Racing Reviews

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.

Final Boss Is Korea’s 2016 Juvenile Champion

Final Boss swept home late to land the Breeders’ Cup at Seoul today and be crowned Champion Korean Juvenile of 2016. The Menifee colt followed up his victory in October’s Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup to land a rare triumph for Seoul-trained horses over their Busan rivals. 

Busan’s Europa, winner of the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup and from the Kim Young Kwan training machine, was sent off as the slight odds-on favourite but while he was well placed entering the home straight, he was able to offer little in the closing stages, coming home in 4th.

Indeed the early pace-setters, Evergreen Tree, Circle Dancer, Athena Thunder and Ice Marine, would all fade as the closers took command late on. Second favourite Daeho Sidae struck the front a furlong out and was joined by the Yonekura Satoshi ridden Muhan Yeoljeong. But on the outside, just as he did in the Mayor’s Cup, Final Boss pounced, jockey Choi Bum Hyun timing things perfectly to go past in sight of the line and take the glory by just under a length.

Breeders’ Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – December 4, 2016

1. Final Boss (KOR) [Menifee – Sinsok Dolpa (Lindo Shaver)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 12.4, 3.5
2. Daeho Sidae (KOR) [Simon Pure – Ara Mireu (Didyme)] – Choi Si Dae – 2.2
3. Muhan Yeoljeong (KOR) [Officer – Ridemetothemoon (Malibu Moon)] – Yonekura Satoshi – 4.0
Distances: 0.75 lengths / 1 length
Also Ran: 4. Wonder Wall 5. Europa 6. Indian King 7. Kkumui Silhyeon 8. Meni Bracing 9. Rocket Queen 10. Illyu Star 11. Sunkissed 12. Ice Marine 13. Lead Money 14. Circle Dancer 15. Evergreen Tree 16. Athena Thunder

Final Boss moves on to four wins from six outings and heads into the New Year as Seoul’s big hope to land one of the three-year-old Classics. It’s great news for Seoul, however, it will be tempered by the fact that the next five place-getters were all from Busan.

More to follow…

Ms. Margaux Lands Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup For Irish Trainer Thomas Gillespie

 Ms. Margaux, so often runner-up over her career,got it right in spectacular style at Busan Racecourse this afternoon. The five-year-old mare got the better of Ttukseom Cup winner Bichui Jeongsang in a stretch duel to win the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup, the final leg of the Queens’ Tour, and hand a first Korean Group win to Irish trainer Thomas Gillespie.

Ms. Margaux (Midnight Lute) a class 1 winner at the 2000M distance in September, was sent off as favourite for the final race in the series which is held to decided the Champion filly or mare of the year, having been 6th in both the two shorter legs. Surprise KNN Cup winner Supreme Magic was 2nd favourite and Queens’ Tour veteran New York Blue 3rd in the market.

Korean Oaks winner Ottug Ottugi showed the way early along with perennial fast-starter Halla Chukje and well-fancied Seoul raider Touch Flying. Bichui Jeongsang and and Ms. Margaux both made ground in the back straight and around the home turn and as the leaders faltered, they led into the straight.

It was one-on-one from then on and under jockey Kim Yong Geun, Ms. Margaux kicked clear in the final furlong to take the honours by just over a length on the line. FIve lengths behind Bichui Jeongsang, the unheralded Mighty Gem put in a huge run to edge New York Blue out of 3rd place in a photograph.

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First Korean Group winner – Thomas Gillespie (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Ms. Margaux was a $15,ooo purchase at the September yearling sales at Keeneland in 2012. Today she took her earnings to in excess of $700,000. She’s had quite a remarkable career, most of it spent with Peter Wolsley before transferring to Thomas Gillespie this season. She took thirteen races to get her maiden win but finished 2nd or 3rd in all of the previous 12. In 29 starts she has only finished outside the money on five occasions with a total of ten 2nd places and eight 3rds. Today she got by far the biggest of her four wins.

It was another group success for jockey Kim Yong Geun, who remains in punters’ bad books after Perdido Pomeroy’s performance against Ottug Ottugi last month but who once again ends up in a big race winner’s circle. For Thomas Gillespie, it is a 35th winner since debuting at Busan last summer. Gillespie maintains a win-rate of almost 14% and his horses find the top three well over 40% of the time. He’s proven a very solid addition to the training ranks at Busan.

Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 2000M – November 20, 2016

1. Ms. Margaux (USA) [Midnight Lute – Sixtyone Margaux (Cozzene)] – Kim Yong Geun – 2.6, 1.2
2. Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] – Jo Sung Gon – 3.3
3. Mighty Gem (USA) [Macho Uno – Shimmer (Pulpit)] – Kim Hye Sun – 12.2
Distances: 1.25 lengths / 5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. New York Blue (USA) 5. Ottug Ottugi (KOR) 6. Areumdaundonghaeng (USA) 7. Hay Queen (USA) 8. Silver Wolf (AUS) 9. Santa Gloria (KOR) 10. Touch Flying (KOR) 11. Supreme Magic (USA) 12. Halla Chukje (USA) 13. Naesarang Damyang (USA)

Cheongdam Dokki, I’m Your Father Claim 2yo Prizes

Big prizes were on offer for imported two-year-olds at both Seoul and Busan on Sunday . 23/1 outsider Cheongdam Dokki took the honours in the Munhwa Ilbo Cup at Seoul while at Busan, jockey Francisco Da Silva continued his recent run of form, guiding  well-backed I’m Your Father to victory in the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo.

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Francisco Da Silva interviewed post-race

I’m Your Father (Tiznow) entered having won one of three starts so far with 2nd and 3rd places in the other two – all against older horses. Accordingly he was sent off as the slight favourite for the 1200M Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup, Busan’s most valuable race for imported juveniles. I’m Your Father, a $50,000 yearling purchase from the Fasig Tipton sale last autumn raced handy throughout, hitting the front early in the home straigth and running on to win by a dominant four lengths.

It was jockey Francisco Da Silva’s 11th Korean winner and he would quickly add another as he guided Main Stay to beat stablemate and Korean Oaks winner Ottug Ottugi and highly rated sprinter Perdido Pomeroy in the class 1 feature.

Seoul too hosted its most valuable race for juvenile imports on Sunday and if Busan’s was practically a procession for the winner, in the capital it was anything but. Spirit Of Hansen (Hansen) was sent off as a vulnerable favourite in the Munhwa Ilbo Cup but it was another 23/1 chance, Cheongdam Dokki (To Honor And Serve) who closed from 9th to 1st in the final furlong to snatch it on the line under Park Eul Woon.

Cheongdam Dokki cost just $20,000 at Keeneland’s yearling sale in 2015. The munhwa Ilbo was just his second lifetime start and he’s won both of them

Next week sees one of the biggest races of the season at Seoul in the shape of the President’s Cup. It’s Korea’s most valuable race of the season that’s restricted to domestic-bred horses.