Racing Reviews

Silver Wolf Strolls To Donga Ilbo Cup Win

Silver Wolf was the dominant filly or mare of 2017, sweeping all three legs of the Queens’ Tour and she got her six-year-old win underway in the best possible fashion with a dominant win in the Donga Ilbo Cup. In doing so, it gave Djordje Perovic a Listed winner on the Serbian jockey’s last day at Seoul before leaving on an extended sabbatical to recover from a back injury. 

It was always going to be a mismatch.  Just eight fillies and mares opted to take her on over the 1800M, a mix of slightly faded talents and not quite up there prospects. Perovic brought Silver Wolf to the lead at the top of the stretch and the pair eased away from the field for an easy nine-length victory.  43/1 outsider Lead Money came home 2nd with 38/1 Chang Se in 3rd.

Australian-bred SIlver Wolf (Orotorio) has now won 10 of her 21 career starts, three of them Graded Stakes races (the Queens’ Tour last year) and now two Listed (adding to the Munhwa Ilbo Cup last autumn). It was only as a five-year-old last year that she really showed her ability and while she is now too old to run in the Queens’ Tour races, she will surely be a danger in other big races, especially at sprint distances.

As for the other “wolf”, Djordje Perovic; known as “The Balkan Wolf” has been suffering from a back injury for some time and the constant grind that goes with being a top freelance jockey in Korea makes recovery very difficult. While it’s true there are only two race days each week, a freelancer is expected to ride an awful lot of track-work six days a week if he wishes to ride in the races – din’t ride the work and you don’t ride the race. It’s the same for the top local jockeys with Moon Se Young speaking last year about how it is increasingly hard to do.

PeroMoon

Moon Se Young (left) & Djordje Perovic embrace after the last at Seoul on Sunday 

Perovic would go on to ride the final two winners on the card too, finishing off with Choegang Schiller (Artie Schiller) beating Another Smart One (Smarty Jones) in the class 1 finale. Moon Se Young was on the runner-up and the pair shook hands after the line. Their rivalry over the past three years has brought another aspect to racing at Seoul and with any luck, it will be renewed when Perovic returns which, if all goes well, could be around Korea Cup time.

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Weekend Round-Up: Ecton Blade & Triple Crown Trail, Rainha, Moonhak Chief

Three-year-olds were the standout performers in Korea last weekend with some of the best of the crop turning in eye-catching performances at both Seoul & Busan.

Ecton Blade won the Breeders’ Cup race at Seoul in December and so headed into the New Year as the leading Triple Crown contender. 2nd placegetter in that race and Seoul’s top juvenile of last year Choinma could only manage another 2nd place on his own seasonal debut two weeks ago but Ecton Blade made no mistake at Busan on Sunday.  He’s already won over 1600M before and went into Sunday’s race 3, at the KRA Cup Mile distance as the prohibitive favourite, fully justifying it by sauntering to an eight-length win. Stiffer tests await.

Ecton Blade’s win leaves the top sixteen three-year-olds (sixteen being the maximum field-size) with Triple Crown eligibility currently looking like this:

1. Ecton Blade [Ecton Park]
2= Sinui Myeongryeong (filly) [Hansen]
2= Choinma [Menifee]
4. Yeonghui Sidae (filly) [Hansen]
5. Captain Force [Peace Rules]
6. Divide Wind [Menifee]
7. Magic Ten (filly) [Rock Hard Ten]
8. Hoeng Un Gol [Forest Camp]
9. Meni Bada [Menifee]
10. World Sun [Officer]
11. King Jjang [Simon Pure]
12= Green K (filly) [Chapel Royal]
12= Global Line [Rock Hard Ten]
12= Hae Hu [Peace Rules]
12= Bugyeong Daebak (filly) [Forest Camp]
12= Blue Flag (filly) [Menifee]

Ecton Blade’s trainer Kim Young Kwan has an embarassment of riches that has seen 20 of his 40 runners so far in 2018 win. Even my elementary maths can calculate that’s a scarcely believable 50% strike rate and 70% of his runners have finished in the Quinella. Perhaps the richest of all the talents could be Rainha.

The exiting filly stepped up to a mile for what was her third career start and Rainha maintained her 100% record in a dismissively easy manner, cruising around on the bridle for a four-length win. Having been imported in-utero, she’s not on the Classic trail but nevertheless looks a very promising talent.

Rainha is owned by Shunsuke Yoshida and her dam is Allwise (Mr. Greeley) who had three foals in Japan before being relocated to Nokwon Farm on Jeju Island in late 2014 while in foal to Gold Allure. That resulting foal was Rainha. In the meantime, her filly by Heart’s Cry, born a year earlier and called Historia, last November won the TVK Sho at Tokyo Racecourse and now boasts a record of three wins from nine starts in the JRA.

Also in the non-eligible three-year-old ranks is Moonhak Chief. The US import by Pioneerof The Nile stepped up to class 2 and also to 1800M for the first time at Seoul on Sunday. And mightilu impressive he was too,  being ridden patiently by Lim Gi Won early on beofre stikign the front with just over a furlong to go and running on to win by a comfortable two lengths. He’s now won five of his seven outings.

In other news, Doraonpogyeongseon (Kantharos) went down by a nose in Busan’s Sunday sprint feature. Under an apprentice jockey so as he wouldn’t have to carry 60kg, the third-placegetter in the Korea Sprint couldn’t quite get up over 1200M, beaten a nose by Ever In Ever (Sharp Humor)/

(Belated) Weekend Round-Up: Final Boss Wins Segye Ilbo, Cheongdam Dokki Easy

Last year’s Korean Derby winner Final Boss kicked off his four-year-old campaign in style this past weekend, winning the first Listed race of the season, the Segye Ilbo Cup at Seoul Racecourse.

A good renewal it was too, with Final Boss sent off as second favourite behind Cheonji Storm. However, it was last year’s winner, Always Winner, who jumped out of the gate the quickest and into an early lead. It looked for a time he might just repeat his trick from twelve months ago and go all the way.

The big guns closed though. Cheonji Storm down the outside and City Star on the inside. And between the two of them came Final Boss, ears back and looking like he meant business. He struck the front just metres from the line and won by a neck from City Star with Cheonji Storm only another neck back in 3rd.

As they crossed the line, jockey Moon Se Young called across to Jang Chuyoul on City Star to inquire as to which of them won. After the race he said he wasn’t convinced that Final Boss could win such a race at a sprint distance (1200M) but the horse just took off in the closing stages and seemed desperate to get to the front.

Final Boss (Menifee-Sinseok Dolpa) moves on to nine wins from sixteen starts.

Cheongdam Dokki brutalized the Grand Prix field in December before ultimately running out of steam. He too began his four-year-old season at the weekend, appearing in Seoul’s feature handicap on Saturday.

He ws up against Shamrocker and and Clean Up Joy, both trained by Song Moon Gil and both of whom Cheongdam Dokki had seen off before.

He monstered them. Shamrocker came to challenge early but had little to offer in the closing straight leaving Clean Up Joy, who had complicated things for himself early on with his habitual leap as the gates opened, closing strongly. Cheongdam Dokki was almost pulled up by this stage though as he eased to his eighth win from thirteen outings. He should perhaps really be in Dubai right now as this is too easy and it looks like we may have to wait until the summer to see him actually be required to finish off a race properly.

Weekend Round-Up: Haeya Strikes At Busan But Choinma Stumbles on Season Debut At Seoul

Haeya sprinted her way to success for the 6th time in 12 career starts as the lightly raced five-year-old mare took victory in Sunday’s feature at Busan.

Haeya

Haeya, seen here at the Korea Sprint, was a fine winner on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

A good field assembled for the 1400M “Road To G1” contest on the South Coast with Haeya joined by big name sprinters such as Perdido Pomeroy and Drop The Beat. King Of Ace made his second start since returning from surgery while Macheon Bolt, 2nd in the Korea Sprint in 2016 also returned for the first time in almost a year. Diferent Dimension also made his first start since moving to the stable of Kang Byung Eun.

Not many of them went well. Neither King Of Ace nor Macheon Bolt looked fully ready while Diferent Dimension showed early but then faded. Perdido Pomeroy as ever set the pace but Haeya was always handy and under You Hyun Myung, she struck the front in the home straight, running on to win by a comfortable two and a half lengths. Outsider Stealth and Thomas Gillespie’s Party Again came home strongly late to take 2nd and 3rd.

Haeya [Flatter – Luxaholic (Macho Uno)] was 2nd in last year’s Ttukseom Cup and 3rd in the KNN Cup, both times behind Silver Wolf and looks set to be a contender in those and other big races up to a mile later in the year.

With victories in the Gyeonggi Governor;s and Gwacheon Mayor’s Cups followed by 2nd place to Ecton Blade in the Breeders’ Cup, Choinma was the biggest earning juvenile in Korea in 2017 and widely expected to play a big role in the Triple Crown series this year. He stepped up to 1700M for his first outing of 2018 at Seoul on Saturday and was sent off the prohibitive favourite in a class 3 handicap. It didn’t quite go to plan as not for the first time recently, a long-shot got on pace early and couldn’t be caught .

This time it was 45/1 Jeongan Kingdom who made all and while Choinam rallied late on, he was still a full two and a half lengths adrift in 2nd place on the line. It wasn’t the most auspicious beginning to his three-year-old career but it’s early days and conditions will likely be very different once we reach the KRA Cup Mile in April.

Power Blade’s Grand Prix The Best Yet

On Sunday, we probably saw the best Grand Prix Stakes we ever have. The 2015 edition, won by Bold Kings, was outstanding, while for those of us who go in for that sort of thing, Tough Win’s 2011 victory over fellow “troika” members, Mister Park and Smarty Moonhak will always be special, even if the race itself wasn’t that exciting.  Power Blade’s victory this year, on the other hand, was in a race that involved a win by a genuine star in a contest that wasn’t settled until the final stride.

Power Blade Grand Prix Fnish1

Power Blade wins the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)

Cheongdam Dokki, the three-year-old favourite, set a pace that was quite brutal by Korean standards. In a Grand Prix Stakes, only Ugildongja in 2009 and Beolmaui Kkum in 2014 had set anything close to his early sectionals – and both finished well back in their respective fields. Cheongdam Dokki didn’t. The final time of Power Blade broke the 2300M track record by over a second and was precisely three seconds quicker than the fastest previous Grand Prix – the aforementioned 2009 edition, which was won by Dongbanui Gangja.

The horses who went with Cheongdam Dokki – or at least tried to – simply had nothing left for the closing stages; Diferent Dimension, Dynamic Dash and last to succumb, Silver Wolf, fading through the pack. The only one who kept pace early and had something to offer was the outstanding Triple Nine. Lim Sung Sil, possibly fearing that Cheongdam Dokki was simply too good, began to get after Triple Nine as they began the long turn for home, a full four-furlongs out, in order to keep up with the leader. At the same time Oh Kyung Hwan on Power Blade and Park Jae I on Dongbang Daero opted to save energy and allowed their mounts a more leisurely trip, ultimately paying huge dividends in the closing stages.

It is therefore perhaps testament to the sheer ability of Triple Nine and the huge potential of Cheongdam Dokki that they still managed to finish 3rd and 4th respectively after such stiff early efforts. Less than three lengths separated the winner and 5th placed Buhwarui Banseok.

Power Blade Grand Prix Winners Circle

Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic: KRA)

Dongbang Daero had finished 3rd behind Saengil Gippeum in what was a trial for the Grand Prix over 2200M at Busan at the beginning of November. Saengil Gippeum blew them away that day but Dongbang Daero had finished the quickest, running on very nicely to become involved in a finish in which there was just half a length separating 2nd and 6th. Buhwarui Banseok was also involved in that finish and he too ran on very well on Sunday.

Last year’s winner Clean Up Joy didn’t look the part before the race and never really featured, ending up in 7th place.

It became clear around two furlongs out that Cheongdam Dokki wasn’t going to be able to keep things up the whole way around. Triple Nine got first crack at him but Power Blade and Dongbang Daero simply had too much in reserve and Power Blade’s class saw him home by a Head on the line.

It is a shame that neither Triple Nine nor Power Blade will be returning to the Dubai World Cup Carnival as both look eminently capable of winning a race this time around. Connections have other plans, however, and hopefully they’ll get a nice long rest through the worst of the winter – although in all honesty, it would be no surprise to see one or other lining up in a nondescript Class 1 handicap come February. The pair of them have been such good ambassadors for Korean racing over the past three seasons, that they went overseas even once is something we can be grateful for. That trip, plus their showings in the Korea Cup and Sprint demonstrated that the pair of them could hold their own to a good (not elite, but good) standard anywhere.

Trainer Kim Young Kwan can divide opinions, but there can be no denying that when a horse of his comes out to run in a big race, his team will have it in peak condition and Triple Nine and Power Blade are the epitome of this – Triple Nine’s Godolphin Mile aside (and he was in desperate need of a spell then), they never seem to have an off-day.

Both now have claims to be the top Korean-bred horse ever. Power Blade’s Triple Crown and Grand Prix matching up with Triple Nine’s President’s Cup hat-trick. Their prize money earnings are almost identical with both breaking the 3 Billion Won barrier at the Grand Prix.  They’ve raced each other seven times now with Triple Nine leading the head-to-head by 4 to 3  – although Power Blade has now won three of their last four meetings.

We head into 2018 with plenty to be excited about on track. Cheongdam Dokki’s development along with the pair who ultimately didn’t run in the Grand Prix, Dolkong and New Citadel. Then there is the emergence of a new domestic three-year-old crop which looks stronger than this year’s. Still on top for now though are Power Blade and Triple Nine and next year they will still only be five and six-years-old.

 

 

Magnificent Power Blade Wins the Grand Prix Stakes 2017

Power Blade, the 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner on Sunday topped even that, racing to victory in Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes.

Power Blade Grabd Prix

Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic. J. Kim)

3-year-old phenom Cheongdam Dokki was sent off as favourite for the 2300M season-finale with Triple Nine 2nd best in punter’s eyes ahead of Power Blade who started in excess of 12/1. Cheongdam Dokki did indeed set the pace in the early part of the race but once he got into unfamiliar territory in the home straight, he bag to tire. Triple Nine got first crack at him but ultimately it was Power Blade and – to the surprise of most – 150/1 Dongbang Daero who came through to dispute the finish, Power Blade triumphing by a Head on the line. Triple Nine was a game as ever 3rd with Cheongdam Dokki 4th and Bart Rice’s Buhwarui Banseok a very good 5th.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 10, 2017

1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonachong (Lost Mountain)] – Oh Kyung Hwan – 13.1, 2.1
2. Dongbang Daero (USA) [Curlin – Willa Joe (El Gran Senor)] – Park Jae I – 17.0
3. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.0
Distances: Head / 1.25 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) 5. Buhwarui Banseok (USA) 6. Champ Line (KOR) 7. Clean Up Joy (USA 8. Silver Wolf (AUS) 9. Dynamic Dash (USA) 10. Saengil Gippeum (USA) 11. Cheonjeok (USA) 12. Diferent Dimension (USA)

More to follow.

Yeongcheon Derby & P.K. Party Win Valuable Juvenile Prizes

Both Seoul & Busan hosted big, valuable races for two-year-olds on Sunday. Last year the winners of the corresponding events turned out to be Cheongdam Dokki at Seoul, who has gone on to become one of the highest rated horses in Korea; and I’m Your Father at Busan, winner of July’s Busan Mayor’s Cup. This time 8/1 chance Yeongcheon Derby took the honours on the south coast in the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup, while in the capital, P.K. Party maintained her 100% record by winning the Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy.

Yeongcheon Derby

Yeongcheon Derby was a comfortable winner at Busan on Sunday (Pic: KRA)

Seoul’s race was especially competitive with almost half of the 13-strong field arriving hitherto unbeaten. Despite having won all her five prior races, P.K. Party, the only Korean-bred among them (imported in-utero) and one of only three fillies, was only sent off as fourth-favourite in the market. As it transpired, she made all, bounding out of gate 7 under Kim Yong Geun and holding off the late challenge of OP Seven to win by half a length on the line and secure another big race win for trainer Song Moon Gil, who was recording his eight Group or Listed victory of 2017.

At Busan, things were more straightforward for Yeongcheon Derby. Hot favourite Blue Chipper got a bad start and never looked settled, handing Choi Si Dae the initiative on Yeongcheon Derby. The pair went to the front and never looked in any danger at all as they cruised to a four-length triumph.

Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – Nov 19, 2017

1. P.K. Party (KOR) [Old Fashioned – Lottacosta (Cat Thief)] – Kim Yong Geun – 5.4, 2.0
2. OP Seven (USA) [Tale Of Ekati – Groundbreaker (War Front)] – Lee Joon Chel – 1.4
3. Moonhak Chief (USA) [Pioneerof The Nile – Talullah Lula (Old Trieste)] – Lim Gi Won – 1.7
Distances: 0.5 lengths / 1.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Cheongsu Yeogeol (USA) 5. Tiz Plan (USA) 6. Sky Bay (USA) 7. Sun Lighting (USA) 8. Ace King (USA) 9. Mighty Ssing (USA) 10. Bulmyeorui Jewang (USA) 11. Nice Dash (USA) 12. Jeokbyeok Shinhwa (USA) 13. Ohthe Pazibilties (USA)

Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1200M – Nov 19, 2017

1. Yeongcheon Derby (KOR) [Thunder Moccasin – Dixie Avenger (Dixie Union)] – Choi Si Dae – 1.8
2. Potential (USA) [Midnight Lute – Fair Rose (Harlan’s Holiday)] – Jin Kyum – 2.2
3. Pasha (USA) [Haynesfield – Cute N Sassy (Consolidator)] – Lee Sung Jae – 1.8
Distances: 4 lengths / 0.75 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Ace Korea (USA) 5. Ace Dolpung (KOR) 6. Choegang Beongae (USA) 7. I’m Your Mother (USA) 8. Blue Chipper (USA)