Heat Yegam

KRA Cup Mile 2021 Review

A little late but: It was billed as the hottest opening leg to a Korean Triple Crown ever but in the end Heat Yegam turned it into a procession with a scorching gate to wire win in the KRA Cup Mile (KOR G2) at Busan last Sunday afternoon.

The first race of the three-year-old Classic series had been delayed from its usual April spot by six months due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the racing industry. That delay led to what is usually green and unexposed field in the Cup Mile, reaching the starting line this time with in-excess of sixty previous race wins between them.

Heat Yegam was sent off as the betting favourite and from gate nine he got a beautiful start while some of the expected speedsters on his inside faltered and was quickly into an early and surprisingly easy lead. Big rival Winner’s Man was quickly on his shoulder but having come out of gate twelve was being made to work hard. Meanwhile Seoul’s big hope, Heungbaragi, was content to sit handy and wide with jockey Choi Bum-hyun having quickly abandoned any hopes of leading from gate fifteen.

By the top of the stretch, Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man held a four-length advantage over the rest of the field, but it was clear the latter was feeling the effects of the early pace. Heat Yegam though was fresh and while he drifted a little in the final furlong and a half, he cruised home two-lengths to the good. Heungbaragi – who having been wide for most of the race, ended up on the inside fence – ran a strong race in 2nd, while another Seoul raider, Chief Indy closed ominously for 3rd. Mr. Indie was 4th and Winner’s Man a brave 5th.

The win itself may have been soft but the performance was anything but. Heat Yegam completed the first six furlongs just one-tenth of a second outside the track record for that distance – no wonder Winner’s Man couldn’t cope any longer – and then ran on to record an overall time only a second shy of the track record for a mile, held by Blue Chipper.  It was his eighth win in nine starts.

For jockey You Hyun-myung, post-race feelings were a mixture of elation and relief. “Going on my experience with this horse so far, I had to expect him to win,” You told the Korea Racing Broadcasting Channel (KRBC) after the race. “There was always going to be a lot of pressure at the start, so I just wanted to get out of the gate in a straight line with no trouble. As it happened, we got away very well and, in the end, everything was much smoother and easier than I expected.” 

Next up will be the Korean Derby in Seoul on November 7th, as Heat Yegam seeks to emulate J.S. Hold and Power Blade in winning a Triple Crown. You Hyun-myung thinks the horse will be ready. “

Heat Yegam was bred by the Yeonhak Agricultural Corporation at the Yeonhak Farm on Jeju Island and was sold privately to owner Kim Joon-hyun for 150 Million Korean Won as a yearling in September 2019. Sired by Take Charge Indy, during that stallion’s brief sojourn in Korea before his American farm bought him back due to the unexpected success of his Stateside progeny, he is out of Desert Heat, a mare from the final crop by the legendary sire, Mr. Prospector.

How they ran:

1st  Heat Yegam – started favourite today  showed great speed to sit a tad wide but a fast comfortable rhythm, on the corner he applied some pressure to get a good break on the field and while he drifted out in the early part of the straight came back towards the finish. This was a sensational run and the fastest ever KRA Cup Mile run to date.

2nd Heungbaragi – He had a challenge from barrier 15 but showed  good speed to get forward however he was very wide most of the journey lost ground on the corner and then fought on strongly in the straight making up much ground. A stellar performance

3rd  Chief Indy – Settled wide and midfield then on the corner the jockey elected to go inside near the fence where he was balanced up and urged forward. It was at the 150m when he came into the picture and kept taking ground off the leaders. A great run and further distance will also suit him.

4th Mr. Indie – He was ridden hard early to get a more forward position settling on the fence midfield then slotted forward just behind Mach Titan. He stayed on the rails saving much ground, into the straight and he was a clear 4th he kept fighting in the straight to maintain 4th in a strong run.

5th Winner’s Man – Ridden hard early to be on the shoulder of Heat Yegam and was wide from a less favourable gate. Couldn’t maintain that pace after such a fast opening but plenty of merit in the way he ran on for 5th. He may be a different prospect in Seoul at the Korean Derby.

Three-Year-Olds Suffer Reverses / Hunch Continues To Impress

Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man came home as winner and runner-up in Busan’s top juvenile race last autumn but the two up and comers both came unstuck – and yet still emerged with credit – over the weekend. In the older division there were no such problems for Hunch as the four-year-old continued his stately progress towards the elite level of Korean racing with an easy win.

With In-person attendance severely restricted and online betting remaining stubbornly illegal, it remains to be seen if there will even be a Triple Crown series this year but both Heat Yegam went into their Saturday preps at Busan as odds-on favourites. Heat Yegam, went first, sticking to the 1200M at which he had won all his juvenile starts. Despite having led for much of the way round, the Take Charge Indy colt was passed as he drifted wide in the home straight, ultimately coming home 2nd to the four-year-old Great Boss.

Later on in the card Winner’s Man, 2nd to Heat Yegam last November but considered more of a Classic contender having already won at a mile, tackled two turns for the first time in the 1800M race 9 at class 3 level. From gate 12, the Musket Man colt had to work hard early to get on the pace. He came together with Golden Winner in the straight and ended up being pushed out slightly wide, finishing just under a length in arrears to the Djordje Perovic ridden winner.

Neither lost very much in defeat. For Heat Yegam it was a positive return after a three-month spell while for Winner’s Man, a better barrier may well have seen him victorious. The defeats though may have piqued the interest of connections of another three-year-old at Busan on Saturday who did actually win his race. That was Alpha Again (by Strike Again), who led from gate to wire over 1400M at class 4 level to take his record to three wins from six starts. It is probably enough to get him into the starting gate if and when the KRA Cup Mile kicks off the Triple Crown.

The star of the show at Busan on Friday was Hunch. Peter Wolsley’s American import made three undistinguished starts as a juvenile back in 2019 but after nine months off, he reappeared following the first shutdown last summer looking a much better prospect and has gone on to register five wins from six subsequent starts. The latest of those was in Friday’s class 2 Busan feature when under Perovic, outclassed a very useful set of rivals by five-lengths in the kind of time that would see him close in Group races.

With rating increases still being limited in line with the current reduced prize money, Hunch will get at least one more crack at class 2 before he has to dip his toe into class 1. By To Honor And Serve, more than one observer pointed out that his winning time on Friday was faster than that recorded by a somewhat more established Korean runner by the same sire in his own latest two wins – Cheongdam Dokki.  On Friday’s performance, Hunch may end up facing Korea’s favourite chestnut at some point this year.

Seoul’s fifteen-race card on Sunday was a somewhat low-key affair with the feature class 2 handicap being won by Top Brain (Uncle Mo). There were, however, doubles for foreign jockeys Johan Victoire and Antonio Da Silva while trainer Luigi Riccardi also recorded a welcome victory.

Next weekend’s racing in Korea will follow the same pattern with ten races slated for Busan on Saturday and fifteen at Seoul on Sunday.

Heungbaragi, Heat Yegam Claim Juvenile Wins / Racing To Continue Under Raised Distancing Levels

This year’s juvenile crop got a rare opportunity to run for a big prize at both Seoul and Busan on Sunday with the Jeju Governor’s Cup prize split into two heats and run as what would have been the second leg of the Juvenile Series, both of them over 1200M.

At Busan there were only eight runners but still plenty of intrigue as Winner’s Man and Heat Yegam put their 100% records on the line. While Winner’s Man was favourite, it was Heat Yegam, under You Hyun-myung, who prevailed, leading gate-to-wire for a four-length victory. Winner’s Man was 2nd with Good Socks a further nine-lengths in arrears in 3rd.

Heat Yegam [Take Charge Indy – Desert Heat (Mr. Prospector)] is from the first of what will ultimately be three Korean crops by Take Charge Indy. He’s the third foal from his dam to race in Korea – the other two have both won races but Heat Yegam looks significantly better than either of them.

Up at Seoul the equivalent race attracted a full field of fourteen, including the first five home in August’s Rookie Stakes. Choegangyeongcheon, who only debuted the day before the Rookie, was sent off slight favourite but reared in the gates prior to the start and while passed fit to run, was never a factor.

Instead it was Rookie winner Heungbaragi who made light work of the widest draw to hit the front early and run on for an eye-catching two-and-a-half length win. Super Champion came home in 2nd place with the filly Jedi in 3rd.

Heungbaragi [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] moves on to three wins from three starts. He is the first foal out of his dam, who did her racing in Korea. He could well be a career-defining horse for veteran jockey Lee Joon-chel.

With Busan having joined Seoul under “Level 2” social distancing rules, both tracks were devoid of spectators over the weekend. Only Jeju Racecourse and four provincial OTBs were able to accept a limited number of customers and accordingly, with the exception of the juvenile races, there was reduced stakes money all around (and horses will not be penalized by the handicapper for their successes or otherwise).

It was feared that the government may raise the level to 2 for the entire country on Sunday afternoon but instead they settled on maintaining the Seoul and Busan levels while raising the rest of the country to 1.5. This means that weekend racing can continue but there will be changes.

Only Jeju will race on Friday while Seoul and Busan will both race – with truncated cards – on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Seoul will conduct its card first with Busan immediately following while this will be done in reverse on Sunday. Races will continue to be run for reduced Stake money. The only places which will be open for spectators and betting are the Jeju Racecourse and the Daegu and Daejeon Off-Course Betting centres. Attendance at all three will be limited to 20% of capacity.