Cheongu

Sunday Review: Welcome Home For Dubai Two While Dynamic Dash Scores Upset At Busan

Cheongu and Success Story, Korea’s first ever representatives at the Dubai World Cup Carnival were welcomed back to Korea with special ceremonies at their home tracks of Seoul and Busan today.

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Cheongu at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon

The pair could very well clash soon as both are entered in what looks a high quality Busan Ilbo Cup two weeks today. For now though it was about acknowledging their contribution to the development of Korean racing. While Cheongu didn’t race very well in Dubai, he has now taken three overseas trips. Connections could have stayed home and had him pick up plenty of prize money – the standard of Class 1 racing at Seoul right now means a horse of his ability would win plenty – but instead took the sporting option and they are deservedly recognized.

On the track the pick of the action was, at it usually is, at Busan. Doraon Hyeonpyo was sent off as the odds-on favourite for the 1800M class 1 event following three straight wins but after early leader Cowboy Son had to be eased after seemingly going lame rounding the final turn, Dynamic Dash (Pleasantly Perfect) took things up under jockey Lim Sung Sil. While Doraon Hyeonpyo (Colors Flying) would close purposefully in the closing stages, he was left wanting by just under a length on the line.

Dynamic Dash, a four-year-old American bred colt, was winning for the eighth time on what was his seventeenth start. Bathsheba Park was back in 3rd with old favourite Gamdonguibada a solid 4th.

Earlier at Busan there had been an eye-catching win for another US import. A $47,000 purchase from Ocala last June, First Magical (First Dude) finally made his debut in race 3. And he was in cruise control throughout as he made all to score by a full ten lengths. He’s one to watch. Another to watch is filly Hoseungjibyeok (Didyme). She slipped tamely to her first defeat in an Oaks trial last month but found her way back to the winner’s circle with dismissive ease in race 4. She has four wins from five starts.

At Seoul, where the annual cherry blossom festival was in full swing amidst a filthy dust-storm that has been raging for three days now, what the class 1 feature lacked in quality it made up for in in its tight finish. In the end though, favourite Space Port (Pleasant Tap) just did enough to get home by a head with the first four within less than a length of each other. Space Port was ridden by Park Tae Jong who now needs just six more to become the first Korean jockey ever to reach 2000 career wins.

Besides, there were other things to worry about at Seoul:

Stakes racing returns to Seoul next week in the shape of the Herald Business Cup.

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What Have We Learned From Success Story?

Success Story brought the Korean adventure at the Dubai World Cup Carnival to a successful conclusion with a rousing run behind California Chrome last week. A second front-running performance and gutsy finish under another flawless Tadhg O’Shea ride, meant he landed back to back 3rd place finishes, this time in one of the most widely watched races of the Carnival so far.

The decision to run in that race was not without risk. Although Success Story had won at 2000M before, he is considered to be much better at shorter distances and accordingly was also entered for a 1400M race the same night. However, with California Chrome scaring off a number of potential rivals and jockey  O’Shea expressing confidence in the horse getting the trip and being competitive, the decision was made to take a chance at the greater distance. And it was a decision that paid dividends with Success Story’s front-running and then gutsy rally to get up for 3rd place earning him plenty of praise. Of course, California Chrome was much better – he finished four lengths ahead of Success Story but it could have been forty had Victor Espinoza been so inclined – putting in a performance judged to be the best in the world last week.

The wider significance is that for the second time, Success Story looked like he belonged in the race. It’s true that just as when finishing 3rd of 14 last month, he was racing against horses, Chrome aside, who are no more than solid handicappers but until last week, not many would have thought a Korean bred and trained horse could cope with even that level, let alone beat the majority of his competitors. He vindicated the decision of the Dubai handicappers to invite Korean horses and has ensured that a return trip next year – either for him or for others from here – is very much a possibility.

Success Story took to Dubai very well. He reportedly enjoyed the stables, the routine of the lengthy walk to and from trackwork each day  and the dirt track itself, as well as the general environment. At the races, he looked so much better than he generally does in Korea, having been turned out beautifully. He looked like a racehorse. His groom led him up in a shirt and bow-tie and his connections – it seemed as though the whole family was there – were dressed up as if for Royal Ascot.

In Korea, the grooms tend to wear Union issued t-shirts to the parade ring; except for big Stakes races, 90% of trainers don’t wear anything different to races than they would wear around the barn and owners rarely leave their lounge (although Busan is generally much better than Seoul in this regard, especially when their horses visit the capital). Owners will from April be permitted to have their horses run in their own colours rather than those of the jockey. With the current drive by the KRA to reboot the image of racing in this country, it would be very welcome if this was accompanied by a little more sophistication in the raceday experience.

The most important thing of course is that he ran well, exceeding the expectations of the most optimistic observers. O’ Shea deserves great credit for extracting the very maximum out of him on both occasions but he was well trained and well entered too. Mainstream Korean news outlets carried reports on the two races while the California Chrome factor ensured Success Story was mentioned in global coverage of Thursday’s race.

Success Story wasn’t the only Korean-trained horse at the Carnival. Sprinter Cheongu was actually considered the more likely of the two to be competitive. His best run prior to Dubai was a 3rd place behind Choegang Schiller and El Padrino in the Asia Challenge Cup in Seoul last August and the knowledge that he would travel fine, having previously taken trips to Singapore and Japan in his stride, meant one less thing to worry about. It was not to be. On opening night, he missed the break and then lost a plate. In such circumstances, running 5th of 8 was creditable but a lackluster performance last Thursday was less easy to explain away. He’s done his bit over the past few months but this time, he just didn’t run very well.

Seven and a half years ago, I wrote an article called  “What have we learned from Pick Me Up?” The answer then and for several subsequent years was “not a lot”. Pick Me Up was the first horse to go on what was a well-intentioned but ultimately counter-productive initiative to let Korean-bred horses race in the United States. It inadvertently became an incentive to ship horses that may otherwise have been spelled, to an unfamiliar trainer to participate uncompetitively in three races for which a subsidy was provided. Essentially, the wrong horses went to the wrong races at the wrong time and it was still continuing up until last year.

By contrast, the interactions with Japan, Singapore and now Dubai are much more positive. With connections being invited to target a particular race, the trainer is still responsible for training the horse, the grooms go with the horse and everybody involved is invested in the trip being successful. So “What Have We Learned from Success Story?”, the answer now might still be “Not a lot just yet” but with the caveat of “Watch this space…” The prospect of more nights like  last Thursday are a huge incentive to keep trying.

Success Story To Face California Chrome At Meydan

Success Story will make his 2nd Dubai Carnival start at Meydan on Thursday and it couldn’t be a tougher ask for the Korea-bred and trained five-year-old as faces the Carnival’s star attraction, California Chrome, over 2000M. 

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Tadhg O’Shea will partner Success Story again (Pic: Dubai Racing Club)

Success Story has raced three times over 2000M in the past, struggling to get the distance in two attempts at it as a three-year-old in 2014, including a 10th place in the President’s Cup at Seoul. He managed a win in his only attempt at the distance in 2015, winning a handicap by just under three lengths at Busan last April.

Provisional race cards are available at the Emirates Racing Authority’s website.

The Min Jang Ki trained five-year-old horse also held an entry in a 1400M contest, however, given the strength of that race and the presence of a lot of early speed, it was decided to allow him to take his chance at the greater distance.

As it happens, California Chrome will run in the same event, race 6 on the seven-race card, using it as his warm-up race for the World Cup. While making it that much more difficult for Success Story to improve on the 3rd place that he recorded on his Dubai debut over a mile last month, the presence of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner does enable the rest of the field, including Success Story to just carry 53Kg (although a Godolphin entrant has a jockey claiming a further 2.5kg which could be interesting).

The hope is that this, combined with the Meydan dirt being kinder to stay on than the Busan sand as well as the fact that it was well known California Chrome would be running here leading some other tough contenders to avoid this race  (there are only eight runners) will allow Success Story to not only stay the distance but also be able to beat some of the others home.

Cheongu, the other Korea-trained horse at the Carnival, will also race on Thursday. He finished 5th of 8 over 1200M on opening night and will go over the same distance in race 3. Having been slowly away and losing a plate in running, he certainly had his excuses in January. He’ll be up against it once more but an improved performance is possible.

Tadhg O’Shea, who won admiration in Korea for his enterprising ride on Success Story last month, will take the mount again while Royston Ffrench will partner Cheongu.

Round-Up: Another Class 1 Win For Pinna / Success Story Entered at Meydan

Nicola Pinna may not be racking up huge numbers of rides or winners but he is certainly getting the job done on the right horses The Italian jockey ride his third Class 1 winner on Sunday as he guided 17/1 chance Gumanseok to a narrow victory in Seoul’s feature race.

In addition to a pair of class 1 victories on Bichui Jeongsang, Pinna had also won a major Juvenile race on OS Hwadap. Gumanseok (Vicar) had shot back into form with a surprise win under Djordje Perovic a month ago and carrying plenty more weight today, punters once again allowed him to go off reasonably unfancied.

Under a strong ride from Pinna, however, Gumanseok got the best of a tight finish, seeing off Double Shining by a neck on the line. It was Gumaseok’s 1th win of a 41-race career that included success in the Sports Chosun Cup back in 2013. It took Pinna on to 6 wins in career.

At Busan, 2015 Korean Derby winner Yeongcheon Ace was denied once more in Friday’s feature. Sent off the odds-on favourite, the four-year-old just couldn’t get up as outsider Useung Chance, took her chance fully under Makoto Okabe to record an unlikely victory. It’s now been five races since the Derby without a win for Yeongcheon Ace.

Sunday’s feature on the south coast saw a return to the track following five months out for Macheon Bolt (Old Fashioned). And the Peter Wolsley trainee returned in style, cruising through the rain to score a five-length win over a mile. It was the four-year-old’s seventh win from ten starts.

Racing returns to Korea on Friday but before that, attention turns to Meydan in Dubai where, should he get into the race, Success Story is set to make his Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday. He has been entered in the 1600M race 1 on the dirt.

Cheongu made his debut on January 8th over 1200M and did ok, finishing 5th  of 8, despite getting a bad start and losing a plate. Racing over a mile, it will be more difficult for Success Story, but if he is right, he can be competitive. As for Cheongu, he may go again next week.

Weekend Round-Up

We’re a couple of weeks into the 2016 racing season and there has been plenty going on already both at Seoul and Busan, as well as further afield.

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Cheongu on TV!

The main story for Korean racing so far this year has to be the Korean horses at the Dubai Carnival. While Success Story is expected to make his debut on January 21, Cheongu ran on the opening night last Thursday and did ok.

Despite missing the break slightly and also losing a shoe in running, the four-year-old Old Fashioned colt finished well in touch with the pack, ending up 5th of 8 runners under British jockey Royston Ffrench.  Cheongu will get another chance either at 1400M or most likely, again at 1200M, later on in the carnival.

Cheongu’s trainer is Seo In Seok and he was back at Seoul on Sunday in time to see his mare Bichui Jeongsang comfortably win the weekend’s feature race. Bichui Jeongsang (Wildcat Heir) had downed Asia Challenge Cup winner Choegang Schiller over 1200M in November and was stepped up to 1800M for Sunday’s class 1 feature. And under Nicola Pinna, she made light of her 59kg impost racing away from the field in the final furlong to win by almost three lengths on the line.

At Busan, there was a new name in the Class 1 winner’s circle. Yuseong Dream (Giacomo) was making his first start at the level following back to back wins at the end of 2015 and the four-year-old completed his hat-trick, making almost all under Kim Dong Young.

Pasquale Borelli is showing the way in the very early stages of the Busan Jockey Championship. The Italian jockey rode a double for trainer Peter Wolsley on Sunday afternoon to take him to four winner for 2016. Tied for first place is Seo Seung Un, who rode a treble on Friday and another one on Sunday and who seems to be very much enjoying his new surroundings at Busan after transferring from Seoul on January 1.

Cheongu Goes On Dubai Carnival Opening Night

The 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival gets underway at Meydan on Thursday and on on the very first day, Cheongu will become the first ever Korea-trained horse to take part in one of world racing’s biggest annual meetings.

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Cheongu works at Meydan (Pic: Seungho Ryu/KRA)

Cheongu (Old Fashioned) will race over 1200M on the dirt in an event for horses rated 95-108, the  Longines Conquest Classic Gents Moon Phases Handicap, which will go to post at 7.35pm Dubai time.

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Cheongu in his stall in Dubai

He is one of two Korea-trained horses to travel to the carnival along with Success Story (Peace Rules), who is being pointed towards a race over mile later this month.

The two horses arrived in Dubai on Christmas Eve and both the already experienced traveler Cheongu and first-time flyer Success Story have reportedly settled well.

Having already concluded quarantine protocols with Singapore and Japan, the protocol with the UAE was finalized in autumn last year and should also enable Dubai based horses to come and race in Korea with the inaugural US$1Million Korea Cup and the Korea Sprint – the new incarnation of the Asia Challenge Cup – both potential attractions in early September.

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Success Story settles in

Unlike in previous forays overseas, jockeys already in Dubai will be booked to ride the Korean horses and the services of a very good one have been secured on Thursday. Originally Christophe Soumillon was scheduled to ride, however, with Cheongu only set to carry 54.5kg, Britain’s Royston Ffrench will take the mount.

Hopes are realistic with creditable performances the goal. Cheongu led the KRA Trophy in Kranji in July, the Asia Challenge Cup in Seoul in August and the Interaction Cup at Ohi in October but each time didn’t take kindly to being challenged and weakened late on. He was 3rd and 4th respectively in the latter two races.

Cheongu returned to the winner’s circle at Seoul in November, making all over 1200M to record a smart win. On Thursday, he will face just seven rivals but he is rated the lowest but one of them. Here is the racecard from the Emirates Racing Authority.

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Cheongu’s entry form

Cheongu & Success Story Set For Dubai

Two Korea trained runners are among the 181 horses who have been accepted to race at the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival which starts next month at Meydan.

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Cheongu will shortly be on his travels again (Pic: KRA)

Busan horse Success Story will travel to Seoul Racecourse on Tuesday to join capital-based Cheongu in pre-quarantine before the pair fly out to Dubai on December 23. The carnival starts on January 7th and while there, Cheongu is expected to race over 1200M with Success Story taking on a mile.

The acceptances come following a two-year process to establish quarantine protocols between Korea and the UAE which was concluded just in time to enable the horses to be nominated. In recent years, similar protocols have also been established with Japan and Singapore allowing Korean horses to race in those countries and vice-versa. Among three applications from Korean horses to participate at the carnival, two were accepted.

Cheongu (USA) [Old Fashioned – So Much Fun (Speightstown)] is a three-year-old colt who has won five of his eight starts in Korea. A sprinter, he also travelled to Kranji in Singapore in July and Ohi in Japan in October. He led both of those races before weakening in the closing stages. In between those trips, he finished 3rd behind Choegang Schiller and El Padrino in the Asia Challenge Cup in Seoul at the end of August.

Success Story (KOR) [Peace Rules – Power Pack (Lil’s Lad)] is a little bit of an enigma. A four-year-old, he has won ten of his eighteen races but has yet to score in a really big race although he hasn’t had the opportunity to go for one over his preferred distance of a mile. He put in an eye catching performance over that trip at Busan last month when he was just outside the track record when scoring the easiest class 1 win seen for some time.

Here is the full list of accepted horses from the Dubai Racing Club.