Joe Fujii on Korea Cup & Sprint: “Japanese horses have an Advantage”

When it comes to the Korea Cup and Korea Sprint, few know as much about winning than jockey Kanichiro “Joe” Fujii, the only person to have ridden the winners of both races, having guided Chrysolite to victory in the 2016 Cup and Moanin in the 2018 Sprint.

Moanin & Fujii won the Sprint in 2018 (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

Fujii, who remains in hospital in Japan after a devastating race-fall earlier this year, rode full-time in Korea from 2012 to 2015. After returning home, he became the go-to man for Japanese connections bringing their horses to run in big races in Korea, following his success on Esmeraldina in the Ttukseom Cup in 2015.

“I was so happy to get the opportunity to ride Chrysolite in the Korea Cup” recalled Fujii this Cup week.  He was a horse who didn’t like to race among other horses, so the way the race panned out was ideal. Kurino Star O led, and (Chrysolite) was able to sit off the speed and at the end he was very strong.”

Fujii’s 2018 Sprint win on Moanin, can potentially serve as a template for those who have missed out on drawing an inside gate as he emerged from gate nine, while Hong Kong’s Fight Hero, who he duelled with in the home straight and ultimately beat by a Head, started from gate thirteen.

“I knew Moanin was a good horse because he won a Group level race in the JRA but (the Korea Sprint) was his first time running in a 1200M race and I knew Korean horses are very quick out of the gate and very fast in the early part of the race so I couldn’t really keep up with the speed in the early stages. He was off the bridle all the way but once he got out, he really showed a good turn of foot and he fought with the Hong Kong horse. I was never really confident until the last 100 metres because, you know, Hong Kong horses can fight pretty hard.”

Chrysolite & Fujii won the Cup in 2016 (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

Fujii believes that the Japanese horses are in a strong situation compared to other horses coming to Korea, simply due to practical reasons. “I think Japanese horses have a good advantage because the surface of the racecourse is very similar. Transportation wise, Japan to Korea is pretty much next door so it is an easy trip.”

This time around there is one Japanese horse in the Korea Cup, three-year-old Sekifu, who is already a seasoned traveller, while six-year-old Raptus makes his first trip out of Japan to run in the Korea Sprint. Both are strong contenders.

“Sekifu is a horse that likes to get back in his races and can finish very strong. His jockey Fujioka (Kota) is a good jockey.” Similar to Moanin before his Sprint bid, Raptus has been mostly racing over 1400M and Fujii sees no reason that he can’t emulate his performance, especially with a not-so-secret weapon in the shape of his rider. “Raptus has been running in short races and I’m pretty sure he’ll be running in the first three or four. Raptus will be ridden by Miyuki (Hideaki) and he rode Kurino Star O (behind Chrysolite) so he knows the track well.”

As for the pair’s overall chances: “It’s hard to compare with the Korean horses and the other international horses, but (Sekifu and Raptus) have above average form in Japan, so if they do what they have been doing there, I’m sure they will be right up there.”

The Cup, Sprint and Ttukseom Cup weren’t the only big Korean races that Joe Fujii won. “I stayed in Busan and Kim Young-kwan was the champion trainer and he was giving me a lot of opportunities like Speedy First in the Derby and Gamdonguibada in the Grand Prix so that’s why the Japanese connections asked me to ride the Cup and the Sprint. At that time, I wasn’t a jockey in the JRA; I always wanted to be so these victories really opened up my road to becoming a jockey in the JRA.”

Fujii achieved his lifelong goal, but as has been well reported, he now has another, much bigger task ahead of him. “Four months ago, I had a spinal cord injury from the race fall. Ever since then I have been in the hospital. I have been doing a lot of rehab seven days a week, so it is a long long recovery road for me, I’m just trying to get the sensation back into my legs so it is a new challenge for me.”

“I stayed in South Korea for three years; I was so happy with all the people and all the connections giving me a great opportunity and without my South Korea experience I could never ever get into JRA so that was one of my dreams. I won all the big races, the Cup and the Sprint, the Derby and the Grand Prix so the South Korean fans are very important to me, and I hope one day that I can travel again and show my face at the racecourse.”   

Morfhis & Victoire Double Up In SBS Sports Sprint

Morfhis cemented his place as one of Korea’s great sprinters, edging out Black Musk and Eoma Eoma at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon to win his second SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3), having previously taken the honours in the race in 2020.

Morfhis Wins the SBS (Pic: KRA))

Eoma Eoma, racing for the first time since winning the Busan Ilbo Sprint in April, was sent off as the odds-on favourite ahead of Black Musk, the SROA Chairman’s Sprint winner. It was East Jet though who set the early pace as the other big guns opted for patience.

In the home straight, both Eoma Eoma and Black Musk launched strong challenges, but it was Morfhis, who had improved rapidly coming off the final turn under Johan Victoire, who struck the front and would not be caught, coming home half a length ahead of Black Musk, with Eoma Eoma a short distance back in 3rd.

Remarkably, the winning time was identical to the one Morfhis recorded when winning this race two years ago, when he drew the widest gate and ran on from much further back as a 23/1 chance.  This time, he was 14/1, but t hen, just as now, he was ridden by French jockey Victoire, who enthused over his mount: “It was a fantastic race and what a horse!”

While already an established class 1 performer, it was the 2020 SBS Sports Sprint win that elevated Morfhis into the elite of Korean racing. An almost ever-present in top class sprints since, he was 5th in this race last year and 3rd in the SROA Chairman’s Sprint in both 2021 and in last month’s renewal, but remarkably, before today, he hadn’t won any race since April of 2021; a 1400M class 1 handicap, run for Covid shutdown enforced reduced prize money.

On Sunday everything came right for Morfhis, as jockey Victoire explained: “He really loves to come to the inside but always has bad draws so today I was lucky with (gate) three, and I could follow the horses (Black Musk and Eoma Eoma) to beat.”

The victory was Johan Victoire’s fourth Group success in Korea and the jockey explained how much the seven-year-old means to him. “Morfhis is a very special horse to me. We know each other by heart as I started riding him since the beginning of my career in Korea. We won eleven races together which is amazing! I really love this champion horse.”

Bred by Canamer Farm in Kentucky, Morfhis [Stephen Got Even – Chinchilla (Rubiano)] fetched $35,000 as yearling at the Fasig Tipton October Sale in in 2016 before being purchased by Korean interests for $150,000 at Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Two-Year-Old sale. Now owned by Park Nam-sung, Morfhis has amassed approximately $1 Million in prize money in Korea.

Having won the race last year, Eoma Eoma repeated his 2020 finish in 3rd while Black Musk, the only four-year-old taking part, confirmed his status as potentially the next big thing in sprinting, with a game 2nd. That made Black Musk the winner of the Sprint Series with Morfhis and Eoma Eoma tied for 2nd and Raon The Fighter in 4th.

Morfhis, Black Musk, Eoma Eoma and Raon The Fighter, will all be expected to reconvene for the International Korea Sprint at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday September 4th. Ideally and probably against Japan and Hong Kong-trained opposition.

SBS Sports Sprint Full Preview

The SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3) turns thirty this year and on a rare day where racing gets mainstream TV coverage in Korea – by virtue of the sponsor – Raon The Fighter may not be running, but there is no shortage of star power, with Eoma Eoma, last year’s winner, returning having missed the SROA Chairman’s Sprint, the previous leg of the Sprint Series.

Eoma Eoma (Pic: KRA)

American import Eoma Eoma emerged onto the scene just before racing suffered its first shutdown in 2020, winning his first three races in lightning quick times, before tasting defeat for the first time in that year’s running of this race. He then went on to put together another seven-race winning streak, including the 2021 SBS Sports Sprint, which was delayed until October, before Raon The Fighter emphatically ended the run in the SROA Chairman’s Sprint the following month.

Another defeat at the hands of Raon The Fighter was followed by a class 1 reversal when odds-on favourite over seven furlongs on March. That led Eoma Eoma to be very much the second-choice when he met Raon The Fighter again for the Busan Ilbo Sprint, the first leg of the sprint series in April. Instead, after his rival stumbled at the start and then got pushed hard to rejoin the leaders, Eoma Eoma never allowed him into the race, winning by a full three-lengths. 

Eoma Eoma will be the overwhelming favourite to successfully defend the SBS Sports Sprint, while second in the market will be Black Musk. He came from over the top to hand Raon The Fighter a second defeat in the SROA Trophy on May 22nd after the favourite had earlier engaged in an energy-sapping speed-duel with Hit Yegam. Up and comer Soul Merit is highly thought-of and takes his first steps into Graded company as the probable third in the betting. Morfhis and East Jet complete the top half of the market.

The SBS Sports Sprint will be run over 1200M at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. Here’s a look at all ten runners:

1. EAST JET (KOR) [Strike Again – Lend (Coronado’s Quest)]

O: Kim Yeong-gi T: Park Youn-gu J: Alan Munro

20(9/4/0) KRW 739,500,000

Runner-up in this race last year, having won it in 2020 but he has had a challenging first half of 2022 with his best being 2nd to Raon First in the Segye Ilbo in January. 5th in the Busan Ilbo and then 7th in the SROA, he draws well here and Alan Munro returns to the ride. Won’t be favourite but a place chance.

2. SOUL MERIT (USA) [American Pharoah – Placentia (Bernardini)]

O: Park Nam-sung T: Park Dae-heung J: Choi Bum-hyun

10(5/0/1) KRW 211,740,000

Since returning from eight months out last year, he has won four from four and steps into elite company for the first time here. At his latest start in April, he settled back before being ridden up handy to the lead and running on for a comfortable win over 1400M at class 2 level. He won his only previous start at this distance, and he looks set to be a big player.

3. MORFHIS (USA) [Stephen Got Even – Chinchilla (Rubiano)]

O: Park Nam-sung T: Lee Gwan-ho J: Johan Victoire

36(10/7/7) KRW 1,055,800,000

The winner of this race two years ago, he showed he still has plenty left with an excellent 3rd in the SROA Chairman’s Sprint where under a ground-saving ride, he closed strongly on the inside rail, only going down half a length on the line. He’ll settle back as usual and will be running on strong again and will be in the finish.

4. CLEAN UP HAPPY (KOR) [Paynter – Dream Delight (Unbridled’s Song)]

O: CU Network T: Park Jae-woo J: Jeong Jeong-hee


YTN Cup 2022: Runner-By-Runner Preview

Winner’s Man was a dominant winner of the first leg of the Stayer Series earlier this month, but last year’s Korean Derby faces perhaps his sternest test yet as he must contend with Grand Prix Stakes winner Haengbok Wangja in the second race of the series, the YTN Cup (2000M KOR-G3) at Seoul Raecourse on Sunday.

Winner’s Man in the Herald Business Winner’s Circle (Pic: KRA)

The YTN Cup was one of the races that didn’t make it into the abbreviated Stakes program that was crammed into the final three months of 2021. There is one former winner going around though, as Moonhak Chief, who bagged the 2019 edition along with the Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes on his way to Horse of the Year honours, returns, amplifying the test for Winner’s Man.

Haengbok Wangja will be favourite. The five-year-old ran out a three-length winner of the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes (2300M KOR-G1) on Boxing Day. In his only race so far this year, he ran a close 2nd to President’s Cup winner Simjangui Godong at the end of March and having sat out the first leg of the Stayer Series, the Herald Business Trophy, he can be ready to peak here.

Moonhak Chief has mixed his form since that stellar 2019 campaign but remains very good on his day while trainer Kim Young-kwan brings two contenders up from his Busan base. Touch Star Man won two legs of the Triple Crown in 2020 and ran a strong 2nd in the Grand Prix Stakes last December. Meanwhile the relatively unexposed King Of The Match has won five of eight starts, never finishing outside the top three, and he takes his chance against the elite for the first time.

As for Winner’s Man, he won the Herald Business by a full four-lengths. Another step up today in the YTN isn’t impossible and would almost certainly go down as his most impressive achievement to date. Here is a full look at all the runners in the YTN Cup which is race 8 on an 11-race program at Seoul on Sunday:

1. TOUCH STAR MAN (KOR) [Testa Matta – Useung Touch (Menifee) 5-H

Owner: Uh Mun-sik Trainer: Kim Young-kwan Jockey: Lim Sung-sil

(Runs/1st/2nd/3rd) 20/5/5/2 – (Career Earnings) KRW 1,031,380,000

The winner of two legs of the 2020 Triple Crown, he hasn’t actually crossed the line 1st in eleven starts since the latter of those, the Minister’s Cup, over this distance twenty-one months ago. However, he ran a big 2nd here in the Grand Prix Stakes (2300M KOR-G1) here last December and meets that day’s winner Haengbok Wangja 4kg to the better here. Beaten by Winner’s Man in both of his latest two but draws well today and could well put in a big run. Worth an each-way chance.

Recent Race Video: December 26th (2021), Grand Prix Stakes (2300M KOR-G1) 2nd: https://youtu.be/wCbShtp2pdg

2. HAENGBOK WANGJA (USA) [Daredevil – First Installment (Broken Vow)] 5-H

O: Lee Bang-hoon T: Park Youn-gu J: Kim Yong-geun

17/8/4/1 – KRW 735,510,000

A winner of eight of his last ten starts, he was runner-up in the KRA Cup Classic at this distance last November before winning the Grand Prix Stakes here in December. His only run since saw him run 2nd to Simjangui Godong at this distance on March 27th when hand and wide and going close under the same weight as today. Tactically versatile, he can be on pace or settle back and run on but given the favourable draw, is likely to go forward and he will be a big player here.

March 27th, Class 1 (2000M) 2nd: https://youtu.be/sh2es_Jl4rQ

3. GEUMA MYSTIC (USA) [New Year’s Day – Stormy Allure (Stormy Atlantic)] 5-H

O: Kuem A Industry Co Ltd T: Lee Sang-young J: Kim Cheol-ho

15/6/3/3 – KRW 251,510,000

A winner of six up to class 2 level and 1800M. He ran 2nd on his only previous try at this distance, which was at class 2 behind Power Wonderful. Well fancied for his first crack at class 1 on April 8th but finished down the pack and is one of the outsiders here.

March 6th, Class 2 (2000M)) 2nd: https://youtu.be/iYp0aPtlYxE

4. MOONHAK CHIEF (USA) [Pioneerof The Nile – Tallulah Lula (Old Trieste)] 7-H

O: Kwon Kyung-ja T: Jung Ho-ik J: Johan Victoire

30/14/5/3 – KRW 2,252,900,000

The winner of this race in 2019, the year he went on to score in both the Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes. He has mixed his form of late, last winning four starts back at 1800M. A good 2nd to Simjangui Godong at 2000M in February is sandwiched by two disappointing showings in the Grand Prix Stakes and then last time out in the Herald Business when he settled midfield but failed to quicken and only beat two home. Grand galloper who can still mix it with the best on his day, you just need to catch him right. A chance.

February 27th, Class 1 (2000M) 2nd: https://youtu.be/rjh7Vja5pGE

5. KING OF THE MATCH (USA) [Cairo Prince – Fought The Fight (War Front)] 4-C

O: D R M City T: Kim Young-kwan J: Choi Si-dae

8/5/2/1 – KRW 213,850,000

An up-and-comer who enters off super wins at 1800M at class 2 level and then an on-pace score over a mile on his first try at class 1 on April 15th, narrowly beating Barbarian over a mile, both in fast times. This is his first time among the elite, his first time at Seoul and his first time at 2000M, but he gets weight from the leading lights and a top jockey comes up to ride him. He’ll be on or close to the pace and a bold showing is expected. Stablemate of Touch Star Man.

April 15th, Class 1 (1600M) 1st: https://youtu.be/mv799FlK8WY

6. CONSTI SOLO (USA) [Constitution – Solo Survivor (Pleasant Tap)] 5-G

O: Park Cheol-geun T: Jeon Seung-gyu J: Jang Chu-youl

6/3/3/0 – KRW 116,550,000

A first start since last August when he ran 2nd to the then hype horse Carving Cross. A winner of three from six, his running style suggests the distance won’t be an issue for him but while he won a trial in fine style two weeks ago, this is a very stern test first-up.

August 28th 2021, Class 2 (1800M) 2nd: https://youtu.be/WiMCkuOx350

7. SHAMROCKER (USA) [Dublin – Portera (Lemon Drop Kid)] 9-H

O: Cho Mong-ju T: Song Moon-gil J: Song Jae-chul

53/6/12/10 – KRW 1,306,450,000

The old warhorse. It’s been thirty-three runs since he has saluted back in 2017, however, he has been regularly picking up a check right up until very recently, and only ever racing among the elite. At his last start he ran 7th in the Herald Business Cup and given recent form, a midfield finish will be expected but with the potential to sneak a 4th or 5th place money finish,

May 1st, Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-L) 7th: https://youtu.be/rxWhLswIRTI

8. MUNHAK TIGER (USA) [To Honor And Serve – A Precious Memory (Honor Grades)] 6-H

O: Hwang Bong-ki T: Park Jae-woo J: Lim Gi-won

27/5/4/2 – KRW 369,550,000

Only beat three home in the Herald Business when he had the challenge of the outside gate. That wasn’t out of keeping with recent form though and it has been eight starts since he managed to finish in the placings. He will drop back and look to pass a few in the home straight, aiming for minor money.

May 1st, Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-L) 10th: https://youtu.be/rxWhLswIRTI

9. LOOKING GOOD (KOR) [Federalist – Quail Run (Wagon limit)] 6-H

O: Shin Woo-chul T: Jeon Seung-gyu J: Lee Hyeok

16/4/0/6 – KRW 175,170,000

A big 3rd place in the Sports Chosun Trophy (2000M KOR-L) on March 20th at odds of 75/1 enables him to take his chance there, although with that race having been restricted to Seoul-based Korean-bred horses, this is much tougher. Nevertheless, he went right to the back that day, making up excellent ground in the home straight and similar tactics may see him pick a few off again.

March 20th, Sports Chosun Trophy (2000M KOR-L) 3rd: https://youtu.be/SQ9GDIHIgKc

10. SENSE JAENGI (USA) [Munnings – Balansense (Street Sense)] 6-G

O: Kim Jong-chul T: An Byung-ki J: Cho Han-byeol

28/1/2/0 – KRW 186,690,000

Sense Jaengi running in Graded Stakes company is probably not something many had on their 2022 bingo card. Unable to get into a full class 3 race back on January 8th, the then twenty-five-race maiden was thrown in at class 2 to get a run and duly won at odds of 130/1. In both outings since, he has run 2nd, both at 1800M. He loves to – or at least has recently discovered he loves to – go right back and run on but surely this is too hard.

March 26th, Class 2 (1800M) 2nd: https://youtu.be/fB7kIYuz2DM

11. WINNER’S MAN (KOR) [Musket Man – Winner’s Marine (Volponi)] 4-C

O: Lee Gyeong-hui T: Choi Ki-hong J: Seo Seung-un

15/10/2/1 – KRW 861,730,000

Last year’s Korean Derby winner and very hard to find fault with here. He is in terrific form, winning three of his last four starts including the Herald Business by a full four-lengths at this course and distance on May 1st. He likes to race forward, and while he draws wider and is up in weight on the Herald Business Cup win, he cannot be left out.

May 1st, Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-L) 1st: https://youtu.be/rxWhLswIRTI

Data Summary

RatingWin %Quinella %2000M Win %2000M Time
2125562.5%587.5%438.5%11 2:06.3
11115247.1%2 70.6%77.7%12:07.2
11044 46.7%463.3%22:07.2
1st Furlong Avg.*Final Furlong Avg.*
113.76   13.0

*In seconds, calculated by an average of the most recent 6 starts regardless of distance

Selections: (2) Haengbok Wangja (11) Winner’s Man (4) Moonhak Chief (1) Touch Star Man

Next Best: 5, 6

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (May 28)

Saturday’s racing is at Seoul with 9 races from 10:45 to 18:00. All betting locations are open with reserved seats available for reservation through the MyCard app or general admission on the gate. Here are the previews:

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 75 Million

The two-year-old races are finally upon us and that means for the first time in a few months, we are back to having five-furlong juvenile races for big money. It’s to the trial videos we head and after watching them, it is hard to put anything other than (8) LION HEAD on top. The only filly in the race, she won her heat very pleasingly, registering a good time on a slightly wet track. If she brings that form to the races, the wide gate will be irrelevant, and she should win. (2) NUT PLAY came through the same heat, crossing the line a full second and a half slower than Lion Head but having to work around from the outside gate and making up ground late. He draws well here and can be considered. (5) WONPYEONG KILLAR came through a very slow trial but did cross the line in 2nd place. Expect him to be up with the early lead here and run on. (7) WONDERFUL CARO was also on pace in his heat and for a top stable a bold showing will be expected first-up. (4) WHITE NUMBER ONE another who posted a fair time when qualifying.

Selections(8) Lion Head (2) Nut Play (5) Wonpyeong Killar (7) Wonderful Caro
Next Best4, 1
Fast Start1, 5, 7, 8

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

Back to the three-year-old maidens here although five of the twelve are racing for the very first time. It’s very competitive but we’ll tentatively side with experience and opt for (5) GAGIMAN GODANG. He didn’t do much on debut but improved enough at start number two on April 24th when sitting handy and running through the line for 3rd over this distance. If he continues to improve, he can win here. (2) WORLD CHARM looks the pick of the first-timers. He was on pace in his trial, ultimately crossing the line in 2nd in a fair time (the heat was won by juvenile Lion Head, who is entered in race 1, so by the time this race goes to post, we may have a clearer picture of how impressive or otherwise it was). He draws well to lead and should go well. (7) DEVIL K won his heat and while the time wasn’t hugely quick, that’s enough to give him a chance first-up in this company. (3) FLY JENNY went through two trials, improving significantly in the second of them. Her dam was a very good racehorse and has produced one decent one so far, K Top King. (8) GEUMSEONG CROWN isn’t a first-timer but hasn’t raced since last November. He has a 3rd place to his name and won a trial just last week so should be kept safe.

Selections(5) Gagiman Godang (2) World Charm (7) Devil K (3) Fly Jenny
Next Best8, 10
Fast Start2, 4, 5, 9

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

(7) CHEONGSAN YEONGUNG has five top-five finishes from eight starts so far and steps up slightly in trip following a good 2nd place over 1300M on April 24th when handy throughout. While this is his first try at seven-furlongs, he has already raced around two-turns, running 4th over 1700M two starts back from a wide draw so this can suit, and he can win. Logical second pick is (8) TTEOOREUDA. She’s steadily improved across her four outings to date and ran on well for 2nd place over 1300M on April 30th. She is another for whom the slightly extended trip can suit and with a strong finish on her, she can settle midfield and run on here. (12) ECHO ZONE draws the car park, but he came from off the pace last time out to run 3rd at 1200M, so it may not matter too much. He has improved his finishing position in all his four appearances and further improvement shouldn’t be ruled out here. (2) SAEROUN BITKKAL and (9) EUNHYE RECORD others in at least the placing frame.

Selections(7) Cheongsan Yeongung (8) Tteooreuda (12) Echo Zone (2) Saeroun Bitkkal
Next Best9, 3
Fast Start7, 8, 9, 11

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

This is a very competitive race. We’ll go with (11) ICE STAR, a winner of two from thirteen so far ad who enters in reasonable form, coming back in trip following a 2nd place at 1400M in March and a 4th over 1700M in April. He draws wide but he has the best finish of all of these on him and has run well at this distance in the past. (9) ENERGIZER has mixed his form but returned to action following a seven-month layoff with a string runner-up finish at class and distance on April 30th when he led for almost the entire way around. He hasn’t always been on pace in his races, but his solitary win came that way and he should be aiming to get forward again here. (6) B.J. STORM comes up in class having won on debut on April 23rd over 1200M when tracking the leader throughout and running on well for a narrow victory. This is harder but he draws well again, comes down slightly in the weights, and with some natural improvement, can be in this. (1) SONGAM RACER and (2) QUEEN LION are among others in the hunt.

Selections(11) Ice Star (9) Energizer (6) B.J. Storm (1) Songam Racer
Next Best2, 5
Fast Start3, 6, 7, 9

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

(2) K N UNDERKING has finished no worse than 6th in six starts with his solitary win coming at this distance last October. He enters in good form and in this company and with this draw should be looking to be close to the pace and he can prove too strong late on. (5) MIGHTY GOOD looks the logical main danger. He came from well off the pace to get his maiden win over 1200M two starts back before running 4th on his first try at this level, over 1400M on April 24th, again coming from a long way back. If anything, he can get a bit too far back in his races but if he can be within touching distance at the top of the straight, he has a big chance here. (1) LUXURY KING has the fastest time of any of these at the distance and he hasn’t been too far away in recent outings. He draws very nicely on the inside to take a sit behind the highly speed and should be working home well. (10) BICHUI DAERYUK and (9) YONGAM BOSS among others who can enter the calculations in another competitive race.


Winner’s Man Steps Up To Claim Herald Business

Winner’s Man scored a dominant win in the first leg of the 2022 Stayer Series, last year’s Korean Derby winner scoring by four-lengths in the Herald Business Trophy (2000M-Korean Listed) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Winner’s Man in the Herald Winner’s Circle (Pic: KRA)

In front of a post-shutdown record crowd of 26,000 on course, Winner’s Man was sent off as the even-money favourite ahead of Touch Star Man, the 2021 Grand Prix Stakes runner up, who shared second-favourite status with the up-and-comer Good Pilseung. There wasn’t much love in the market though for Moonhak Chief, who started the race a 7/1 fourth favourite.

Touch Star Man hampered his own chances by dipping as the field exited the gate, immediately putting him at a disadvantage while Winner’s Man broke well and got right behind the pace which was set by Jeongmun Sai, while Good Pilseung and Great King were to the fore as well. Moonhak Chief, meanwhile settled in midfield alongside Touch Star Man after the latter’s poor start.

That’s how it would remain until the top of the straight when jockey Seo Seung-un asked Winner’s Man for an effort and the Musket Man colt responded, striking the front and then never looking anything other than a winner, crossing the line four-lengths ahead of a blanket finish for 2nd place, which was held onto by a game Jeongmun Sai, with Heuk Jeonsa and Good Pilseung within a nose in 3rd and 4th.

Winning jockey Seo Seung-un, speaking to in-house broadcaster KRBC, admitted the race went better than he could have hoped: “I expected Jeongmun Sai and Great King to lead but my horse was better out of the gate than I expected, and we were right up there from the start.”

Seo also said that Winner’s Man had not given him cause for optimism in his work in the past week: “This horse is very smart. In the mornings, he just wasn’t doing anything, but when it came to race day, he knew it was time to be serious. He conserved his energy during the week and really let loose today.”

Seo Seung-un is notoriously self-deprecating in his post-race interviews, and continuing to KRBC, he wasn’t afraid to say out loud what many had been thinking: “The other main reason we could win is that Simjangui Godong and Haengbok Wangja didn’t come” he said, referring to the 2021 President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winners. “But I am looking forward to riding Winner’s Man against them,” he added, to a polite chuckle from the assembled local racing press.

There is no reason to doubt that Winner’s Man can defeat both of those when the inevitable match-up happens. Winner’s Man is by Musket Man and is out of Winner’s Marine (by Volponi, the long-shot winner of the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and who is now pensioned from Stud duties in Korea) and he moves on to ten wins from fifteen starts. He was bred by Kim Gi-seok of Saemi Farm and is trained by Choi Ki-hong for whom, after seventeen years as a trainer, Winner’s Man is proving the horse of a lifetime.

Moonhak Chief finished well back in the field and an initial vet check didn’t find any obvious issues although a full examination will take place.

The Stayer Series continues with the Group 3 YTN Cup at Seoul over 2000M on May 29th and concludes on the south coast with the Busan Mayor’s Cup, also Group 3 but run over just 1800M, on June 26th.

Next Sunday the big race action returns to Busan with the Korean Oaks, the second leg of the filly Triple Crown.

Raon The Fighter Downed By Eoma Eoma In Sprint Series Opener

Raon The Fighter stumbled at the gate and ultimately went down to the very first defeat of his career as Eoma Eoma won the Busan Ilbo Sprint (1200M – KOR G3) at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Entering Sunday’s race a perfect ten from ten and having beaten the other big guns in the field in last autumn’s SROA Chairman’s Trophy Raon The Fighter was sent off a prohibitively short-priced favourite for the Busan Ilbo, the first leg of the Korean Sprint Series.

Eoma Eoma, who had looked a picture when parading, was second in the betting while a resurgent Blue Chipper was third in the market.

Calamity struck the favourite coming out of the gate.  Raon The Fighter stumbled and then dipped, losing any chance of getting to the lead. Jockey Lee Hyeok had a split-second decision to make and rather than dropping in behind, he opted to take Raon The Fighter up wide and to the speed. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off.

Eoma Eoma meanwhile got an easy tow to the lead from East Jet, who set the pace on his inside. Under Moon Se-young, Eoma Eoma would take up the running with just over a furlong left to travel and while Raon The Fighter finally appeared on the scene in the home straight and ran on bravely and gamely, he couldn’t get to the winner.

Eoma Eoma won by a full three-lengths with Raon The Fighter swooping late for a very competitive 2nd while Dixie Again was a revelation in 3rd.

Winning jockey Moon Se-young was uncharacteristically emotional after the race and, swerving questions about the run of Raon The Fighter, he talked to in-house broadcaster KRBC only about his own mount.

“I thought Eoma Eoma was working so well this week, so I really need to thank the guys who came down to Busan and prepared him so well” said Moon Se-young. “I only rode him the last two days in trackwork, so it is nothing to do with me, they prepared him perfectly – really when you guys (KRBC) asked me how he was on Thursday, well, I almost wanted to hide how good he was doing.”

Moon went on to describe what it meant to him personally to win the race. “I usually ride in Seoul, but I am from Busan. I am a Busan guy. I grew up in Milyang (northern Busan suburb) so I have desperately wanted to win a big race in Busan; in my home town. It had never happened for me before, but now it has.”

It might be a blemish on his record, and Raon The Fighter is now probably not going to break Mister Park’s unbeaten streak. However, he didn’t lose much in terms of reputation, and he will surely win many more.

Blue Chipper, who was sent off as third in the market but who ultimately crossed the line a long last, was found to have bled.

The next leg of the Sprint Series is the SROA Chairman’s Sprint at Seoul on May 22nd before the final leg in the SBS Sports Sprint, also in the capital on June 19th. The Korea Sprint itself is on September 4th.

Seoul Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (April 23)

There are 9 races at Seoul on Saturday from 10:45 to 18:00. The racecourse is open for walk-up attendance. Here are the previews:

Crowds are back

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maidens in the opener. (8) WILD RUNNER has finished 3rd in both starts so far, both over 1000M. She has run on pleasingly enough on both occasions and the additional trip today may well suit. The main danger looks to be (7) CASH BACK. He stepped up to this distance at start number five last time out and was handy throughout, running on for 3rd. It was a slow race, but he will be expected to be on or close to the pace again and should be in the finish once more. (5) GEUMSEONG HWANHUI is the clear third pick, having significantly improved at his most recent start on March 20th, when he ran 2nd at this distance on a muddy track. A similar run here will see him close. (4) M J TIME and (2) PERMISSION TO WIN should at least both be on pace from favourable gates and could improve.

Selections(8) Wild Runner (7) Cash Back (5) Geumseong Hwanhui (4) M J Time
Next Best2, 6
Fast Start2, 4, 7, 8

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

More three-year-old maiden with four of the ten racing for the very first time. We’ll take a chance on one of those first-timers, in the shape of (6) B.J. STORM. He went through two trials, improving in the 2nd of them on April 1st when coming out of gate twelve but getting on pace and running through the line in 2nd place in a fair time. He won’t need to improve too much to win this. The probable favourite is (1) CHANGER. An improved 5th at his latest start at 1200M on a sloppy track on March 26th having led, he went back to trial last Friday and led all the way around, stopping the clock in a fast time. He draws very nicely here to get on pace and so long as he didn’t leave his race in the trial, has every chance. (3) BLUE INDY comes out of the same trial as B.J. Storm, when he settled handy and crossed the line in 3rd. He too can make a bold showing first-up. (9) GYEONGBU DAEGEOM didn’t do too much wrong on debut and while that was back in January, is enough to make him a placing chance here along with (7) TIGER ZONE.

Selections(6) B.J. Storm (1) Changer (3) Blue Indy (9) Gyeongbu Daegeom
Next Best7, 2
Fast Start1, 2, 7, 9

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Another set of three-year-old maidens. (11) SONGAM ARCHGIRL beat a couple of these on her way to 4th place at his distance in a fair time on a wet track on March 26th. The draw isn’t exactly in her favour here but that was just her second start and with some natural improvement, she has claims here. (1) MARUMA has run fairly across three starts so far with two 5th place finishes including her latest at 1200M when after breaking well, she settled back before running on. The slight step up in trip should suit and the inside gate should give her options. (9) WELLBEING CHAMPION was one of those beaten by Songam Archgirl last time out but again it wasn’t a bad run, and she has some potential for improvement. (3) LONDON MYEONGGA and (6) MABAWI are others to take into consideration.

Selections(11) Songam Archgirl (1) Maruma (9) Wellbeing Champion (3) London Myeongga
Next Best6, 4
Fast Start3, 6, 9, 11

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Competitive race. (1) CHEONGSAN GANGHO has good experience at this level and has the joint-fastest time of any of these at the 1700M. He comes in off a solid 3rd place at class and distance on April 2nd, well beaten by a good winner but well clear of 4th. He usually goes back in his races, then runs on and he has as good a chance as any here. Probable favourite is (4) RUNNING NUMBER ONE, based on his last start 2nd at class and distance on March 20th, when he beat two of today’s rivals, having settled back in the field and finished strongly. He too has run good times at this distance and has every chance. (10) BRAVO SOCKS was 3rd in that March 20th race. He is yet to finish in the top two in nineteen attempts but has plenty of minor money finishes and shouldn’t be too far away again. (9) ADELE MUSTANG and the up in class (12) THUNDER HORSE are others to take into account.

Selections(1) Cheongsan Gangho (4) Running Number One (10) Bravo Socks (9) Adele Mustang
Next Best12, 3
Fast Start5, 6, 9, 11

Golden Power Claims First Leg Of Filly Triple Crown

Golden Power swept home late to snare the Luna Stakes by the finest of margins at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon to claim the first jewel in the Filly Triple Crown.

Golden Power was sent off as the third-favourite and for much of the race it looked as though it would be a straight battle between the two fillies at the top of the market, Raon The Spurt and Chamjoeun Chingu. The Seoul pair set the pace and having shaken off the attentions of Wonderful Raise with a furlong and a half to go of the mile-long test, looked set to duel to the finish.

At this point, Golden Power was still a full ten-lengths adrift but, under Choi Si-dae, once she found clear track in front of them, she accelerated rapidly. It still looked as though she would run out of track but, in a desperately close finish, Golden Power swept by as the three hit the line together. The resulting photo-finish showed that Golden Power had prevailed by a nose over Chamjoeun Chingu with Raon The Spurt a half-length back in 3rd.

Winning jockey Choi Si-dae told in-house broadcaster KRBC that while he always intended to be patient and then launch his challenge late, it almost didn’t come off. “My plan was to overtake from behind but the pace of the front two was a bit faster than I expected and it was difficult for Golden Power to keep up.”

Once Golden Power hit her stride though, Choi had no doubts. “Once we got out, the horse ran really well. Fifty metres from the line I knew we were going to get there and as soon as we passed the line, I knew we had won.”

While two of the three legs off the filly Triple Crown are held at Busan, Choi Si-dae noted that it is a division that has been dominated by Seoul over the past couple of years. “I feel a little bit sorry for Moon Se-young (beaten jockey on Chamjoeun Chingu) as it was a good race, but Busan fillies have been a little inferior to those from Seoul recently, so I am really happy with this and look forward to more.”

Golden Power is trained by Kwon Sung-ju and is owned by Son Boing-chul, who is also her breeder and through Winner’s Farm, is owner of both her sire and dam. Golden Power is by Afleet Express, who stands at Winner’s Farm, and is out of Cherokee Sheik (by Cherokee Run). Golden Power is her second Korean born foal. She produced two in the United States.

The second leg of the filly Triple Crown is the Korean Oaks, also at Busan, on Sunday May 8th over 1800M, before the series concludes with the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup at Seoul over 2000M on Sunday June 4th. This coming weekend, the colts kick off their Triple Crown at Busan with the KRA Cup Mile.

Determination Downs Chief Indy To Win Sports Chosun

Determination downed Chief Indy to take the honours in the Sports Chosun Trophy at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon and in doing so, gave jockey Boo Min-ho his first Stakes race winner in twelve years.

Determination beats Chief Indy

Sent off as a 17/1 chance, Determination, who was drawn wide in gate thirteen, was kept back and wide in the early exchanges as Daehan Jilju, the top-rated horse in the race, set the pace. Determination quickly moved up wide while pre-race odds-on favourite, Chief Indy, runner-up in last year’s Minister’s Cup, sat just behind the leading group.

Daehan Jilju, racing for the first time since Christmas Day, finally weakened at the furlong pole just as Chief Indy was looming. But it was Determination who swept by to take the lead late on, and while Chief Indy pushed and pressed, it was Determination who took the line three-quarters of a length to the good.

For Determination it was a third straight victory. He had shown ability as a juvenile but hadn’t really pushed on, with a 4th place in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown, the best return from his three-year-old campaign. He didn’t race at all between November of 2020 and September of 2021 but, after a couple of tune-ups to find his feet, Determination has been unstoppable, and he completed a hat-trick of wins on Sunday.

On the contrary, it had been a long time between Stakes race drinks for winning jockey Boo Min-ho. Boo turned professional in 2007 and registered his first big race win in the 2010 Segye Ilbo Cup and quickly followed up with another in that year’s edition of the Sports Chosun.

“Twelve years ago, I won this race (Sports Chosun) on Luxury King, and I have so desperately wanted to get back here, and I am very happy to do so today”, Boo Min-ho told in-house broadcaster KRBC.

Boo Min-ho!

“We were drawn wide (so) I was considering bringing him to the rail from the start, but Determination is so strong that I decided he would be fine on the outside, so I just let him settle. I knew he didn’t want kickback, so I let him run his own race and he delivered.”

Trainer Seo Bum-seok was successfully defending the race having won the Sports Chosun in 2020 with Wonderful Evil (the race wasn’t held in 2021). He was effusive in his praise for his jockey:

“I think Boo Min-ho is in his prime. He was calm and rode a great race. We discussed the race strategy this morning and I said the horse is very powerful and physically strong and he is ready. I left it to Min-ho to do the rest.”

Video: youtu.be/SQ9GDIHIgKc