Gangnam Camp

Bart Rice Rare Raids Reap Rewards

South African trainer Bart Rice was on the mark today, sending out two runners at Busan Racecourse today and coming home with two winners.

Strike Rate: Bart Rice (KRA)

Strike Rate: Bart Rice (KRA)

It’s the kind of thing the 38-year-old has become renowned for in his short time at the track so far. When punters see a Rice horse running, they know it will be in fine order and wouldn’t be running if it can’t win. The odds usually reflect that.

Today, Rice sent out Better Than You (Ft.Stockton) in race 2 and Aussie import Ace Cheonbok (Zizou) in race 7. Both won comfortably at short-odds under Japanese rider Masa Tanaka.

The wins take Rice onto some extremely noteworthy figures. He has 22 horses in his stable and lies in 11th in the Busan Trainers’ Championship with 23 wins in 2014. However, these have come from just 102 starters. To emphasize his focus on winners, there have been a further 10 second places and just 4 thirds.

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Only the Peter Wolsley stable and the Kim Young Kwan factory can boast a better strike rate; Rice leads the next best by some considerable distance. Wolsley has sent out 205 runners this year and Kim over 300.

Among the 32 trainers at the South-Coast track, the only ones who have sent out fewer runners than Rice are Ahn Woo Sung and Gu Young Jun and they only received their licenses this summer.

Rice looks like a man who wants to to do things properly. He’s one of very few trainers in korea who has a website and has clearly set out to train and race his own way. In Masa Tanaka, he also has a very capable de-facto stable jockey (Tanaka is officially freelance).

Whether he can sustain this strategy long-term in the face of notoriously demanding Korean owners who, with decent prize-money going all the way down to 5th place, want their horses running whether they have a chance of winning or not, remains to be seen. For now though, it has been a remarkable debut year.

Better Than You is an interesting one. The 3-year-old gelding spent a year in the United States, racing in Florida four times before returning to Korea this summer. Today was his first race in his homeland and he romped home by a full 11 lengths.

He wasn’t the only one of those who went to the US running today. Gangnam Camp (Forest Camp), who was with Better Than You on the same program in Florida, actually landed a 2nd place at Gulfstream Park earlier this year and comfortably won his Korean debut last month. He was on target again today taking race 6 by four lengths.

Round-Up: Fujii Has Surgery, Korean Horses Back From US, Yongsan OTB Controversy Rumbles On

Lots to catch up on…

Lets Run

Joe Fujii underwent surgery on his broken shoulder on Monday. Fujii fell heavily coming out of the gate in race 4 at Busan last Sunday, breaking his scapula. While he was originally hopeful of being back within 6 to 8 weeks, a visit to a Seoul specialist confirmed the need for an operation which is likely to keep him out for between 3 to 4 months. The Japanese rider hopes to be back in time for either the Busan Owners’ Cup or the President’s Cup at Seoul.

Speaking of falls, Park Tae Jong, is currently sidelined from a bad one suffered a month ago. “President” Park is currently on 1881 winners, by far the most of all time by a Korean jockey. However, he could be about to have company in the “Thousand Club” after Moon Se Young’s victory on Yeongsan II on Sunday took the 33-year-old to 987.

Three Korean horses arrived back from the United States last week and will go through a Seoul sales ring in a few days time. Gangnam Camp, Seoul Bullet and Better Than You have spent the past 17 months in Ocala training and, more recently racing. None of the three actually managed to win a race Stateside.

Gangnam Camp managed a 2nd place from his 7 starts while Seoul Bullet secured one 3rd place from his 4. Better Than You, however, was unplaced in all of his 4 starts. Seoul Bullet did achieve the rather dubious honour of getting himself claimed at one point though.

2013 Minister’s Cup winner Major King, who had been racing fruitlessly in the North-East US for the past few months, joined them on the flight home, however, last year’s Derby and Oaks winning filly Speedy First remains in the US.

Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the long-running dispute over the relocation of the KRA’s off-site betting Plaza in Seoul’s Yongsan district. The new plaza finally opened amid tight security and vehement protest at the end of June and the dispute – originally started by the fact that the new Plaza is a block closer to a school than the old one – has now become something of a political football between governing and opposition parties.

Counter protests by Unions with interests in the racing industry have also taken place at the site with the most memorable banner being one imploring the other side to “Please Stop Insulting Racing Fans”, a reference to the ongoing campaign against the Plaza which has, among other things, sought to link the presence of Plazas with a rise in sex-crimes.

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

While the KRA has been busy producing glossy videos on the history of the Plazas and the community facilities they provide on non race-days, playing those videos at Seoul Racecourse seems somewhat like preaching to the converted. It’s certainly unlikely to change the minds of the anti-Plaza campaign which has raised a petition with 50,000 signatures calling for the Plaza’s closure.

Best to finish on news from the track and this coming Sunday sees the Busan Metropolitan City Mayor’s Stakes – colloquially known as the “Summer Grand Prix”. It’s been the lowest key build-up to the Metropolitan since Seoul horses became eligible to run a few years ago although the expected presence of the likes of Oreuse, Gamdonguibada, Cheonji Bulpae, Cowboy Son and Indian Blue among others, should make for an interesting race. We’ll start the full previews later this week.

Gangnam Camp Runs Second At Gulfstream

Korean-bred colt Gangnam Camp sprang a surprise on the Gulfstream Park dirt on Saturday, grabbing second place in a 6-furlong Maiden Claimer.

Gangnam Camp before his trip to the US (KRA)

Gangnam Camp before his trip to the US (KRA)

His previous 4 starts had all been underwhelming but, under jockey Arny Fernandez, Gangnam Camp – who was the longest shot on the board – closed strongly to get within a length of winner Lucky Valor at the line.

Gangnam Camp (Forest Camp) is one of three Korean bred horses who have been in the United States since February last year.

They were due to be shipped back to Korea this month to be resold but after Saturday’s performance, there is a possibility it may be put back a month to give Gangnam Camp another crack at recording a win.

It’s the best run so far from any of the three. Better Than You (Ft.Stockton) is 0 for 3 while Seoul Bullet (Peace Rules) has one 3rd place finish from his 4 starts to date and managed to get claimed along the way.

Here’s the Equibase Chart of the race.

Seoul Bullet Plays The Claiming Game At Gulfstream

In 2012, Feel So Good became the first Korean horse to win a race in the United States. Last month, Seoul Bullet set a record of his own, albeit a rather less auspicious one, as he became the first Korean-bred horse to get claimed out of a race.

Seoul Bullet on his way to the USA last year (KRA)

Seoul Bullet on his way to the USA last year (KRA)

Seoul Bullet (Peace Rules) is one of three horses who left Korea over a year ago for initial training and racing in the US as part of a program that the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) has been running for three years now.

The gelding made his racing debut at Gulfstream Park on December 8 last year and finished a very creditable 3rd of eight over six-furlongs in a maiden claiming race. His 2nd start came in January, also at Gulfstream in slightly better company ended in him coming home 6th of nine.

Next up he was dropped back in at the same track in race 4 on February 7, with a claiming tag of $20,000. He ran poorly, finishing 5th of 6, however, to general bemusement, he was claimed by Marco Thoroughbred Corp. and found himself on the way to the barn of trainer Bobby S. Dibona.

Neither of the other two horses Stateside, who like Seoul Bbullet, are with trainer J. David Braddy, have had a hugely eventful time. Gangnam Camp (Forest Camp) has managed no better than 7th in three starts to date while Better Than You (Ft.Stockton) grabbed 4th on his debut but has struggled in two starts since.

Just like Feel So Good and all other Korean horses who run in the US, the three are scheduled to be auctioned off to Domestic owners when they return to Korea later this year.

And the KRA needn’t call off the auction just yet. On February 23rd, they claimed Seoul Bullet back out of race 3 at Gulfstream for the same $20,000 tag. The sum total being a fortnight’s worth of stable and training fees saved.

* The Gulfstream Three aren’t the only Korean horses in the US at the moment. Up in Maryland, 2013 Derby winner Speedy First and Minister’s Cup winner Major King have been enduring one of the coldest winters in memory at Laurel Park where they are expected to begin a short campaign of racing later this month.

Three Korean Colts Head To USA For Training And Racing

Three young Korean colts flew to the United States this week as the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) continues in its efforts to improve the competitiveness of domestically bred racehorses.

The 2-year olds will spend most of the year in Ocala training and if all goes well racing, before eventually returning to Korea.

Better Than You (KRA)

Better Than You (KRA)

Last year, Feel So Good (Ft.Stockton) became the first Korean bred horse to win a race in the United States after as he triumphed at Calder Racecourse on his third start after spending 15 months in Florida.

He returned to Korea immediately after his win and won his first race in his homeland very easily.

Busan trainer Kim Young Kwan was tasked with selecting the most promising candidates for the project and he chose 3 colts.

They are Seoul Bullet [Peace Rules – Wild Guess (Wild Rush)], Gangnam Camp [Forest Camp – Gimoa (Land Rush)] and Better Than You [Ft.Stockton-Gochiryeong (Proud And True)].

Seoul Bullet (KRA)

Seoul Bullet (KRA)

All were bred by the KRA and would have gone through the 2-year-old sales this spring. Instead, they will be sold to private owners on their return to the states and if they race, will run in the KRA’s colours.

Korea started sending horses to the US in 2008. They chose an experienced racehorse, Pick Me Up (Time Star), and sent him to Fair Hill for three months during which he race three times. It did not go well with Pick Me Up heavily beaten in each outing.

Gangnam Camp (KRA)

Gangnam Camp (KRA)

The following year it was the turn of Baekpa (Revere), winner of the 2007 Korean Oaks. She too failed to make an impact.

Following these two disappointments and facing criticism at home from Korean racing fans (who pointed out that you need only look at the times run in Korea compared to those elsewhere to judge what the current standard of racing was), it was decided that a different approach was needed.

A small number of horses have since been sent to Ocala including Winner Force (Lost Mountain) and Powerful Korea (Distilled), both of whom have become winners on their return. Feel So Good is, however, the star pupil and allowed the KRA’s Ko Byoung Un to utter the memorable quote that “…maybe we found out the problem is not the horse”.

"Hey? This doesn't look like the way to Prestige Class...this is Korean Air, right?" (KRA)

“Hey? This doesn’t look like the way to Prestige Class…this is Korean Air, right?” (KRA)

Seoul Bullet, Gangnam Camp and Better Than You flew Korean Air Cargo from Incheon to JFK Airport in New York on February 13. Whatever happens while they are away, we can definitely be assured that the problem will not be the horse.