Racing Reviews

Minister’s Cup Sunday: 2018 Korean Triple Crown Final Leg – Race-By-Race Preview (June 17)

Sunday sees the final leg of the 2018 Korean Triple Crown and while there is no clean-sweep on the line in the Minister’s Cup at Seoul Racecourse, there is still plenty of anticipation for what should be a very good race. Derby winner Ecton Blade heads the field for what is the feature on an 11 race card at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00. At Busan, there are 6 races from 12:40 to 17:10.

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Ecton Blade & Franco Da Silva won the Derby and go again in the Minister’s Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Derby 2nd and 3rd place-getters Mask and Choinma return for another crack with the extra distance possibly to Mask’s advantage. World Sun, who got shut out in the home straight in the Derby will also take his chance again. Cup Mile winner Divide Wind suffered a setback after his 4th place in the Derby and stays at home so another stablemate of Ecton Blade’s, Captain Force, gets an opportunity. If he were to win, it would mean trainer Kim Young Kwan had won all three legs of the Triple Crown with three different horses.

Franco Da Silva keeps the ride on Ecton Blade and there is further foreign interest with Australian trainer Peter Wolsley saddling Cheonnyeonui Gang while Irish jockey Fergus Sweeney gets his first taste of racing at Seoul aboard Hiddden Champ.

Previews of all Seoul races are below (with horse by horse for the Minister’s Cup). Selections for Busan at the bottom:

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maiden fillies to begin with and while it’s a small field, plenty have hopes. (3) STRONG LIGHT was 4th at the distance in a marginally stiffer contest than this a month ago and should get on pace early. Another good starter is (4) HUIMANG STAR, who drops back in trip after recent good efforts at 1300M and should be competitive. (5) BODEURAM has a 2nd place to her name at this distance and returns following ten weeks off. She trialled nicely enough a couple of weeks ago and should be in the hunt. (2) STEEL RUN and (6) ALEXANDROS not without hope either.

Selections (4) Huimang Star (3) Strong Light (5) Bodeuram (6) Alexandros
Next Best 2
Fast Start 2, 3, 4

Race 2: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(8) GLOBAL KINGDOM returned from six months out on May 12th looking much better than the horse who ran twice without distinction last autumn. He won his comeback by three lengths and steps up in both class and distance today. Neither should be a problem for him. (3) CAMP TOUCH was an improved 5th last time and can compete here while the slight drop back in trip may benefit (1) DURGA. The recent form of (4) SKY MARINE and (5) CONKER may not exactly impress but they find themselves in slightly weaker company today and both could improve.

Selections (8) Global Kingdom (3) Camp Touch (5) Conker (1) Durga
Next Best 4, 6
Fast Start 3, 5, 8

Race 3: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(4) JANGSAN JEGUK may have finished a cool seventeen lengths behind winner Simcheong Sadal when 2nd to the surprisingly convincing winner at class and distance four weeks ago but that performance, in what was his first race since Christmas Eve, was a good one and he can go one better today. (2) SKY DOLPUNG enters off back to back 3rd place finishes in two races since being promoted to this class and a repeat should be a minimum target here. (8) CHEONHA HYEONGGUK comes in having been beaten half a length into 2nd on May 19th. He should be on pace early along with (10) SPEED YEONGUNG and both have a chance of staying on. (3) CHEONWANG BYEOL looks best of the rest.

Selections (4) Jangsan Jeguk (2) Sky Dolpung (8) Cheonha Hyeongguk (10) Speed Yeongung
Next Best 3, 1
Fast Start 8, 10

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

There was a full seven months between (3) PALDO DAEJANG’s 3rd place on debut last October and her maiden win three weeks ago. She made all to score by four-lengths over 1000M and while she’s up in class and distance today, she may well get an uncontested lead here and can win again. Best chance of stopping her lies with (6) HANYANG GONGJU, who didn’t run well when favourite on her first try at this level at the end of April but has shown ability and can be given another chance today. (2) NILUI BADA and (4) RAON MIRACLE came home 3rd and 6th at class and distance on May 20th. The latter (more…)

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Doraonpogyeongseon Seals Second SBS Sports Sprint Win / Cheongsu Yeogeol Claims Ttukseom Cup

Doraonpogyeongseon produced a thundering late run to win the SBS Sports Sprint for the 2nd year running at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday. The five-year-old gelding saw off a field studded with some of the country’s top sprinters to win by a length.

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Trained at Busan by Min Jang Gi, Doraonpogyeongseon seems to love racing at Seoul. After his win in this race last year, he returned to the capital in September to run a huge 3rd in the Korea Sprint. A repeat attempt on that race, the final leg of the Sprint Series is surely inevitable.

Having finished 3rd in the 1st leg of the series, the Busan Ilbo Cup last month, Doraonpogyeongseon was duly sent off as third-favourite in the betting market behind champion mare and winner of that 1st leg Silver Wolf, second-favourite behind the Kim Young Kwan trained Today, a winner of 10 of his 12 prior starts and running in Stakes company for the first time.

Silver Wolf was never in contention. The wide draw wasn’t supposed to be a problem but under Kim Dong Soo, who had successfully navigated a way through traffic in the Busan Ilbo, she found herself at the back of the sixteen-strong field on the turn and had to go very wide to find a run in the straight. She could only make it up to 6th. Doraonpogyeongseon, on the other hand, coming out of gate 2 was able to settle in on the fence just behind the early speed of which Today was a big part.

Main pace-setters Indian Star and Perdido Pomeroy weakened early in the straight leaving Choegang Schiller in front with a furlong to go. It looked as though Today would be the track-record holder’s primary challenger until Doraonpogyeongseon’s late show. Final Boss came with a big run for 4th.

Doraonpogyeongseon [Kantharos – Smartybegone (Smarty Jones)] was a $50,000 purchase form the OBS two-year-old sales at Ocala in 2015. He’s won 9 of his 22 starts and is approaching $1Million in prize-money. Trainer Min Jang Gi was winning a Stakes race for the third time while for jockey Kim Cheol Ho, a revelation since transferring to Busan at the start of this year, it was his first success in a principle race.

The Ttukseom Cup, while more valuable than the SBS Sports Sprint, had been overshadowed by the other race in the build-up. That was partly because it was expected to end with a comfortable winner. It did, but not the one that was expected.

Haeya, runner-up last year was sent off as the prohibitive favourite but scarcely featured as Cheongsu Yeogeol, a three-year-old who had only raced six times previously, struck the front a furlong from home and ran on to win by three-lengths under a delighted Moon Se Young. Busan-trained pair Damyang Hwanho and Gold Blue were 2nd and 3rd with Haeya only managing 8th and the well-backed Hi Sexy even further back in 13th.

Cheongsu Yeogeol [Run Away And Hide – Fan Appeal (Lear Fan)] cost just $8500 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2016.

Cheongdam Dokki Strolls Home In YTN Cup

It was easy for Cheongdam Dokki. He confirmed his position as Seoul’s best horse by beating Clean Up Joy by five-lengths to win the YTN Cup at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

There was general agreement before the race that only a mistake by Cheongdam Dokki, a restrictive favourite, could see him lose and that if that happened, Clean Up Joy would be the only one equipped to take advantage. In the end, it was Clean Up Joy who made the mistake. Never a fluent starter, the 7-year-old made his customary leap as the gates opened and was even slower into stride than usual, making a tall order next to impossible. Cheongdam Dokki meanwhile, who had as usual been a handful in the parade ring, glided regally out of the barrier and into a lead he was never in danger of giving up.

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So easy for Cheongdam Dokki in the YTN Cup (Pic: KRA)

Under Park Tae Jong, Clean Up Joy ran his usual race, looping the field in the back-straight to move into 2nd place in the home turn. That he had enough in him to comfortably see off stablemate Shamrocker, speaks volumes about what a good horse Clean Up Joy is. But he’s not as good as Cheongdam Dokki. Right now in Seoul, nothing is.

For Cheongdam Dokki, it was a 10th career win on his 15th start. The time was slower than his win at the same distance in the Herald Business last month but he looked utterly within himself. Next stop is scheduled to be the concluding leg of the “Stayers’ Series”, the Busan Mayor’s Cup, on the south coast, on July 1st. Three Busan horses beat Cheongdam Dokki in the Grand Prix last December – Power Blade (who has the same owner), Triple Nine and Dongbang Daero. That was at 2300M. It would be a brave punter who takes on Cheongdam Dokki at 1800M. If he overcomes that, a serious attempt at the Korea Cup has to be on agenda.

YTN Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – May 27, 2018

1. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Elusive Gold (Strike The Gold)] – Lim Gi Won – 1.1, 1.0
2. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeax Danseur)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.2
3. Shamrocker (USA) [Dublin – Portera (Lemon Drop Kid)] – Jang Chu Youl – 1.5
Distances: 5 lengths / 4 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Wonder Bolt (USA) 5. Wild Thunder (KOR) 6. Moonhak Chief (USA) 7. Places To Go (USA) 8. Miso Wangja (USA) 9. Winner Red (USA) 10. Areumdaundonghaeng (USA) 11. Chanma (KOR) 12. Cheonjeok (USA)

Round-up:

BUSAN SUNDAY

At Busan, Sun Day (Ingrandire) made it three wins from four starts in race 3. She’s half-sister to stablemate Today (Drosselmeyer) through their dam Gone Goodbye. Today has won ten of his twelve outings to date and is due to travel to Seoul to run in the SBS Sprint next Sunday. In Busan’s Sunday feature, Dynamic Dash (Pleasantly Perfect) returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in just over two years, outstaying a strong class 1 field over 2000M.

SEOUL SATURDAY

Manoel Nunes rode his first winner since taking up a full-time license in Korea. The Brazilian rider, three times champion in Singapore guided Two Kay (Biwa Shinseiki) to an all the way victory in race 11. Two Kay, an older half-brother of Korean Derby 3rd place-getter Choinma, was winning for the fifth time in eighteen starts. Two Kay would turn out to be the final winner saddled by trainer Ha Jae Heung, who retired after a 35-year career on Sunday.

BUSAN FRIDAY 

It was left to the track’s foreign grooms and in some cases trainers themselves to saddle and lead up their horses as local stable staff went on strike. Open The Sky (Sky Mesa), 7th in last year’s Korea Sprint returned for the first time since that September day in Seoul. Though favourite, the three-year-old, with five wins from nine prior starts, would have to settle for 2nd as fellow Kim Young Kwan trainee Uju Star (Officer), took the win. Both Peter Wolsley and Bart Rice played their part in keeping the show on the road, carrying out parade ring duty with their horses and both were rewarded with winners; Rice combining with jockey Fergus Sweeney as the promising Geumsuryeong (Vicar) moved on to three wins from five in race 9.

COMING UP NEXT WEEKEND

It’s mini International Week in Seoul with a string of Exchange races, but the big action comes in the form of a pair of big group races on Sunday afternoon:

SBS Sports Sprint: The 2nd leg of the Sprint Series and having beaten Power Blade in the 1st leg at Busan last month, Silver Wolf will look to follow up with a win on her home track. Power Blade won’t travel but a strong Busan continegent will with Today, Perdido Pomeroy and last year’s winner Doraonpogyeongseon expected to make the trip.

Ttukseom Cup: The 1st leg of the Queens’ Tour for fillies and mares aged 5-year-old or younger. Silver Wolf won this series last year but is now too old so Haeya, who spent most of 2017 chasing her, will have a real chance to get some big wins on the board.

Ecton Blade & Franco Da Silva Win The 2018 Korean Derby

Ecton Blade (Ecton Park) won the 2018 Korean Derby at Seoul Racecourse Park on Sunday afternoon.

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Pics by Ross Holburt

How they went:

1.  Ecton Blade – Settled prominently behind Hiddden Champ and had things his own way. Once he struck the front he never looked like being beaten

2. Mask – Really good performance, finishing well down the outside for a fine 2nd. He’ll be a danger in the Minister’s Cup too.

3. Choinma – Made for two Seoul horses in the top three. Raced in midfield and kept to the rail in the straight holding off Divide Wind by a neck.

4. Divide Wind – Began poorly and never looked settled. Clearly considered the second string from his stable despite his KRA Cup Mile win. Jockey – a very good jockey – slightly fortunate to only get a three-day suspension for the incident which saw World Sun cut-off in the home straight.

5. World Sun – Settled at the back as expected but just as in the KRA Cup Mile got a bad trip. Had the door slammed shut by Divide Wind as he was trying to find a run in the home straight. Would never have got to the winner though.

6. Hiddden Champ – Looked very coltish in the parade ring and sweated up badly on the way to the gate. Went to the lead as expected but never looked truly settled and faded when put under pressure.

7. Fire Wind – Close to the pace in the early part of the race but found the competition too stiff at the business end of the race. All being well she should be back for the Oaks.

8. Clean Up Teukgeup – Made little impression throughout.

9. Icheon Ssal – Last all the way around until passing a tiring Let’s Yeongcheon in the closing stages.

10. Let’s Yeongcheon – Tried to keep up early but was under pressure early on and weakened to last before the final furlong.

Sunday Seoul & Busan: Power Blade vs Silver Wolf – Race-By-Race Preview (April 29)

The road to the Korea Sprint begins at Busan on Sunday and the Sprint Series gets underway with a heavyweight clash as Grand Prix Stakes winner Power Blade faces Queens’ Tour champion Silver Wolf over 1200M in the Busan Ilbo Cup. There are 6 races at Busan from 12:40 to 17:05 and 11 at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00.

Power Blade Owners

Power Blade (Pic: KRA)

After spending the first part of 2017 in Dubai where he placed in Group 2 company, Power Blade ran 2nd to Japan’s Graceful Leap in the Korea Sprint. He went on to finish the year in style, winning a memorable Grand Prix Stakes over the longest race distance in Korea, 2300M, in December.

Although he skipped Dubai this year, the Busan Ilbo is his first start of 2018 but he went through trials in March and earlier this month, looking in good shape and he will be very hard to beat on Sunday.

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Silver Wolf (Pic: KRA)

Entering in good form though is Silver Wolf. The Aussie-bred 6-year-old mare by Orotorio, was 5th in the Korean Sprint and finished back down the track in the Grand Prix but has been spectacular in everything else though. She made a clean sweep of the Queens’ Tour series last year, including two wins at Busan and has begun her year with facile wins in the Donga Ilbo Cup in February and then in a handicap tune-up at this distance a month ago. Both Lee Hyo SIk on Power Blade and Kim Dong Soo on Silver Wolf are likely to employ similar tactics and ride patiently and it could be quite the finish.

There is plenty of other talent in the field too. Success Story and Perdido Pomeroy will likely set a hot early pace and the favourites will have to come past them while the dangerous Doraonpogyeongseon and Morning Daero are there as well.

Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

After getting it all wrong on debut in January, (12) BAEKSAN FORCE was a much improved 2nd over the distance on March 25th. The wide draw shouldn’t matter, and she should have far too much for her rivals here.  It’s just three-year-old fillies here and (4) GONG SAN has made a promising start, especially her 3rd place at 1300M on April 1st. She drops to the minimum distance for the first time today and looks the clear second-favourite. (2) HIN BYEOL and (9) I’M HAPPY have shown some glimpses of ability too while among the five first-timer starters, (10) L CHOICE looks the most progressive for now having won her trial last month.

Selections (12) Baeksan Force (4) Gong San (10) L Choice (2) Hin Byeol
Next Best 9, 1
Fast Start 4, 8, 9, 12

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Six debut-makers and six with at least one start behind them make up this race which is comprised of three-year-old colts and geldings. For the most part, we’re going to favour experience. (7) GANGHWA CHONGGAK and (12) HANSEN VOLT have the most of it with three starts apiece and both have a 3rd place finish to their names as well. Ganghwa Chonggak’s was at this distance while Hansen Volt steps up in trip for the first time and both can go well. (3) HANIL DALBIT was a good 5th on debut all the way back in January, It has been fifteen weeks since we saw him but if he runs the same way he did that day, he should be competitive. (10) MYEONGJIN MAN was a bit disappointing on debut, having won a trial leading up to it. Hopefully he will have come on for the experience and can improve here. We’d best pick one of the newcomers as well and (5) SOMETHING DELIGHT is the standout.

Selections (12) Hansen Volt (7) Ganghwa Chonggak (3) Hanil Dalbit (5) Something Delight
Next Best 10, 2
Fast Start 4, 5, 7

Race 3: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(3) JUNGDONG JIJON has come close on a number of occasions, beaten only by some good horses in the tail end of last year and then running (admittedly a distant) 3rd behind Dokdo Jigi and Chambit on his only start of 2018 so far on April 1st. He surely has a win in him at some point and it could be here. Should he manage to get beaten again then (12) HAMBAK MISO was just a neck behind him in that April 1st race and could overturn the form while both (2) KING POSE and (11) GARA GARA GA are up in class following very useful wins at 1300M and 1200M respectively and should go close here. (4) MONEY ZIF was an also-ran in that April 1st race behind Jungdong Jijon but is worth another chance for a place today.

Selections (3) Jungdong Jijon (11) Gara Gara Ga (2) King Pose (12) Hambak Miso
Next Best 4, 10
Fast Start 6, 7, 8, 10

Race 4: Class 4 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

(1) BLACK WIND come in seeking a hat-trick of wins following consecutive victories at 1000M, the latter of which was at this level. Her only previous try at further than the minimum distance didn’t go well but she looks ready for another go in this all-filly event. (10) BRAVE UP seemed to lose her way a bit at the end of last year but her latest two starts have been very encouraging with a 3rd and a 2nd, the latter at this distance and she could very well be the one to beat. (8) CHOROK JILJU beat three of these on the way to (more…)

Cheongdam Dokki Takes Care Of Business

Cheongdam Dokki eased to victory in the Herald Business Cup on Sunday, dismissing seven rivals, including Clean Up Joy, in the most facile of manners.

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Cheongdam Dokki and Lim Gi Won in the clear (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was only Cheongdam Dokki’s second outing of 2018, having beaten Clean Up Joy and Shamrocker over the same distance in January. That time there had been something of interest in that Shamrocker had taken the favourite on for speed early. Futile, but momentarily interesting. He didn’t do it again and in a race utterly devoid of any tension, Cheongdam Dokki eased to his ninth win on his fourteenth career start. Clean Up Joy and Shamrocker chased him home with Sinjo Daehyeop in 4th.

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Lim Gi Won partnered Cheongdam Dokki for the first time (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Bigger tests surely await although it is hard to imagine anything at Seoul challenging him, certainly up to 2000M. Having taken both the KRA Cup Classic and now Herald Business off Clean Up Joy, he could well add the YTN Cup to his name in late May – Clean Up Joy won that last year too. The Busan Metropolitan Mayor’s Cup could be interesting, as he would likely run into Power Blade – also owned by Kim Byeong Jin. The big target though, must be September’s Korea Cup.

Herald Business Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – April 22, 2018

1. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) [To Honor And Serve – Elusive Gold (Strike The Gold)] – Lim Gi Won – 1.4, 1.1
2. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeux Danseur)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.1
3. Shamrocker (USA) [Dublin – Portera (Lemon Drop Kid)] – Jang Chu Youl – 2.2
Distances: 2.5 lengths / 1.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Sinjo Daehyeop (USA) 5. Wonder Bolt (USA) 6. Cheonjeok (USA) 7. Storng Road (KOR) 8. Space Port (USA)

Triple Nine & Clean Up Joy Are Winners Again at Busan & Seoul

Two of Korea’s most popular horses returned to the winner’s circles at Busan and Seoul yesterday with Triple Nine and Clean Up Joy prevailing in valuable Sunday handicaps.

Three-time President’s Cup winner Triple Nine had put in a strong effort in December’s Grand Prix Stakes, trying to counter early leader Cheongdam Dokki but ultimately finished 3rd behind stablemate and rival Power Blade. Following three months off, he returned to action on Sunday in the 2000M “Road To Group 1” feature on the south coast.

The race attracted a strong line-up and Triple Nine had to work for his win, with You Hyun Myung sitting towards the back of the field as the early pace was set, inevitably, by Success Story. Although he had plenty of traffic to negotiate in the home straight, the gap did open up and Triple Nine, carrying 60kg, ran on nicely to win by two lengths. Buhwarui Banseok, who also ran so well in the Grand Prix, came home in 2nd place ahead of Good Casting who, a disappointing effort over 2200M last month aside, has been a revelation in recent months.

It’s a good start to the season for the now 6-year-old Triple Nine which will likely have a bid an unprecedented fourth President’s Cup and another tilt at the so-far elusive Grand Prix as its ultimate targets.

Clean Up Joy has already won a Grand Prix, having been victorious in 2016’s season finale when he beat Triple Nine by just over a length. Although his 2017 started strongly with three consecutive wins, including in the YTN Cup, he lose his way a little in the second half of the year.

A chastening experience when not looking 100% in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in the summer was followed by 3rd place for Clean Up Joy in the KRA Cup Classic, a race he’d won in each of the two previous seasons as three-year-olds Cheongdam Dokki and New Citadel announced their arrival on the elite scene. He could then only run 7th in the Grand Prix before beginning 2018 with another defeat at the hands of Cheongdam Dokki.

Clean Up joy had a significantly simpler task then Triple Nine, facing only six rivals in Seoul’s “Road To G1” event. Such was his rating superiority that all of them were out of the handicap and accordingly carried 52kg to Clean Up Joy’s 60kg. Under Park Tae Jong, he hit top gear at the two furlong pole and cruised away for a visually impressive seven-length score.

There will be tougher tests to come.