Temperatures plunged below zero across Korea at the weekend, but jockey Antonio Da Silva was in red-hot form, riding four winners across Sunday’s valuable card. Meanwhile on the penultimate weekend of the season, Luigi Riccardi saddled his 100th winner in the country to move within one victory of Park Jong-kon at the summit of the capital’s Trainer Premiership.
Da Silva got his first on the board in race 2, partnering Tony Castanheira’s Choegang Mirae to a five-length maiden victory. He followed up in race 4, the first of six Trophy races on the day benefitting the Retired Racehorse Welfare fund.
His ride on the juvenile Nut Play, who was stepped up to a mile for the first time, was typical Da Silva, boldly settling back despite having drawn the coveted inside gate over the Mile distance that has tended to favour front-runners. He waited patiently before finding the narrowest of gaps in the home straight and then unleashing his mount, who romped to an eight-length victory.
Further successes for Da Silva would come in race 6 with Tiz Barows, who was winning for the first time since finishing 4th in this Year’s Korean Derby, and in race 8 on Wonpyeong Cod, who got the better of a final furlong duel with favourite Double Edge.
Brazilian Da Silva debuted full time in Korea in 2017 after riding in Singapore and now has 295 winners in the country. He has three Group wins on his local resume having partnered Dolkong in the G2 KRA Cup Classic and Moonhak Chief in the G1 Grand Prix Stakes, both in 2019, and then Choegang Black in the 2021 Korean Oaks.
Choegang Black was the first Korean Group race winner for Luigi Riccardi and the Italian trainer, who also debuted at Seoul in 2017, passed another milestone on Sunday by reaching one hundred winners in the country.
Having saddled juveniles Black Motion and G Motion to victory on Saturday, Riccardi sent out debut-maker Wonderful Slew in Sunday’s race 1 and the filly (whose 2nd dam is Worldly Pleasure, the dam of American champion Game On Dude) ran on for a narrow half-length win under jockey Jeong Jeong-hee, who also partnered both of Riccardi’s winners on Saturday.
Those victories temporarily moved Riccardi up to 2nd place in the 2022 Seoul Trainer Premiership, before Seo In-seok struck back with Tiz Barows to join him on 42 winners for the year and move ahead on the tie-break by virtue of having one more runner-up. The pair are just one winner behind Park Jong-kon, who backed by the firepower of Raon, heads the Premiership with 43.
There is just one more weekend of racing to come and it isn’t inconceivable that it could all come down to the final race of the year, a class 3 sprint over 1200M at 6pm on Christmas Day. That race could see one of Riccardi’s up-and-comers Trotting Riley face off with Park’s Gwacheon Mayor’s Trophy winner Raon Giant with potentially the title on the line.
Racing resumes in Korea with a nine-race program on Friday December 23rd. On Christmas Eve there are ten races at Seoul while Christmas Day itself sees eleven races at Seoul and six at Busan to round out the season.
Ten weeks on from his memorable Korea Cup victory, Winner’s Man returns to action and to Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, where he will be hot favourite to win the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1).
Winner’s Man ran down Japnese visitor Sekifu and Korea’s top-rated horse Raon The Fighter in the Korea Cup (1800M IG3) in September and he returns to the 2000M distance at which he won May’s YTN Cup for the President’s Cup, the most valuable race of the year restricted to Korean-bred horses.
After horses from Busan dominated the race for a decade – with Triple Nine alone winning four consecutive President’s Cups between 2015 and 2018 – the streak was broken in 2021 when Simjangui Godong finally got the home team back on the board.
While Winner’s Man will almost certainly start at odds-on, a fair set of challengers have assembled, headed by last year’s winner Simjangui Godong. The three-year-old crop is best represented by Captain Yankee, a winner of two legs of this year’s Triple Crown, while the older but in-form Heunghaeng Jilju can also provide a stern examination.
The President’s Cup is race 8 of an 11-race program at Seoul on Sunday with a local post time of 16:20. Here is a full run down of the field:
1. LOOKING GOOD – Ran 3rd to Determination in the Listed Sports Chosun and then 5th behind Winner’s Man in the G3 YTN Cup, both over 2000M. His latest two outings at class 2 level haven’t caught the eye and at level weights, this looks a hard ask.
2. HEUNGHAENG JILJU – Potentially testing material for Winner’s Man. A winner of ten from twenty-four he is still on the up and is a four-time class 1 winner at this distance. He can race forward or settle midfield and while a previous attempt in elite company was unsuccessful, on times for this distance, he is right in this.
3.SIMJANGUI GODONG – The defending champion, having come from midfield to win this race a year ago. He has won twice at class 1 level since, both at this distance but his latest four outings have been in Group class. He was an also-ran in the Korea Cup, but prior to that registered two runner-up finishes (one of them a dead-heat) behind Winner’s Man in The Busan Mayor’s Cup and 1800M, and then Raon The Fighter in the Busan Owners’ Cup. Don’t rule out another big run.
4. JANGSAN LASER – Skipped class 2 entirely and won on his first start at class 1 over 1200M in August before finishing 2nd in a valuable trophy race on international weekend. Well beaten behind Heunghaeng Jilju on his latest outing on October 2nd. Likes to be on pace but this looks challenging.
5.CHIEF INDY – One of few horses to have finished ahead of Winner’s Man, which he did when 2nd in the final leg of last year’s Triple Crown. He gets his chance here having won a trophy race on international weekend over 1800M, but he did struggle on his only try at regular class 1. Moon Se-young, who usually rides both, opts for Simjangui Godong but while Chief Indy may not be a winning chance, he can be competitive. He can settle in midfield and run on.
6.RAON FIRST – The only mare in the field, she is more known as a sprinter having run 3rd in the Korea Sprint over 1200M on international day. She has won at Listed level over 1800M in restricted fill & mare company, but this is her first try at 2000M. She likes to run on pace and while the distance is a question, she can be in this a long way.
7.CAPTAIN YANKEE – Lightly raced three-year-old who won two legs of the Triple Crown this year, the Cup Mile and Minister’s Cup, while finishing 3rd in the Derby. The Minister’s Cup win was over this distance and was emphatic as he settled back in the field and ran on very strongly. Has only raced once since and was 4th at class 2 level in Busan at the end of August, but the distance will suit here, and he will be running on.
8. BAEKSAEK GWANGCHAE – Runner up to Jangsan Bada in the Listed Ilgan Sports at 1800M in July and has subsequently finished 2nd twice more at class 2 level to see his rating tick over in class 1 territory. Tough ask here at level weights.
9. CHOEGANG GAME – Returned from five months off to score very well over 1800M on October 15th when on-pace throughout but that was at class 3 level. A winner of five from eleven but this is a big step up.
10. WINNER’S MAN – Proved himself to be the best stayer in the country with his win in the Korea Cup over 1800M in September when he settled midfield and wide before improving in the back straight and then running down Sekifu and Raon The Fighter to win. That was his sixth consecutive victory with the last four having been Listed, G3, G2 and Korean Group 1. He should be too good again.
11.JANGSAN BADA – Gets his chance here having won his latest two, a listed race in July at 1800M and then a trophy race on international weekend at 1700M. He won both well and in good times, but this will be his first run against a better caliber of opposition and his first at 2000M. He likes to race forward and minor money would be an excellent result.
12. BLUE POWER – A winner at this distance at class 2 level at Busan in June, he ran fairly for 5th behind Barbarian at class 1 level two weeks ago, again over 2000M. He can race on pace or settle back but at level weights this looks difficult.
13. LUCKY WORLD – Yet to race beyond 1800M or at anything stuffer than class 3 level. He has run consistent times in his latest three around two turns, but he has the lowest rating in the field by a big margin and with no weight advantage it is hard to see him making an impression.
14. FOREVER DREAM – Three-year-old who, as a gelding, wasn’t eligible for the Triple Crown series. Gets his chance after a good score over a mile at class 2 level in October leading gate to wire. His wins have come from the front, so the draw isn’t kind here.
Juveniles top the bill at both Seoul and Busan on Sunday as the Juvenile Series continues with the runnings of the Listed NACF Chairman’s Trophy in the capital and the Gimhae Mayor’s Trophy on the south coast. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:15 to 16:40. Here are the previews:
Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
Juvenile maidens to open the program with six of the twelve racing for the first time. The experience is good though and we’ll side with (1) TOUR QUEEN, who after a solid trial ran a decent 6th of twelve on debut on October 2nd, settling midfield and finishing off well. The time was fair, she comes into a good gate today, and she has a chance. (10) GEUMSEONG SIDAE has the fastest time of those who have raced before, posted when 4th on debut on September 17th. He was on pace that day and while the draw is less favourable this time, he should be a big factor again. (9) MIGHTY SSEN was slowly away on debut on October 8th but finished off very pleasingly indeed and with a better start can get closer than the 6th he managed that day. The jockey booking will lead many to suspect that (5) RAON CITY GIRL can improve on her underwhelming debut, while among the first-time starters, (7) KKUMUI SUNGAN, looks the best.
(1) Tour Queen (10) Geumseong Sidae (9) Mighty Ssen (5) Raon City Girl
2, 4, 5, 10
Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
More juvenile maidens this time with five of the twelve making their racecourse debuts. The only one to have raced twice will be the hot favourite and that’s (6) GIPPEUM HWANHO. Having run 5th on debut, he improved to 2nd at start number two on October 2nd when close to the pace throughout and stopping the clock in a good time. He draws fairly enough here and won’t need to improve too much to win. (4) EUNPA CHAMPION won a trial making all a month ago. The time wasn’t that quick, but he did what he needed to do in fine enough fashion and from a god gate can get on pace and put in a bold showing first-up. (1) AREUMDAUN SAI beat two of these on her way to 6th place on debut on October 1st. She should have derived benefit from that run and can improve on that today. (8) ARGO KKUSHONG only beat a couple home on debut, but the time was good, and the margins weren’t big. (3) SHARK PLAY is the best of the rest of the first-time starters.
Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million
(6) SPRING WATER put in a much-improved showing at start number three on October 8th, when leading throughout only to be denied in the closing stages and having to settle for 2nd. He carries the same weight today, draws well enough to get on the speed again, and could go one better. (11) SECRET KING also has a runner-up finish to his name over this distance and followed it up with a 4th place at this latest, again over this distance. He has settled close to the pace and midfield so far, so the wide draw shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience, and he can be given a chance here. (4) BEAT UP raced three times across the turn of the year, with the best being a 4th place over 1000M. He looked well when leading and then posting a fast time in an October trial and while this is his first start since February, he can go well. (10) CHOEGO POINT and (12) TOGETHER WAY among others who can place.
(6) Spring Water (11) Secret King (4) Beat Up (10) Choego Point
1, 5, 6, 11
Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million
Juvenile maidens in the south coast opener with five of the ten racing for the first time. (1) JEONGMUN COBIT has raced twice already and while he has finished 6th on both occasions, he looks the one to beat here. After a solid showing on debut, he took his chance in the Areumdaun Jilju Stakes at this distance on October 2nd and while the competition there was a bit hot, he ran well enough and posted a good time. If he brings that form today, he will win. (9) GEUMA HUGE HIT went through a couple of trials, running on pleasingly enough in both and she can go well first-up in this company. So too (3) RAON THE HARLEY, who drew wide in his heat and settled back before running on. Returning to the experienced ones, (5) LIGHT SABER and (6) DOCTOR PANGPANG look the most likely to improve.
(1) Jeongmun Cobit (9) Geuma Huge Hit (3) Raon The Harley (5) Light Saber
1, 5, 6, 8
Seoul Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million
Tricky maiden here. Without much confidence we’ll go with the probable favourite, (11) DEVIL K. He has been consistent across five starts so far, with two 3rd places his best and while he gets no favours from the draw, he has a strong finish on him. If he can get a bit of luck at the start, he could win this. (2) WONDERFUL MUSIC comes in following a runner-up finish over his distance on October 8th. She got quite an easy run to the lead that day which might not happen again, although she draws very nicely and a repeat or better isn’t impossible. (7) NAMSAN MUJEOK returned form almost five months off to run a decent 3rd place over 1200M on October 8th. He should strip fitter for that effort and can be in this too. (5) BADAUI KKUM has been figuring things out of late and along with (10) LAST CALL is among others with placing hopes.
Eoma Eoma was presented with a stern examination at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon as the Korea Sprint winner needed every yard to catch and finally overcome Daehan Jilju to win the Kookje Shinmun Trophy (1400M Listed).
With the distance at 1400M, Daehan Jilju was always set to be the testing material. The Korea Sprint 4th place getter ran on very well in that race and was expected to be more suited to an extended trip that he had already won over on five occasions. Not that Eoma Eoma entered with a bad record at the seven furlongs either, having until just three weeks ago held the track record at Seoul.
It was a two-horse race throughout with Daehan Jilju being ridden hard out of the gate and straight to the front past Eoma Eoma, whose jockey Moon Se-young opted not to try and engage in a speed duel and instead was content to take a sit.
Heading into the home straight the gap at one point was up to two-lengths before Moon asked Eoma Eoma for his full effort. The deficit reduced but still Daehan Jilju led. For a moment it looked like the underdog might hold on but, just as when he went by Raptus in the Korea Sprint last month, Eoma Eoma was relentless, finally passing Daehan Jilju in the shadow of the post to win by a Head.
Daehan Jilju burnished a reputation that has seen him win eight times from sixteen starts at distances up to 1800M. A rematch with Eoma Eoma will be keenly anticipated. Three-lengths behind the top two, Daemangui Gil just edged out Ssonsal to claim 3rd place.
The victory takes Eoma Eoma, a five-year-old American-bred entire by Algorithms, to thirteen wins from nineteen starts. He is owned by the Nasca group and is trained by Song Moon-gil at Seoul. The Kookje Shinmun was the final big race of the year for the sprinters so unless Eoma Eoma is entered in a regular class 1 race at Seoul, his season could be done.
There were no celebrations after the race with Korea having entered a seven-day period of national mourning for the victims of the Itaewon disaster. That period of mourning will conclude on Saturday November 5th.
Next Sunday, attention is scheduled to move to the Juvenile ranks with the NACF Chairman’s Trophy at Seoul and the Gimhae Mayor’s Trophy at Busan, the final lead up races before the best two-year-olds from both tracks meet in the Breeders’ Cup at Busan in December.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(8) Lion Head (2) Nut Play (5) Wonpyeong Killar (7) Wonderful Caro
1, 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.
(5) Gagiman Godang (2) World Charm (7) Devil K (3) Fly Jenny
2, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.