Grand Prix

Power Blade’s Grand Prix The Best Yet

On Sunday, we probably saw the best Grand Prix Stakes we ever have. The 2015 edition, won by Bold Kings, was outstanding, while for those of us who go in for that sort of thing, Tough Win’s 2011 victory over fellow “troika” members, Mister Park and Smarty Moonhak will always be special, even if the race itself wasn’t that exciting.  Power Blade’s victory this year, on the other hand, was in a race that involved a win by a genuine star in a contest that wasn’t settled until the final stride.

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Power Blade wins the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)

Cheongdam Dokki, the three-year-old favourite, set a pace that was quite brutal by Korean standards. In a Grand Prix Stakes, only Ugildongja in 2009 and Beolmaui Kkum in 2014 had set anything close to his early sectionals – and both finished well back in their respective fields. Cheongdam Dokki didn’t. The final time of Power Blade broke the 2300M track record by over a second and was precisely three seconds quicker than the fastest previous Grand Prix – the aforementioned 2009 edition, which was won by Dongbanui Gangja.

The horses who went with Cheongdam Dokki – or at least tried to – simply had nothing left for the closing stages; Diferent Dimension, Dynamic Dash and last to succumb, Silver Wolf, fading through the pack. The only one who kept pace early and had something to offer was the outstanding Triple Nine. Lim Sung Sil, possibly fearing that Cheongdam Dokki was simply too good, began to get after Triple Nine as they began the long turn for home, a full four-furlongs out, in order to keep up with the leader. At the same time Oh Kyung Hwan on Power Blade and Park Jae I on Dongbang Daero opted to save energy and allowed their mounts a more leisurely trip, ultimately paying huge dividends in the closing stages.

It is therefore perhaps testament to the sheer ability of Triple Nine and the huge potential of Cheongdam Dokki that they still managed to finish 3rd and 4th respectively after such stiff early efforts. Less than three lengths separated the winner and 5th placed Buhwarui Banseok.

Power Blade Grand Prix Winners Circle

Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic: KRA)

Dongbang Daero had finished 3rd behind Saengil Gippeum in what was a trial for the Grand Prix over 2200M at Busan at the beginning of November. Saengil Gippeum blew them away that day but Dongbang Daero had finished the quickest, running on very nicely to become involved in a finish in which there was just half a length separating 2nd and 6th. Buhwarui Banseok was also involved in that finish and he too ran on very well on Sunday.

Last year’s winner Clean Up Joy didn’t look the part before the race and never really featured, ending up in 7th place.

It became clear around two furlongs out that Cheongdam Dokki wasn’t going to be able to keep things up the whole way around. Triple Nine got first crack at him but Power Blade and Dongbang Daero simply had too much in reserve and Power Blade’s class saw him home by a Head on the line.

It is a shame that neither Triple Nine nor Power Blade will be returning to the Dubai World Cup Carnival as both look eminently capable of winning a race this time around. Connections have other plans, however, and hopefully they’ll get a nice long rest through the worst of the winter – although in all honesty, it would be no surprise to see one or other lining up in a nondescript Class 1 handicap come February. The pair of them have been such good ambassadors for Korean racing over the past three seasons, that they went overseas even once is something we can be grateful for. That trip, plus their showings in the Korea Cup and Sprint demonstrated that the pair of them could hold their own to a good (not elite, but good) standard anywhere.

Trainer Kim Young Kwan can divide opinions, but there can be no denying that when a horse of his comes out to run in a big race, his team will have it in peak condition and Triple Nine and Power Blade are the epitome of this – Triple Nine’s Godolphin Mile aside (and he was in desperate need of a spell then), they never seem to have an off-day.

Both now have claims to be the top Korean-bred horse ever. Power Blade’s Triple Crown and Grand Prix matching up with Triple Nine’s President’s Cup hat-trick. Their prize money earnings are almost identical with both breaking the 3 Billion Won barrier at the Grand Prix.  They’ve raced each other seven times now with Triple Nine leading the head-to-head by 4 to 3  – although Power Blade has now won three of their last four meetings.

We head into 2018 with plenty to be excited about on track. Cheongdam Dokki’s development along with the pair who ultimately didn’t run in the Grand Prix, Dolkong and New Citadel. Then there is the emergence of a new domestic three-year-old crop which looks stronger than this year’s. Still on top for now though are Power Blade and Triple Nine and next year they will still only be five and six-years-old.

 

 

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.

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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.

Sunday Seoul & Busan: Grand Prix Stakes Day Race-By-Race Preview (December 10)

Sunday is Grand Prix Stakes Day! Full preview of the big race is here. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 while down at Busan there are 6 races from 12:40 to 17:05. Here’s the full race-by-race preview of the other races on the card:

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(10) M.J. CAPTAIN beat (11) ARES THUNDER as the pair ran 4th and 5th over the distance on November 11th. The former also has a 2nd place to his name and could make the breakthrough here. For Ares Thunder that was an improvement and he can go well as well. The Yoshida-owned (3) CONKER has shown steady improvement over five races so far and comes into consideration with a likely fast start while (6) RUBY BEOLKIN hasn’t been too far away in recent efforts and can make a bid for the places.

Selections (10) M.J. Captain (3) Conker (11) Ares Thunder (6) Ruby Beolkin
Next Best 12, 5
Fast Start 1, 3, 5, 10

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Five first-timers go here but it’s the ones with experience that are likely to be favoured. (5) CHEONJI BOBAE is the pick. She’s been prominent in both starts so far and managed 2nd over this distance on November 11th. (1) TAMNA YEOSIN was an improved 4th in a decent contest at this distance a on what was her second outing. She led for much of that race and can come on more here. (6) LOVELY NUTE and (7) THUNDER WARRIOR should have learned from their debuts and can improve while of the first-time starters, (2) GOLDEN SKY and (10) GARA GARA GA look the pick.

Selections (5) Cheonji Bobae (1) Tamna Yeosin (7) Thunder Warrior  (10) Gara Gara Ga
Next Best 6, 2, 11
Fast Start 1, 5, 10, 11

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

Fillies only here and plenty in the hunt. (9) ROYAL BOKSUNI is the only one among them to have even a 2nd place finish to her name, which she achieved two starts ago in a very similar race at this distance. She’s drawn in the same gate today and can get on the early speed and go all the way. That day, (10) CHOWON YEOJEONSA was 7th but she showed improvement at 1000M three weeks ago and can be given another chance here. (3) WIND (more…)

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

Clean Up Joy Wins The 2016 Grand Prix Stakes

Clean Up Joy downed Triple Nine and Power Blade to win the 2016 Korea Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

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Clean Up Joy & Ham Wan Sik win the 35th Grand Prix Stakes (Pic: KRA)

Two-time President’s Cup winner Triple Nine was sent off as the odds-on favourite with Clean Up Joy splitting him and his stablemate, Triple Crown winner Power Blade, in the betting market.

And while Beolmaui Kkum set the early pace he was surprisingly joined at the front right away by Clean Up Joy – generally a bad starter but here away very keenly from the outside gate. This was bad news for the field with the most proven stayer in the race already at the front.

Clean Up Joy looked strong all the way around. Just as in the Korea Cup, Beolmaui Kkum’s race was over early and it was left to Triple Nine and Power Blade to give chase in the home straight. However, Clean Up Joy was away. His five-length advantage at the top of the stretch was down to under two on the line but jockey Ham Wan Sik had time to ease up and pose for the cameras as they passed the line.

Triple Nine was 2nd, besting Power Blade for the third time in a row before they both head to Dubai later this week. Goliath Marine ran a huge race in 4th while the ever honest Heba came home an excellent 5th.

Clean Up Joy (Purge) is a 5-year-old gelding. He was  $14,000 purchase from the OBS June 2013 Two-Year-Old sales. The Grand Prix was his 11th win on his 21st career start and took him to career earnings of over US$1.25Million. It was a career highlught win for both trainer Song Moon Gil and jockey Ham Wan Sik.

It also saw the Grand Prix being won by a horse trained at Seoul for the first time since Tough Win’s triumph in 2011 and means that whatever happens, the traditional season-ending finale will be run in the capital once more next year.

Grand Prix (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – Dec 18, 2016

1. Clean Up Joy (USA) [Purge – Greta’s Joy (Joyeaux Danseur)] – Ham Wan Sik – 5.5. 1.7
2. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.0
3. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] – Kim Yong Geun – 2.1
Distances: 1.25 lengths / 5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Goliath Marine (KOR) 5. Heba (USA) 6. CLean Up Cheonha (USA) 7. Success Story (KOR) 8. Dongbang Daero (USA) 9. Unbeatable (USA) 10. Speace Port (USA) 11. Gumpo Sky (KOR) 12. Halla Chukje (USA) 13. Cheonjeok (USA) 14. Winner Red (USA) 15. Muhudaeje (USA) 16. Beolmaui Kkum (USA)

Grand Prix Sunday Seoul & Busan: Race-By-Race Preview (December 18)

It’s The Grand Prix Stakes 2016. Full runner by runner guide to the big race is here. There are plenty of other races going on as well. English race cards are here. Notes on every overseas simulcast race are below:

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 / 1200M / Allowance / KRW 40 Million / 10:40

(10) GOLDEN STEP was a much improved 2nd on his second start and can make the breakthrough here under Djordje Perovic. Gate 10 isn’t idea though so many punters may look to (1) DEO MIREO BUCHEO, another one who has shown improvement across three prior starts. Among the others with experience, (8) GEOCHIN OREUM and (9) RAON ROCKY both have 3rd places to their name while of the two debut-makers, (5) HUNTER HAWK looks the best.

Selections: (10) Golden Step (1) Deo Mireo Bucheo (9) Raon Rocky (8) Geochin Oreum
Next Best: 5, 3
Rating: –
Fast Starters: 9, 10, 1, 8, 6
Start-200M: 9, 10, 1, 8, 6
200M-Finish: 2, 12, 10, 9, 8

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 / 1000M / Allowance / KRW 20 Million / 11:05

(10) DANBI comes in having been 4th in both her last two starts and despite the outside gate, really should be getting a career best finish here. She can win against underwhelming opposition. Main danger could come from the other side of the gate as (1) ENDLESS LOVE also finds herself in against weaker opposition than she’s used to and she too should be getting her best finish to date. (2) FIRE BALL has been one-paced but reliable so far and can find the money while other factors may be (5) UNAK HABIO and (9) LITTLE WING.

Selections: (10) Danbi (1) Endless Love (2) Fire Ball (5) Unak Habio
Next Best: 9, 6
Rating: –
Fast Starters: 2, 3, 5, 10
Start-200M: 10, 2, 3, 5, 8
200M-Finish: 4, 10, 2, 1, 5 (more…)

Voting Underway For Grand Prix Stakes 2016

Voting is underway for invitations to the 2016 Grand Prix Stakes which is set for Seoul Racecourse on Sunday December 18. Fifteen horses from Seoul and seventeen from Busan are on the ballot for the 2300M contest which will have a maximum field size of sixteen and could well be bereft of any previous winners of the traditional season-ending finale.

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Bold Kings beat Gumpo Sky and Clean Up Joy in a terrific Grand Prix last year. The winner is retired but the 2nd and 3rd are expected to line-up again (Pic: KRA)

The race is based on Japan’s season-ending Arima Kinen in which entry is also decided by a punters’ vote although admittedly, on a much smaller scale. Voting is open for registered users of the KRA’s homepage (www.kra.co.kr) and runs through until Monday November 28.

Horses expected to score highly in the vote from Seoul include KRA Cup Classic winner Clean Up Joy and Ttukseom Cup winner and Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup runner-up Bichui Jeongsang. From Busan, President’s Cup winner Triple Nine and Triple Crown winner Power Blade will of course score highly enough to receive invitations but there will be plenty of votes too for the likes of Beolmaui Kkum, Heba, Gumpo Sky, Diferent Dimension, Dongbang Daero and now, possibly after her Sunday win, Ms. Margaux. Here is the full list of horses on the ballot paper (2016 Stakes winners listed first):

Seoul

Miso Wangja (YTN Cup)
Bichui Jeongsang (Ttukseom Cup)
Clean Up Joy (KRA Cup Classic)
Touch Flying (Ilgan Sports Cup)
Winner Red
Space Port
Halla Chukje
Meni Music
Mighty Gem
Unbeatable
Theme Deunggeuk
Clean Up Cheonha
Cheonjeok
Muhudaeje
Heart Roy

Busan

Power Blade (KRA Cup Mile, Korean Derby, Minister’s Cup)
Gamdonguibada (Busan Ilbo Cup)
Triple Nine (Owners’ Cup, President’s Cup)
Beolmaui Kkum (Busan Mayor’s Cup)
Santa Gloria
Dynamic Dash
Mainstay
Success Story
Tohamsan
Miracle Line
Dongbang Daero
Diferent Dimension
Ms. Margaux
Heba
Gumpo Sky
Beolmaui Sin
Goliath Marine

If Gamdonguibada doesn’t make it in – and unless a lot of invitations are declined, there’s a strong chance she won’t – this will be the first Grand Prix in recent years not to feature a previous winner. Gamdonguibada won the race as a three-year-old all the way back in 2012 and is the only past champion still in training. 2013 winner Indie Band, 2014’s Gyeongbudaero and last year’s champion Bold Kings have all been retired.

In fact, the last time there were no previous winners in the starting line-up was 2003, when the race was won by Tempest West (Silent Tempest). Defending champion Bohamian Butler (Patton) was entered but was a late scratching on the day – he never ran again.