Akane Yamamoto

Tough Win Toys His Way To Easy Win

Anything Smarty Moonhak can do, Tough Win can do too. While the young upstart had romped to two easy victories already this year, the horse who beat him in the Grand Prix Stakes remained in the stables until today.

The Eyes Have It: Tough Win

Eleven rivals showed up to face him, chief among them Jumong (Johar) but Tough Win, despite carrying the maximum 63kg, was sent off long odds-on favourite.

Just as in the Grand Prix last year and in contrast to his earlier starts, Cho Kyoung Ho kept Tough Win right at the back of the field. At one point, the pair were at least 20 lengths off the pace although with Jo In Kwen keeping Jumong well back too, there was little in front to concern the favourite.

They improved around the home turn and then, after a couple of taps entering the home straight, Tough Win sprinted away from the field. Cho eased him down throughout the final furlong and the favourite was practically down to a trot as he crossed the line five lengths ahead of Jumong.

It’s 15 wins from 19 starts for Tough Win now but other than knowing he’s in godd shape, we learned very little today. Indeed, everything he and Smarty Moonhak do in these handicaps seems little more than empty posturing leading up until the time they finally clash again.

Two years ago, eveyone was anticipating Dongbanui Gangja vs Tough Win. When it arrived, it was a disappointment as the unruly double Grand Prix winner pulled an Orfevre. The anticipation for this next one, with Mister Park in the mix too, is far greater.

The clash could come at Busan and, down on the south coast today there were co-feature races. Akane Yamamoto continued her recent run of form in big handicaps by winning the first on Money Tree (Medallist). Running third in the race was 2009 Minister’s Cup winner Namdo Jeap (Ft. Stockton). It was the former champion’s first placed finish for a year and the first on Korea for his jockey, Narazaki Kosuke.

* Next week it’s Seoul vs Busan for the first time in 2012 as some of the peninsula’s best fillies and mares come to the capital for the Ttukseom Cup.

Sho Time – Japanese Jockey Ueno Has a Tough Task Ahead

Over the weekend, Sho Ueno became the latest Japanese jockey to debut at Seoul Race Park, replacing Mai Beppu who left the track at the end of February. He has a tough task ahead of him.

Sho Ueno at Seoul

Nevertheless, the young JRA rider made an encouraging start. With just four rides across the weekend, all unfancied, he ended up with two third-place finishes and another fifth with only one being out of the prize-money.

The foreign jockeys are now the only ones who are considered “freelance”. All others are attached to trainers.

Under the jurisdiction of the Jockey Union, it used to be the case that jockeys who were retained by a trainer could only take five race rides per week but would get a salary for trackwork. Freelancers could ride as many as they wanted but would have no guaranteed salary.

The best jockeys went freelance and on average, earned three to four times that of retained jockeys. The very top ones even more.

Now all jockeys are retained by a trainer with a limit for everyone of 14 rides over a weekend. Of course, the best jockeys still get all the best rides – Moon Se Young is with Ha Jae Heung and Ch Kyoung Ho back with his old boss Shin Woo Chul.

The new system makes is, however, likely making it even harder for the foreign jockeys to get rides. When each trainer has two or three jockeys retained, they need a very good reason to employ someone else. Not a problem for Moon Se Young who gets plenty from many trainers, but not so easy for the foreigners.

And the figures don’t lie. Makoto Noda has won 8 times since arriving last June while Toshi Inoue has just 1 victory to show from his three months so far – and that was on his first day. They are poor returns but both, just like Beppu and Hiro Hamada before them, seem more than capable in the saddle but only get opportunitites to ride horses in contention for the minor placings at best.

On the surface, the success last year of Nathan Stanley and Akane Yamamoto at Busan would appear to undermine this theory. In reality, however, while both were officially the only freelancers at the track, in reality the pair acted as stable jockeys to Peter Wolsley and Kim Young Kwan in all but name. It’s unlikely a visitor to Seoul will get similar opportunities any time soon.

With Cho Kyoung Ho sidelined since January, Moon Se Young has dominated the early part of the Seoul season. The breakthrough of the year is Seo Seung Un, still a first year apprentice but fourth in the standings:

2012 Seoul Jockey Championship (Up to March 12)

1. Moon Se Young – 33
2. Oh Kyoung Hoan – 16
3. Park Tae Jong – 14
4. Seo Seung Un – 12
5. Jo In Kwen – 11

Akane is Famous!

Japanese Racing TV has produced a feature on jockey Akane Yamamoto as she comes to the end of her first year riding at Busan.

It’s all in Japanese but well worth a look both for the quintessentially Japanese graphics at the beginning and also for the trackwork shots of Busan:

*h/t @uk_maniax

Before coming to Korea, Kyoto-native Yamamoto had a spell riding in New Zealand.

In Korea for being the current jockey of Mister Park, who last year set a Korean record of 17 consecutive wins. She has won twice on him and rode him to second-place behind Tough Win and ahead of Smarty Moonhak in last year’s Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Racecourse.

Her total record in Korea to date is 34 wins from her total 217 rides.

Bye, Mai – Japanese Jockey Change at Seoul

Mai Beppu’s time riding in Korea has come to an end. The Japanese jockey has held a license at Seoul Race Park for a full year but will return to Japan at the end of February. She will be replaced by young JRA jockey Sho Ueno.

Yes!! I'm going home! - Mai Beppu

Beppu first rode in Korea in the “International Lady Jockey Invitational” – an event that mercifully for all sorts of reasons hasn’t been repeated – in Busan in 2009, finishing third in the race behind fellow Japanese Hitomi Miyashita who herself went on to spend a successful year riding full-time at Busan.

Beppu arrived in Seoul last March and, after getting injured on her first weekend went on to have a reasonably successful time at the track – at least by the usual standards of the thankless task that is being a foreign jockey riding at Seoul. She ended with 13 wins over the year, with a quinella strike rate of 9%. Like all other foreign jockeys at Seoul, while she did get plenty of rides (around 300 in total), their quality was lacking.

Always smiling, the 24 year-old Mai was popular with punters, trainers and other jockeys (some more than others) and will, with any luck, continue to have a successful career in future.

Mai’s replacement at Seoul is 26 year-old Sho Ueno. Based at tthe JRA’s Ritto Training Centre, Ueno debuted in 2004 but has only managed 38 winners from 1,236 rides in Japan. He joins Makoto Noda, who is coming to the end of his license and Toshihiko Inoue as the only foreign riders at Seoul.

Akane Yamamoto is currently the only foreign jockey at Busan although the suspended Nathan Stanley is still licensed. Sho Ueno is on an initial 4 month license starting March 1.

Dongbang Rose Wilts As Tamnaseontaek Takes Seoul Victory

After a barren spell of over a year, Tamnaseontaek returned to the winner’s circle at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

The five-year-old, who competed in the Korean Derby in 2010 and has three Stakes race placings to his name, finally landed a Class 1 race by taking a narrow victory in the feature handicap.

Kim Jeong Jun looks across but Choi Bum Hyun has beaten him on Tamnaseontaek

Symphony Sonata, another who has found the going tough since breaking through to the elite level, was a battling second while former Champion filly Dongbang Rose could only manage third.

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – Feb 18, 2012

1. Tamnaseontaek (KOR) [War Sone-Every Michelle (Every Intent)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 4.9, 1.8
2. Symphony Sonata (KOR) [E. Dubai-First Violin (Dixieland Band)] – Kim Jeong Jun – 2.9
3. Dongbang Rose (KOR) [Volponi-Night Mary (Strike Gold)] – Choi Won Joon – 2.3

Distances: 0.75 lengths/0,75 lengths. 10 Ran

On Friday at Busan, there was a dominant win in the feature race for 5/1 chance Money Tree (Medallist). The five-year-old mare scored by seven lengths from outsider Sinheung Daejangun and favourite Tough Tiger to record her seventh career victory. It was another big success for Japanese jockey Akane Yamamoto who, for the time being, is the only foreign rider at Busan.

On Sunday the focus is on Seoul where Aussie filly Xicar (Written Tycoon) is set to be favourite for the Segye Ilbo Cup. Meanwhile at Busan, Aussie trainer Peter Wolsley is in with a shout in the feature race as his Secret Whisper (Sea Of Secrets) has strong claims in a seven furlong handicap.

Heavy Work For Mister Park While Wolsley Trains A Treble

Singgeureounachim, Jigeum I Sungan, Cheoneun All Win At Seoul

Reigning Horse Of The Year Mister Park made his season-debut at Busan Race Park this afternoon and, despite carrying a restrictive 62Kg on his back, galloped to his eighteenth career victory on his twentieth start.

Winners Again: Mister Park and Akane Yamamoto

Punters ignored the fact that Mister Park was becoming the first horse to be assigned the new top weight – two kilos more than the previous high for allowance races – and sent the 2010 Grand Prix winner off as long-odds on favourite.

Coming out of the gate quickly under Japanese jockey Akane Yamamoto, Mister Park latched onto early pacesetter Boulougne and the two led the field by some distance until they entered the home straight.

As Bolougne weakened, there seemed a nervous moment as Mister Park found himself in front and momentarily seemed to go sideways. he recovered, however, to take victory by a length and a half from Hidden Messenger (Al Naba).

It was comfortable enough but Mister Park was slow in the straight and if he faces better horses while carrying this amount of weight, he may be more vulnerable this year.

With Akane riding Mister Park to victory and Eiki Nishimura also amongst the winners, it was a good day for Busan’s foreign contingent. However, the Japanese pair would be eclipsed by trainer Peter Wolsley’s achievements as the Australian sent out three horses – all maidens – and returned with three winners.

Treble: Peter Wolsley (Pic: Herald Media)

The first came in race 1 as Aussie bred gelding No More Ahead (All Bar One) took victory. This was immediately followed by debut-maiing Cheongchun Bulpae (Milwaukee Brew) in race 2 while another first-timer Nuri Geotap (Prime Timber) completed the treble by winning race 5.

Wolsley is well-known for being an expert at placing his horses to give them the best shot of winning within the restrictive Korean racing class system and today was the perfect example of it. His barn now has three more winners in it and it looks set to be another good season for him. Former stable jockey Park Geum Man partnered all three winners.

Up at Seoul, one of last year’s underachievers Singgereounachim (Exploit) made no mistake in the feature race, holding off determined challenges from Mr. Rocky and Andy’s Runner to record a narrow victory. The colt was third in the Korean Derby last year and could be set to finally live up to his potential this year.

Speaking of the Derby, we are exactly two months away from the first Classic of the season. Today, a colt and a filly who are expected to be involved in the KRA Cup Classic down in Busan at the beginning of April, were in action.

Both of them were trying their luck around two turns of the Seoul track for the first time and both of them were successful. First up was the colt, Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire). Against a weak field, he was sent off the odds-on favourite and he cruised to an eight length win over 1700 metres.

Cheoneun and Park Tae Jong hold off King Fighting and Jo In Kwen at Seoul

Two races later and a step up in class, things were tougher were Cheoneun (Forest Camp) who went off as the 3/1 second favourite. She put in an impressive performance. Under Park Tae Jong, she made all and held off a strong challenge from favourite King Fighting in the final furlong to claim her fifth win in seven starts.

While she’ll need to get quicker if she’s to compete in the Classics, she’ll be one to watch out for as the road to the Triple Crown starts to really get going in the forthcoming weeks.

Weekend Preview: Weighty Task For Mister Park

Magnifique, Geumbi, Jumong In Action At Seoul / Mai Beppu Returns

Last season, Mister Park (Ecton Park) broke the record for most consecutive wins in Korean racing history. It was a sensational streak of seventeen straight triumphs which only came to an end by the narrowest of margins at the hands of Tough Win in the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December.

Heavy Task: Mister Park

On Sunday, the now five-year old Mister Park makes his season debut at Busan in Sunday’s feature race. However, if he’s going to get back to winning ways, he’s going to have to carry jockey Akane Yamamoto, as well as a lot of dead-weight, faster than eleven rivals over 1800M.

This year, the maximum weight for allowance races (which include most Stakes races in Korea) has been upped to 62Kg and Mister Park will carry exactly that amount on Sunday. He should still win, but it’s by no means an easy start to his season.

Akane also rides top sprinter Night Moves (Proud Accolade) in Friday’s Busan sprint feature, a race where Peter Wolsley’s Khaosan(Sunday Well) and Pnata Rhei (Stormy Atlantic) as well as Joe Murphy’s Udeumji(Yehudi) will be among a full field looking to beat her.

The pick of the action at Seoul is on Saturday, where the feature sees Jumong (Johar) go up against double-stakes runner-up Geumbi (Ecton Park). Old favourite and former Grand Prix winner Bally Brae (Yarrow Brae), now ten, joins them.

Sunday sees the late developing Magnifique (Menifee) look for his fourth straight win the feature, Singgeureounachim (Exploit) and Andy’s Runner (The Groom Is Red) also helping make up a competitive field of twelve.

In jockey news, Japanese rider Mai Beppu makes her return to action for the first time in 2012, with twelve mounts across the weekend.

After near record low-temperatures in Korea this week, the weekend is looking a looking a little better but it’s still set to be pretty cold. Start and finish times have been adjusted earlier at all three tracks this weekend and there is an extra race at Busan on both Friday and Sunday. Click here for full cards but here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 3

Busan Race Park: 11 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:30 to 17:30

Saturday February 4

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 17:20
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 16:40

Sunday February 5

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 8 races from 11:50 to 16:40

Tough Win Grabs Grand Prix Glory

Tough Win Beats Mister Park & Smarty Moonhak to Win Korean Racing’s Showcase Race

Tough Win ended the seventeen run unbeaten streak of defending champion Mister Park as he took victory in a thrilling renewal of the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

The four-year old gelding was sent off third in the betting but made no mistake with a perfectly timed run as he came through late to overtake Mister Park in the final furlong and win by just over half a length.

As expected, Tamna Ace made the early running but it was Akane Yamamoto and Mister Park who quickly took over at the front. In the backstraight there was excitement as Shim Seung Tae brought the two-year old prodigy, Smarty Moonhak up alongside the leader and these two were neck and neck as they rounded the home turn.

Tough Win in the Grand Prix winner's circle

Behind them though, Tough Win and Cho Kyoung Ho had begun to make their move. In the home straight, Mister Park managed to shake Smarty Moonhak but on the outside, Tough Win was always closing and when he went by, Mister Park had no response.

It was a 14th win from 18 lifetime starts for Tough Win, a $12,000 purchase at the June 2009 Ocala Two-year old Sales. He suffered his first loss in this race last year and was out of the money for the only time in his career in this summer’s Busan Metropolitan. Today, however, everything came together as he scored the win his talent has always promised to deliver.

Mister Park - Unbeaten run came to an end

Mister Park’s front-running style means he always runs the risk of not having enough left in the home straight. Akane Yamamoto managed to control his pace well but he simply couldn’t hold on.

Completing the first three was the wildcard, Smarty Moonhak. In the build-up to the race, few people were talking about anything other than the first two-year old in the Grand Prix’s 30 year history to take his chance. Although he didn’t win, he proved he is the real deal.

Smarty Moonhak - Big run in third

There’s no disgrace in being beaten by a pair such as Tough Win and Mister Park and, having stayed the distance, he was six lengths clear of the fourth horse home. Provided he stays sound, at this moment in time, it is hard to see anything beating him next year. Tomorrow morning, updated rankings will be published and Smarty Moonhak will find himself the first two-year old ever to be promoted to Class 1, the highest level of racing here.

As for the others, 2010 Korean Derby winner Cheonnyeon Daero went quietly into retirement in 9th place while KRA Cup Classic winner Ace Galloper was a disappointing 11th. Peter Wolsley’s first attempt at a Grand Prix was not a happy one with the grey Gyeongkwaehanjilju tailing the field home in 14th.

Today though was about three top horses. One has the Korean racing world abuzz with his potential and ran today like no two-year old should; one met with no disgrace as he saw his record-breaking winning streak come to a battling end. The other, Tough Win, is Korea’s Champion Racehorse of 2011.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – December 11, 2011

1. Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska-Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 5.2, 1.7
2. Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park-Formal Deal (Formal Gold)] – Akane Yamamoto – 1.3
3. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones-Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] – Shim Seung Tae – 2.0

Distances: 0.75 lengths/1.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Tamna Ace (KOR) 5. Dongseo Jeongbeol (KOR) 6. Triple Sinhwa (KOR) 7. Queen Of Rain (USA) 8. Yeonseung Daero (KOR) 9. Cheonnyeon Daero (KOR) 10. Gippeun Sesang 11. Ace Galloper 12. Jumong 13. Yodongjewang 14. Gyeongkwaehanjilju

Tough Win wins the Grand Prix in front of a packed house at Seoul Racecourse (Pic: E-Today)

Dongbanui Gangja and Dongteuja Keep Maremaid’s Memory Alive

Siblings Win At Seoul & Busan

December is a month when punters expect to see Dongbanui Gangja [Broken Vow-Maremaid (Storm Bird)] in the winner’s circle. In 2009, he became the third horse – after 1980’s and 1990’s greats Po Gyeong Seon and Ka Shock Do – to win consecutive Grand Prix Stakes, Korea’s most prestigious race. This year, he wasn’t nominated and instead came to Seoul Race Park this weekend and comfortably dismissed a class 1 field by three lengths despite giving the whole lot of them a minimum of six kilos.

Back winning: Dongbanui Gangja and Choi Bum Hyun (Pic: KRA)

Just one week before his first Grand Prix triumph on the weekend before Christmas in 2008, Dongbanui Gangja’s dam, a then fourteen-year-old mare named Maremaid [Storm Bird-Isayso (Valid Appeal)] arrived in Korea having been bought by the Korea Horse Land breeding operation.

Dongbanui Gangja himself was a $20,000 purchase from the OBS Spring Two-year olds in Training sale at Ocala in 2007. He quickly established himself as a high-class performer and went unbeaten for twelve consecutive races between October 2008 and July 2010, during which time he won hs two Grand Prix’s and an Owners’ Trophy.

The rest of 2010 was a disappointment though. As a five-year old he had become increasingly difficult to control and he started to drift very wide in his races. There was talk of retirement. However, with a lot of training and a pair of pacifiers fitted, this year he has begun to show a little of his old form. It is great to have him back.

Apart from Dongbanui Gangja, Maremaid had produced six other foals who raced in the US. The best of them was a filly, Glitter Maid, by Glitterman, who won six of twenty-eight starts in the early 2000’s. When she arrived in Korea, she was heavily in foal to Montbrook. Sadly, she suffered complications while giving birth to a filly on February 12, 2009.

The filly survived, however, and this afternoon at Busan Race Park, Dongteuja [Montbrook-Maremaid (Storm Bird)] maintained her 100% record as she strolled to her fourth consecutive win since her debut in August. She has a long way to go before emulating her big brother but so far, she’s doing just fine.

Dongteuja was today ridden by Japanese jockey Akane Yamamoto. Akane went on to finish second by a head in the feature race on Goni (Wando) to hot favourite Champion Belt (Exploit). Champion Belt should have been ridden by Nathan Stanley, however, calamity struck for the prolific Australian rider on Friday as he picked up a three-month ban – an unusually strong punishment for in-race incidents in Korea that don’t involve non-trying – for his ride on Cheonjae Bogo in race 6 on Friday.

The suspension, which potentially ends Stanley’s time in Korea given his license expires at the end of December, means he will miss next week’s Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul. Akane will be there though riding Mister Park, last year’s winner as he attempts to emulate none other than Dongbanui Gangja and retain the biggest prize in Korean racing.

Dongbanui Gangja’s second Grand Prix in 2009:

Weekend Preview

Dongbanui Gangja / Grand First / Champion Belt

We’re just a week away from the Grand Prix, the climax of the Korean racing season, but there’s still

Double Grand Prix Winner: Dongbanui Gangja goes on Saturday

plenty going on across the peninsula this weekend.

Seoul has class 1 handicap headlining on both Saturday and Sunday. Double Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja (Broken Vow) misses this year’s event but he’ll be in action in Saturday’s feature. While there are a number of decent, if less than intimidating, horses up against him, the thing that is most likely to stop the former Champion adding to his eighteen career victories is the weight – he’ll be carrying six kilos more than any other horse in the race. Sunday sees three-year old filly Grand First (Salt Lake) making her first appearance at the highest level as she takes on a beatable looking field in the feature race.

Down at Busan, US five-year old Purely Spontaneus (Pure Precision) makes just his third atrt of 2011 in the feature – he’s one of twelve rides for Akane Yamamoto over the weekend as she looks to build on her five wins a week ago. The now nine-year old Golding (Gold Alert) is one of just seven rivals.

However, Busan’s most intriguing contest of the weekend is on Sunday afternoon. Aussie jockey Nathan Stanley gets the nod to ride Champion Belt (Exploit) who many predict will go on to be the stand-out horse of his year-group (which so far has been pretty shoddy) in the feature race. To get on the favourite, however, Stanley has had to get off Khaosan (Sunday Well) on who he won the Busan Owners’ Stakes and finished fourth in the President’s Cup. In his absence, trainer Peter Wolsley has managed to secure the services of champion jockey Jo Sung Gon to ride the tough as nails Khaosan. Neither rider will be in a good mood if they lose this one.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday December 2

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 10 races from 13:00 to 17:30

Saturday December 3

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:10 to 17:30
Jeju Race Park: 10 races from 12:30 to 17:50

Sunday December 4

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:10 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:30 to 17:00

December can be cold but beautiful at Seoul Race Park