Blue Chipper flew out of Incheon Airport late on Monday evening en-route to Santa Anita and a planned start in the delightfully named Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita on November 2. If all goes to plan, he will be the first Korea-trained runner to participate in a Breeders’ Cup race.
Having traveled up from Busan last week, Blue Chipper spent four days in pre-export quarantine in the International Isolation Stables at Seoul Racecourse (the same ones that the international horses are stabled in during the Korea Cup & Sprint) before departing from nearby Incheon Airport at 11:50pm on Monday evening, scheduled to arrive at LAX on Monday evening US time.
Blue Chipper [Tiznow – Dixie City (Dixie Union)] was bred in Kentucky by Diamond A Racing Corp. He was selected and purchased at Keeneland by Busan-based trainer Bart Rice on behalf of owner Choi Byeong-bu. Now he’s a four-year-old gelding who has won seven of his eight lifetime starts. He was a four-length winner on debut as a juvenile at Busan in September 2017, trained by Rice.
He then suffered what is to date his only defeat when last in the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup, Busan’s top race for imported two-year-olds. Blue Chipper ran once more that year, returning to winning ways with a three-length score on New Year’s Ever over 1200M.
Blue Chipper did not race again for more than a year with a number of setbacks meaning he spent almost his entire three-year-old year spelled, with only occasional trips to the racetrack to trial. He finally returned to action in April of 2019, now in trainer Kim Young-kwan’s stable, and picked up where he left off, scoring by thirteen-lengths over 1200M.
That win was followed up by two more with a combined winning margin of eighteen lengths before Blue Chipper tackled a Korean Graded race for the first time, the Busan Owners’ Cup (KOR G3) at the end of July. It was his first try at a mile but that didn’t trouble him as he romped away from a high class field to win by ten-lengths in track-record time.
International weekend was up next at Seoul and Blue Chipper was sent to the 1 Billion Won Keeneland Korea Sprint (KOR G1) back down at 1200M. Despite being drawn in gate 13, he was sent off as favourite and duly made it to the pace early. He would eventually shake off local rival Gaon Champ and run on to win by a length and a half becoming the first locally-trained horse to win the Korea Sprint.
Seemingly out of challenges in Korea for the time being, and with connections aware that he was registered for the Breeders’ Cup as a weanling, Blue Chipper will now be taken overseas and will move back up to a mile for his biggest challenge. If he adapts to the Santa Anita dirt, he’s not to be taken lightly.
Having had positive experiences with international jockeys on Korean horses at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, the decision was made to engage a Santa Anita-based rider and Flavien Prat, who won the race on Battle Of Midway in 2017, has accepted the ride.
How good is Blue Chipper? We don’t yet know and that’s basically why he is going. What we do know is that Bart found a good one that day at Keeneland and a number of seasoned observers of Korean racing have told this blog that he is the best horse they have seen run in Korea. While they are very different types of horse, that includes the Dubai star, Dolkong.
He will be up against it at Santa Anita. The dirt is very different to the sand he has experienced in Korea – although his sire, Tiznow, and damsire Dixie Union, did finish 1st and 2nd at Santa Anita in the Affirmed Handicap back in 2000. Then there is the obvious medication issue – there are no plans for Blue Chipper to run on lasix. That’s all without taking into account his opponents, among whom is expected to be Omaha Beach and Mr. Money. All through his brief career so far, Blue Chipper has stepped up.