Grand Prix Stakes

Triple Nine, Cheongdam Dokki Among Grand Prix Nominations

Twenty-eight horses have been nominated for the Grand Prix Stakes, the traditional season-ending finale which is set for Seoul Racecourse on Sunday December 9th and will be run over the longest distance in use in Korean racing, 2300M. They include the now four-time President’s Cup Champion Triple Nine as well as Busan Mayor’s Cup and KRA Cup Classic victor Cheongdam Dokki and Korea Cup 2nd place-getter Dolkong.

Power Blade Grand Prix Fnish1

Power Blade won the Grand Prix in 2017 but is now retired althoough the other two horses in shot – Dongbang Daero & Cheongdam Dokki, could be back for another go (Pic: KRA)

With last year’s winner Power Blade having been retired this summer, there is only one previous Grand Prix winner among the nominations. That’s Clean Up Joy, who triumphed in the 2016 edition and would be tackling the race for the fifth time. For Triple Nine, 3rd last year, it would be fourth attempt with his best finish being 2nd to Clean Up Joy in 2016.

Ten of the nominated horses are trained at Seoul, including Cheongdam Dokki, Clean Up Joy and Dolkong, while the remaining eighteen are from Busan. The maximum field size for the race is sixteen. Busan-trained horses joined the race for the first time in 2009 and have won six of the subsequent nine runnings.

All four foreign trainers based in Korea are represented at this stage. Peter Wolsley, who won the race with Bold Kings in 2015 has put forward Ppudeut and Royal Ruby while Thomas Gillespie has Great King and Champ Line. Along with Dolkong, Simon Foster has nominated Choego Money while Bart Rice is set to once again send Buhwarui Banseok, who finished very strongly for 5th place a year ago.

First run in 1985, the Grand Prix remains the race every Korean owner, trainer and jockey wants to win. It’s place in the calendar at the end of the year and its unusual distance as well as until recently being one of the few Korean Group 1 races not restricted to locally-bred horses make it a unique challenge with the winner traditionally almost always becoming Horse Of The Year. That’s not necessarily the case these days but even in the Korea Cup era, the Grand Prix still hasn’t lost its luster.

Three horses have won the race twice. Po Gyeong Seon in the 1980s, Ka Shock Do in the 1980s and Dongbanui Gangja in the 2000s and the list of winners is a roll call of the biggest names in Korean racing over the past three decades. In addition to the two-time winners, such luminaries as Subsidy, Mister Park, Tough Win and of course Power Blade have come home in front in December. For all his achievements, Triple Nine is yet to add his name to the list. It might be fourth time lucky this December. Here’s the full list of preliminary nominations:

SEOUL
Cheonji Storm
Singgeureoun Geom
Wild Thunder
Cheongdam Dokki
Clean Up Joy
Tosconova Cat
Road Winner
Ultra Rocket
Dolkong
Choego Money

BUSAN
Champ Line
Great King
Baekmunbaekdap
Today
Triple Nine
Saengil Gippeum
Ppudeut
Royal Ruby
Buhwarui Banseok
Stealth
Indian King
Hello Venus
Jumbo Blade
Good Casting
Adeleui Chukje
World Sun
Dongbang Daero
Wooa

Magnificent Power Blade Wins the Grand Prix Stakes 2017

Power Blade, the 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner on Sunday topped even that, racing to victory in Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes.

Power Blade Grabd Prix

Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic. J. Kim)

3-year-old phenom Cheongdam Dokki was sent off as favourite for the 2300M season-finale with Triple Nine 2nd best in punter’s eyes ahead of Power Blade who started in excess of 12/1. Cheongdam Dokki did indeed set the pace in the early part of the race but once he got into unfamiliar territory in the home straight, he bag to tire. Triple Nine got first crack at him but ultimately it was Power Blade and – to the surprise of most – 150/1 Dongbang Daero who came through to dispute the finish, Power Blade triumphing by a Head on the line. Triple Nine was a game as ever 3rd with Cheongdam Dokki 4th and Bart Rice’s Buhwarui Banseok a very good 5th.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 10, 2017

1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonachong (Lost Mountain)] – Oh Kyung Hwan – 13.1, 2.1
2. Dongbang Daero (USA) [Curlin – Willa Joe (El Gran Senor)] – Park Jae I – 17.0
3. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.0
Distances: Head / 1.25 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) 5. Buhwarui Banseok (USA) 6. Champ Line (KOR) 7. Clean Up Joy (USA 8. Silver Wolf (AUS) 9. Dynamic Dash (USA) 10. Saengil Gippeum (USA) 11. Cheonjeok (USA) 12. Diferent Dimension (USA)

More to follow.

Grand Prix Stakes 2017: Full Preview

It’s the big one. The Grand Prix Stakes 2017 is here and 3yo potential phenom Cheongdam Dokki will clash with Triple Nine, Power Blade, Clean Up Joy and a host of the biggest names in Korean racing in the season-ending showpiece at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon (see the rundown on those four horses in the video below if you can get past my ridiculous bow-tie):

While the no-show of New Citadel and Dolkong is disappointing, this Grand Prix still has the potential to be special. Is Cheongdam Dokki as good as some think he is? Can Triple Nine finally win a Grand Prix at the third attempt? Can Clean Up Joy recover from his defeat at the hands of Cheongdam Dokki to retain the crown? Or perhaps something else can win. Favourites rarely win the Grand Prix with the unfamiliar distance and the time of year contributing to lots of uncertainty at each edition.

Cheongdam Dokki and Triple Nine look set to dispute favouritism with Power Blade and Clean Up Joy likely to be next best in the market. But there are plenty of wildcards. Queens’ Tour winner Silver Wolf takes her chance while the likes of Saengil Gippeum and Diferent Dimension should relish the opportunity to have a go at this distance. Buhwarui Banseok and Champ Line are not without their merits either. Dongbang Daero, Dynamic Dash and Cheonjeok round out a high class field. The race starts at 4.40pm Korea time and is available for betting on the PMU in Europe, TAB in Australia, and most ADW’s in the United States as well as at the turf clubs in Singapore and Malysia.

1 TRIPLE NINE (KOR) Having finished 4th in the Korea Cup in September and then suffering his second reverse to Power Blade, he came back into form to win his third straight President’s Cup last month, defeating his stablemate in the process. He can take a long time to hit top-gear but we know this distance can suit. 4th in 2015 and 2nd last year, it’s not impossible he could finish on top this time. Interesting – and perhaps not ideal – draw.
2 DYNAMIC DASH (USA) 7th behind Saengil Gippeum last month having led early on and 3rd behind Diferent Dimension the time before that. It’s been a long time since the most recent of his nine career wins and he’ll be one of the outsiders here.
3 SAENGIL GIPPEUM (USA) An excellent seven-length winner of Busan’s trial for this race over 2200M on November 5th brings him into contention. He was beaten by Diferent Dimension the time before but the manner of his win last time does warrant consideration for a surprise here. Unlikely to lead early but will probably be not too far from the pace.
4 DIFERENT DIMENSION (USA) Managed a 3rd place on turf at this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival and returned to the winner’s circle in Busan over 2000M on October 22nd, making all over 2000M and beating Saengil Gippeum. Missed out on an intended run in this race last year, the distance should suit and a placing finish is possible. Generally leads or races very close to the early lead.
5 CHAMP LINE (KOR) Trained by Thomas Gillespie. Won five consecutive races up to April but has just gone gold a little since. Still 4th place last time behind Saengil Gippeum gives cause for optimism that form is on the up.
6 DONGBANG DAERO (USA) 8th in this race last yeat, he’s only won once since then but is rarey too far away. 3rd behind Saengil Gippeum at 2200M last month and an outside chance of cneaking into the money here. Recently, his running style has been to close.
7 SILVER WOLF (AUS) She won all three legs of the Queens’ Tour to become champion filly/mare this year, easily winning the finale over 2000M. She showed her versatility too with 5th place in the Korea Sprint. Obviously, today’s test is a stiff one but she’s well drawn to get close to the early lead and looks to be the wildcard. Stablemate of Clean Up Joy.
8 CHEONGDAM DOKKI (USA) The one to beat. Seven from eleven in total and winner of his last four including a comprehensive demolition of Clean Up Joy in the KRA Cup Classic. He hasn’t always been the most straightforward of colts but has behaved better in his last two. He’s won those latest four gate to wire and despite the increased distance it would be a surprise were he not to try to dominate this too. It’s not easy to do that in December in Seoul but he looks good enough.
9 BUHWARUI BANSEOK (USA) A slightly disappointing 6th behind Saengil Gippeum over 2200M last month but this is a very solid class 1 colt. First time at the distance and first time at Seoul. Tactically versatile, he’s trained by South African Bart Rice and should give a good account of himself.
10 CHEONJEOK (USA) 13th in last year’s race and the lowest rated this year and likely to be the outsider. 5 wins from 51, the most recent of those being in March. Last of 8 behind Cheongdam Dokki in the KRA Cup Classic in October. Top jockey booking though.
11 POWER BLADE (KOR) The 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner and Group 2 placed in Dubai. 2nd in the Korea Sprint to a Japanese horse, he beat Triple Nine at both 1400M and 1600M at Busan before coming up short in the President’s Cup here at Seoul over 2000M last month. 3rd in this race last year. Jockey change today – he is a tough ride – and while the distance may not be ideal, he can never be ruled out.
12 CLEAN UP JOY (USA) Last year’s winner. He began this year with three consecutive victories but then struggled in Busan in the Mayor’s Cup in July. He was a well-beaten 3rd behind Cheongdam Dokki in October’s KRA Cup Classic but by no means ran badly. He remains a strong horse and certainly can’t be ruled out but it could be that a couple of others have just got a bit better in the meantime. He will come out of the widest gate by request of his trainer.

Selections: (8) Cheongdam Dokki (1) Triple Nine (11) Power Blade (12) Clean Up Joy

Next Best: 7, 3, 4

Fast Start: 3, 4, 8

2015 Grand Prix Stakes Voting Begins

Voting is underway for the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes which will take place at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday December 13. Like Japan’s Arima Kinen, entry to the race is determined by a vote among racing fans. The vote opened on Friday at the Korea Racing Authority’s website with polls due to close on Sunday November 22.

Gamdonguibada won the Grand Prix Stakes in 2012. Now six-years-old, she is on the ballot once more

Gamdonguibada won the Grand Prix Stakes in 2012. Now six-years-old, she is on the ballot once more

A total of 28 horses; 14 from Seoul and 14 from Busan, have been nominated for the race and there will be a maximum field size of 16. Among the nominees is one former winner, Gamdonguibada, who took the honours as a three-year-old in 2012.

For the last two years, the winner of the President’s Cup has gone on to take the Grand Prix, Indie Band in 2013 and Gyoengbudaero last year. While those two are respectively on the long-term injured list and retired, this year’s President’s Cup victor, Triple Nine is on the ballot and will be a strong contender.

Also nominated is Korean Derby winner Yeongcheon Ace and Queen’s Tour overall winner Heba as well as the hitherto unbeaten three-year-old Bold Kings. Cinderella Man who won a trial for the race over the Grand Prix distance last week, is another on the ballot.

Here is a full list of the nominees with links to their English language Korean Studbook pages, age, sex (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) and notable recent Stakes and Listed race achievements:

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 13, 2015

Seoul
Meni Money (KOR) 3 F (14/6/6/1) – 2015 Sports Seoul Cup (1st) Korean Oaks (2nd) Jeju Governor’s Cup (3rd)
Sotong Sidae (KOR) 4 G (27/7/4/6) – 2015 Sports Chosun Cup (1st)
Cinderella Man (KOR) 4 G (17/10/4/0)
Pinot Noir (KOR) 5 M (23/5/7/2) – 2015 Jeju Governor’s Cup (2nd)
Chief Red Can (USA) 5 G (16/6/3/1) – 2015 KRA Cup Classic (1st)
Clean Up Cheonha (USA) 4 C (16/7/6/2)
Clean Up Joy (USA) 4 G (13/6/5/0)
Unbeatable (USA) 5 H (36/6/6/9)
Best Run (USA) 4 C (19/3/5/1)
Daisyan (USA) 4 G (25/5/4/2)
Space Port (USA) 5 H (37/2/9/2)
Damyang Chukje (USA) 6 H (30/5/3/4)
Winning Andy (USA) 4 C (25/3/6/5)

Busan
Yeongcheon Ace (KOR) 3 C (12/4/3/4) – 2015 Korean Derby (1st), KRA Cup Mile (3rd)
Triple Nine (KOR) 3 C (11/7/4/0) – 2015 President’s Cup (1st) Domin Ilbo Cup (1st) Minister’s Cup (2nd) Korean Derby (2nd)
Gumpo Sky (KOR) 4 C (25/9/7/3) – 2015 Busan Ilbo Cup (1st)
Ildeung Hanghaesa (KOR) 4 G (24/5/5/5)
Daepungnyeon (KOR) 3 G (11/7/0/1)
Gandai (KOR) 5 H (39/8/2/5)
Gamdonguibada (USA) 6 M (29/14/4/6) – 2015 Busan Mayor’s Cup (1st), 2012 Grand Prix Stakes (1st)
Heba (USA) 5 M (35/9/5/2) – 2015 KNN Cup (1st) Guengnam Governor’s Cup (1st)
Ms. Margaux (USA) 4 M (21/2/8/7) – 2015 Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (2nd)
Bold Kings (USA) 3 C (6/6/0/0)
Donggeupcheogang (USA) 5 H (32/7/5/5)
Goji Jeongbeol (USA) 4 G (21/5/4/5)
Cheonjae Bogo (NZ) 7 G (62/6/4/11)
Nobody Catch Me (USA) 5 G (22/6/5/2) – 2014 Busan Mayor’s Cup (1st)

Gyeongbudaero Swoops To Claim Grand Prix Glory

Gyeongbudaero became the second horse in as many years to complete a President’s Cup / Grand Prix Stakes double as he swooped late to win Korea’s most prestigious race this afternoon.

The view from above as Gyeongbudaero wins the Grand Prix Stakes

The view from above as Gyeongbudaero wins the Grand Prix Stakes

The 5-year-old, who won the KRA Cup Mile (Korean Guineas) two years ago, was sent off at 13/1 for the season-ending showpiece with Beolmaui Kkum the favourite for the second year running.

And as a light snow fell over Seoul Racecourse, it was Beolmaui Kkum who, as expected, set the early pace with Magic Dancer and the outsider Rush Force in close attendance. Gyeongbudaero was leading only three as they began the long turn for home.

As the field entered the home straight there was a nasty incident as Nobody Catch Me slightly interfered with Samjeong Jewang. The latter and Ikuyasu Kurakane tumbled to the ground although thankfully both would get up and walk away. Nobody Catch Me was disqualified.

None of that affected the result. Gyeongbudaero had improved around the turn and went wide in the straight, hitting the front with just over a furlong to go as Beolmaui Kkum and Magic Dancer began to tire. Wonder Bolt came up to challenge but Gyeongbudaero was gone, winning by three lengths on the line.

For Gyeongbudaero, it was an 11th win on his 28th start and takes him to over $2Million in prize money won. He follows Indie Band in winning the President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes in the same year. Crucially too, he is another Korean bred winner of Korea’s best race.

Wonder Bolt was game in second and Beolmaui Kkum will be back. Clean Up Joy was a revelation in 4th although Magic Dancer would have been expected to go better than 5th.

The doubt about Gyeongbudaero had been whether he would stay the trip. The way he ran today, he could have stayed all the way down the “Gyeongbudaero” Highway back home to Busan. Gyeongbudaero is an emphatic Grand Prix Stakes Champion of 2014.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 14, 2014

1. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – Choi Si Dae –
2. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – Lee Chan Ho –
3. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] – Lee Hee Cheon –

Distances: 3 lengths / 4 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Clean Up Joy (USA) 5. Magic Dancer (KOR) 6. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) 7. Unbeatable (USA) 8. Ghost Whisper (KOR) 9. Jangmi Eondeok (USA) 10. Rush Forth (USA) 11. Major King (KOR) DQ: Nobody Catch Me DNF: Samjeong Jewang

The Grand Prix Stakes 2014: Full Preview

It’s time for the big one. The 33rd Grand Prix Stakes will be run at Seoul Racecourse this coming Sunday.

Beolmaui Kkum, seen here at last year's Grand Prix, returns as favourite this year (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum, seen here at last year’s Grand Prix, returns as favourite this year (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Despite the injury-enforced absence of defending champion Indie Band, the race still looks to be one of high quality. And while last year’s event was the first ever Korean race to be broadcast live overseas, this year’s edition breaks new ground too with European punters able to bet on the race with the French PMU.

Beolmaui Kkum is likely to start as the strong favourite for the 2nd year running with jockey Lee Hee Cheon, who won the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October given the chance of a lifetime to reach his 100th career winner in style with Choi Si Dae retained for Gyeongbudaero.

Last year, Beolmaui Kkum faded badly in the home straight but is in great from this time around and will be hard to beat. Magic Dancer may challenge Beolmaui Kkum for the lead and has every chance of staying on whereas likely to come from further behind are Cheonji Bulpae and Nobody Catch Me, both of whom have claims.

Gyeongbudaero won the President’s Cup on this track a month ago but may find the this a little bit too much while Wonder Bolt has improved plenty since his 5th in the race last year despite being more renowned as a sprinter. Ghost Whisper is game but may find himself overmatched here while Clean Up Joy and Samjeong Jewang have plenty of potential and are the wildcards.

Here is a full run-down of the field:

Grand Prix Stakes (KOREA GROUP I) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – Sunday December 14, 2014 (16:40)

Name [Pedigree] Age/Sex (Lifetime Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) – Korean rating – Jockey (Home Track)

1. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeux Danseur)] – 3yo colt – (8/3/4/0) – 110 – Ham Wan Sik (Seoul)
One of the up and coming talents at Seoul, following a 6th place finish on his debut, he hasn’t finished worse than 2nd in seven subsequent starts, usually coming from just off the pace to close strongly. A winner over 1800M last time out in what was his first attempt racing around two-turns promoted him to class 1, but he faces by far his toughest race to date.

2. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] – 4yo colt – (17/11/3/0) – 132 – Lee Hee Cheon (Busan)
Twelve months ago, he started as the favourite for this race and led the field into the home straight before fading disappointingly to 13th. He had five months off earlier in 2014 and since returning, he’s won all four of his starts. He will be the favourite again, having broken the Busan track record over 2200M on his last start and he will probably lead again. This should be his year.

3. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – 4yo colt – (21/6/8/1) – 127 – Lee Chan Ho (Seoul)
The highest rated horse in training at Seoul, Wonder Bolt was 5th in this race last year. He has spent much of the year racing at shorter distances, finishing 2nd behind Singapore’s champion sprinter El Padrino in the Asia Challenge Cup in August. A very comfortable winner over 1700M last month, he is very quick and will have some supporters for the Grand Prix.

4. Rush Forth (USA) [Rush Bay – Fourth Quest (Norquestor)] – 4yo gelding – (15/4/3/3) – 117 – Kim Ok Sung (Seoul)
He was 2nd behind Samjeong Jewang in the KRA Cup Classic over 2000M on his last start in October, only beaten a nose and finishing the quicker of the two horses. He should like the distance but is yet to find the winner’s circle at class 1 level – his last victory was all the way back in February – and he is unlikely to find it in this race.

5. Major King (KOR) [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] – 4yo colt – (16/7/3/3) – 119 – Jo Chang Wook (Busan)
The winner of one of the Korean Triple Crown races last year, he spent the first half of 2014 in the United States. He was unsuccessful there and returned to Korea in August. He has raced four times since, winning once over 2000M. He is a very capable competitor but will probably find a few too quick for him.

6. Samjeong Jewang (USA) [Patriot Act – Ms. Sadira (Dixieland Heat)] – 3yo gelding – (9/6/0/2) – 117 – Ikuyasu Kurakane (Seoul)
A narrow win over Rush Forth in the KRA Cup Classic in October was the fourth consecutive victory for this up and coming gelding. He likes to come from slightly off the pace and he has a strong finish. He’s going to need a very strong one in this company but is certainly not without hope. Three-year-olds have won the two most recent editions of this race.

7. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini – Purrfection (Tale Of The Cat)] – 5yo horse – (24/10/3/3) – 126 – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
Now from the stable of Peter Wolsley at Busan, Cheonji Bulpae was an impressive 3rd in this race last year. He’s only won two of his seven starts in 2014 but has usually been close and has been carrying some big weights in handicaps. While he won’t be favourite, he has every chance of coming close again.

8. Magic Dancer (KOR) [Forest Camp – Wildly Magic (Peterhof)] – 4yo colt – (17/10/4/1) – 126 – Kanichiro Fujii (Busan)
Trained by Kim Young Kwan at Busan, Magic Dancer is a proven winner at Seoul Racecourse, having won the Jeju Governor’s Cup over 2000M in June this year. He finished 3rd behind Gyeongbudaero in the President’s Cup last month and should have no problems with the distance. Jockey Joe Fujii is the only foreign rider to have won the Grand Prix and what tactics he employs could be the key to this race.

9. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – 5yo horse – (27/10/6/7) – 129 – Choi Si Dae (Busan)
The highest-rated domestic bred horse in Korea, Gyeongbudaero finished 6th in this race last year. He has only run three times in 2014 but the most recent of those saw him land the biggest victory of his career, the President’s Cup, over 2000M at Seoul Racecourse last month. In 2013, the President’s Cup winner went on to win the Grand Prix and while Gyeongbudaero won’t be favourite, he can never be ruled out.

10. Nobody Catch Me (USA) [With Distinction – Nana’s Babe (Allen’s Prospect)] – 4yo gelding – (17/6/4/2) – 131 – Kim Yong Geun (Busan)
He was a convincing winner of the Busan Metropolitan Stakes – known as the “Summer Grand Prix” – in July at odds of over 50/1, beating a number of his rivals here. He’s only run once since then and that too ended in a win, carrying 60kg around 1900M and still winning by 5-lengths and breaking the track record in the process. One of two contenders from the stable of Busan’s top trainer Kim Young Kwan, he has a chance.

11. Unbeatable (USA) [Eddington – Baxter Hall (Rahy)] – 4yo colt – (27/5/5/6) – 116 – Park Tae Jong (Seoul)
A distance specialist, Unbeatable won the most recent of very few races to be run over 2300M at Seoul last month, holding off several rivals in a tight finish. He’ll definitely stay on but that race was run at a pace significantly slower than any recent runnings of the Grand Prix and while he was quick at the finish, this is a significant step up in quality.

12. Ghost Whisper (KOR) [Gotham City – Emmy’s Lullaby (Unbridled’s Song)] – 6yo gelding – (27/14/4/3) – 128 – Masakazu Tanaka (Busan)
A very game horse and with plenty of talent too, he’s won four of his last six starts, usually from the front and broke the Busan track record for 1800M in October. Trained by Australian Peter Wolsley, he’s never without a chance although the distance and the caliber of opposition may be just a little too much for him here.

13. Jangmi Eondeok (USA) [Midnight Lute – Sea Gift (A.P. Indy)] – 4yo filly – (14/3/4/1) – 107 – Moon Se Young (Seoul)
The only filly in the race, she is likely to be the longest shot on the board. She’s only raced five times in 2014 with a best finish of 5th and she came home in 6th place in a Stakes race restricted to fillies and mares at Busan last month. As a result, even with the champion jockey on board, she is overmatched here.

Selections: (2) Beolmaui Kkum (7) Cheonji Bulpae (8) Magic Dancer (10) Nobody Catch Me

Grand Prix Stakes 2014 – 25 On Ballot For Season-Ending Showpiece

Now in its 33rd year, the Grand Prix Stakes isn’t the richest event on the Korean racing calendar, but it is definitely the most prestigious. Modelled after Japan’s Arima Kinen, racing fans get to vote on which horses they want to invite to run in the race which will be held at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday December 14.

Gamdonguibada is on the ballot again. She won the Grand Prix in 2012

Gamdonguibada is on the ballot again. She won the Grand Prix in 2012

This year 25 horses have been entered on the ballot. A maximum of 16 will get in and punters have until November 23rd to vote. Last year’s winner Indie Band is on the long-term injured list but 2012 winner Gamdonguibada, fresh from her victory in Sunday’s Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup is there as is Gyeongbudaero, who claimed the President’s Cup at Seoul earlier this month.

Here is the full list of nominations:

Seoul

Rush Forth (USA)
Samjeong Jewang (USA)
Wonder Bolt (USA)
My Day (KOR)
Jangmi Eondeok (USA)
Unbeatable (USA)
Impetus (KOR)
Damyang Chukje (USA)
Clean Up Cheonha (USA)
Clean Up Joy (USA)

Busan

Beolmaui Kkum (USA)
Gyeongbudaero (KOR)
New York Blue (USA)
Multi Luck (USA)
Strictly Two Step (USA)
Magic Dancer (KOR)
Nobody Catch Me (USA)
Gamdonguibada (USA)
Major King (KOR)
All Su (KOR)
Hangangui Gijeok (KOR)
Ghost Whisper (KOR)
Cheonji Bulpae (AUS)
Gumpo Sky (KOR)
Heba (USA)

The race will be run over 2300 metres. The normal sub-zero temperatures and occasional snow only add to the occasion. We will have plenty more build-up as the big day gets nearer.

Dominant Indie Band Wins Grand Prix Stakes

Indie Band followed up his President’s Cup success with a commanding win in Korean racing’s season-ending showpiece, the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Race Park on Sunday.

Indie Band and Lim Sung Sil win the Grand Prix (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Indie Band and Lim Sung Sil win the Grand Prix (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The 3-year-old colt, who up until a week ago wasn’t even going to run in the race, produced a late charge to surge away from the field and win by a commanding 4 lengths from 2012 Derby winner Jigeum I Sungan.

Pic: Ross Holburt)

Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was a third win in four years for Busan trainer Kim Young Kwan as the silverware disappeared from Seoul down the Gyeongbu Expressway once again.

a 6/1 chance, Indie Band was sent off as second-favourite behind Beolmaui Kkum who led for much of the race before fading in the home straight.

Beolmaui Kkum wasn’t the only one to fade. Last year’s winner Gamdonguibada also showed early before offering nothing on the run in along with KRA Cup Classic winner Mari Daemul, 2011 winner Tough Win and the ever-popular Smarty Moonhak.

Pic: Ross Holburt

Pic: Ross Holburt

In the end, only Jigeum I Sungan, who was competing in his final race before retirement, could get close as Indie Band became the undisputed number 1 horse on the peninsula.

Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – December 15, 2013

1. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park] – Lim Sung Sil – 6.7, 2.3
2. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) [Ingrandire] – Moon Se Young – 4.3
3. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini] – Darryll Holland – 4.5

Distances: 4 lengths/5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Indian Blue (USA) 5. Wonder Bolt (USA) 6. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) 7. Lion Santa (USA) 8. Murangae (USA) 9. Secret Whisper (KOR) 10. Gippeun Sesang (CAN) 11. Smarty Moonhak (USA) 12. Gamdonguibada (USA) 13. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) 14. Mari Daemul (USA) 15. Tough Win (USA) 16. Mr. Rocky (KOR)

The 32nd Grand Prix Stakes: Detailed Preview

The runners have been confirmed and the barriers have been drawn. The 32nd Grand Prix Stakes – live in Seoul and simulcast to Singapore – will take place on Sunday.

Will we get a finish like the one in 2011 when Tough Win came out on top?

Will we get a finish like the one in 2011 when Tough Win came out on top?

Here is a full run-down of the field (Name [Pedigree] Age Sex (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) – Jockey (Home track)


The Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 15, 2013

1. Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] 6 G (31/22/2/1) – Cho Kyoung Ho (Seoul)
Tough Win has been the dominant horse at Seoul for almost 3 years now. He won his first 9 races including the 2010 Busan Mayor’s Trophy and KRA Cup Classic before suffering his first ever defeat in that year’s Grand Prix when he finished 4th. That didn’t stop him being made 2010 Horse of the Year and he made no mistake in the 2011 Grand Prix but at the end of 2012 he was found wanting again as he finished 5th behind Gamdonguibada. He racked up 4 wins to begin this year culminating in his regaining the Busan Mayor’s Trophy. No horse has ever regained the Grand Prix Stakes. Tough Win will have plenty of people backing him to do exactly that.

2. Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)] 4 F (15/9/2/3) – Kanichiro Fujii (Busan)
The defending champion returns to Seoul to attempt to become the 4th horse to retain the Grand Prix Stakes. She was the first filly to take the prize for 12 years when winning by a neck a year ago and has won 3 of her 5 starts in 2013. Of concern will be her poor run in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy, also known as the “summer Grand Prix” but she took nearly 4 months off after that and returned with an easy win last month. She’ll have many supporters here

3. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] 4 C (22/7/6/6) – Choi Si Dae (Busan)
Gyeongbudaero is a colt whose win record doesn’t really reflect his ability. Nine of his 22 starts have been in Stakes races and he has over $1.2Million is prize money to his name. He won the 2012 KRA Cup Mile – also known as the “Korean 2000 Guineas” and this September won the Busan Owners’ Cup before coming up to Seoul and running an impressive 2nd in the President’s Cup – Korea’s richest race. His sire Menifee isn’t known for getting runners who can go more than 2000 metres and this will be Gyeongbudaero’s first attempt to disprove that. If he does stay the distance, he could be very dangerous.

4. Indian Blue (USA) [Henny Hughes – Gamblers Passion (Prospectors Gamble)] 3 F (12/3/3/4) – Ikuyasu Kurakane (Seoul)
A highly rated filly who began the year by winning the Segye Ilbo Cup and then running 3rd in the Ttukseom Cup. Since then she’s been running exclusively against colts and, while she’s not picked up another win, she has placed 3 times out of 5 culminating in a very impressive 2nd place to Mari Daemul in the KRA Cup Classic in October. That race over 2000 metres was her first try over more than a mile and she came through it looking full of running at the end. She’s up against far stiffer opposition here though.

5. Mr. Rocky (KOR) [Exploit – Sulry N’ Sassy (Thunder Gulch)] 6 G (35/7/6/2) – Choi Bum Hyun (Seoul)
Mr. Rocky had been away from the track for more than a year until he returned in June this year. Before his injury, he had been a very solid class 1 horse but struggled to regain his race sharpness. However, a strong 3rd place finish last time out showed promise and is what allows him to take his chance here. That being said, he’s not been in the winner’s circle since 2011 and that’s not likely to change here.

6. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park – Plie (Dixieland Band)] 3 C (11/7/1/1) – Lim Sung Sil (Busan)
A late entry, but potentially a very good one, Indie Band missed the early season Classics but announced his arrival by winning the Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Stakes in July by 4 lengths. He then came to Seoul and ran 3rd in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Korean Triple Crown, in October before returning to the capital a month later to win the President’s Cup, Korea’s richest race. In both those races he came from a long way back in the straight and the distance here should be very good for him. He is the stablemate of last year’s winner Gamdonguibada, but is by n means a second string.

7. Lion Santa (USA) [Lion Heart – Santa Fe Strip (Phone Trick)] 5 H (23/12/1/2) – Jo Chang Wook (Busan)
Lion Santa took Busan by storm as a 2-year-old in 2010, winning all of his first 9 starts, including his first attempt at a Stakes race. He’s since matured into a very reliable place-getter in big handicaps without ever managing to repeat the stellar form of his juvenile campaign. He’s won twice in nine attempts this year and was 4th in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy in the summer. He followed that up with a win over 2000 metres at the end of September but his most recent outing ended in a disappointing 6th a long way behind the winner, who was Gamdonguibada.

8.Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini – Purrfection (Tale Of The Cat)] 4 C (16/8/0/2) – Darryll Holland (Busan)
The only Southern Hemisphere bred horse in the race, Aussie colt Cheonji Bulpae arguably enters the race in the best form of any of the field having won his last 4 races with Gyeongbudaero among his victims in his 3 successful starts since graduating to class 1 this summer. He hasn’t been favourite in any of those races and he won’t be favourite here but if he can get a forward position early on he could cause some problems in the straight. It’s his first time at Seoul, his first time over 2300 metres and his first time in a Stakes race.

9. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) [Put It Back – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] 3 C (10/7/2/0) – You Hyun Myung (Busan)
A real talent and maybe the fastest horse in the race. Beolmaui Kkum has never finished worse than 2nd in his 10 starts to date. His career highlight is beating Gamdonguibada by 5 full lengths to win the Gukje Sinmun Stakes in May this year before running 2nd to Tough win in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy. He won easily over a mile in his last start. He likes to lead right from the gate and if he gets in front, he could be very difficult to beat.

10. Secret Whisper (KOR) [Sea Of Secrets – Generals Passion (General Meeting)] 5 M (27/11/6/5) – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
Secret Whisper comes into this race in the form of her life and off the back of the biggest win of her career in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup. That race took her recent record to 3 wins from her last 4, with the defeat being in a 7-furlong tune-up. That Cup win was the final leg of the Queens’ Tour and she was only facing fillies and Gamdonguibada wasn’t among them. However, the step up to 2300 metres should be ideal for her. Under the guidance of Australian trainer Peter Wolsley, Secret Whisper ending her career on the highest possible note can’t be ruled out.

11. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 3 C (12/3/5/1) – Jung Pyeong Soo (Seoul)
A lot of potential in the 3-year-old colt, whose only time out of the money was his racecourse debut. He stepped up to class 1 on his last start and was just beaten a nose by the experienced former KRA Cup Classic winner Sing Sing Cat. He finished strongly that day and should be ready to take on 2300 metres. Whether he is quite ready to compete for the win in a field of this quality though, is more open to debate.

12. Murangae (USA) [Sunriver – Merril Gold (Gold Fever)] 4 G (30/1/6/5) – Lee Chan Ho (Seoul)
It is difficult to recommend a horse with just 1 win from 30 starts as a likely winner of the Grand Prix Stakes so we’ll not be doing that here. However, Murangae is a solid competitor who does regularly get on the board. His only win came in May this year and was over 1800 metres and the Grand Prix will be his 13th start of the year – starts in which most of his rivals here have beaten him at least once. It won’t be his 2nd win.

13. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones – Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] 4 C – Seo Seung Un (Seoul)
Two years ago Smarty Moonhak made history as the first 2-year-old to run in the Grand Prix Stakes. He finished 3rd that day to Tough Win and looked set to go on to dominate Seoul especially as he went on to win his first four races of 2012. However, disaster struck after the Busan Mayor’s Trophy when he was diagnosed with tendonitis. After more than a year of treatment he returned to the track with a low-key 6th in October before getting back in the winner’s circle last month. That was over 1200 metres and it is a huge step up here. If the old Smarty Moonhak is back, he’ll be difficult to beat and, what a story it would be if he could do it.

14. Gippeun Sesang (CAN) [Behrens – Bellus (Saint Ballado)] 4 H (62/6/4/5) – Kim Hye Sun (Seoul)
One of very few Canadian bred horses running in Korea, Gippeun Sesang has been a reliable performer during his 62 race career which has spanned 5 years. He’s spent 3 of those years running at class 1 level and as managed to pick up 3 wins in that time, most recently in September. He ran in this race in 2010 when he finished a well-beaten 10th and, if truth be told, beating that finish this time around would represent a very good result for him.

15. Mari Daemul (USA) [Go For Gin – Token Beauty (Gold Token)] 4 C (20/7/3/2) – Shin Hyoung Chul (Seoul)
A 13/1 win in the KRA Cup Classic in his last start in October with an out-of-sorts Tough Win well beaten in 6th put this solid campaigner firmly into the public eye. Up until that time he’d been consistently grinding out wins as he progressed up to class 1. Since getting there, he’s won 3 of 7 starts and can’t be overlooked here. The KRA Cup Classic win was a comfortable one and he should be able to cope with the step up in distance.

16. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) [Ingrandire – Solmaru (Mujaazif)] 4 C (24/13/6/2) – Moon Se Young (Seoul)
In the race’s 30-year history, there have only ever been 4 Korean bred winners of the Grand Prix. Jigeum I Sungan offers perhaps the best chance of it being number 5 this year. The winner of the 2012 Korean Derby and a 2-time Stakes winner this year it has long been thought that Jigeum I Sungan needs longer distances to show his full potential. Third in the President’s Cup on his last start, if he is on top of his game, he should reverse that form. He is a big talent.

One Week To Go: The 32nd Grand Prix Stakes

While other races may carry more prize money, in terms of honour and prestige, the Grand Prix Stakes is second to none in Korea.

It’s a race that has had movies named after it and is, perhaps, the only domestic horse race to register in the national consciousness.

Gamdonguibada and Joe Fujii return to Seoul to defend the Grand Prix Stakes title they won last year

Gamdonguibada and Joe Fujii return to Seoul to defend the Grand Prix Stakes title they won last year

Sunday December 15 at Seoul Race Park sees the 32nd edition of the race. It’s young in international terms, but in a country where the private ownership of racehorses – and therefore prize money and big Stakes races – go back less than two decades, it is positively venerable. With race fans invited to vote on which horses they want to see in the starting gate, it is the undisputed Championship race in Korea. There is no question of the best horses trying to avoid each other as there is nowhere else to go. In the Grand Prix, the best face the best.

This is because whereas the Classics are restricted to Korean bred entrants, the Grand Prix is open to all. Indeed in the previous 30 editions, home-bred horses have ended up in the winner’s circle just four times (including Mister Park who was born in Korea after his dam was imported while in foal). Fillies or mares have won the race five times with Ka Shock Do taking back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991.

The origin of the winners also shows the change in influence on Korean racing. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of horses imported to Korea were from the Southern Hemisphere. This is reflected by Australian or New Zealand breds winning thirteen of the first sixteen runnings, compared with just one American. Since the turn of the century, the majority of imports have come from the USA and American breds have won seven out of the last nine editions.

As recently as 1999, a non-thoroughbred was triumphant. Saegangja was by the established sire Fiercely, however, his dam Chuk Je, was not in the studbook. That won’t happen again as year on year, Korean racing gradually becomes more mature.

Last year’s winner Gamdonguibada is likely to be among the favourites to retain her crown. 2011 champion Tough Win (Yonaguska), won the Busan Mayor’s Trophy – also known as the “Summer Grand Prix” – and while he has not looked at his best this autumn, can’t be ruled out.

Tough Win will try to regain the title he won in 2011

Tough Win will try to regain the title he won in 2011

2012 Korean Derby winner Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire) makes his first attempt on the race while Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones), who was 3rd in 2011 at the age of 2, is set to complete a remarkable recovery from over a year off with tendonitis by taking his chance too.

As ever, there are one of two who will be notable by their absence. Dangdae Bulpae has tried and been found wanting in this race before with the 2300 metre distance beyond him and he didn’t even appear on the ballot paper this time around.

Also likely to swerve the race is Indie Band, who was last seen breaking Dangdae Bulpae’s three-year stranglehold on the President’s Cup last month.

One who will definitely be there though is 5-year-old mare Secret Whisper (Sea Of Secrets). Last year, Joe Fujii became the first foreign jockey to win the race and in Secret Whisper, Peter Wolsley has an opportunity to be the first foreign trainer.

One other first already assured this year is that the race will be simulcasted to Singapore – the first time a Korean race will be shown live overseas.

Next Sunday, Gamdonguibada and Tough Win will seek to join Dongbanui Gangja, Ka Shock Do and the great Po Gyeong Seon as double winners of the race and prevent a new name being added to the list of horses below who, for one year at least, can claim to have been the undisputed best.

2012: Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)]
2011: Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)]
2010: Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park – Formal Deal (Formal Gold)]
2009: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)] The now seven-year old two-time champion is a likely starter this year.
2008: Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow – Maremaid (Storm Bird)]
2007: Bally Brae (USA) [Yarrow Brae – Political Bluff (Unaccounted For)] – Also has two second places to his name, in 2006 and 2008. Like his great rival Subsidy, Bally Brae too passed away this year after a short illness having been retired to the Korea Horse Affairs High School.
2006: Flying Cat (KOR) [Western Cat – Flying Wood (Tapping Wood)]
2005: Subsidy (USA) [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] The last son of Mister Prospector died in a paddock accident earlier this year.
2004: Value Play (USA) [Mt. Livermore – Return Of Mom (Deputy Minister)]
2003: Tempest West (USA) [Silent Tempest – Westabout (Gone West)]
2002: Bohamian Butler (USA) [Patton – Circus Princess (Forli)]
2001: Tahamkke (NZ) [Dance Floor – Cantango (Danzatore)]- has gone on to become a moderately successful sire in Korea
2000: Cheolgeoun Party (KOR) [Big Sur – Party Paint (Acaroid)] – The only Korean bred filly to win.
1999: Saegangja (KOR) [Fiercely – Chuk Je] (non-thoroughbred)
1998: Sin Se Dae (AUS) [Avon Valley – Meroo Star (Starboard Buoy)]
1997: P’Ulgeurim (NZ) [Crested Wave – Evocative (Sea Anchor)]
1996: Hula-Mingo (NZ) [Broadway Aly – Zamatina (Zamazaan)]
1995: Dae Kyeun (AUS) [Northern Regent – Romantic Evening (Sunset Hue)]
1994: Ji Goo Ryeok (AUS) [Pine Circle – Perfect Choice (Lunchtime)] – The first year prize-money was awarded, Ji Goo Ryeok’s connections took home 50 Million won. This year’s winner will receive as record high of nearly 300 Million, the most in its history. The Korean Derby and the President’s Cup are both worth more to the winner.
1993: Gi Peun So Sik (NZ) [Bolak – Belserena (Serenader)]
1992: Chun Pung (NZ) [Coral Reef – Little Jo] (non-thorougbred)
1991: Ka Shock Do (NZ) [Engagement – Nursery Rhyme (Namnan)]- With her second , she became arguably the greatest filly to run in Korea. In all, she won twelve of her thirteen starts.
1990: Ka Shock Do (NZ) [Engagement – Nursery Rhyme (Namnan)]
1989: Cha Dol (USA) [Mr Redoy – Honest’N Do Right]
1988: Wang Bang Wool (AUS) [Moon Sammy – Aqua Nymph (Crepone)]
1987: Cheong Ha (AUS) [Suliman – Pigalle Wonder (Exalt)]
1986: Po Gyeong Seon (NZ) [Danseur Etoile – Leonotis (Lionhearted)] – with twenty wins from twenty-five starts, he is, along with Saegangja and J.S. Hold one of the three
1985: Po Gyeong Seon (NZ) [Danseur Etoile – Leonotis (Lionhearted)]

* Although this is the 32nd running of the Grand Prix, Korean racing records officially only go back to 1985.

* This is an updated version of a post that appeared on this blog in the build up to last year’s Grand Prix. And the year before and the year…etc.