Racing Reviews

Wow Wow Stuns Raon Pair in Segye Ilbo

Wow Wow came from off the pace to score a 46/1 upset in the Segye Ilbo Trophy at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, leaving the green colours of the hotly fancied “Raon” pair, Raon First and Raon The Spurt, back down the track behind him.

Wow Wow came from off the pace to win the Listed Segye Ilbo Trophy under Song Jae-chul (Pic: KRA)

After a year where owner Son Chun-soo’s Raon stable had dominated, his progressive four-year-old filly Raon The Spurt, was sent off as favourite for the Segye Ilbo (1200M KOR-Listed), the first Stakes race on the 2023 calendar, with stablemate and President’s Cup winner Raon First second in the market, ahead of Jeju Governor’s Trophy winning mare Wish Me.

While Raon First was slow out of the gate, Raon The Spurt cruised into the lead alongside fellow Group winner East Jet. But on a rare day at Seoul where the track was not kind to front-runners – nine of the eleven winners on the card emerged from the rear – the leaders were in trouble entering the straight and by the furlong pole, both had wilted.

Raon First launched a home straight challenge through traffic but the longshot pair of Wow Wow and Jangsan Laser were quicker, flashing down the outside with Wow Wow, who had settled right back in the pack in the early exchanges, coming home a length-and-a-quarter to the good. Raon First was 3rd.

With the race being restricted to Korean-bred runners, the Nasca organization’s Korea Sprint winning star Eoma Eoma was ineligible but they also own Wow Wow, a four-year-old colt by Cowboy Cal and out of the Forest Camp mare Jjak Kkung, who did her racing in Korea, winning six of twenty-six starts.

Wow Wow was on last year’s Classic trail and overcame gate fifteen to run 5th in the Korean Derby before an indifferent run in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup. Before Sunday, the highest level he had won at was class 4. He is trained by Song Moon-gil and was ridden by Song Jae-chul, who was winning just his third Stakes race after successes in the YTN Cup (then not a group race) in 2015 on Areumdaun Donghaeng and then guiding Saenae Town to victory in the Listed NACF Chairman’s Trophy last November.

There are no Listed or Graded races in Korea in February, with the next big events on the calendar the three-year-old Classic trials at Seoul and Busan on March 19.  

Seoul & Busan Sunday: Race-By-Race Preview (January 15)

Sunday racing is at Seoul (11 races from 10:40 to 18:00) and at Busan (6 races from 11:05 to 15:40). A reminder there is no racing next weekend due to the Lunar New Year holiday so it is big fields all around. Here are the previews:

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maiden fillies in the opener. (1) TIZ INDY has run twice for 2nd and 4th over 1000M both in good times. She comes up in trip for the first time but draws very nicely and she has every chance. (5) SAENAE VIVA debuted without distinction in August but looked a much better proposition when returning on December 3rd and running 3rd when handy throughout. She can get closer today and that can mean overturning the form on (11) JEONGSANG LUCKY. The latter overcame the same wide draw to run 2nd in that December 3rd race and while she may need a touch of luck again, she shouldn’t be ruled out. Also done no favours by the draw is (12) DASI TAEEONADO. She has a 2nd place to her name over 1000M and ran on pleasingly enough for 5th last time out at 1200M. (2) SEMYEONG LADY is among others with the potential to improve.

Selections(1) Tiz Indy (5) Saenae Viva (11) Jeongsang Lucky (12) Dasi Taeeonado
Next Best2, 5
Fast Start2, 3, 5, 6

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old filly maidens. The most experienced in the race is (10) DOCTOR SHARK and she’s the one that gets the pick. She secured back-to-back 3rd place finishes over 1000M and 1200M in October and November before running 5th over 1400M when drawn in the widest gate last time out on December 16th. The draw isn’t kind here either, but she may have too much. (12) WONDERFUL PHONE came from off the pace to run 2nd behind a good winner on debut on December 23rd. The way she finished off that day suggests the additional trip can suit and she will probably start as favourite. (7) SKY MOUNTAIN was an on-pace 4th on debut on December 9th over 1000M. She should have derived benefit from that experience and can be there or thereabouts today. (6) STREET ROCK didn’t do much on debut but comes in here under a very light weight and can improve. It’s a similar story with (1) TOO CUTE GIRL, who draws much better than on debut.

Selections(10) Doctor Shark (12) Wonderful Phone (7) Sky Mountain (6) Street Rock
Next Best1, 11
Fast Start7, 8, 10, 11

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

Three-year-old maidens with six of the twelve racing for the very first time. We’ll side with experience and (2) GEOMIBULU. After winning a November trial, she was installed as favourite for her debut appearance over 1000M on December 11th when she sat midfield in a small field and ran on for 2nd place. She was well beaten by a good winner, but the run was encouraging enough for her to warrant another chance on top here.  Among the first timers (11) SAEBYEOK ANGAE could be the best. She improved significantly in her second trial, running on well and can be set for a bold showing first up. (7) DONGHAENG FIRST debuted promisingly enough on December 17th running 4th over 1000M. She should have derived benefit from that and build on it here. Both (3) NAVY CHROME and (6) THUNDER BLUE return to action for the first time since July. Both trialled well and can be considered first-up.

Selections(2) Geomibulu (11) Saebyeok Angae (7) Donghaeng First (3) Navy Chrome
Next Best6, 9
Fast Start2, 3, 7, 9

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

(7) PHANTOM ACE is yet to win in eleven attempts but has been getting closer in recent outings with a 2nd and a 3rd in his latest two, both at this distance. With an apprentice claiming 4kg he is very nicely weighted here, and it could be his day. (2) MULTI HIT comes in off a 4th place at start number two at this distance on December 11th when handy throughout. He draws well again and can be dangerous here. (1) YEONGGWANGUITUHON has run fairly in all three appearances to date including a spin around in the Listed Gimhae Mayor’s Trophy. From a great draw, he should be right in this. (5) CHEERFUL LIFE can build on his debut5th place over 1000M when breaking fairly before going right back and running on. He draws better today and should be better for the run. (8) GLOBAL SKY among others with the potential to improve.

Selections(7) Phantom Ace (2) Multi Hit (1) Yeonggwanguituhon (5) Cheerful Life
Next Best8, 11
Fast Start5, 6, 8, 12

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Three-year-old filly maidens. It’s fair to say that (12) CHEONJON CHAT has mixed her form across six starts so far but she gets the nod here based on her last start 2nd place over this distance on December 18th when she was on pace and finished in a time quicker than any of the others have managed for the distance. She draws wide but with a touch of luck at the start, she’ll be the one to beat. (6) RAON CITY GIRL comes up in trip for the first time. She too has mixed her form, but she did post a very quick time over 1000M when 3rd in November. She should be on pace here and the additional furlong can suit. (4) TANSAN comes in after a best finish to date of 3rd place in that December 18th race when settling slightly worse than midfield and finishing well. She has five-lengths to make up on Cheonjon Chat but can get closer with a much better draw. (2) BLUE ARCH and (5) SEOULEUL NALDA among others in at least the placing frame.

Selections(12) Cheonjon Chat (6) Raon City Girl (4) Tansan (2) Blue Arch
Next Best5, 8
Fast Start2, 6, 7, 12

Busan Race 3: Class 5 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(11) FINAL SEVEN overcame gate ten to get on pace and run 2md behind Young Boss on his first try at this class over 1400M on December 16th. He steps up to a mile for the first time today but looks a progressive type with just four starts behind him and an apprentice jockey aboard brings his weight right down. (8) CHANGCHANG DAERO also steps up to a mile for the first time. He has only raced four times but has a smart win over 1200M as well as a last start 3rd at this class over 1400M to his name. He looks to have scope for more. (9) GREEN PAPAGO has beaten a few of these in her latest appearances, all at a mile. The wide draw shouldn’t be a problem and she can be a big factor here. (3) QUEEN OF SPIRIT, who beat Changchang Daero at 1400M last time out, and (7) QUEEN STAR among plenty of others capable of placing.

Selections(11) Final Seven (8) Changchang Daero (9) Green Papago (3) Queen Of Spirit
Next Best7, 1
Fast Start2, 8, 10, 11

Seoul Race 4: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

There isn’t much positive form here. (4) SUBAL DORIANG come sin off a 2nd place over this distance on December 17th when handy throughout. It continued a pattern of him getting closer and is enough to put him on top here. (12) MY GONGJU was touch disappointing when stepped up to 1700M last time and well backed. Drawn wide he was unable to find a position on the short run to the first turn and scarcely figured. Go on his previous start at this trip though and he is firmly in this. (7) DESIRE TO WIN came home in 4th place behind Subal Doriang in that December 17th race. He has steadily improved across four starts so far and if he can maintain that momentum, can be in the mix here. (2) GHOST CHARM and (8) EFFEL TAP among others in the hunt. 

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Raon The Spurt Dominates Gyeongnam Cup as Raon Empire Expands Grip

After a campaign of mainly coming off second-best when it really counts, Raon The Spurt finally got her reward in the shape of a big Group race win as she dominated the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (2000M KOR-G2) at Busan on Sunday afternoon, securing the final leg of the Queens’ Tour for herself and the overall series title for stablemate Raon First.

Raon The Spurt and Choi Bum-hyun have time to celebrate (Pic: KRA)

Golden Power won all three legs of the Triple Tiara, with Raon The Spurt trailing her home in 3rd in the Luna Stakes and then 2nd in both the Korean Oaks and the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup. Since the end of that series Raon The Spurt had maintained her form better, winning back-to-back races at 1800M and 1200M before running second to Wish Me in the Jeju Governor’s Cup and punters accordingly sent her off as the favourite as the three-year-old pair faced off with their seniors.

Those favourite backers never had a moment’s cause for concern as Raon The Spurt broke well from the plum draw of gate three and quickly got to the lead. Jockey Choi Bum-hyun was able to set a tempo to suit and it proved too hot for the rest as Raon The Spurt cruised to a six-length win in a very fast time.

As for Golden Power, she began as second favourite, but at no stage did she look a danger, settling back and making it up to fifth in the home straight before ultimately weakening and crossing the line in ninth.

Jeju Governor’s Cup track-record breaker Wish Me was sent off as third-favourite and under Antonio Da Silva, was hurried along from her nightmare draw of gate sixteen to loop the field and take the early lead. That gamble was her only chance of prevailing and the question was how long she would stay on after such an early effort over an unfamiliar distance. She ran gamely but would ultimately run out of steam in the home straight, finishing seventh.

Calm Strong, the KNN Cup winner, also drew a poor barrier for a front-runner, having to navigate to the front from gate fourteen and while she was able to race prominently throughout the back straight, she was one of the first to be beaten.

Stepping up to get closest to the winner on the line were 19/1 chance Flat Babe, who settled back under Franco Da Silva and gradually improved as the race went on. She came home in second-place, two-and-a-half lengths clear of Eodigana, a Smarty Moonhak filly who won over the distance in last year’s Triple Tiara final leg. She set off in excess of 80/1.

Raon The Spurt is by Raon’s own stallion Musket Man and out of Japanese-bred mare Tomiken Spring (by Suzuka Mambo). Owned by her breeder, Son Chun-soo of Raon, she is trained by Park Jong-kon. Her victory propels Musket Man to the top of the Leading General Sire rankings despite having just 274 starters throughout 2022 compared to 899 for now second-placed Cowboy Cal. It’s not necessarily only Musket Man’s influence, but also Raon’s attention to early pre-training on their uphill track at their Jeju training centre staffed with not only some very good local, but some skilled overseas grooms too, that is coming together to pay huge dividends.

So Raon The Spurt won the race and Raon First the series for Son Chun-soo and his Raon organization. Raon First is expected to head to the Grand Prix Stakes on December 11th, where she will be joined by Raon The Fighter, the Korea Cup runner-up and KRA Cup Classic winner. The latter is then scheduled for a tilt at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The Raon Empire is building momentum.

Next weekend, the Champion Juvenile will be crowned with the running of the Breeders’ Cup (1400M KOR-G2) at Busan. Then on December 11th it’s the traditional final Group 1 of the season, the Grand Prix Stakes (2300M KOR-G1), with Raon going in with both barrels, at Seoul Racecourse.  

Raon Giant & Doctor Oscar Dominate Juvenile Filly Trophy Races

The juvenile filly division had their big day at Seoul and Busan on Sunday and Raon Giant and Doctor Oscar both ran out dominant winners of their respective track’s feature races.

Raon Giant spread the field out in the Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy (Pic: KRA)

Raon Giant was only sent off as second favourite for the Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy (1200M Listed) at Seoul with punters giving the previously unbeaten Fire Girl the nod at the top of the market.

Fire Girl wouldn’t play much of a role though as Raon Giant quickly looped across from gate ten to seize the initiative under Moon Se-young and opened up a lead that she never looked like relinquishing. Fire Girl was close in the early stages, as was the well-supported Global Changa, but they couldn’t keep up with the tempo Raon Giant set and she was ultimately three-lengths to the good at the line.

Furiosa, a 50/1 chance, ran on from the back for a fast-finishing 2nd while Medici Wolf, who had taken a sit behind the early pace, ran on solidly for a creditable 3rd. Raon Giant moved on to three wins from four starts.

Trained by Park Jong-kon and bred by her owners, Raon Giant is by Raon’s own stallion Musket Man and out of Raon Bold (by Big Brown). Raon Bold was a $65,000 purchase from the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2011 and did her racing in Korea, winning three times. Raon Giant is her third foal to make the racecourse with the other two, Raon Beat and Raon The Teukgeup both winners too.

The widest drawn filly at Busan also ended up victorious in the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Trophy (1200M Listed).

Doctor Oscar was overlooked for favourite status in part for having drawn gate fourteen while the highly thought-of Atlas, third in last month’s Areumdaun Jilju Stakes against the colts, had the benefit of gate two.

Doctor Oscar was an easy winner at Busan (Pic: KRA)

Under Choi Si-dae, Doctor Oscar made extremely light of being drawn in the car park and sat handy early before taking things up approaching the first corner. She shrugged off early challengers Hansen Cod Girl and Dream Of Queen and ran on to match Raon Giant with a comfortable three-length score. 25/1 chance Magic Class was 2nd while Atlas was 3rd.

Doctor Oscar is by Old Fashioned and is out of Jangsan Yeoje (by Peace Rules) a Korean-bred who won three races. She is a “full” sister to Doctor Fashion, a winner of seven from nineteen races. She was bred by Lee Yong-dae of Youngmun Farm and was purchased by owner Kwon Hyeok-hui for 45 Million Won at the 2021 KTBA October yearling sale.

Next weekend it’s the turn of the older fillies and mares with the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (2000M KOR-G3) at Busan on Sunday. While the nation’s top mare, Raon First won’t be there following her President’s Cup heroics last week, Raon will be represented by Raon The Spurt. Triple Tiara winner Golden Power will also be in attendance while KNN Cup winner Calm Strong and Wish Me, who won the the Jeju Governor’s Cup in track-record breaking style, are among others scheduled to be in the starting gate.  

Juvenile Fillies Take Centre Stage Sunday

Juvenile fillies take centre stage on Sunday at both Seoul and Busan with the Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy in the capital and the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Trophy on the south coast providing a stiff test as well as a big prize for next year’s Triple Tiara hopefuls.

Raon First won the Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy in 2019. Can stablemate Raon Giant repeat? (Pic: KRA)

The Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup (1200M Listed) was last run in 2019 when it was won by Raon First. That year, the race was open to all juveniles, irrespective of sex or of where they were bred and Raon First crushed them, scoring by six-lengths. She would go on to dominate the filly and mare ranks for the next two years before returning to take on the boys when 3rd in the Korea Sprint and then last Sunday, winning the President’s Cup.

With just her Korean-bred contemporaries to contend with this time, another Musket Man filly and stablemate of Raon First, RAON GIANT has strong claims to take out this year’s edition of the Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy. She has raced three times so far, winning two of them by big margins and her only defeat came at the hands of older horses.

Raon Giant likes to race forward, and despite being drawn the widest of ten, she can carry the green Raon colours home to another big race win. Moon Se-young, who last week had to settle for chasing Raon First home in 2nd place aboard Simjangui Godong in the President’s Cup, will be aboard.

It’s a tough race though. FIRE GIRL is unbeaten in two starts and has equally solid chances. At her second appearance on October 2nd, she overcame an awkward start before settling midfield and running on to win by an impressive five-lengths in a quick time. She seems set for a big show again.

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Raon First Beats Simjangui Godong & Winner’s Man to Win President’s Cup

Raon First, the only mare in the race, produced a home stretch burst up the inside to leave defending champion Simjangui  Godong and Korea Cup winner Winner’s Man behind and score a sensational win in the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. The five-year-old is the first mare to win the race in its eighteenth year.

Raon First and Choi Bum-hyun win the President’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

Coming in off his remarkable triumph in the international Korea Cup in September, Winner’s Man was sent off as the restrictive odds-on favourite for what is the most valuable race of the year that is restricted to horses bred in Korea.  Last year’s winner Simjangui Godong was second in the market, ahead of Heunghaeng Jilju and the three-year-old Captain Yankee. Raon First was fifth in the betting but that was at 30/1, such was the market skewed towards Winner’s Man.

More renowned as a sprinter, Raon First ran 3rd in the Korea Sprint over 1200M the day Winner’s Man won the Korea Cup. But Raon First had raced at 1800M in the past, winning a Class 2 handicap in May of 2021 in addition to harvesting the Listed Donga Ilbo Trophy in restricted company against hopelessly outclassed fellow fillies and mares who she would probably beat at any distance from the minimum up to two miles earlier this year.

It wasn’t close. (Pic: KRA)

She had never tackled 2000M though and she had never faced anything like Winner’s Man around two-turns. Yet she beat him with ease. Settling handy instead of leading, jockey Choi Bum-hyun kept Raon First on the fence, saving ground the entire way around as outsider Jangsan Laser set a tough pace up front, matched by Winner’s Man and in the early stages, by Captain Yankee.

That shape would remain unaltered until the home straight when Captain Yankee quickly folded while Simjangui Godong loomed up to threaten. Staying on the fence, Raon First stole a couple of lengths on the turn and was quickly to the fore, hitting the front with just over 300M to go. It was then that the challenge from Winner’s Man was expected. It came, as did that from Simjangui Godong but any hope they had as quickly extinguished as the mare built up an unassailable lead a long way from home.

Raon First crossed the line two-lengths ahead of Simjangui Godong, who was himself a length and a quarter ahead of Winner’s Man in 3rd. The very game Jangsan Laser was a revelation in 4th, but Captain Yankee, also on pace early, found it hard to cope with the pace and finished back down the field. 

Raon First has always done things a little quirkily. She came to prominence in her juvenile season in 2019 when instead of entering the traditional Juvenile Series races, she was pointed to the race that was open to imported juveniles (she is a product of Musket Man and Pink Candy, who both arrived in Korea in January 2016). She duly won it in fine style. Since then, she has mostly been kept in filly and mare company for her Group race appearances – understandable given her superiority and the value of the purses – but after an out of character but excusable well back finish in the KNN Cup at Busan, she has been let loose in the really big races. She moves on to twelve wins from twenty-one starts and six of her last eight.

It was a first President’s Cup win for veteran jockey Choi Bum-hyun and also for trainer Park Jong-kon.

Simjangui Godong ran his usual strong race in 2nd and as for Winner’s Man, who suffered his first defeat in 2022 after six consecutive wins it was a first defeat of 2022.

Franco’s On Fire, Bart And Pete Are Nearly Tied

Franco Da Silva moved to within two wins of the three-hundred mark in Korea, riding four winners across the weekend; trainer Peter Wolsley sent out a treble on Friday, but a series of bad luck saw Johan Victoire stall for at least one more week in his bid to reach two-hundred Korean winners.

Franco Da Silva (Pic: KRA)

The only foreign jockey currently riding at Busan since the departures of Djordje Perovic and Ioannis Poullis, Franco Da Silva has been in imperious form of late on the south coast. Having taken out the final race of the day on Million Bank on Friday, Da Silva kicked off Sunday with a gate-to-wire score on I Will The Star before adding two more, both for trainer Bart Rice, on Spice Ecton in Race 3 and Jessieui Kkum in the concluding Race 6.

Jessieui Kkum (by Jess’s Dream) is a four-year-old American-bred gelding, who is quietly putting together an impressive body of work. On Sunday, he settled back in the pack before steadily improving and then running on strong to score by half a length over 1800M at class 2 level. Under the eye of the progressive Rice stable, he looks to have a bright future.

Aussie trainer Peter Wolsley was in red-hot form on Friday, sending out three winners. The first was something of a surprise as 80/1 filly Happy Jazz led all the way in Race 2 before the better fancied Patriot took out Race 3 and Dream Of Queen Race 5. Bart Rice and Peter Wolsley are now neck and neck in 5th and 6th in the Busan Trainer Premiership.

At Seoul, David Breux rode a winner on both Saturday and Sunday while Antonio Da Silva was on target for one on Saturday and Alan Munro for one on Sunday. It was a slightly frustrating weekend for Breux’s fellow French rider Johan Victoire though.

Victoire is just two shy of reaching the two-hundred winner milestone since starting in Korea in md-2017. He had four good chances on Sunday but endured a string of bad luck. Premiership leading trainer Luigi Riccardi’s well fancied pair of Giant Indy in Race 6 and Trotting Riley in race 9 both missed the break, while arguably Victoire’s best chance of the day, Tiz Barows, was scratched from race 10. It’s hard to keep Victoire down though, and he will surely hit the two hundred sooner rather than later.   

In the feature race of the weekend, the concluding Race 11 at Seoul on Sunday, apprentice jockey Kim Tae-hui added to her burgeoning reputation, producing the veteran Winner Gold at the perfect time to swoop home. Favourite Soul Merit struck the front in the final half furlong, but Kim brought the seven-year-old Wildcat Heir entire past to score on the line. It was the apprentice’s twenty-sixth career winner, and the twenty-one-year-old looks set to ride out her claim in double-quick time.

One milestone was reached this weekend and it was by local trainer Kwak Yong-hyo. The veteran handler sent out his five-hundredth career winner when Take Music dominated Race 1 at Seoul on Sunday. While twenty-five years may be a long time, Kwak has sent out only just over 4,800 runners in that time so has returned a win-rate in excess of 10%. His best horses have been Bicheonbong, who won the President’s Cup (KOR-G1) in 2004, and Star Wood, who won back-to-back runnings of the Ttukseom Cup (KOR-G3) in 2005 and 2006, in the days before that race became restricted to fillies and mares.

Trainer Kwak Yong-hyo with jockey Park Tae-jong following Hangang Ace’s win in the Munhwa Ilbo Trophy (Pic: KRA)

Kwak may not be done quite yet as he has in his stable Hangang Ace, who earlier this month won the Listed Munhwa Ilbo Trophy for juveniles and will probably be headed to Busan in December for the Breeders’ Cup race to decide the season’s champion two-year-old.

Next weekend sees the likely return of Korea Sprint winner Eoma Eoma. With no season-ending Group races for the sprinters, he is set to travel south to Busan where he will be hot favourite to win the Listed Kookje Shinmun Trophy over 1400M next Sunday afternoon.

Raon The Fighter Dominates KRA Cup Classic

Raon The Fighter delivered a consummate display of excellence at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, effortlessly crossing to the front and proceeding to run the rest out of the race to win the KRA Cup Classic (2000M KOR-G2) in front of a raucous 27,000 strong crowd.

Having duelled with Japan’s Sekifu throughout the majority of last month’s international Korea Cup (1800M-IG3) but ultimately tire late on as Winner’s Man came through to take a spectacular victory, Raon The Fighter was sent off as the odds-on favourite to return to winning ways in the principal lead up to the season finale Grand Prix Stakes. The only questions were whether he could get a good position from the widest gate and whether he could see out the extended trip of 2000M, a distance he was tackling for the first time. Those who posed those questions, quickly regretted doing so.

Other than in the Korea Cup, Raon The Fighter’s only defeats had come in sprint races when stumbling at the start and then working too hard to get on terms. This Sunday, he broke beautifully from gate thirteen and jockey Moon Se Young was able to steer him across to the front immediately.

Had anything even wanted to take him on for early speed, it is doubtful whether they could have done such was Raon The Fighter’s authority, although King Of The Match and Tuhonui Banseok would gamely sit within striking distance exchanging 2nd and 3rd positions throughout. Two little accelerations from Raon The Fighter, first at the top of the home straight to put him firmly in the clear, and then again a furlong out when into unchartered territory distance-wise at the furlong pole, and Moon Se Young was left looking behind him to see if there were any dangers.

There were no dangers. Raon The Fighter was eased home for a five-length win with King Of The Match getting closest in 2nd and then a seven-length gap back to Tuhonui Banseok in 3rd. Behind them, 2021 Grand Prix Stakes winner Haengbok Wangja was 4th while Geuma Mystic and Moonhak Chief came home in 5th and 6th.

Raon The Fighter debuted in November 2020, just after racing resumed behind closed doors and for severely restricted prize money. He would have five wins on the board before prizes were restored to meaningful levels the following July and didn’t get to run in a Group race until November 2021 when he destroyed Eoma Eoma in the SROA Chairmans Trophy (1200M KOR-G3).

The KRA Cup Classic is Raon The Fighter’s third Group win having also won the Busan Owners’ Cup (1600M KOR-G3) this July. The four-year-old entire, who is by Bayern and out of Empire Maker mare Clarinda, is owned by Son Chun-soo of the ever-growing Raon racing empire which stands the stallion Musket Man. He is trained by Park Jong-kon, who now almost exclusively trains Raon horses. For trainer Park, it was a fourth KRA Cup Classic after Mari Daemul in 2013 and Cheongdam Dokki in 2017 and 2018. For jockey Moon Se-young, it was a third win in the race, having partnered Pocketful Of Money in 2007 and Cheongdam Dokki in 2017.

The logical next step for Raon The Fighter would be the Grand Prix Stakes in December and a possible rematch with Winner’s Man, who will most likely be contesting the President’s Cup next month. There are two big stars in Korean racing right now, and they will collide again soon enough.

Busan Friday: Race-By-Race Preview (July 22)

It’s Owners’ Cup weekend in Busan and Moon Se-young is among the Seoul jockeys in town for Sunday’s big race in which he will be partnering Raon The Fighter. He’s riding on the Friday card which has 7 races from 15:35 to 21:00. Here are the previews:

It’s Friday. It’s Busan

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

(4) SPECIAL WIND stepped up to this distance at start number five on June 26th and overcame a wide draw to get to the lead, ultimately finishing a close 2nd. He comes into a much better gate today, can get an easier run early, and looks the one to beat. (6) GUREUMSOK SANCHAEK returned from six months out to run a solid 4th of nine at 1200M on June 10th. He ran through the line pleasingly enough, should strip fitter for the run and the additional distance can suit. (2) YONGCHEON comes in off his best performance to date when 4th behind Special Wind on June 26th. He draws well again and can go close. (1) ORANGE STAR and (10) DOCTOR KHALIFA are among other placing hopes.

Selections(4) Special Wind (6) Gureumsok Sanchaek (2) Yongcheon (1) Orange Star
Next Best10, 7
Fast Start1, 3, 4, 10

Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

(1) STAR MATTA looks to have potential. He’s been well-backed in all three starts so far and while he hasn’t quite met expectations yet, he hasn’t run badly and comes in off a useful enough 5th of ten over 1400M on July 1st. You Hyun-myung climbs aboard and while that means he doesn’t get the benefit of an apprentice claim this time, he draws well and has a chance. (6) VIEW AMAZING is the only one in the field to have placed already, something he did two starts back when 2nd over 1400M. He too steps up to a mile for the first time and it may well suit. He probably starts favourite. (3) EURO STAR too may appreciate the additional trip. She has hinted at ability in recent appearances. (2) DANGDAE BLUE and (5) MEOTJIN HARU other potentials for the minors.

Selections(1) Star Matta (6) View Amazing (3) Euro Star (2) Dangdae Blue
Next Best5, 4
Fast Start2, 3, 4, 6

Busan Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(4) SSAEKSSAEGI returned from five months out to run a good 3rd over this distance on June 19th when handy throughout. He should have benefited from that run, can sit on pace again and can win. The probable pace-setter is (5) FUNNY LIFE. She has finished in the top-four in all but one of her five starts so far at distances up to 1300M and she should be in this a long way. (6) SUPER CRACK has the fastest time among these for the distance. He can settle back and run on here and should be a danger at the business end of the race. (2) ZET CASH comes back in trip after recent efforts over 1400M that include a runner-up finish two starts back. He draws nicely and looks a place chance. (9) WONDERFUL SMARTY another in the minor money hunt.

Selections(4) Ssaekssaegi (5) Funny Life (6) Super Crack (2) Zet Cash
Next Best9, 3
Fast Start3, 4, 5, 6
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Calm Strong Claims KNN Cup as Raon First Well Beaten

23/1 chance Calm Strong led from gate-to-wire and held off the closing pack to win the KNN Cup (1600M KOR-G3), the third leg of the 2022 Queens’ Tour at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, with hot favourite Raon First well back down the field.

Calm Strong (right) hold off Wish Me to win the KNN Cup (Pic: KRA)

Making just her tenth career start, Calm Strong bounded out of gate eight and into the lead while Raon First, dwelt slightly and was slowly away, having to settle in an unfamiliar rear position.

While Raon First did improve to 2nd place by the top of the straight, it quickly became clear that it wasn’t going to be her day, her customary acceleration was missing and she dropped back through the field, ultimately finishing 8th.

With You Hyun-myung aboard, Calm Strong was able to hold off the determined late challenges of Wish Me and Yeonggwangui Time, taking the line a neck to the good. Filly Triple Crown winner Golden Power was 4th.

Calm Strong is a three-year-old USA-bred filly by Bayern and out of the Broken Vow mare Diva’ Seastar. Imported as a yearling, she is owned by Lee Hae-lan and trained by Kang Hyoung-gon. Sunday’s victory was just her third but takes her career earnings to KRW 329 Million (US$250,000).

As for Raon First, jockey Choi Bum-hyun reported that having loaded first, his mare had to wait a long time in the gate and then didn’t get away well. He said that having got up to join the leaders, she didn’t maintain her momentum in the way that he expected. An initial veterinary examination found no obvious issues.

The Queens’ Tour goes on hiatus again now until the end of autumn when the fourth and final leg will be the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (2000M KOR-G3) once more at Busan on Sunday November 27.

Next weekend Busan takes centre-stage again with the Owners’ Cup (1600M KOR-G2). It’s a race that has in the past been won by the likes of Dangdae Bulpae, Triple Nine, Power Blade and Blue Chipper. Raon First’s stablemate, Raon The Fighter, is expected to run.