Asia Challenge Cup 2014

El Padrino Historic Winner Of Inaugural Asia Challenge Cup

El Padrino showed his class with a dominant victory for Singapore in the inaugural Asia Challenge Cup at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

El Padrino wins the Asia Challenge Cup under David Flores (Pic: Elan959)

El Padrino wins the Asia Challenge Cup under David Flores (Pic: Elan959)

Sent off as the pre-race favourite by Korean punters, El Padrino made a steady start, settling into the middle of the pack under jockey David Flores as local contenders Fly Top Queen, Watts Village and Cowboy Son made the early pace.

Flores started to make up ground as they began the long-turn for home, improving around the outside – just like he had done on one earlier mount in a previous race. Tracking him was Lee Chan Ho on Wonder Bolt, the 3rd favourite.

It would be these two who would dominate the remainder of the race, El Padrino hitting the front just after the two-furlong pole, Flores shifting inside and then letting loose. Wonder Bolt chased gallantly on the outside but never came close to catching him

Ultimately, El Padrino would win by two lengths in a track record time of 1:23.8. Wonder Bolt also finished inside the old record, a full eight lengths ahead of 3rd placed New York Blue. The Japanese pair of Toshi Gang Star and Pierre Tiger came home in 4th and 5th.

There was disappointment for the other two Singaporean raiders; Speedy Cat and Trudeau never getting into a rhythm and coming home 9th and 10th respectively. Meanwhile, those early pace-setters and frequent rivals, Fly Top Queen and Watts Village were the last two home.

El Padrino and David Flores fly the flag in the Winner's Circle

El Padrino and David Flores fly the flag in the Winner’s Circle

The race capped an important weekend for Korean horse racing. Unprecedented work had gone into securing a quarantine protocol which would allow the Singaporean runners to visit – a similar one was completed with Japan last year and involved the creating of an expanded quarantine zone at the racecourse.

At a welcome dinner the previous evening, the Chairman of Toko City Keiba, representing Japan – where there will be a return leg for three Korean horses in November, a race won by Watts Village last year – spoke as did the Chairman of the Singapore Turf Club. The race was broadcast live to Singapore where it made up part of the Sunday card at Kranji. Regular simulcast broadcasts to Singapore – 14 races were broadcast on Saturday – also began earlier this summer and is generating a steady turnover.

At the track, the usually stuffy 6th floor was livened up by the presence of some boisterous visiting connections, especially those representing Trudeau. Even the parade ring actually looked like a big race was about to take place.

A year ago, simulcasting and an international race of this standard – even after the successful running Japan/Korea Goodwill Cup, looked an incredibly long way off. But it has happened. Even some imitators of this blog have started up. After years of nothing, progress has suddenly gathered pace.

On Sunday, the pace everyone was talking about, belonged to El Padrino.

Asia Challenge Cup 2014 – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – Aug 31, 2014

1. El Padrino (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] – David Flores – 2.8, 1.3
2. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – Lee Chan Ho – 2.0
3. New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] – Masakazu Tanaka – 4.9
Distances: 2 lengths / 8 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Toshi Gang Star (JPN) 5. Pierre Tiger (JPN) 6. Indian Blue (KOR) 7. Chocolat Verrine (JPN) 8. Cowboy Son (USA) 9. Speedy Cat (NZ) 10. Trudeau (AUS) 11. Persia Wangja (CAN) 12. Changiparang (USA) 13. Watts Village 14. Fly Top Queen

Seoul All Set For SBS Asia Challenge Cup

The horses have arrived, the speeches have been made, the dinners have been served, the wine has been drunk. Now all that’s left is the actual race. Later on Sunday, the SBS Asia Challenge Cup will finally go to post at Seoul Racecourse.

Can Wonder Bolt keep the Asia Challenge Cup in Korea? (Pic: Elan959)

Can Wonder Bolt keep the Asia Challenge Cup in Korea? (Pic: Elan959)

And an extremely open race it is too. On paper, the three horses visiting from Singapore look too good. El Padrino, Trudeau and Speedy Cat all have ratings well in excess of 100 and are a class above the home team.

However, the race isn’t being run on paper. More to the point, it’s not being run on turf or polytrack either, but on sand. Alien to the blue-blooded visitors, but totally natural to the Korean racers.

Then there is the Japanese challenge. The NAR has great depth in its sprint ranks – arguably more so then the JRA – and while Chocolat Verrine, Pierre Tiger and Toshi Gang Star are no world beaters, they are all proven winners and will have few problems in Seoul’s sandpit.

It’s a wide open contest and while class may eventually win out, it is set to be a great race.

SBS Asia Challenge Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – August 31, 2014 (17:25 KST / 16:25 SIN)

1. PERSIA WANGJA (CAN) [Ghostzapper – Dynamite Dancer (Lite The Fuse)] 3-year-old Colt (10/5/1/1) – Park Hyun Woo
Unbeaten at this distance, however, this is a far stronger field than he’s ever faced before. Expect him to try to come from just off the pace, but it is going to be very difficult.

2. TRUDEAU (AUS) [Exceed And Excel – Canadian Legacy (Kris)] 7-year-old Gelding (33/7/5/9) – Noel Callow
A big chance with a perfect draw and Noel Callow, who has a 50% strike rate on this track, at the controls. He’ll try to close in the home straight and if he does it, expect Seoul to be drunk dry of wine by the end of the night.

3. CHANGIPARANG (USA) [Touch Gold – Victory Roll (Deerhound)] 5-year-old Mare (27/2/5/3) – Shin Hyoung Chul
Likely to be outclassed here. By no means a bad horse, but doesn’t have the speed to compete in this company.

4. EL PADRINO (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] 6-year-old Gelding (29/8/5/4) – David Flores
Racked up another big race win earlier this month, how he takes to the sand is the big question. If he does, then he really should be winning.

5. CHOCOLAT VERRINE (JPN) [Gold Allure – Breezy Woods (Timber County)] 5-year-old Mare (24/6/5/3) – Daisuke Mashima
Perhaps the best of the Japanese visitors, certainly on recent form. Should come from just off the pace and has every chance.

6. WONDER BOLT (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 4-year-old Colt (19/5/7/1) – Lee Chan Ho
Perhaps the best hope for Korea. Absolutely belted Watts Village and Fly Top Queen last time out and unlike most Korean sprinters, he doesn’t need to lead from gate to wire to win.

7. PIERRE TIGER (JPN) [Cacoethes – Be Fragrant (Daitaku Helios)] 6-year-old Horse (38/13/5/4) – Fumio Matoba
Veteran jockey Matoba won the SBS Cup last year on a relatively unfancied Japanese raider last year. Pierre Tiger should welcome the drop back in trip and could make it a double for Matoba.

8. TOSHI GANG STAR (JPN) [Kurofune – Pisa no Birkin (Sunday Silence)] 7-year-old Horse (46/4/6/0) – Takayuki Yano
The least fancied of the Japanese trio, the grey is likely to be one of the front-runners but may have a hard time staying there.

9. WATTS VILLAGE (USA) [Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] 4-year-old Colt (14/6/4/1) – Seo Seung Un
Overcame all the odds to record an incredible win for Korea in Tokyo last year but he’s going to have to overcome them again to win here. That 9-length defeat at the hands of Wonder Bolt was a bad one.

10. NEW YORK BLUE (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] 3-year-old filly (11/5/4/0) – Masakazu Tanaka
One of two raiders from Busan and both have a chance. A really good filly with a lot of potential at any sprint distance, she should take to the Seoul track well.

11. INDIAN BLUE (USA) [Henny Hughes – Gambler’s Passion (Prospector’s Gamble)] 4-year-old filly (18/5/4/4) – Ikuyasu Kurakane
An extremely versatile filly, she’s yet another who has the potential to win this. Hasn’t really been herself on two visits to Busan in her last two races but back in Seoul, she should be back to her best.

12. SPEEDY CAT (NZ) [Scaredee Cat – Lane Cove (Magic Of Sydney)] 6-year-old gelding (35/8/7/5) – Danny Beasley
An unhelpful draw but there is plenty of time to overcome it before the turn. He’s not won this year but is a classy horse with classy jockey on board.

13. COWBOY SON (USA) [Cowboy Cal – Nosmallachievement (Smart Strike)] 3-year-old colt (11/8/1/2) – Yoo Hyun Myung
The second of Busan’s entries and this one is just as good. Surprised everybody by grabbing 3rd in the Busan Metropolitan over 2000M, he should love the step back to his favoured sprint distance.

14. FLY TOP QUEEN (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] 4-year-old Filly (9/6/1/1) – Park Tae Jong
Just like Watts Village, that defeat at the hands of Wonder Bolt dealt quite a blow to her reputation. As a result, she’s likely to start at the longest odds of her career. There’s never been a better time for her to put that right.

Asia Challenge Cup: Korea vs. Japan vs. Singapore

After last summer’s successful Korea/Japan Goodwill Cup, this year the race has been extended to runners from Singapore and on August 31, three Singaporean-trained horses and three from Japan will join eight from Korea in what will be the first ever International Invitational race to be run on the peninsula. The race will be shown live on TV in Korea on the SBS Sports Channel and there will also be a live simulcast to Singapore.

Tosen Archer poses for the cameras after winning the SBS Goodwill Cup last year

Tosen Archer poses for the cameras after winning the SBS Goodwill Cup last year

The star attraction is set to be well-known Singapore based sprinter El Padrino but he will face tough competition from fellow Kranji runner Trudeau. For the home team, Watts Village, who pulled off a remarkable victory in Tokyo last November, will aim to repeat his heroics. He’ll be joined by Fly Top Queen and Wonder Bolt as well as Cowboy Son and New York Blue, who will be making the trip up from Busan.

SBS will be showing the Asia Challenge Cup live on August 31

SBS will be showing the Asia Challenge Cup live on August 31

Here’s a full run-down of the likely runners:

ASIA CHALLENGE CUP – 1400M – SEOUL RACECOURSE – AUG 31, 2014

SINGAPORE

EL PADRINO (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] 6-year-old Gelding (28/7/5/4) – One of Asia’s top Sprinters, El Padrino won the Merlion Cup, the first leg of Singapore’s Sprint Series, in March this year. He has also run and won in Dubai. He was 6th in the Krisflyer International Sprint in May this year and his Merlion victory earned him an invitation to the Golden Shaheen at this year’s Dubai World Cup. He didn’t go but he will be looking for international glory in Seoul instead.

TRUDEAU (AUS) [Exceed And Excel – Canadian Legacy (Kris)] 7-year-old Gelding (33/7/5/9) – A surprise winner of the Garden City Trophy in Singapore last September, he followed that up with another victory a month later. He comes to Korea having won a Malaysian Group 1 race in June and with Noel “King” Callow, the winner of last year’s Seoul International Jockey Challenge, on board Trudeau could have a very good chance.

SPEEDY CAT (NZ) [Scaredee Cat – Lane Cove (Magic Of Sydney)] 6-year-old gelding (35/8/7/5) – This very experienced horse has eight career wins to his name including two at this distance, one of which was last year’s Singapore Stewards’ Cup. Yet to win in 2014 but he has gone close and can’t be ruled out.

JAPAN

CHOCOLAT VERRINE (JPN) [Gold Allure – Breezy Woods (Timber County)] 5-year-old Mare (24/6/5/3) – Runner-up in the Narashino Kirrato Sprint at Funabashi in July, Chocolat Verrine comes into this race in fine form, having finished outside the top two only once in five starts in 2014.

TOSHI GANG STAR (JPN) [Kurofune – Pisa no Birkin (Sunday Silence)] 7-year-old Horse (46/4/6/0) – A vastly experienced horse, Toshi Gang Star has two big race wins to his name. He’s only run four times so far in 2014 with a 2nd place at Ohi his best result. Returning to the track for the first time in April, a change of scenery in Seoul could be just what he needs.

PIERRE TIGER (JPN) [Cacoethes – Be Fragrant (Daitaku Helios)] 6-year-old Horse (38/13/5/4) – Recently back in action after a 5-month layoff, Pierre Tiger has two stakes wins among his thirteen career victories to date. His biggest win came in the 2012 Mile Grand Prix at Ohi. His best performance in three runs this year was a 3rd place finish over a mile at Kawasaki.

KOREA

WATTS VILLAGE (USA) [Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] 4-year-old Colt (14/6/4) – Secured his place in Korean racing history by being the first Korean-trained horse to win overseas when he won the Interaction Cup at Ohi Racecourse in Tokyo last November. He was 2nd in this race last year. Recently returned after a six-month layoff, finishing 2nd behind Wonder Bolt in his first race back and should improve.

FLY TOP QUEEN (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] 4-year-old Filly (9/6/1/1) – The most expensive racehorse ever imported to Korea, Fly Top Queen has won 6 of her 9 starts to date including the Segye Ilbo Cup this February. A very quick sprinter, she had an off-day in her last start, finishing 3rd behind Wonder Bolt and Watts Village. She can run much better than that.

WONDER BOLT (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 4-year-old Colt (19/5/7/1) – Currently the hottest sprinter in Seoul following his 9-length demolition of Watts Village and Fly Top Queen in mid-July. Very experienced and versatile – he was 5th in last year’s Grand Prix Stakes; he comes into this race in the form of his life.

PERSIA WANGJA (CAN) [Ghostzapper – Dynamite Dancer (Lite The Fuse)] 3-year-old Colt (10/5/1/1) – Has won his last two races, both of them at this distance and looks ready to challenge some of the more established sprinters. Like Wonder Bolt, he can run at any distance but 1400 metres is his best.

CHANGIPARANG (USA) [Touch Gold – Victory Roll (Deerhound)] 5-year-old Mare (27/2/5/3) – A reliable mare with a lot of experience under her belt but only two wins. She regularly picks up prize money but she will be a big outsider to do so here.

BICHUI JEONGSANG (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] 3-year-old filly (6/4/2/0) – Lightly raced, Bichui Jeongsang has won four of her six starts to date including a comfortable victory in the JRA Trophy in May. She was second on her last start in June but remains one of Seoul’s most promising fillies.

COWBOY SON (USA) [Cowboy Cal – Nosmallachievement (Smart Strike)] (11/8/1/2) 3-year-old colt – Having finished third in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy in July, Cowboy Son drops back to his favored sprint distance for his first visit to Seoul. He is his sire’s highest earner anyway in the world and one of the most formidable sprinters in Korea.

NEW YORK BLUE (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] (11/5/4/0) 3-year-old filly – She was second in her first Stakes race, the KNN Cup, at Busan in June and followed it up with a dominant three-length win last month against strong opposition. A likely front-runner, she could be very dangerous on her Seoul Racecourse debut.

INDIAN BLUE (USA) [Henny Hughes – Gambler’s Passion (Prospector’s Gamble)] (18/5/4/4) 4-year-old filly – Firmly as one of Seoul’s top horses at any distance, her win record doesn’t reflect her true ability. She was 2nd in last year’s KRA Cup Classic and 4th in the Grand Prix Stakes. She beat Watts Village earlier this year and, while she may not be able to win this, she could be close.

Wonder Bolt Crushes Fly Top Queen, Watts Village in Asia Challenge Cup Trial

Wonder Bolt shook up the sprint division with an emphatic win over Fly Top Queen and the returning Watts Village in a trial for August’s Asia Cup Challenge race at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday night.

While Watts Village, who memorably won the Japan/Korea Interaction Cup at Tokyo Ohi last year, was returning form a 6-month lay-off and was not expected to be at 100%, Fly Top Queen, Korea’s most expensive imported racehorse, had looked in imperious form when dominating over the same 1400M distance a month ago.

Fly Top Queen was duly sent off as the odds-on favourite but Wonder Bolt, who had sat in the middle of the pack during the early stages, surged to the front with just over a furlong to go and then produced an unanswerable sprint to win by a full 9-lengths. To compound the disappointment for Fly Top Queen backers, Watts Village got up to edge her into third place.

Wonder Bolt and Lee Chan Ho, seen here winning a previous race in May (Pic: Elan959*)

Wonder Bolt and Lee Chan Ho, seen here winning a previous race in May (Pic: Elan959*)

The Asia Challenge Cup is scheduled to be run at Seoul Racecourse on August 31 and is set to involve 3 horses from Singapore and 3 horses from Japan. An encouragingly large number of nominations from Singapore have been received, all of them for horses with ratings in excess of 100. Japan – chastened perhaps after Watts Village’s 100/1 triumph in Tokyo – has also indicated that they plan to send stronger horses than last time, when they won the Seoul leg of the race with Tosen Archer.

This means that Korea needs all its A-listers on their game if they are to compete. With Busan horses currently still not eligible to run, the focus has been on Fly Top Queen – and Yeongsan II if connections can be persuaded to take a sporting chance. Wonder Bolt may just have shot to the top of the list.

Class 1 – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – July 20, 2014

1. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – Lee Chan Ho – 4.4, 1.4
2. Watts Village (USA) [Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.7
3. Fly Top Queen (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] – Moon Se Young – 1.0

Distances: 9 lengths/1 length – 10 ran.

*Picture from the very excellent Elan959 blog