There’s a double helping of Group race action at Seoul Racecourse this Sunday as both the Sprint Series and Queens’ Tour hold their second legs.

Raon The Fighter won the Busan Ilbo Sprint (Pic: KRA)

Eight of the eleven-strong field for the SBS Sports Sprint Trophy (1200M KOR-G3) ran in the first leg of the Sprint Series, the Busan Ilbo Sprint on April 2nd, among them all top-six of that day’s finishers. That of course includes RAON THE FIGHTER, last year’s Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes runner-up, who has dropped back to the sprinting ranks this term and crushed the field in Busan last month, winning by five-lengths. The five-year-old Bayern entire will be a short-priced favourite to prevail again.

Korea Sprint winner EOMA EOMA was the disappointment in Busan. Sent off at only marginally longer odds than Raon The Fighter, he was handy in the early stages but didn’t respond in the home straight and finished in 6th place, nine-lengths behind the winner. With Moon Se-young suspended, Yoo Seung-wan climbed aboard and the winner of this race two years ago will once more be sent off as second favourite.

Eoma Eoma is not the only previous winner in the field. In fact, MORFHIS has won this race twice, in 2020 and in 2022 both times, as is his style, coming from off the pace to rattle home strongly. Johan Victoire, who rode him to both those victories is aboard again and while he hasn’t raced since running 3rd behind Eoma Eoma and Jangsan Laser in February, Morfhis can never be ruled out in the SBS.

Eoma Eoma (Pic: KRA)

BEOLMAUI STAR was 2nd in the Busan Ilbo, leading for most of the way before being powerless to repel Raon The Fighter in the final furlong and a half. He will be supported on a place line again while SSONSAL and YES PERFECT, 3rd and 4th last month are others from Busan who have travelled to the capital with solid placing chances.

Just over an hour earlier, fourteen of the top fillies and mares in the country will go in the second leg of the Spring and Summer portion of the Queens’ Tour, the Ttukseom Cup (1400M KOR-G2). The first leg, the Donga Ilbo Trophy over 1800M on April 9th was won by EODIGANA, giving jockey Lee Dong-ha his first big race win. Unfortunately for the young rider, a broken collarbone suffered the following week means he doesn’t get the opportunity to keep the ride and Antonio Da Silva climbs aboard for the first time.

Raon The Spurt and Choi Bum-hyun have time to celebrate (Pic: KRA)

Eodigana warrants respect but she won’t be the favourite. That status will probably belong to RAON THE SPURT. She skipped the Donga Ilbo in order to take her chance against Winner’s Man in the Herald Business (2000M KOR-G3) on April 16th, running a creditable 4th. She was a very quick winner at this distance in March and while the draw is a touch wide, she may take some beating here. Lim Gi-won, who also rides Raon The Fighter, has a big chance of big double.

The main danger to Raon The Spurt may be her own stablemate. (11) RAON FIRST began the year as the undisputed top filly or mare on the country having won the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) against the boys last November and while ratings-wise that is still true, she showed that she isn’t invincible in the Filly and Mare only ranks when running 2nd to Eodigana in the Donga Ilbo Trophy. She won this race last year though and a repeat would be no surprise.

FLAT BABE ran disappointingly in the Donga Ilbo but was a strong winner at class 1 level over 1800M in February when she beat Winner’s Man in the latter’s tune-up for the Herald Business. While further distances may be her forte, she’ll be in with a chance here. Perhaps the most intriguing entrant is three-year-old CARPE BABEL. Thomas Gillespie’s Carpe Diem filly has raced just five times, winning her latest two and from a great draw, she also gets a weight allowance.

The Ttukseom Cup is race 8 on Sunday with a local post time of16:10. The SBS Sports Sprint is race 10 with a start time of 17:30.

Herald Business Sunday Seoul & Busan: Race-By-Race Preview (April 16)

Sunday’s feature is the G3 Herald Business where Winner’s Man, who went on to win the Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes, will bid to retain the trophy he was a year ago. See here for a full preview of the race. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:35 to 18:00 plus 6 at Busan from 11:00 to 15:40. Here are the previews:

Winner’s Man beat Raon The Fighter in the Grand Prix but the big screen shows just how close Tuhonui Banseok got in 3rd (Pic; KRA)

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Special Weight A / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maidens and (10) THEME TANSAENG will be the favourite. After running 5th on debut, he was an improved 2nd at start number two over this distance on March 4th. He was well beaten by a good winner that day, but the time was fair, and his running style so far suggests that the wide draw won’t be a problem. (4) HIGH BORN ME was an improved 3rd on his latest start over 1300M on March 18th. He was ridden forward for the first time that day having been slow away and settled back in each of his previous three and with similar tactics here, he can make further progress. (5) GOLD MIGHTY has three top-four finishes from four starts so far. He has a strong finish on him and can sit behind the speed and run on here. (6) SAENAE VIVA, who has the fastest time of any of these over the distance, and (9) COLITAS are other potentials for minor money.

Selections(10) Theme Tansaeng (4) High Born Me (5) Gold Mighty (6) Saenae Viva
Next Best9, 3
Fast Start3, 4, 6, 7

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1300M) Special Weight A / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maidens. (6) UNJU BONNEUNG ran 4th on debut on March 19th when settling midfield before getting shuffled back but then running on well. He should have benefitted for that run, Franco climbs on, the slight raise in trip can suit and he could be the one to beat. His time on debut was a little quicker than that of (5) NAMHAE MISO, who ran 3rd on her first start on March 17th. She too should have come on for the run and draws a much better gate this time around. (7) RUNNING FASHION also draws better than she did on debut when from an unpromising position, she worked home well for 5th over this distance. She should go better here. (8) PINHOLE EYE and (1) HAMA among other placing hopes.

Selections(6) Unju Bonneung (5) Namhae Miso (7) Running Fashion (8) Pinhole Eye
Next Best1, 4
Fast Start2, 3, 6, 8

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Special Weight A / KRW 40 Million

Three-year-old maiden fillies. (2) HAEUNDAE GALMAEGI ran 5th on debut before almost leading all the way around on her second appearance in a similar race to this over 1300M on March 18th, ultimately going down less than half a length. Third up here she may be peaking and under the same weight and from a good draw, she could go all the way this time. (3) CANDY GLOW was a big improver at start number four on March 19th when on pace and running a close 3rd. She’ll be disputing the lead here and can be in this a long way. (7) FINE CAMP has been knocking on the door in her latest two, coming from off the pace for 2nd in her latest outing over 1300M on February 5th. She has the fastest final furlong average time of any of these and after a couple of months off comes in fresh and should go close. (10) APEX and first-time starter (1) NEW POINT among others in the placing frame.

Selections(2) Haeundae Galmaegi (3) Candy Glow (7) Fine Camp (10) Apex
Next Best1, 6
Fast Start1, 2, 3, 10

Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1400M) Special Weight A / KRW 25 Million

It’s hard to go far past (3) PURPLE LINE. He comes in having run 2nd over 1400M at start number three on March 5th beating three of these in the process and while well beaten by a good winner, the time and the performance was good. He draws similarly well, and it would be a surprise were he not to go one better today. (1) ADELE HORANGI has seven top-five finishes from eight starts so far with just the win remaining elusive. He was a beaten favourite last time out on March 24th when 4th over 1300M and while he hasn’t tackled this distance before, he has run well at a mile and should be close here. (6) WONDERFUL IMPACT beat a couple of these on her way to 3rd place at this distance on March 17th. She comes up 2.5kg in the weights without an apprentice claim but Choi Si-dae climbing aboard can be in her favour. (8) ECTON POWER and (2) GASOK JEIL others.

Selections(3) Purple Line (1) Adele Horangi (6) Wonderful Impact (8) Ecton Power
Next Best2, 5
Fast Start1, 3, 4, 6

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Special Weight A / KRW 25 Million

(2) SILVER BOOSTER comes in following a 2nd and a 4th from his latest two at 1200M at 1300M, both times settling handy and running on. There isn’t much speed here so he may well be on pace, and he has a stronger finish than any of his rivals here. (4) JEONGSANG LUCKY comes back in trip and into a much better gate than she has had in any of her last three. The last time she ran over this distance she was 2nd in a time faster than any of the others here have managed for 1200M and she should get a much easier earlier run than has been available to her of late. (5) TIZ ROCKET was 4th behind Silver Booster two starts back and followed up by finishing in the same position three weeks ago. He comes down a full 4.5kg in the weights with an apprentice claim and can be considered for improvement here. (1) ARGO MUJEOK and (6) J.Y. COCO others to consider.


Betelgeuse, Something Lost Take Out Classic Trials

Betelgeuse put down a huge marker on the road to the Triple Crown, overcoming adversity to win the Gyeongnam Shinmun Trophy at Busan, while at Seoul, Something Lost overcame the market to maintain his unbeaten record and lead all the way in the Sports Seoul Trophy.

Betelgeuse wins the Gyeongnam Shinmun (Pic: KRA)

Betelgeuse skipped the one-turn Listed and Graded juvenile races last season in favour of being tested against older horses over 1800M, a strategy similar to that used by his trainer Baik Kwang-yeol with last year’s Derby winner Winner Star. Dropping back to 1400M for the Gyeongnam Shinmun Trophy, punters made the colt, a winner of five from seven, the odds on favourite.

The striking grey didn’t disappoint. Despite getting a heavy bump coming out of the gate, Betelgeuse was ridden up to within striking distance of the leaders entering the straight. He was then on the receiving end of more interference, forcing him wider and wider but once jockey Choi Si-dae managed to extricate him and find room, he powered home to win pulling away. He crossed the line a length and three-quarters ahead of World Legend in 2nd with Yeonggwangui Ace, the tormentor of Betelgeuse at the start and at the top of the straight, 3rd.

An hour later at Seoul, Breeders’ Cup 4th place getter Naol Sniper was sent off as favourite for the Sports Seoul Trophy (also over 1400M) off the back of a smart win over 1800M last month. From a wide gate he ran strongly but just couldn’t get to Something Lost who under Lee Hyeok, had got the best of the start and managed to keep the field at arm’s length all the way around.

Despite being three for three, the Hong Dae-you trained Something Lost was sent off as the 13/1 fifth choice in the betting market with punters unconvinced by those victories and with memories of plenty of previously unbeaten three-year-olds arriving at these races only to be found out. Naol Sniper was half a length back in 2nd with Dragon Star a further four-lengths in arrears in 3rd.

The focus will now turn to the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the Triple Crown, at Busan on April 30th. Speed Young, last year’s Breeders’ Cup winner, is set to be there but both Betelgeuse and Something Lost are sure to be in the mix.

In other news, the long standing saga of Park Tae-jong’s 2200th career winner finally came to an end as the jockey guided Sure Win to an all the way victory in race 10 at Seoul on Sunday. Since his last victory on February 5th, Park had been scoreless in more than forty rides, almost the longest losing streak in his 34-year career. Park is the all time leading jockey in Korea.

There was also a milestone winner for a jockey at the other end of her career. Kim Tae-hui partnered Seoul Spurt to victory in race 3 at Seoul on Sunday to get her 40th winner and lose the final 1kg of her apprentice claim.  She isn’t the quickest to ride out her claim, but the 22-year-old, who began race riding in the summer of 2021, missed 4 months through injury following a bad fall in January last year.

The first few months after losing a claim is always a challenging time for young jockeys but Kim Tae-hui looks likely to have the support – and the ability – to continue to be successful.

Antonio Notches Four While Luigi Moves to Within One Win of Top of Seoul Trainer Premiership

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.

Antonio Da Silva with Luigi Riccardi looking on back in 2019 (Pic: KRA)

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.  

President’s Cup 2022 – Full Preview

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).

Simjangui Godong won the President’s Cup in 2021 but faces a tough ask when defending it at Seoul this Sunday (Pic: KRA)

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.

Selections: (10) Winner’s Man (3) Simjangui Godong (2) Heunghaeng Jilju  (7) Captain Yankee

Seoul & Busan Sunday: Race-By-Race Preview (November 6)

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.

Selections(1) Tour Queen (10) Geumseong Sidae (9) Mighty Ssen (5) Raon City Girl
Next Best7, 2
Fast Start2, 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.

Selections(6) Gippeum Hwanho (4) Eunpa Champion (1) Areumdaun Sai (8) Argo Kkushong
Next Best3, 12
Fast Start1, 4, 6, 8

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.

Selections(6) Spring Water (11) Secret King (4) Beat Up (10) Choego Point
Next Best12, 1
Fast Start1, 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.

Selections(1) Jeongmun Cobit (9) Geuma Huge Hit (3) Raon The Harley (5) Light Saber
Next Best6, 2
Fast Start1, 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 Overcomes Stern Kookje Shinmun Test

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).

Eoma Eoma denied Daehan Jilju in the Kookje Shinmun Trophy

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.

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