentials when taking out a competitive renewal of the Sports Chosun Cup. While restricted to horses with a rating of 80 or less, the Listed event attracted a solid field which made for an attractive betting contest and an even more attractive race.

Ultimately, Burui Gori’s stretch drive proved too strong as he swept by Choinma and held off the challenge of slight favourite Shark Daejanggeun, to win by a length and a half under jockey Yoo Seung-wan.

Burui Gori moves on to five wins from eleven starts and puts him into the frame for some of the bigger races later in the year – the victory means he enters Seoul’s President’s Cup qualification table in 10th place. He looks to be on an upward trajectory.

That points race is currently led by Global Chukje and Wonderful Fly, Cup Mile and Derby winners respectively. But with no standout emerging from the three-year-old crop, we could be in for a fascinaiting summer and autumn.