Ace Cheonbok

Bart Rice Rare Raids Reap Rewards

South African trainer Bart Rice was on the mark today, sending out two runners at Busan Racecourse today and coming home with two winners.

Strike Rate: Bart Rice (KRA)

Strike Rate: Bart Rice (KRA)

It’s the kind of thing the 38-year-old has become renowned for in his short time at the track so far. When punters see a Rice horse running, they know it will be in fine order and wouldn’t be running if it can’t win. The odds usually reflect that.

Today, Rice sent out Better Than You (Ft.Stockton) in race 2 and Aussie import Ace Cheonbok (Zizou) in race 7. Both won comfortably at short-odds under Japanese rider Masa Tanaka.

The wins take Rice onto some extremely noteworthy figures. He has 22 horses in his stable and lies in 11th in the Busan Trainers’ Championship with 23 wins in 2014. However, these have come from just 102 starters. To emphasize his focus on winners, there have been a further 10 second places and just 4 thirds.

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Only the Peter Wolsley stable and the Kim Young Kwan factory can boast a better strike rate; Rice leads the next best by some considerable distance. Wolsley has sent out 205 runners this year and Kim over 300.

Among the 32 trainers at the South-Coast track, the only ones who have sent out fewer runners than Rice are Ahn Woo Sung and Gu Young Jun and they only received their licenses this summer.

Rice looks like a man who wants to to do things properly. He’s one of very few trainers in korea who has a website and has clearly set out to train and race his own way. In Masa Tanaka, he also has a very capable de-facto stable jockey (Tanaka is officially freelance).

Whether he can sustain this strategy long-term in the face of notoriously demanding Korean owners who, with decent prize-money going all the way down to 5th place, want their horses running whether they have a chance of winning or not, remains to be seen. For now though, it has been a remarkable debut year.

Better Than You is an interesting one. The 3-year-old gelding spent a year in the United States, racing in Florida four times before returning to Korea this summer. Today was his first race in his homeland and he romped home by a full 11 lengths.

He wasn’t the only one of those who went to the US running today. Gangnam Camp (Forest Camp), who was with Better Than You on the same program in Florida, actually landed a 2nd place at Gulfstream Park earlier this year and comfortably won his Korean debut last month. He was on target again today taking race 6 by four lengths.