Racing Reviews

Winner’s Man Completes Stayer Sweep

It’s long been known as the “Summer Grand Prix”, and this year’s Busan Mayor’s Cup (1800M KOR-G2) didn’t disappoint as Winner’s Man completed a clean-sweep of the Stayer Series at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, propelling him one step closer to a clash with the internationals in September’s Korea Cup while also confirming a generational change at the elite level of Korean racing.

Despite having won the first two legs of the Stayer Series, the Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-L) and the YTN Cup (2000M KOR-G2), Winner’s Man was only sent off as second-favourite for the nine-furlong Mayor’s Cup as punters backed Grand Prix Stakes winner Haengbok Wangja to avenge his YTN defeat.

As it turned out, the perils of anything but a low draw in a big field over the 1800M at Busan, what with its short run to the first turn, ensnared Haengbok Wangja as following a slightly below par jump from the gate, Haengbok Wangja found himself pushed wide on the first corner and trailing the field. While he would ultimately record the second fastest final furlong time of all of them, it was in vain, and he finished 9th.

Winner’s Man wins the Mayor’s Cup (KRA)

That left double Classic winner and runner-up to Winner’s Man in the 2021 Derby, Hit Yegam, to claim the early lead with Winner’s Man matching him stride for stride. They would remain that way until the home straight when Winner’s Man finally shook off old rival Hit Yegam, who was the colt who beat him to Champion Three-Year-Old honours last year, and Winner’s Man strode away for a three-length win.

The always prominent Simjangui Godong ran on powerfully for 2nd with up and coming four-year-olds Success Macho and King Of The Match in in 3rd and 4th. Hit Yegam, after his early exertions, was 5th.

“I’m really happy” winning trainer Choi Ki-hong told national broadcaster KBS, which screened the race live on their N Sports channel.  “The race played out exactly as we had planned but that was only possible due to the hard work of everyone at the stable who made sure everything was right for Winner’s Man today.”

“(Jockey) Seo Seung-un really played his part too, he gave Winner’s Man the perfect ride. It’s a huge achievement for the horse and for us to win all three races in this series and we’ll make sure to keep Winner’s Man happy and plan carefully for what is to come next”.

Ultimately that could be the Korea Cup (1800M-G3) in Seoul on September 4th with the international race set to return for the first time since 2019. On today’s evidence, Winner’s Man is at least worth a chance against overseas opposition and with Korean-bred runners occupying six of the first seven places in the Mayor’s Cup, there is little to fear, either in the international race or in the imminent resumption of imported racehorses.

The Mayor’s Cup also signaled a confirmation of the changing of the guard. Simjangui Godong was the only horse older then four in the top five and the only three runners aged seven or above, occupied the last three places. Longest shot on the board Super Socks was one of those but he was at least in touch with the field.

That wasn’t the case for Cheongdam Dokki and Blue Chipper. The latter bled for the second time in as many races and while he was a winner as recently as January and Dokki as recently as last autumn, it seems that retirement is the best option for both champions now.

Winner’s Man is now where Cheongdam Dokki and Blue Chipper were when they were four years old. The future is a bright one.

Race Video (English): https://youtu.be/4jRRxWA53Zc

Winner’s Man Jockey Cam: https://youtu.be/t0KB5hLmVhY

Captain Yankee Adds Minister’s Cup to Cup Mile

Captain Yankee produced a late burst of speed to deliver an emphatic win in the Minister’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday, adding to his KRA Cup Mile victory in April and all but confirming his status as Champion Three-Year-Old.

Captain Yankee and Jo In-kwon acknowledge the Seoul Racecourse crowd (Pic: KRA)

Having finished 3rd in the Derby, Captain Yankee was sent off as third in the betting market behind that day’s victor Winner Star while punters also kept faith with Complete Value, the beaten favourite in both the Cup Mile and Derby.

As he had done in both previous Triple Crown races, Seungbusa set out to make all, allowing jockey Jo In-kwon to settle Captain Yankee in midfield and steadily improve as the sixteen-strong field made their way off the back and towards the final turn in the ten-furlong test.

The distance was new for every horse in the race and Seungbusa, who had battled on well for 3rd in the Cup Mile and 2nd in the Derby, this time gave way with just under two-furlongs to run as Complete Value struck the front. His lead would be short-lived though and once Captain Yankee pounced at the furlong pole, there was only going to be one winner.

Flying The Champ, who didn’t run in either of the first two legs of the Triple Crown closed strongly for 2nd, three-lengths behind the winner, while Complete Value held on for 3rd ahead of Saryeoni First. The 94/1 outsider appeared on the scene from nowhere having been last for most of race but posted a final furlong time quicker than any other runner including the winner. Winner Star was never a factor and finished in 7th.

Captain Yankee is by Old Fashioned, who stands privately in Korea at Challenger Farm. He is out of Can’t Rezist (by Action This Day) and was bred by Lee Kwang-lim. The Minister’s Cup was his seventh race start and his fourth career win.

The Minister’s Cup win saw Captain Yankee’s new rating stand provisionally at 80 which will mean he will be able to race at least once at class 2 level. That’s the same as Touch Star Man was awarded following his Minister’s Cup win in 2000M and they both had similar form coming into the race.

With the Triple Crown series coming to an end, so too do Graded races restricted to three-year-olds. A return to Seoul for November’s President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) is the probable long-term target for Captain Yankee.

Next Sunday, the Sprint Series continues with Eoma Eoma set to return in the SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3) at Seoul Racecourse. Raon The Fighter is not expected to run, but Black Musk, who came over the top to win the SROA Chairman’s Sprint last month, as well as East Jet and 2020 winner Morfhis are all in line for starts.

Golden Power Sweeps Filly Triple Crown while Raon First Dominates Ttukseom Cup

Raon First asserted her authority atop the filly and mare ranks at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday with a dismissively easy win in the Ttukseom Cup (1400M KOR-G2) and in doing so, moved closer to what seems an inevitable victory in the Queens’ Tour. A potential new foe has appeared, however, as a day earlier on the same track Golden Power completed a clean sweep of the filly Triple Crown with a similarly comprehensive triumph in the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup (2000M KOR-G3).

Golden Power and Choi Si-dae return to scale (Pic: KRA)

Returned to its early spot on the calendar, the filly Triple Crown – or “Triple Tiara” as it is known locally – was a three-way affair throughout the series between the only fillies who really looked up to the task at this stage; Golden Power, who secured narrow wins in the Luna Stakes (1600M KOR-L) and the Korean Oaks (1800M KOR-G3), and rivals Raon The Spurt and Chamjoeun Chingu, who filled out the placings in both those races.

Mindful of the extended trip, punters couldn’t split Golden Power and Raon The Spurt, the latter having finished off very well in the Oaks and sent them off as practically co-favourites in Saturday afternoon’s Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup.

Outsider Lunar Silver bounded out of the gate and led for most of the way around but as they got down to business in what was unchartered territory distance-wise for the entire field in the home straight, the usual suspects amassed at the front.

Then Golden Power took control. She struck the front just inside the final furlong and eased clear to score by four-lengths on the line from Raon The Spurt in 2nd with the fast finishing Eunseong Winner edging out Chamjoeun Chingu for 3rd.

Golden Power is by Afleet Express and is out of Cherokee Sheikh (by Cherokee Run). Owned and bred by Song Boing-chul, she is trained by Kwon Sung-ju at Busan and was ridden in all three legs of the filly Triple Crown, by Choi Si-dae. She now has five wins from ten starts.

A likely target next year for Golden Power is the Queens’ Tour and potential meeting, with Raon First, who on Sunday all but wrapped up victory in this year’s series with two races to spare by winning the Ttukseom Cup as easy as her triumph in the Segye Ilbo.

Raon First was an easy winner of the Ttukseom Cup (Pic: KRA)

Sent off as an almost un-bettable favourite in the local market, Raon First settled in 2nd place early with jockey Choi Si-dae content to allow second-favourite Wish Me, who was drawn much better, to set the pace. That’s how it remained until the home straight and once Choi asked for an effort, Raon First’s superior acceleration took her to the lead and away from the field.

Wish Me held on for a battling 2nd place four-lengths behind the winner, while Lady Kelly also stayed on well for 3rd.

Raon First is by Musket Man and is out of Pink Candy (by Southern Image). She was bred by her owner Son Chun-soo and is trained by Park Jong-kon at Seoul, who trains the majority of the “Raon” horses. The Ttukseom Cup was Raon First’s eleventh win from eighteen starts.

The third leg of the Queens’ Tour is the KNN Cup (1600M KOR-G3) which will be run at Busan on Sunday July 17th. The series then goes on hiatus for four months before the concluding race, the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (2000M KOR-G3) on Sunday November 27th, also at Busan. Next weekend the focus returns to the three-year-old colts and the final leg of their Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup (2000M KOR-G2). The winners of the first two-legs, Captain Yankee (KRA Cup Mile) and Winner Star (Korean Derby) are both expected to be in the starting gate at Seoul Racecourse this coming Sunday.

Black Musk Beats Raon The Fighter In Sprint Series 2nd Leg

The unthinkable has happened again. The once unstoppable Raon The Fighter went down to his second consecutive defeat as Black Musk swooped in the final stride to claim victory in the SROA (Seoul Racehorse Owners’ Association) Trophy (1200M KOR-G3), the second leg of the Sprint Series at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

At the very end, Black Musk got up (Pic: KRA)

Raon The Fighter had excuses for his reverse at the hands of Eoma Eoma in the first leg of the Series, the Busan Ilbo Sprint, last month. With that day’s winner currently on the sidelines, Raon The Fighter, who had previously racked up ten consecutive victories, was once more sent of as a hot-favourite among the eleven-strong field.

Just as he did in Busan, the favourite would take a bump coming out of the gate as Raon The Fighter and Black Musk came together, while Hit Yegam, the double-Classic winner from last year, bounded away and into an early lead. As he was in the Busan Ilbo, after that early setback, Raon The Fighter was ridden up hard to join the leader and the two of them hared off around the turn running wide and opening up a four-length lead on the field.

Despite those early exertions, it seemed as though this time Raon The Fighter would not be denied as Hit Yegam gave way approaching the furlong pole, but it quickly became apparent that he needed the line. Morfhis seemed to be the immediate danger, the 2020 SBS Sports Sprint winner barreling down the inside under Johan Victoire. The initially unseen and real danger though was Black Musk.

Leading just one as they entered the home straight, Black Musk went wide and moved through the gears under jockey Yoo Seung-wan. He and Morfhis, on opposite sides of the track, launched their challenge and with Raon The Fighter on the ropes, it was just a matter of whether they would run out of track. Morfhis did run out of track, passing Raon The Fighter a stride after the line. Black Musk though, got there right when it mattered, and came home the 28/1 winner.

Black Musk is a four-year-old American-bred colt by Flat Out and out of Upjumpedthedevil (by Tizdejavu). He was a $10,000 purchase by Rice Horse Stables at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearlings sale before being sold to Korean interests for $35,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales delayed Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in June 2020.

Owned by Kim Han-su and trained by Kim Dong-gyu, Black Musk is now a winner of eight of thirteen starts. For his trainer, it was a second win in this race after Cheonji Storm took the honours in 2018, when the race was restricted to Korean-bred runners only. It was Kim Dong-kyun’s third group success in total with the other one coming with Meni Hero in last November’s Owners’ Cup at Busan – a race over a mile in which Black Musk led, but ultimately finished last. For jockey Yoo Seung-wan, it was a ninth Group race win. Six of those previous ones were on the great mare Silver Wolf.

Morfhis rolled back the years in 3rd while again, Raon The Fighter didn’t really lose much in defeat. At the Busan Ilbo last month, he stumbled coming out of the gate and then ran hard and wide and this time, after a bump, he was ridden very hard to compete with Hit Yegam. Hindsight is a luxury, but both Lee Hyeok on Raon The Fighter and You Hyun-myung on Hit Yegam may feel that the early and prolonged speed duel was mutually destructive.

It could easily have been twelve out of twelve for Raon The Fighter, but with two runner-up finishes, he could still end up winning the series if he can go one better in the final race.

The third and final leg of the Sprint Series is the SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday June 12th. The leading finishers in the series will be expected to take their chance in the International Korea Sprint (1200M-G3) on September 4th. Don’t rule out Raon The Fighter, but don’t rule out Black Musk either.

Golden Power Wins Korean Oaks To Move One Step Away From Tiara Sweep

Golden Power moved to within just one race of sweeping the Filly Triple Crown, as the Luna Stakes winner snared the second jewel in the crown, The Korean Oaks (1800M KOR-G2) at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Golden Power holds off Raon The Spurt to win the Korean Oaks (Pic: KRA)

The fillies who filled out the top three-places in April’s Luna Stakes, ultimately turned it into a three-way affair in the Oaks as well. Chamjoeun Chingu, nailed on the line last month, was sent off as favourite under Moon Se-young and she would set the pace.

Golden Power, after coming from almost last to first in the closing stages of the Luna, was ridden much more forward this time by jockey Choi Si-dae and immediately tracked the leader.

Raon The Spurt, instead of being ridden hard for the lead like she had been in past races, was settled gently from the widest gate by Choi Bum-hyun and gradually made progress up to 3rd.

By the top of the straight, Chamjoeun Chingu and Golden Power had opened a significant lead on the rest and when Golden Power came past her rival with a furlong and a half remaining, the race looked settled. That was to reckon without Raon The Spurt, however, who moved through the gears in the home straight and suddenly the gap was vanishing alarmingly quickly.

The line came in time though with Golden Power still a neck to the good when it mattered, with Chamjoeun Chingu a further two-and-a-half lengths in arrears in 3rd. There were nine-lengths more back to Eunseong Winner in 4th and then a further nine to a thoroughly outclassed rest.

Winning jockey Choi Si-dae felt the opening part of the race – very different from that in the Luna – today was key to the win. “Last time (in the Luna) the start wasn’t satisfactory” he told in-house broadcaster KRBC. “This time she started great, got into a good position and that was the main reason she could win the race today.”

As for her prospects of sweeping all three legs of the “Tiara” as the filly Triple Crown is known, Choi was non-committal but simply stated: “She got better today. Even better than she was last month. I am looking forward to it.”

That final race is over 2000M, and it is hard to imagine Chamjoeun Chingu posing Golden Power too many problems at the extended trip, even on her home track at Seoul. Raon The Spurt’s run was intriguing as for the first time in any of her races, she wasn’t ridden to lead. While the draw may have had a lot to do with that, it paid off and way she finished makes her a fascinating prospect back at Seoul

With regard to the rest, Wonderful Raise was backed into fourth-favourite, but having begun brightly, was on the end of severe interference at the first corner after Chamjoeun Chingu tightened onto Shy Dragon who in turn came together with Wonderful Raise, who had nowhere to go. The latter was shuffled back in the pack and lost interest in racing after that. Moon Se-young, aboard Chamjoeun Chingu was given a four-day suspension.  Wonderful Raise can perhaps therefore have a line drawn through her last place.

Eunseong Winner, though too far back, posted a final furlong time only one-tenth of a second slower than that of Raon The Spurt and she may pose more of a danger at Seoul.

Golden Power is by Afleet Express and is out of Cherokee Sheik (by Cherokee Run). She is owned by her breeder, Son Boing-chul of Winner’s Farm, and is trained by Kwon Sung-ju

The final leg of the Filly Triple Crown is the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup (2000M KOR-G3) which will be run at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday June 4. Next weekend Seoul hosts the twenty-fifth running of the Korean Derby (1800M KOR-G1).

Captain Yankee Swoops To Claim First Leg Of Triple Crown

40/1 chance Captain Yankee swooped late to cut down the favourites and claim the first leg of the 2022 Korean Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile (Korean 2000 Guineas) at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Captain Yankee wins the Cup Mile (Pic: KRA)

With the fancied Aspen Taeyang a late scratching due to a hind leg injury, last year’s Champion Juvenile Complete Value was sent off as hot favourite for the 1600M first jewel, ahead of Winner Star, with Man Of The Year and Seungbusa the only other two in single digits in the markets.

When the race began, Beolmaui Star got the best of the start from gate number one and was joined on the early pace by Man Of The Year and Complete Value with Seungbusa looping across from gate ten to join them. Captain Yankee meanwhile sat in midfield as the front-runners set a fair pace.

The lightly raced Beolmaui Star would quickly weaken while Man Of The Year was always wide and never convincing and as the leaders entered the home straight, his challenge faded, leaving Seungbusa and Complete Value up front alone.

At that point it seemed it would be a duel of stamina between Seungbusa and Complete Value; a battle that only Complete Value could win. He did, seeing off Seungbusa with just over a furlong remaining. Victory seemed a formality but that was to reckon without the long-shot Captain Yankee, who began to rally and then close in on the leading two.

Captain Yankee would ultimately come through the gap between Complete Value and Seungbusa and go on to win by a full two-lengths on the line. Complete Value was 2nd with Seungbusa a further length and a quarter back in 3rd. It was a full eight-lengths back to the fourth placegetter, Unju Hero.

Winning jockey Jo In-kwon told in-house broadcaster KRBC that while he was confident in his horse, it wasn’t plain sailing: “I knew the pace would be very fast, but those leaders were so far ahead at one point that I thought that we would end up too far back and he might give up.”

“He hates kickback so I kept him wide and out of the sand and that gave us more to do, but just when I thought it might be too much, he responded so well and gave me his very best.”

Jo In-kwon is widely considered one of Korea’s most accomplished riders, but this was only his second Group winner since being licensed in 2008. It was his first big race win of any kind since 2012, when he was a fresh-faced rookie, about to go away to do his compulsory national service.

Now a grizzled thirty-five-year-old family man, Jo In-kwon admitted that he was nervous as Captain Yankee closed to victory: “I was very excited in the final furlong, but I tried to keep calm and make sure that we made no mistakes.” They did not, although it must be noted the jockey was deservedly – and perhaps leniently – fined half a million Won for his excessive and unnecessary whip use in the closing stages.

On pulling up, Jo sent a personal message to his young children, which was picked up by the on-board microphone he was carrying. “Yes, that was lucky, wasn’t it?” he laughed, referencing how the onboard “jockey cam” in the race was supposed to be carried by Moon Se-young, before Aspen Taeyang was found lame. Jo In-kwon offered to carry the camera, despite being on a 40/1 chance.

Captain Yankee is by Old Fashioned, who stands privately in Korea at Challenger Farm. He is out of Can’t Rezist (by Action This Day) and was bred by Lee Kwang-lim. The Cup Mile was his sixth race start and his fourth career win.

The second leg of the Triple Crown is the Korean Derby over 1800M at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday May 15th.

Kim Hye Sun Lands A Treble In International Exchanges

Kim Hye-sun is no stranger to setting records, yet at Busan on Sunday afternoon, the jockey they call “Super Peanut” turned heads again, riding the winner in all three of the International Trophy Exchange races at the southern track.

Kim Hye Sun and Burning Party (Pic: KRA)

None were favourite. Things kicked off in race 4, the Selangor Turf Club Trophy. Seungni Magicqueen was sent off as the favourite, but it became apparent she wasn’t traveling smoothly on the turn for home and it was Kim Hye-sun on 4/1 chance Unju Eutteum (by Distorted Humor) who capitalized, going on to score by five-lengths with Seungni Magicqueen finishing in 3rd behind stablemate Alpha Star.

Next up was the China Horse Industry Association over 1400M. Copy That and Franco Da Silva were sent off as odds-on favourites but after showing near the front early, they didn’t threaten, and Ilnyeom Tongcheon (by Old Fashioned) came through under Kim Hye-sun to win by a full four-lengths.

The final race on the program was the Tokyo City Keiba Trophy, which being over 1800M and restricted to fillies and mares, only attracted a field of eight. Among them though, was established class 2 winner Queen Of The World, who was accordingly sent off a slight odds-on favourite.

Queen Of The World dipped when coming out of the gates and while she quickly made her way to the front, she was never convincing. Kim Hye-sun and Burning Party (by Bodemeister) took the lead on the final turn and never relinquished it, coming home three-lengths on front of runner-up Adele Pupil, with Queen Of The World in 3rd.

Having long since ridden the most winners of any female jockey in Korea, as well as being the first woman to ride a Korean Classic winner in the 2017 Oaks, Kim Hye-sun returned to race riding last year, ten months after giving birth to her son, and now lies 3rd in the Busan Jockey’s Premiership. She is a serious contender for the title.

There were also two Trophy races at Seoul.  The Jockey Club of Turkey Trophy was won by favourite Spot Flatter (by Cowbow Cal), who sat handy to the lead under jockey Ham Wan-sik before running on for a commanding three-length win.

The final big race of the day was the Gold Circle (South Africa) Trophy, a filly and mare test over 1800M. While Saryeoni Queen, an established class 2 campaigner, was sent off as favourite, she failed to fire, and it was left to the four-year-olds from last year’s Filly Triple Crown trail to contest the top honours. 

Queens Tour, a 6/1 chance, ran out the winner beating Rubicon by just under a length with Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup winner Eodigana a further five back in 3rd. Queens Tour was a first big race winner for jockey Jo Sang-beom.

English Race Videos:

SLTC Trophy: https://youtu.be/yWvkMl9NOCw

CHIA Trophy: https://youtu.be/XgXpOubFGaE

TCK Trophy: https://youtu.be/tfkvOItVjps

TJK Trophy: https://youtu.be/3GGqwqCKYHU

Gold Circle Trophy: https://youtu.be/1IEskEnsRMU

Raon First Dominates First Leg Of Queens’ Tour / Simjangui Godong Downs Haengbok Wangja

The sisters came together at the top of the home straight but Raon First promptly asserted her authority over younger sibling Raon Pink and the rest of the filly and mare division, as she romped away for an easy victory in the Listed Donga Ilbo Trophy, the first leg of the Queens’ Tour, at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Raon First (Pic: KRA)

Having displaced the retired Silver Wolf and Dia Road atop the filly and mares ranks, Raon First has dominated the division, and came into this race having closed out 2021 with victory in the G3 Jeju Governor’s Cup before opening her account for 2022 with a facile score in the Listed Segye Ilbo Trophy at the end of January. Having beaten the males at class 1 too, she entered a hot favourite for the 1800M Donga Ilbo, despite having done her best work at one-turn.

Raon First was sent off at odds-on but from the wide gate, jockey Choi Bum-hyun was content to let her sit just off the lead in the early stages as Raon Pink made the early running while longest shot on the board, Singsing Mary along with placing hope Florida Power were in close attendance too.

Things would stay that way until they turned towards the home straight when Singsing Mary would find her race run, leaving the sisters briefly alone together. When the question was asked, Raon Pink was no match for Raon First and the race became a formality as Raon First streaked away to win by four-lengths.

Clear Geom, runner-up to Raon First in the Jeju Governor’s Cup, would come home second-best again, while Florida Power held off a late Cheonji Yeogeol challenge to claim 3rd. Raon Pink faded and ended up in 7th place, one spot behind the filly she finished runner-up to in last season’s Korean Oaks, Choegang Black.

For Raon First, who is by Musket Man and out of Pink Candy (by Southern Image), it was a tenth win from seventeen starts. Connections will need to decide whether she remains in the comfortable environs of the Queens’ Tour, with its remaining legs being the Ttukseom Cup at 1400M in June and then the KNN Cup down at Busan over a mile in July. Given the abundance of talent at the disposal of the burgeoning Raon empire – with the phenom Raon The Fighter at its forefront – this seems her likely course.

Jockey Choi Bum Hyun and trainer Park Jong Kon (Pic: KRA)

In other races, a class 1 handicap over 1400M at Busan loaded with talent went the way of Yeongung Louis. The US-bred four-year-old (by Violence) had announced his arrival with an outstanding 3rd place in the SBS Sports Sprint at Seoul and on Sunday made his class 1 debut among a field containing KRA Cup Classic winner Mr. Afleet as well as Doctor Carson and the in-form Barbarian. Ultimately Yeongung Louis would be on pace throughout, and cruised away to score by five-lengths, taking his record to six wins from eleven starts.

Back at Seoul, Haengbok Wangja made his first appearance since winning the 2021 Grand Prix Stakes in December. It was not to be a winning one though, as Simjangui Godong, the 2021 President’s Cup winner, beat him in a straight two-horse shoot-out in the home straight.

Simjangui Godong, is by Korean-bred champion Jigeum I Sungan,and just like his father is a rare horse in Korea who wears no headgear. He moved on to ten wins from twenty-five starts and set another marker down as racing in Korea moves its sights upon the international Korea Cup in September.

Raon First Downs East Jet, Meni Hero to win Segye Ilbo Cup

The Stakes race season got underway at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday, and it was a mare who claimed the spoils as Raon First scored a comprehensive victory in the Listed Segye Ilbo Trophy.

Raon First and Choi Bum-hyun have time to soak in the acclaim in the Segye Ilbo Cup (Pic: KRA)

The Segye Ilbo was missing from the abbreviated Stakes Calendar in 2021 but returned to its usual spot as the first big race of the year in Korea and the 1200M sprint was, for the first time, open to all Korean-bred runners, regardless of whether they are trained in Seoul or Busan.

Busan supplied a genuine contender in the shape of Classic winner Touch Star Man, and punters sent him off fourth in the market with Owners’ Cup winner Meni Hero favourite, ahead of the solitary filly or mare in the race, Raon First, and the Group-winning sprinter East Jet. Punters would prove correct with their top four, although not quite in that order.

From gate six, East Jet got the best of the start, racing into an early lead alongside outsider World Day, with Raon First sitting handy under jockey Choi Bum-hyun on the rail in 5th place. On the rail and in box seat is where she would stay as the leaders peeled off at the top of the straight and as soon as Raon First struck the front, there was only every going to be one winner.

East Jet came home in 2nd place, three-lengths in arrears, while Meni Hero came third. Touch Star Man, racing at a sprint distance for the very first time since his debut seventeen starts back, emerged from the pack for fourth with Roller Blade rounding out the prize-getters in 5th.

It was the Park Jong-kon trained Raon First’s ninth career win on her fifteenth start and followed her first Group race score in the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) in December. That race was restricted to her fellow fillies and mares, although she had already proved herself in open company when winning at class 1 last October.

Today’s opposition was a cut above those she beat in either of those races and having won at distances up to 1800M, there are plenty of options open for the five-year-old, be it in the Queens’ Tour or even the Sprint Series races.

Raon First is by Musket Man and out of the Southern Image mare, Pink Candy. She was bred by her owners, Raon Company, at their farm where they stand the American stallion Musket Man. Raon First has a four-year-old “full” sister, Raon Pink, who won the Luna Stakes in 2021 before running 2nd in the Korean Oaks. Raon have a currently unrivalled array of talent at their disposal, spearheaded by their unbeaten star, Raon The Fighter.

Earlier at Seoul, the KRA Cup Mile and Minister’s Cup placegetter Chief Indy (by Take Charge Indy) defeated Korean Oaks winner Choegang Black (by Purge), the pair coming home 1st and 3rd over 1800M at class 3 level. Chief Indy was one of four winners on the day for reigning champion jockey Moon Se-young, one of which was a dead-heat as the judges failed to split his Saryeoni Queen with Thunder Wind, ridden by Antonio Da Silva, in race 7.

At Busan, Barbarian added to his burgeoning reputation, dropping back in trip after recent successes to easily win the feature class 1 event over 1400M under You Hyun-myung. A five-year-old entire, Barbarian, who is by Competitive Edge and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare White Haven, registered his eighth win at start number sixteen and his first at class 1 level.

There is no racing in Korea this coming weekend, due to the Lunar New Year break. Racing returns to Busan on Friday February 11th and Seoul on Saturday February 12th.

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 28)

It’s the last weekend of racing before the a week off is taken following the Lunar New Year holiday. The action gets underway at Busan on Friday with 8 races from 12:00 to 18:00. All betting locations within Korea will be open, however, attendance must be pre-booked through the MyCard app and proof of up to date vaccination against Covid-19 is required. Here are the previews:

It’s Friday. It’s Busan

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

Three-year-old maiden fillies kick things off with all but one of the twelve racing for the very first time. We’ll side with that one experienced runner, (12) EUNSEONG WINNER. She ran fairly for 3rd place on debut back in December and has since been back to trial performing fairly. The experience can see her in good stead here. The main concern is that while her times in trials and her race have been consistent, they have not been quick. (9) GOLD SWEET looks the best of the first timers. She won her trial having been handy throughout and can go well first-up today. (2) CHEONGHO LEGEND and (7) ALPHA SONGDANG posted decent times in their respective heats and may also be considered while (8) WONDERFUL FILE improved in the second of her trials and can be in the hunt too.

Selections(12) Eunseong Winner (9) Gold Sweet (2) Cheongho Legend (7) Alpha Seongdang
Next Best8, 3
Fast Start3, 7, 9, 12

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

Small field but potentially quite a hot favourite in the shape of (8) UNJU BULPAE. He’s improved across his four starts so far, culminating in a runner-up finish at this distance on January 7th having led for much of the way. The draw shouldn’t matter much in this small field, and he can win. (7) JATNAMUGIL has shown similar progress across his four appearances so far, running 3rd in both his latest two. He should be given another chance here. The solitary debut-maker is interesting. Top trainer Kim Young-kwan puts an apprentice aboard (6) RADAR, who finally makes it to the track aged four. His dam won six times at Busan and while his only half-brother to make the track so far is a notorious non-winner (Indian Party), he trialed well and should be kept safe. (1) GAWONUI BIT and (9) BAEK GU among others in the hunt.

Selections(8) Unju Bulpae (7) Jatnamugil (6) Radar (1) Gawonui Bit
Next Best9, 4
Fast Start1, 6, 7, 8

Busan Race 3: Class 6 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Tricky race with a number of potential winners. We’ll go with (1) HAEUNDAE BLUE who comes in off a career-best 2nd when stepped up to this distance on January 7th. True, the pace that day was painfully slow, and she hasn’t shown much in the way of speed, but she beat three of today’s rivals and almost led the whole way around. (2) CARIBBEAN DAY has been consistent and comes in off a solid 4th at this distance on Boxing Day. He doesn’t have the benefit of an apprentice claim today but that’s softened by a much better draw, and he looks the main danger. (10) MAJOR FORCE didn’t run that badly when 6th at the distance last time out. He is yet to finish in the top two but has consistently found the minor money and could be worth a chance at an each-way price here. (11) ORANGE GARAGE and (3) PICTURE JASPER others in the frame.

Selections(1) Haeundae Blue (2) Caribbean Day (10) Major Force (11) Orange Garage
Next Best3, 7
Fast Start1, 9, 11, 13

Busan Race 4: Class 5 (1800M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Another competitive race. (8) CENTUM THOR might be a non-winner, but he has nine top five finishes from twelve attempts so far. He has been consistent at this distance and an apprentice climbing aboard brings him down 3kg from his last appearance. At that last appearance on December 10th, Centum Thor was beaten by (9) LUKAS SUN. That was the latter’s first go around 1800M and he handled it very well coming from well off the pace to fly home. He will be coming on strong again and should go close. (6) GEUMA GOOD POINT had a disappointing day at the office at his latest start on Boxing Day when he used up plenty to get to a forward position from a wide draw. Draw a line through that and instead go on the start before when he ran 3rd, ahead of Centum Thor, and he should be in this. (1) MENI GLORY comes up in trip and into the calculations while (3) ROCKET GO Is another in the hunt.

Selections(8) Centum Thor (9) Lukas Sun (6) Geuma Good Point (1) Meni Glory
Next Best3, 2
Fast Start1, 3, 6, 8

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

(3) WIND HIGH broke through at start number four on December 10th, making all at this distance and beating a couple of today’s rivals in the process. He has been back to trial since then and won that too. He does come up in class but remains under a light weight and from a good draw has claims to win again. (8) BARAM GONGJU ran 2nd to Wind High in the December race and has since finished 4th on her first try at this class on January 7th. She has run consistent times at the distance, likes to come from off the pace, and should be working home well here. (4) DOCTOR TEXAS lead but weakened over a mile last time out and should be better for the drop back in trip today. (6) SUSO ENGINE can be given another chance too while (10) USEUNG GANGJA is another in the hunt.

Selections(3) Wind High (8) Baram Gongju (4) Doctor Texas (6) Suso Engine
Next Best10, 7
Fast Start3, 4, 6, 9

Busan Race 6: Class 4 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

(8) DONGTEUJA BOY is set to be hot favourite here and deservedly so. He won back-to-back races in September and October to get rapidly promoted to this class and while he was beaten on his first try at this level two weeks ago, he ran a fast time and should have too much for this lot. It’s hard to see any of these running him down but (10) MILLION BANK has finished no worse than 2nd in four starts so far and can keep that run going here. (5) KING BROTHER won at this distance at class 5 level two starts back and enters here well weighted and well-drawn. (1) WINNER’S TIME can mix his form but is another who looks nicely in here on the inside and he can challenge for a place. (3) HANBIT YEONGGWANG another in the minor money hunt.

Selections(8) Dongteuja Boy (10) Million Bank (5) King Brother (1) Winner’s Time
Next Best3, 12
Fast Start1, 7, 8, 11

Busan Race 7: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

Good race this and (3) MISS INDIE may be ready to bounce back to winning ways. She won her first two starts and then went on a filly Triple Crown campaign. That didn’t go to plan, but she ran a decent 4th at 1400M on Boxing Day and dropped back to 1200M for the first time, with a good draw and a light weight, she can win. (2) DOCTOR GIANTS took his chance in the KRA Cup Mile last October and while he finished in mid-division he posted a fast time, something he has consistently done at a variety of distances. He has won twice at this distance and will be a danger here. (1) KKOTGWA GUREUM won at big odds on Boxing Day and while up in class can challenge for some minor money from the inside gate. (13) SAGARMATHA and (9) DONGBANUI SIJAK others in the frame.

Selections(3) Miss Indie (2) Doctor Giants (1) Kkkotgwa Gureum (13) Sagarmatha
Next Best9, 8
Fast Start3, 6, 8, 11

Busan Race 8: Class 3 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 75 Million

It’s hard to go too far past (7) SPEED MATCH here. He’s won three of his last four including a super score over a mile at class 4 level on December 3rd. He comes up in class here but down in weight and will take some beating. He’ll sit handy early and then run on. (4) SEUNGNI MAGICQUEEN also comes up in class, in her case following an excellent win at this distance on Boxing Day when making all the running. She seems to have plenty of potential and can challenge the favourite here. (6) WONDERFUL KING has won his latest two, most recently at class and distance on December 26th. He comes up significantly in the weights this time but can go close. (10) ILNYEOM TONGCHEON and (2) ECOPIA are the other leading contenders.

Selections(7) Speed Match (4) Seungni Magicqueen (6) Wonderful King (10) Ilnyeom Tongcheon
Next Best2, 12
Fast Start4, 6, 10, 11