Champ Line and Gumanseok both made the most of light weights to win the respective class 1 features at Busan and Seoul on Sunday afternoon and put early points on the board in the new Championship Series.
Champ Line (Curlin) was sent off as the odds-on favourite for Busan’s 1800M feature. Always prominent under Seo Seung Un and carrying 6.5kg less than stablemate and 2nd-favourite Dynamic Dash, he comfortably saw off the challenge of Emeth (Rothesay) when the two went clear in the home straight, running on to win by an eased down two lengths. It was an 8th win in 17 starts for the Thomas Gillespie trained 5-year-old and his second at class 1.
At Seoul, the conditions were the same for the feature race with Sambong and Bichui Jeongsang being sent off as the top two in the market. The latter barely featured under the 58kg top weight but Sambong was one of six horses who got close to the eventual winner in what was a thrilling finish.
That winner would be the 8-year-old Gumanseok (Vicar), making his 51st start and carrying just 51kg with apprentice Ha Jung Hun on board. Just over a length separated the first seven home but three quarters of that was Gumanseok’s winning margin as once he got on top with half a furlong remaining, never looked like being beaten.
It was a 12th career victory for Gumanseok who won a pair of Listed races back in 2013 and has been a consistently reliable performer ever since. Today he took his earnings just shy of 1 Billion Won. It also put him on top, along with Champ Line of the “Championship Series”.
The Championship Series is a new feature of the racing calendar in 2017. The idea is that a number of races throughout the year are to be designated as “Championship Series” races. Points will be awarded for finishing in 1st, 2nd or 3rd places in those races. A league table will be maintained and those horses with the highest points will qualify to run in the two big end-of-season races, the President’s Cup (Korean bred only) and the Grand Prix Stakes. This qualification process will replace the “Arima Kinen” style public vote which has been in recent years to decide on the participants for the Grand Prix as the declining numbers of actual voters (barely a thousand in 2016), has made the voting somewhat less than fit for purpose and risks deserving horses missing out.
Whether Champ Line or Gumanseok will end the year deserving or not remains to be seen but it should maintain the interest over the coming months.
*In other news, all four high profile jockeys who have relocated tracks for 2017 found themselves in the winners’ circle. At Busan, Jo Sung Gon quickly picked up where he left off riding for Peter Wolsley as the pair combined for two winners on Friday while Jo In Kwen was successful on a rank outsider in the penultimate race on the same day. Grand Prix Stakes winning jockey Ham Wan Sik broke his Busan duck on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only jockey to go the other way was Kim Yong Geun and the Triple Crown winning jockey rode a double in Seoul on Saturday.
Racing returns to Korea next Friday at Busan. Before that though, attention switches to Dubai where Power Blade and Diferent Dimension could well line up against each other over a mile in Thursday’s Carnival meeting at Meydan.