“Championship Series” Kicks Off With Wins For Champ Line & Gumanseok

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.

Round-Up: Another Class 1 Win For Pinna / Success Story Entered at Meydan

Nicola Pinna may not be racking up huge numbers of rides or winners but he is certainly getting the job done on the right horses The Italian jockey ride his third Class 1 winner on Sunday as he guided 17/1 chance Gumanseok to a narrow victory in Seoul’s feature race.

In addition to a pair of class 1 victories on Bichui Jeongsang, Pinna had also won a major Juvenile race on OS Hwadap. Gumanseok (Vicar) had shot back into form with a surprise win under Djordje Perovic a month ago and carrying plenty more weight today, punters once again allowed him to go off reasonably unfancied.

Under a strong ride from Pinna, however, Gumanseok got the best of a tight finish, seeing off Double Shining by a neck on the line. It was Gumaseok’s 1th win of a 41-race career that included success in the Sports Chosun Cup back in 2013. It took Pinna on to 6 wins in career.

At Busan, 2015 Korean Derby winner Yeongcheon Ace was denied once more in Friday’s feature. Sent off the odds-on favourite, the four-year-old just couldn’t get up as outsider Useung Chance, took her chance fully under Makoto Okabe to record an unlikely victory. It’s now been five races since the Derby without a win for Yeongcheon Ace.

Sunday’s feature on the south coast saw a return to the track following five months out for Macheon Bolt (Old Fashioned). And the Peter Wolsley trainee returned in style, cruising through the rain to score a five-length win over a mile. It was the four-year-old’s seventh win from ten starts.

Racing returns to Korea on Friday but before that, attention turns to Meydan in Dubai where, should he get into the race, Success Story is set to make his Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday. He has been entered in the 1600M race 1 on the dirt.

Cheongu made his debut on January 8th over 1200M and did ok, finishing 5th  of 8, despite getting a bad start and losing a plate. Racing over a mile, it will be more difficult for Success Story, but if he is right, he can be competitive. As for Cheongu, he may go again next week.

Indie Band Takes DoMin Ilbo As Speedy First Goes Solo

Indie Band landed a commanding victory in the Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Stakes at Busan today but the story of the race was in the opening few seconds as Korean Derby winner and hot favourite Speedy First unseated her rider Joe Fujii after being interfered with.

Speedy First (Menifee) broke quickly but after only 100 metres, was cut off by Daejiuibit on his outside, on whom jockey Jo Chan Hoon had momentarily lost control. With nowhere to go, Fujii ended up on the track.

This left the way clear for Indie Band (Ecton Park), stablemate of Speedy First, to ease to a 4-length win from Major King (Pico Central).

It was a 5th win from 8 starts for the promising 3-year old colt Indie Band who has to now be in contention for big prizes this autumn, principally the Minister’s Cup when he should come up against Speedy First again. For jockey Lim Sung Sil, it was a 2nd big race win in as many months after taking victory in the KNN Cup on Yongduseong a few weeks ago.

As for Speedy First, she reportedly suffered no ill-effects from her unsupervised gallop around Gimhae and remains on course for the Korean Oaks next month.

Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Stakes – Busan Race Park – 1800M – July 7, 2013

1. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park – Plie (Dixieland Band)] – Lim Sung Sil – 5.4, 1.6
2. Major King (KOR) [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] – You Hyun Myung – 1.5
3. High Five (KOR) [Creek Cat – Nam’s Gulch (Gulch)] – Choi SI Dae – 3.1

Distances: 4 lengths/2.5 lengths – 10 ran

Also suffering no ill-effects was her jockey. Joe Fujii cleaned off the sand and 45 minutes later got on board another star of the Kim Young Kwan training-machine Tamna Hwangje to win the class 1 finale over a mile with ease. Tamna Hwangje (Montbrook) was recording his 11th win from 22 starts and despite carrying 62kg is looking unbeatable at anything up to a mile.

Up at Seoul it was a relatively low-key day of racing. The feature race was won by Gumanseok (Vicar), who despite only being sent off at 8/1, followed up his success in last month’s Sports Chosun Cup with a solid class 1 win over 1800 metres.

Outsider Gumanseok Wins Sports Chosun Cup as Feel So Good Flops Again

40/1 chance Gumanseok just held on to win the Sports Chosun Cup ahead of a fast finishing Royal Galloper at Seoul Race Park today, while hot-favourite Feel So Good once again finished nowhere in a big race.

Gumanseok and Lee Dong Kug after winning the Sports Chosun Cup

Gumanseok and Lee Dong Kug after winning the Sports Chosun Cup

After winning a race in the USA, Feel So Good (Ft.Stockton) won his first three tests in his home country before coming up very short behind Jigeum I Sungan in the Owners’ Trophy in April.

Having dropped down a level for the Sports Chosun, punters showed enough faith in him to back him into only slightly better than even-money. That faith was not rewarded.

While Feel So Good showed towards the front for much of the race, once they hit 300 metres to run, just as in the Owners’ Trophy, he stalled. Instead Gumanseok (Vicar) burst through the pack and took the lead under jockey Lee Dong Kug. While Royal Galloper (Commendable) and Park Tae Jong closed very quickly in the final furlong, the line arrived just in time and Gumanseok hung on by a neck.

Gumanseok just hokds on as Royal Galloper closes fast

Gumanseok just holds on as Royal Galloper closes fast

Gumanseok’s stablemate 120/1 outsider Appealing Jeil (Exploit), ridden by Yukio Abe, scored an even more surprising 3rd place finish.

Now 4-years-old, Gumanseok competed in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown last October. Finishing last, he managed to get himself gelded prior to the start of this season. The victory is his 5th in 13 starts and will see him move up to the elite level next time out. As for Feel So Good, it’s now questionable whether he’ll make the elite level at all.

For jockey Lee Dong Kug, it was a first visit to the Stakes winner’s circle since 2008. For trainer Lim Bong Chun and owner Ku Ja Sun it was a more familiar experience. Lim won the KOrean Derby with Gwangyajeil in 2011 while Ku owned the great double Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja.

Speaking of the “elite”, the horse currently at the top of the tree, Tough Win (Yonaguska) was in action in the very last race of the day at Seoul. “Action” is perhaps a strong word as the 6-year-old breezed to 7-length win in a mismatch.

Down at Busan, it was a good day for the foreign jockeys. Joe Fujii won one race but there also was a very welcome double for Darryll Holland. The British jockey landed race 2 on Runnin’ John (Put It Back) and quickly followed up in race 3 on Stand High (Forest Camp). Both were top quality rides and took Holland’s Korean win tally to 8.

Sports Chosun Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – June 2, 2013

1. Gumanseok (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Champion (Didyme)] – Lee Dong Kug – 42.1, 8.7
2. Royal Galloper (KOR) [Commendable – Explicitly (Exploit)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.7
3. Appealing Jeil (KOR) [Exploit – Appealing Satin (Valid Appeal) – Yukio Abe – 17.1

Distances: Neck/5 lengths – 14 ran