Racing Reviews

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.

 

 

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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)

Silver Wolf Completes Queens’ Tour Sweep

Silver Wolf cruised to victory in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup on Sunday and in doing so, completed a clean sweep of the 2017 Queens’ Tour, assuring her the title of Champion Filly or Mare of the year.

Silver wolf Gyeongnam

Silver Wolf & Yoo Seung Wan complete the Queens’ Tour sweep (Pic: KRA)

Having narrowly won the Ttukseom Cup over 1400M in June and then easily winning the KNN Cup at a mile a month later – and finding time then to run 5th in the Korea Sprint and win the Munhwa Ilbo Cup – Silver Wolf was sent off a prohibitive favourite for the 2000M final leg, a race in which she could only manage 8th place last year and 7th in 2015.

It was never in doubt this time. Queen’s Queen provided the early drama by dumping Song Keong Yun on the ground exiting the starting gate but the race from then on was routine with jockey Yoo Seung Wan content to keep Silver Wolf in 2nd behind early pacesetter Hello Venus. Entering the home straight, they struck the front and never looked like being caught, finishing two lengths clear of fellow Seoul-raider O.K. Yeondab. Gold Blue arrived on the scene late to take 3rd with KNN Cup runner-up Mighty Gem in 4th.

Silver Wolf [Oratorio – Ready For More (More Than Ready)] is a five-year-old Australian-bred mare. She was a $40,000 purchase from the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling sale in 2014. She’s won nine of nineteen outings to date with career winnings not in excess of US$1Million.

 

Triple Nine’s Stamina Defies Doubters To Land 3rd President’s Cup

In the end the punters were much closer to getting it right than the pundits. The vast majority of the Korean racing world had managed to convince itself that when it came to the rivalry between Triple Nine and Power Blade, the younger horse was now in charge, even at 2000M. Bettors, however, sent the pair off as pretty much co-favourites and ultimately it was Triple Nine who prevailed at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday to match the achievement of Dangdae Bulpae in winning three consecutive President’s Cups.

Triple Nine President's Cup 3

Triple Nine beat Power Blade to win his 3rd President’s Cup at Seoul on Sunday (Pic: KRA)

l was guiltier than most, having gone from believing at the start of the week that Triple Nine still had every chance over his preferred distance to by the time of the race, being sure Power Blade would win. In the end, it wasn’t even close with Triple Nine collaring his rival a furlong from home and running on to win by an ever-increasing two lengths.

Triple Nine was given a very good ride by Lim Sung Sil who this year has established himself as the top big race rider in Korea. This was his third Group race victory of the year (more impressive than it sounds given the limited number), achieved on three different horses and he is likely to ride favourite World Sun in the Breeders’ Cup race back at Seoul in early December. Then of course, there is the prospect of Triple Nine in the Grand Prix Stakes.

Lim is an infrequent rider, his minimum weight of 54kg not being conducive to regular mounts in Korea, but some of the rides he has produced – initiative in the Minister’s Cup and timing in last week’s Gimhae Mayor’s Cup and of course on Triple Nine on Sunday – mark him out as a cut above most here.

Ultimately, the President’s Cup finishing order was exactly the same as last year, with Triple Nine winning, Power Blade 2nd and Success Story 3rd. Korean Derby winner Final Boss could only manage 4th. He raced prominently throughout but never looked likely in the home straight and is perhaps not quite at the very elite level yet. That elite level is set by the winner and runner-up, ten lengths clear of the rest.

Korean racing has been very lucky to have both Triple Nine and Power Blade over the past two years. Their performances over the summer must surely put an end to the general belief on the backstretches in Seoul and Busan that travelling overseas to race is detrimental to horses’ chances of racing successfully in Korea. Granted it took both a while to readjust on their return from Dubai and they probably did miss out on winning some easy prize money in routine handicaps – and granted too, remarkably this was Triple Nine’s first race win since the corresponding one a year ago. But both could have probably used the spell anyway after long campaigns.

Moreover, Power Blade especially came back a better horse and it has now been demonstrated that Triple Nine lost nothing either with both having beaten the other at their preferred trips. There is, of course a reason why in September, Power Blade ran in the Korea Sprint and Triple Nine in the Korea Cup. While Triple Nine will head for the Grand Prix, Power Blade almost certainly won’t and at least for him, another trip to Dubai would make perfect sense, even if he has to forego an easy win or two here. For now, connections remain unconvinced.

Dangdae Bulpae, whose three-timer Triple Nine has now equaled, did attempt a fourth in 2013. It was a race too far for him. A year is a very long time in flat racing but hopefully Triple Nine will still be here.

Indian Star Successfully Defends Jeju Governor’s Cup

Indian Star made it difficult for herself but had enough in the tank to win her second consecutive Jeju Governor’s Cup at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Strangely the defending champion, who returned to form with a very good 2nd place in a recent tough handicap at Busan, was’t sent off as favourite but under jockey Lim Sung Sil, Indian Star took the race by the scruff of its neck and raced into an early lead. At the top of the stretch, it looked set to be a procession, however, then the antics started.

First Indian Star ducked one way and then the other, losing her momentum and giving away her advantage. Bright Star attacked on one side and Chang Se on the other but jockey Lim managed to rouse Indian Star for one final push to get home on top by  a neck.

Indian Star, a half-sister to this year’s KRA Cup Mile winner Indian King, has now won 11 of 23 starts.

Jeju Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – September 3, 2017

1. Indian Star (KOR) [Adcat – Indian Diamond (Indian Charlie)] – Lim Sung Sil – 4.1, 1.7
2. Bright Star (KOR) [Menifee – L Vicar (Vicar)] – Franco Da Silva – 2.9
3. Chang Se (KOR) [Forest Camp – Daecheonpung (Fiercely)] – Johan Victoire – 8.8
Distances: Neck / Head
Also Ran: 4. Santa Gloria 5. Steal The Show Why 6. Pink Blade 7. Tour Rose 8. Lead Money 9. Super Blade 10. Uju Star 11. Jejui Haneul 12. Black Sapphire 13. Pinot Noir 14. Happy Sensation 15. Rain Sky

Derby Winners Power Blade & Final Boss Back To Winning Ways

The winners of the last two Korean Derby’s found their ways back into the winner’s circle last Sunday. 2016 Triple Crown winner Power Blade defeated stablemate Triple Nine to win the Busan Owners’ Cup while 2017 Derby victor Final Boss scored in a rather more modest contest at Seoul.

For Power Blade it was a first start since returning from the Dubai World Cup Carnival where he scored a couple of very creditable 3rd place finishes. He won the domestic Triple Crown last year with ease but had to play second fiddle to stablemate Triple Nine, one year his senior, in the later season races. On Sunday, at a mile though, it was all about Power Blade who gave jockey Franco Da Silva his first Korean Group race winner.

Owners’ Cup (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 1600M – August 13, 2017

1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] – Francisco Da Silva – 9.5, 2.3
2. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Gil – 1.0
3. Doraon Hyeonpyo (KOR) [Colors Flying – Kilcoe Castle (Gone West)] – Jo Sung Gon – 1.7
Distances: 1 length / 0.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. City Star 5. Success Story 6. Zettabyte 7. Beolmaui Sin 8. Baedari Bobae 9. Two Two Raptor

Up at Seoul, this year’s Derby winner was also triumphant, albeit in slightly less illustrious company. Nevertheless, Final Boss still had to defeat Sinjo Daehyeop, one of the track’s top class 1 handicappers, as well as his greatest danger – his own erratic style – to prevail over 1800M.

Champion juvenile last year, Final Boss was well fancied heading to Busan for the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile in April but arrived looking out of sorts and blew his race in the early stages before rallying for 5th. He then won the Korean Derby despite running wild and wide in the closing stages before beng lackluster once more in the Minister’s Cup with another 5th place.

On Sunday, champion jockey Moon Se Young, freshly returned from a stint in Singapore, took the mount and took Final Boss forward early, stalking the leader before hitting the front turning into the home straight and going clear to win comfortably. Sinjo Daehyeop, who was conceding 6kg, could only finish 4th.