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Triple Nine & Power Blade Set For Stern Super Saturday Tests

Power Blade and Triple Nine take to the Meydan dirt one final time tonight as they become Korea’s first representatives on “Super Saturday” at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Triple Nine has a 2nd and a 4th to his name in Carnival races so far while Power Blade has run 3rd in both of his starts. Tonight they are operating at another level altogether.

Power Blade will run in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over a mile (Race card):

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The race is not quite as strong as it could have been but Power Blade still looks up against it. Heavy Metal, who comfortably beat Power Blade in his first Meydan run, returns and looks as dangerous as ever while the even higher rated Polar River and Le Bernardin also take their chances. Stormardal and Godolphin’s Alabaster also can’t be ruled out. Power Blade is available at 16/1 with most operators and given the way he gamely runs on, that might be worth something each-way.

Just over an hour later, Triple Nine has an even tougher assignment as he takes part in a Group 1 3rd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge at 2000M (Race card):

tn3 Japan’s Lani is the most recognisable name on the list but the 3rd place-getter in last year’s Belmont Stakes won’t necessarily be favourite. Furia Crizada and Second Summer were 1st and 2nd  in the second leg of the challenge last month (with Power Blade 3rd). Triple Nine closed very strongly in his first Meydan outing but was a little one-paced and failed to change leads running on for 4th in his second. He is surely better than the 33/1 being offered by most operators.

Tonight is another hugely significant moment as Power Blade and Triple Nine run in these races on merit. If they can pull off a surprise and hit the board, it would be wonderful. If not, the way they and the other Korean horses have run at the Carnival before tonight has already ensured that Korea will be back next year.

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Dubai World Cup Carnival 2017: Korea’s Contenders At Meydan

Five Korea-trained horses arrived at Meydan on Christmas Eve to begin preparations for their campaigns at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival. Horse Of The Year Triple Nine and Triple Crown winner Power Blade have been joined on the trip by Diferent Dimension, Seoul Bullet and Main Stay. They will be hoping to emulate the feats achieved by Success Story, who managed two 3rd placed finishes at the 2016 Carnival. 

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Horse Of The Year Triple Nine leads the Korean contingent in Dubai (Pic: Alex Cairns/TheWinningPost)

Diferent Dimension (USA) [Into Mischief – Pardon My Sarong (Souvenir Copy)] 4-year-old Gelding
Breeder: Larkspur Thoroughbreds (Kentucky), Owner: Mun Kyung Sook, Trainer: Peter M. Wolsley
Race Records: 15(9/2/2)
The only US bred among the Korean contingent. It’s not a spelling mistake, he’s named after a lyric in a Katy Perry song (or something like that, I’m told) and was a $30,000 purchase from OBS in April 2014 (having previously gone through Keeneland as a yearling). He’s won at distances up to 1800M but could go further. He was 3rd last month at 2200M but was giving 7kg to the pair who beat him and should be fresh having not been able to get a run in the Grand Prix. He’s saddled by Australian trainer Peter Wolsley.

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Diferent Dimension (Pic: Seungho Ryu)

Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] 4-year-old Colt
Breeder: Isidore Farm (Korea), Owner: Choi Byeong Bu, Trainer: Kim Young Kwan
Race Records: 20(11/7/1)
As a three-year-old, he was 2nd in both of the final two-legs of the Triple Crown before asserting his talent with victory in the Presidents Cup. He’s now a two-time winner of that race having successfully defended his title this autumn and accordingly, Triple Nine was this past weekend crowned Horse Of The Year in Korea for 2016. He finished 3rd in the Korea Cup and 2nd in the Grand Prix Stakes and has comfortably defeated Power Blade on three consecutive occasions.

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Triple Nine arrives (Pic: Seungho Ryu)

Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] 3-year-old Colt
Breeder: Kim Jung Du (Korea), Owner: Kim Hyeong Ran. Trainer: Kim Young Kwan
Race Records: 13(8/3/1)
He was the Champion Juvenile of 2015 he then dominated the three-year-old division in 2016, comfortably winning all three legs of the Korean Triple Crown. He has gone on to show his class against older horses with 4th place in the Korea Cup, 2nd in the President’s Cup and 3rd in the Grand Prix, the latter over 2300M. Triple Nine has finished ahead of him in all three of those races. In the middle of those races, he dropped down to 1400M to beat Seoul Bullet in a valuable race at Busan.

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A blurry Power Blade on the Meydan track (Pic: Seungho Ryu)

Main Stay (KOR) [Tale Of The Cat – No Bull Baby (Indian Charlie)] 3-year-old Gelding
Breeder: Nokwon Farm (Korea), Owner: SH. Baek, Trainer: Kim Young Kwan
Race Records: 16(9/3/0)
Classed as a Korean bred as he was imported in-utero when his dam was purchased for $32,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale. As such he wasnt eligible for the three-year-old Classic races but has gone on to establish himself as one of the top sprinters in Korea with four wins from his last five starts. He is yet to run in Stakes company but has run and won at distances of up to a mile. Comes in having beaten Seoul Bullet narrowly over 1400M in December.

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Main Stay arrives (Pic: Seungho Ryu)

Seoul Bullet (KOR) [Peace Rules – Wild Guess (Wld Rush)] 5-year-old Gelding
Breeder: Kim Chae Hyung (Korea). Owner: Cho Tae Man, Trainer: Kim Young Kwan
Race Records: KOR: 10(7/2/0) USA: 4(0/0/1)
He’s had an interesting career having spent the first year of it in the United States where he ran four times for one 3rd place in Florida and even managed to get claimed out of a race at Gulfstream. He was claimed back and returned to Korea where he promptly won his first six starts. He was then sidelined for fifteen months before finally returning to action this summer. He pushed Power Blade all the way over 1400M in October before winning a class 1 race at the same distance very handily. Narrowly defeated by Main Stay last time out.

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Seoul Bullet strolls at Meydan (Pic: Seungho Ryu)

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.

Success Story Faces Fourteen In Dubai

Success Story is set to face fourteen rivals when he makes his Dubai World Cup Carnival debut at Meydan this Thursday evening.

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The five-year-old will run in race 6 on the card, the “District One Mansions” 1600M Handicap on the dirt at 9.55pm local time (2.55am Friday in Seoul). Success Story will break from gate 4 and will be ridden by Irish jockey Tadhg O’Shea.

The race looks a very competitive event with some up and comers as well as some very experienced winners among the fifteen-strong field. Carrying 57kg, Success Story finds himself right in the middle of the handicap and faces a stern test. Click here for the racecard from the Emirates Racing Authority.

Success Story has been inconsistent in winning 10 of 18 starts to date. His jockey got a sore neck on his most recent start though:

Success Story gets a mention in Katherine Ford of Equidia’s piece on Korean racing at Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. Read it here.

In other news on what has been a bitingly cold few days in Korea – the cold snap is expected to last through the weekend with temperatures down at lows of -15C which should make racing fun for all concerned – the 2016 race plan, which will take effect from February, has been published.

As expected, the rating system will be adjusted (a work that has been in progress since last September) while two new race series; a Juvenile Triple Crown and the intriguingly named “Triple Tiara” are also included as well as final details for the International Weekend which this year will take place on September 10/11 with a new Million Dollar Korea Cup the highlight. More on all this over the Lunar New Year break.

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.