Great King

Korea’s 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival Challenge Kicks Off Thursday At Meydan

For the fourth time in five years, Korea will be represented at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Four horses have travelled to the UAE and Great King will be the first to run as he takes his chance at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday’s opening night.

Great King

Great King, seen here at the 2018 Grand Prix Stakes, will make his Dubai Carnival debut on Thursday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Blue Chipper heads the Korea-trained contingent, however, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile 3rd place-getter did not travel so well and is currently behind in his preparation. That leaves Great King, Today and Baengmunbaekdap as likely January runners with Blue Chipper now targeted at a February start to his campaign.

Great King, trained by Thomas Gillespie, will line up on turf for the first time as he tackles the Dubai Racing Club Classic Sponsored by Emirates NBD Wholesale Banking Listed Handicap over 2410M. The race is the last on the card, going to post at 9.25pm local time (2.25am Korea time).

A winner of nine of thirty-four career starts, Great King is an American-bred entire by Majestic Warrior. The six-year-old was in good form in the autumn of 2019, winning consecutive class 1 handicaps over 2000M and 2200M at Busan in September and October. He then rounded out his season with a slightly disappointing 7th of 10 in the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in early December before heading straight into pre-export quarantine.

On paper, it looks a very stiff ask for Great King, who not only will be racing on turf for the first time but will also be stretching out to an unfamiliar distance with 2300M the maximum race length in Korea. Not only that but amongh his eleven rivals are several ominous lookng Godolphin contenders such as Lucius Tiberius, Mountain Hunter and Zaman while William Haggas’ Pablo Escobarr also looks a formidable foe.

Great King will though be carrying a lighter weight than he has for a full eighteen months and in Sam Hitchcott, has a jockey with a lot of experience over the Meydan track. Great King is an unpredictable horse at the best of times, capable of following a very strong run with a very flat one – and vice versa. Three years ago eyebrows were raised when Korea-trained Diferent Dimension was entered on the turf in a strong Carnival Handicap. He finished 3rd.

New Citadel Beaten On Return / Great King Rules At Busan

New Citadel was sent off as odds-on favourite on his return after six months out with a leg injury, but even though expected main rival Shamrocker was a late scratching, the four-year-old could only manage 3rd as Special Runner ran out the winner of Sunday’s Class 1 feature race at Seoul. The winner was ridden by Johan Victoire, completing a treble on the day for the French jockey.

An American import by With Distinction, New Citadel had won six of eleven prior starts in an injury-disrupted career and got closest to superstar Cheongdam Dokki in the KRA Cup Classic last autumn. His latest setback had seen him out since January, but punters believed he would have little difficulty seeing off a small field over 1800M. He was scarcely a factor though as Special Runner saw off the challenge of Wonder Bolt by half a length with New Citadel a further four-lengths adrift.

It was Special Runner’s first try at class 1 and seventh victory in total. For jockey Johan Victoire, it was a third winner on Sunday having earlier partnered Jungle Beat to victory in race 3 for Australian trainer Simon Foster and also guided filly Ecton Sinhwa to an easy win in race 8.

Victoire wasn’t the only foreign jockey to enjoy a successful weekend with Brazilian pair Antonio Da Silva and Manoel Nunes both among the winners at Seoul while Fergus Sweeney continued his impressive strike-rate at Busan. It wasn’t just foreign riders in the winner’s circle either as Irish trainer Thomas Gillespie’s Great King won Busan’s class 1 Sunday feature. The four-year-old Majestic Warrior colt was sent off as 5/1 chance for the 2000M “Road to Group 1” race and struck the front a furlong out to go on to score by a length and a half from Stealth and favourite Captain Force. It was Great King’s sixth career win and 25th of the year for Gillespie who lies joint 3rd in the Busan Trainers’ Premiership.

While New Citadel was unable to return to form at Seoul, on Friday at Busan there was a successful comeback. Ice Marine won last year’s Oaks trial at Busan and was sent off as favourite for the fillies’ Classic. She only finished 7th of 16 that day, returned lame and didn’t race again for almost an entire year. Having made a nondescript comeback on June 8th, she was rated no better than a 16/1 chance for Friday’s competitive Class 2 feature but, under jockey Song Keong Yun she flashed home late on the outside to pip Taeyangui Sinhwa by a neck on the line. If she can maintain that form, Ice Marine may be an interesting addition to the older filly and mare ranks, a division that isn’t especially strong.

 

This coming weekend, attention turns to the current crop of three-year-old fillies with this year’s Korean Oaks being run at Busan on Sunday.