Heunbaragi

Winner’s Man Denies Heat Yegam By Nose In See-Saw Korean Derby

In the end it didn’t disappoint as what was billed in advance as potentially the greatest Korean Derby so far, went down to the very last stride at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon when Winner’s Man denied Heat Yegam a shot at completing the Triple Crown, by the narrowest of possible margins.

On a weekend when racing fans were allowed into Seoul Racecourse for the first time in over a year Heat Yegam, the runaway winner of the KRA Cup Mile at Busan a month ago, was sent off as a slightly better than even-money favourite for the second jewel in the Crown, the Korean Derby (KOR G1).

Winner’s Man began as second-favourite but was slowly out of the gate for the 1800M Classic as Heat Yegam bounded into an early lead with a perennially keen – and badly drawn – Heungbaragi bounding across to join him. So began a topsy-turvy race which saw Heat Yegam and jockey You Hyun-myung a constant on the front but there was a constant shifting of fortunes behind.

Winner’s Man was ridden up towards the pace before fading and then finding a second wind, while Heungbaragi similarly fell away on the turn for home only to reappear in contention once more. With a furlong to run there were still six in it with Heat Yegam finally collared by Heungbaragi, with Mr. Indie not far behind on the rail and Winner’s Man, Chief Indy and outsider Choegang Game in the centre.

Just as it looked like Heat Yegam was beaten, he rallied and even retook the lead with just 50M to go as Heungbaragi faltered. But all the time Winner’s Man was closing and in the very final strides, Choi Si Dae got one last burst out of his charge to sweep past. It went to a photo-finish but there was no doubt; Winner’s Man had got it on the line.

Heungbaragi, just as in the KRA Cup Mile, was the big loser from the barrier draw but put in a big run to finish 3rd. Choegang Game was a revelation in 4th while Mr. Indie did nothing wrong in 5th.

For Winner’s Man [Musket Man – Winner’s Marine (Volponi)] it was an eighth win on his twelfth career start. Jockey Choi Si-dae, who picked up a substantial fine for his use of the whip in the closing stages, won his second Derby having partnered Yeongcheon Ace to victory in 2015. Trainer Choi Ki-hong, who has been licensed since 2004, won his first Group race of any description.

The brave Heat Yegam lost little in defeat on a dry and heavy track and will surely be back to fight another day. Whether that is in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup over 2000M back at Seoul on December 12th, remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though is that this year’s Classic crop certainly measures up. Winner’s Man won today, but the quest for ultimate supremacy in the three-year-old ranks goes on.

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.