Raon The Fighter made a high-class field, including the reigning Korea Sprint champion Eoma Eoma, look very ordinary as he ran out a dominant winner of the first Group race of the season, the Busan Ilbo Sprint (1200M KOR-G3) at Busan on Sunday afternoon.
Widely acknowledged as Korea’s best middle-distance runner, Raon The Fighter had been runner-up to Winner’s Man in both the Korea Cup over 1800M and Grand Prix Stakes at 2300M in 2022.
With a Group 1 win the target for him in 2023, instead of facing Winner’s Man over that horse’s preferred 2000M in the Herald Business Trophy at Seoul later this month, Raon The Fighter was dropped back to the sprinting ranks for the first time since finishing runner-up in the first two legs of last year’s Sprint series.
The move paid off in spectacular fashion. Despite being drawn in the widest gate, Raon The Fighter was sent off as the slight betting favourite – but at odds against – ahead of Eoma Eoma. In the event, it was a race that Eoma Eoma, the defending champion, never got to grips with this time around.
Coming out of gate seven, Eoma Eoma was unable to match the opening speed of Beolmaui Star who under Jung Do-yun, raced into an early lead leaving the Moon Se-young ridden second favourite to dispute 2nd and 3rd up the short back straight with Daehan Jilju, who has so nearly beaten him in last autumn’s Kookje Shinmun. Aboard Raon The Fighter meanwhile, Lim Gi-won had the luxury of sitting wide just off the speed, allowing the rest to get on with it, clearly in the knowledge he had an awful lot of horse underneath him.
Just how much horse Lim had at his disposal became clear once into the home straight. First Raon The Fighter blew past Eoma Eoma as if he wasn’t there and then set off in pursuit of Beolmaui Star, who was still out in front to the tune of two and a half lengths with two furlongs remaining. By the three-hundred-metre mark, the lead was gone and by the furlong pole, the race was over.
As they crossed the finish line, Raon The Fighter was five lengths in front and pulling away. Beolmaui Star held on comfortably for 2nd in what was a breakout performance, while Ssonsal emerged up the rail under Franco Da Silva to snatch 3rd. Eoma Eoma finished back in 6th, eight-lengths behind the winner.
The build-up to the race had been overshadowed by the untimely death of Dolkong, after a trackwork accident on Thursday. While Raon The Fighter’s performance did little to mitigate the sadness of that event, the manner of his victory was reminiscent of some of Dolkong’s best.
Raon The Fighter is by Bayern and out of Clarinda (by Empire Maker). He is trained at Seoul by Park Jong-kon and is owned by Son Chun-soo. He moves onto fourteen wins from eighteen starts. It was his fourth Group victory and while a Group 1 remains elusive – especially with such limited opportunities to secure one – he is now the early favourite for this September’s international Korea Sprint. Last year he held entries for both the Cup and Sprint before ultimately being sent to the Cup.
The Sprint Series will continue at Seoul on May 14th with the SBS Sports Sprint (1200M KOR-G3).
Next weekend, Son Chun-soo’s Raon machine grinds on. Raon First and her younger sister Raon Pink are both among the entries in the Donga Ilbo Trophy (1800M Listed), the first Queens’ Tour series race of the year for fillies and mares. Raon First will be the hot favourite.
Son Chun-soo then has Raon The Spurt scheduled to take on Winner’s Man in the Herald Business (2000M KOR-G3) at Seoul on April 16th, followed by Raon Giant taking her chance in the Luna Stakes (1600M Listed) at Busan on April 23rd, the first leg of the Triple Tiara for three-year-old fillies.