Racing Reviews

150-Up Perovic As Shamrocker & Champ Line Win Well At Seoul & Busan

Djordje Perovic rode his 150th Korean winner at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon and not many of them will have been easier than the landmark one which arrived on Shamrocker in the 2300M Championship Series feature.

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Djordje Perovic returns to scale on Shamrocker

Possibly the biggest challenge for Perovic on Sunday would have been the 52kg weight assigned to the on the up Shamrocker but once that was made there was only likely to be one winner in the race which was run over the maximum distance used at Seoul. After a steady start, Shamrocker hit the front early in the home straight and cantered away from the field to win by six lengths on the line.

It had taken Shamrocker (Dublin), a $30,000 purchase as a 2-year-old at OBS in Florida, eight starts to get his maiden victory but yesterday’s was his fifth in total and second consecutive at class 1. He could have a big summer ahead of him.

Djordje Perovic could well have a big summer ahead of him too. Shamrocker was his 31st victory of 2017 and leaves him five clear of perennial champion Moon Se Young at the top of the standings. With Moon set to spend at least three months of this year in Singapore, Perovic is in pole position to become the first foreign jockey to claim the Seoul championship.

150 wins also ties Perovic with Joe Fujii – who spent Saturday watching Winx disappear into the distance at Rosehill – in 2nd place in the all-time foreign jockey standings in Korea.

Down at Busan a foreign jockey was on top too with Yonekura Satoshi winning Sunday’s feature – also a Championship Series race – over 2200M. It came on Thomas Gillespie’s Champ Line over what was a high class Busan field.

Success Story, as ever, set the early pace but was always likely to struggle to maintain it over the extended distance and so it proved as a host of horses swept by him in the closing stages.

It was Champ Line who did it the most convincingly, running on very strongly for victory by almost three lengths. Places 2nd-6th came home within a half-length of each other, surprisingly headed by 100/1 outsider Bathsheba Park, who was given an enterprising ride by Marios Mina.

Champ Line (Curlin) moves on to 10 wins from 19 starts and is on a four-race winning streak and heads an impressively effective string that has been put together by talented trainer Gillespie.

Eunha Chelma, Ice Marine Impressive Winners Of “Tiara” Step Races

Some markers were laid down among the 3-year-old filly ranks on Sunday as Eunha Chelma and Ice Marine respectively dominated the Sports Seoul and Gyeongnam Sinmun Cups at Seoul and Busan.

Eunha Chelma entered uneaten with two wins from two and maintained her 100% record by accelerating away from the field in the final furlong to win by three lengths from Brian Dean’s Rocket Queen.

Sports Seoul Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – March 5, 2017

1. Eunha Chelma (KOR) [Vicar-Intouchable (Elusive Quality)] – Lee Hyeon Jong – 4.0, 1.8
2. Rocket Queen (KOR) [Vicar-Starletbound (Gone West)] – Jeong Jeong Hee – 1.2
3. Amazonas (KOR) [Officer-Happy Queen (Revere)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 2.1
Distances: 3 lengths / Nose – 10 ran

At Busan, Ice Marine was already a known quantity having been 2nd in Busan’s top juvenile race (also called the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup) last October before having an off-day at Seoul in the Breeders’ Cup race in December. She began her 3-year-old campaign with a win over 1200M a month ago and headed into Sunday’s race as the odds-on favourite.

Ice Marine didn’t disappoint as she led every step of the way to record a very comfortable 6-length win on the line.

Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup (Listed) – Busan Racecourse – 1400M – March 5, 2017

1. Ice Marine (KOR) [Officer-Runkerry Point (Giant’s Causeway) – Song Keong Yun – 1.7, 1.2
2. Morning Baramse [Simon Pure-D’Lovely Cat (Unbridled’s Song)] – Jo In Kwen – 5.2
3. Happy Gongju [Officer-Happy Jo (Johannesburg)] – Yonekura Satoshi – 1.9
Distances: 6 lengths / 0.75 lengths – 11 ran

In other 3-year-old news at Busan, Peter Wolsley’s Royal Ruby (Chapel Royal) continued his impressive progress. He landed his third consecutive win and second at 1800M. He beat a decent class 4 line-up, winning a photo finish by a nose from Triple Nine’s little sister, the Thomas Gillespie-trained Black Sapphire.

Stakes action returns to Seoul this coming Sunday with the Seoul Owners’ Association Trophy, the first Korean Group race of 2017.

Easy For Clean Up Joy At Seoul While Success Story Gets Back Where He Belongs

Grand Prix Stakes winner Clean Up Joy went to the races for the first time in 2017 on Sunday afternoon and 6-year-old didn’t disappoint, utterly crushing a class 1 field to win a Championship Series race over 2000M. Meanwhile at Busan, Korea’s 2016 Meydan hero Success Story finally returned to the winner’s circle.

Clean Up Joy made short work of Triple Nine and Power Blade, both currently at this year’s World Cup Carnival in Dubai, when winning the Grand Prix over 2300M in December. Sunday’s field was much weaker but Clean Up Joy had shunted them all out of the handicap and was giving a minimum of 8kg weight advantage – the only time he lost at Seoul in 2016, he was giving the same weight away.

It made little difference as, with Djordje Perovic on board for the first time, Clean Up Joy made short work of his opponents, sprinting away in the straight to win by an eased down five lengths. Clean Up Joy is now Korea’s leading contender for the Korea Cup race in September.

Down at Busan, Success Story finally returned to where he belongs for the first time since late 2015. 

Success Story stunned Korean racing watchers by landing two 3rd place finishes at the Dubai World Cup Carnival last year (famously behind – a long way behind – California Chrome on the second occasion) and paved the way for five Korean horses to participate at Meydan this time around. Since returning to Korea he has raced in some of the biggest races, generally coming close but not breaking through.

Finally on Sunday he found himself at an ideal distance – 1800M – in a race where he would get an easy lead and where the main danger (Ms. Margaux) was a closer carrying more weight. Success Story duly obliged, leading every step of the way and still eight lengths clear on the line.

Triple Nine and Power Blade are now preparing for Super Saturday at Meydan. They may both have bested Success Story during the past year, but were it not for his exploits, neither would likely be there this time.

Swedish Jockey Shane Karlsson Debuts With A Winner At Seoul

It was a good first day at the races in Seoul for Shane Karlsson. The Swedish jockey rode his first Korean winner, guiding Choegangja to a comfortable victory in the last race of the day for Australian trainer Brian Dean.

Karlsson, a champion apprentice in Sweden in 2009, got the day off to a good start with a 2nd place on his very first ride, Viva Galloper in race 1 but it would be at the other end of the day, under the lights in race 12 when the 25-year-old made his breakthrough.

Choegangja, an 8/1 shot, was guided to the front straight out of the gate by Karlsson and the pair never looked back as they raced away to win by half a length from another Dean trainee My Blade, who came home 2nd. Karlsson will have five more rides at Seoul on Sunday.

Also debuting in the saddle at Seoul on Saturday was Japanese rider Shinji Hatanaka. His best finish came in race 6 when he partnered Clean Up Sky to 2nd place. Hatanaka has six rides on Sunday.

Racing returns on Sunday with 11 races at Seoul from 10:40 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:35 to 17:00.

*Update: And Shane Karlsson added another on Sunday afternoon, again for Brian Dean, as he guided Jangsanjewang (Ft. Stockton) to victory in the class 1 Race 11.

Always Winner Makes All In Segye Ilbo Cup

Sunday saw the first listed race in Korea of 2017 and there was something of a shock as 20/1 chance Always Winner made all to land the valuable 1200M test.

It was a race that always looked rather open with the favourites having plenty of question marks against them and so it proved as under Lim Gi Won, Always Winner (Creek Cat) hit the front early – as he always does – and gave the rest simply too much to do, winning by a comfortable three-lengths on the line. Another 20/1 shot, Best Guy, came home 2nd with 13/1 Global Fusion completing an unlikely trifecta.

Of the favourites, Haemaru was best in 4th but it was another chastening experience for Gorgeous Dream who won eight of his first nine but is now winless in his last three. He came home in 7th, one place below recent frequent nemesis Yaho Sky Cat.

Always Winner is a five-year-old gelding and he was winning for the 6th time in 23 starts. He won the JRA Trophy race last year which encouraged connections to take him to Kranji in Singapore for the KRA Trophy the following month. That didn’t go well and not only is the Segye Ilbo by far his biggest triumph, it’s his first victory since returning to Korea,

At Busan, there was a Championship Series race over 2000M and the honours went to Dongbang Daero (Curlin), who got the best of a photo finish ahead of Tariat Tale.

Segye Ilbo Cup (Listed) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – Jan 22, 2017

1. Always Winner (KOR) [Creek Cat – Hallat’Eukkeup (Land Rush)] – Lim Gi Won – 20.3, 4.8
2. Best Guy (KOR) [Didyme – Madam Winette (Danehill)] – Kim Cheol Ho – 4.8
3. Global Fusion (KOR) [Menifee – Morning Red Sky (Chisos)] – Yoo Seung Wan – 3.7
Distances: 3 lengths/2 lengths – 12 ran

There is no racing at all in Korea this coming weekend as all three tracks take a break for the Lunar New Year Holiday. Racing returns on Friday February 3.

(Late) Weekend Round-Up: Final Boss Starts 2017 Well At Seoul

Korea’s reigning champion juvenile made his first appearance as a three-year-old last Sunday and it was a winning start as Final Boss stepped up to two-turns and comfortably saw off his class 3 opposition.

Despite winning the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup in October, Final Boss (Menifee) was still sent off as a 12/1 chance in the Breeders’ Cup (the top juvenile race in Korea) at the beginning of December with punters favoring horses from Busan, where the winners of the vast majority of big races in Korea over the past few years are trained. However, Final Boss was far too strong in the closing stages that day and entered 2017 as the early favourite for the big Classic races.

While there is a long way to go, Final Boss did nothing to change that on Sunday and while it took him a while to get to the front, once he got into gear in the closing stages, the result wasn’t in doubt for long. The margin on the line was almost two lengths and after five consecutive wins, sterner tests await.

* At Busan, Perdido Pomeroy (Pomeroy) got back to winning ways in Sunday’s feature. The colt had been without a victory since his triumph in the SBS Korea/Japan Cup last June but under apprentice Jung Do Yun, the four-year-old led from gate to wire in the 1400M race, seeing off the closing Tongil Sidae with plenty to spare.

* It was another good weekend for much of the foreign contingent with Bart Rice and Peter Wolsley sending out winners as usual while jockeys Djordje Perovic, Jan Havlik, Marcello Belli, Darryll Holland, Yonekura Satoshi and Francisco Da Silva all found the winner’s circle at least once.

“Championship Series” Kicks Off With Wins For Champ Line & Gumanseok

Champ Line and Gumanseok both made the most of light weights to win the respective class 1 features at Busan and Seoul on Sunday afternoon and put early points on the board in the new Championship Series.

Champ Line (Curlin) was sent off as the odds-on favourite for Busan’s 1800M feature. Always prominent under Seo Seung Un and carrying 6.5kg less than stablemate and 2nd-favourite Dynamic Dash, he comfortably saw off the challenge of Emeth (Rothesay) when the two went clear in the home straight, running on to win by an eased down two lengths. It was an 8th win in 17 starts for the Thomas Gillespie trained 5-year-old and his second at class 1.

At Seoul, the conditions were the same for the feature race with Sambong and Bichui Jeongsang being sent off as the top two in the market. The latter barely featured under the 58kg top weight but Sambong was one of six horses who got close to the eventual winner in what was a thrilling finish.

That winner would be the 8-year-old Gumanseok (Vicar), making his 51st start and carrying just 51kg with apprentice Ha Jung Hun on board. Just over a length separated the first seven home but three quarters of that was Gumanseok’s winning margin as once he got on top with half a furlong remaining, never looked like being beaten.

It was a 12th career victory for Gumanseok who won a pair of Listed races back in 2013 and has been a consistently reliable performer ever since. Today he took his earnings just shy of 1 Billion Won. It also put him on top, along with Champ Line of the “Championship Series”.

The Championship Series is a new feature of the racing calendar in 2017. The idea is that a number of races throughout the year are to be designated as “Championship Series” races. Points will be awarded for finishing in 1st, 2nd or 3rd places in those races. A league table will be maintained and those horses with the highest points will qualify to run in the two big end-of-season races, the President’s Cup (Korean bred only) and the Grand Prix Stakes. This qualification process will replace the “Arima Kinen” style public vote which has been in recent years to decide on the participants for the Grand Prix as the declining numbers of actual voters (barely a thousand in 2016), has made the voting somewhat less than fit for purpose and risks deserving horses missing out.

Whether Champ Line or Gumanseok will end the year deserving or not remains to be seen but it should maintain the interest over the coming months.

*In other news, all four high profile jockeys who have relocated tracks for 2017 found themselves in the winners’ circle. At Busan, Jo Sung Gon quickly picked up where he left off riding for Peter Wolsley as the pair combined for two winners on Friday while Jo In Kwen was successful on a rank outsider in the penultimate race on the same day. Grand Prix Stakes winning jockey Ham Wan Sik broke his Busan duck on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only jockey to go the other way was Kim Yong Geun and the Triple Crown winning jockey rode a double in Seoul on Saturday.

Racing returns to Korea next Friday at Busan. Before that though, attention switches to Dubai where Power Blade and Diferent Dimension could well line up against each other over a mile in Thursday’s Carnival meeting at Meydan.