Internationalization

Five Overseas-Trained Horses Here For Asia Challenge Cup

Defending champion El Padrino is at Seoul Racecourse in preparation for this Sunday’s Asia Challenge Cup, the highlight of the International Racing Festival weekend.

Three Singapore-trained horses arrived at Incheon Airport last Friday (Pic: KRA)

Three Singapore-trained horses arrived at Incheon Airport last Friday (Pic: KRA)

El Padrino arrived in Korea last Friday afternoon accompanied by stablemate Happy Money and a third Singapore-trained entrant, Valevole; the latter two replacing originally nominated horses who have been pointed elsewhere. The Japanese pair of Kogyo Douglas and Taisei Legend arrived at the racecourse late last Wednesday.

Oscar Chavez will ride El Padrino this year with Danny Beasley partnering Happy Money and Barend Vorster taking the mount of Valevole. Veteran NAR rider Fumio Matoba, who won this race’s predecessor, the Korea-Japan Goodwill Cup on Tosen Archer in 2013, is back and will ride Taisei Legend while Takehiro Kashigawa will be on board Kogyo Douglas.

A total of twelve remain in the Asia Challenge Cup, which this year will be run over 1200M, ahead of Thursday’s final declarations and barrier draw:

SBS Asia Challenge Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – August 30, 2015

El Padrino (NZ) [Mr. Nacho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] – Singapore
Cheon Gu (USA) [Old Fashioned – So Much Fun (Speightstown)] – Seoul
Choegang Schiller (USA) [Artie Schiller – Changeable (Miswaki)] – Seoul
Gabo Myeongun (USA) [Sharp Humor – Tingwithasting (Wild Rush)] – Busan
Super Gangja (USA) [Simon Pure – Honey Fritters (Helmsman)] – Busan
Oreuse (USA) [Smoke Glacken – Heavenly Splendor (Point Given)] – Busan
Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – Seoul
Geumbit Hwanhui (KOR) [Peace Rules – Sincheongchun (Silent Warrior)] – Seoul
Happy Money (AUS) [Econsul – Gem Of Gems (Peintre Celebre)] – Singapore
Taisei Legend (JPN) [King Kamehameha – Sharp Kick (Mejiro McQueen)] – Japan
Kogyo Douglas (JPN) [Amore Rose – Sterling Pegasus (Mejiro Ryan)] – Japan
Valevole (BRZ) [Our Emblem – Garland Queen (Ghadeer)] – Singapore

The weekend also sees the Asian Young Guns Jockey Challenge as well as trophy exchange races with the Singapore Turf Club, Selangor Turf Club, Turkey Jockey Club and Horse Racing Ireland.

In addition to the Asia Challenge Cup, the Korean Group 2 KRA Cup Classic will also take place on Sunday.

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Singapore’s El Padrino On For Korea Return In Asia Challenge Cup

El Padrino is set to return to Korea to defend the Asia Challenge Cup at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday August 30.

El Padrino wins the 2014 Asia Challenge Cup  (Pic: Elan959)

El Padrino wins the 2014 Asia Challenge Cup (Pic: Elan959)

The 7-year-old will face a stern test in this year’s event which will be run over the shorter distance of 1200M. Scheduled to accompany him from Singapore is Daniel, who comes into the race off the back of consecutive victories, along with Huka Falls, another very solid runner.

Two are expected from Japan. Taisei Legend and Kogyo Douglas, the latter of which has run in both editions of the Interaction Cup against Korean opposition at Ohi in 2013 and 2014.

As for the home team, Wonder Bolt and New York Blue, 2nd and 3rd respectively in last year’s race, are set to go again as is Watts Village, winner of the Interaction Cup at Ohi in 2013. Oreuse, on his day Korea’s best sprinter, is also among the nomnations while Cheon Gu, who has just returned from Singapore is likely to be there too.

Singapore
El Padrino (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] 7 G (36/10/5/4)
Daniel (NZ) [Guillotine – Tina (Danasinga)] 5 G (18/7/5/1)
Huka Falls (NZ) [Align – Diamond Lady (Senor Pete)] 6 G (37/14/2/6)

Japan
Taisei Legend (JPN) [King Kamehameha – Sharp Kick (Mejiro McQueen)] 8 H (39/9/5/2)
Kogyo Douglas (JPN) [Sterling Rose – Amore Pegasus (Mejiro Ryan)] 8 H (37/13/6/2)

Korea
Yeongung Champ (USA) [More Than Ready – Word Of Mouth (Saint Ballado)] 3 C (7/4/1/0)
New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] 4 F (19/6/8/1)
Super Gangja (USA) [Sharp Humor – Honey Fritters (Helmsman)] 5 H (24/4/8/1)
Oreuse (USA) [Smoke Glacken – Heavenly Splendor (Point Given)] 6 H (28/12/4/3)
Gabo Myeongun (USA) [Sharp Humor – Tingwithasting (Wild Rush)] 3 C (8/4/2/1)
Watts Village (USA)[Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] 5 H (19/8/5/2)
Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 5 G (23/6/9/1)
Choegang Schiller (USA)[Artie Schiller – Changeable (Miswaki)] 4 G (12/6/2/1)
Geumbit Hwanhui (KOR) [Peace Rules – Sincheonchun (Silent Warrior)] 4 F (16/5/3/2
Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] 4 F (14/5/4/2)
Cheon Gu (USA) [Old Fashioned – So Much Fun (Speightstown)] 3 C (6/4/1/1)

The Asia Challenge Cup is the showpiece even of this year’s international weekend at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August, which will also involve Trophy Exchange races with the Singapore Turf Club, Selangor Turf Club, Turkey Jockey Club and Horse Racing Ireland as well as the Asia Young Guns Jockey Challenge and the KRA Cup Classic.

Korean Horses Return Home From Singapore

Three Korean horses who ran in the KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore on Sunday touched back down at Incheon Airport this afternoon.

The race was broadcast live in Korea

The race was broadcast live in Korea

The two Busan horses; Gamdonguibada and Nobody Catch Me, will stop off at the quarantine centre at Jangsu Stud & Training Farm in Jeolla Province, while Seoul-based Cheon Gu has gone straight back to the Seoul Racecourse which has its own quarantine facilities.

As for the race – the S$250,000 KRA Trophy – the horses did ok. Nobody Catch Me was 6th, Cheon Gu 9th and Gamdonguibada 11th in the twelve-strong event with the pack finishing together.

There had been some mildly silly talk in the local racing media here – not exactly discouraged by trainer Kim Young Kwan – about the possibility of one of the Korean horses actually winning the race. However, those of us who were hopeful of a decent performance, but still had nagging fears that they may be left behind in a race that was restricted to Singapore-trained horses with a rating of 90 or lower, were re-assured.

As it was, Cheon Gu led out of the gate and into the home-straight before tiring and being passed. Gamdonguibada, a little predictably for a miler dropping down to six furlongs, took a while to get going and never really fired. However, the pleasant surprise was Nobody Catch Me. Few had given him much chance of beating anything but he finished strongly on the outside to get up to 6th place, just over four lengths behind the winner.

That winner was the modestly-named Super Winner (Kaphero). Super Winner’s jockey, Soo Khoon Beng (more often known as KB Soo) has plenty of history with Korea having had a short stint at Busan in 2008 before returning and winning the Seoul International Jockey Challenge in 2012. Manoel Nunes, who also particiapted in that 2012 event, rode My Lucky Strike (Charge Forward), to 2nd place.

The race was beamed back live to racecourses and OTBs in Korea, the first time for an overseas race. While no betting markets were offered, a good number of the 40,000 crowd at Seoul Racecourse seemed to take an interest. It is to be hoped that those punters will start pushing for an opportunity to watch more overseas racing and for the necessary change in the law to allow legal betting on it. One or two races from places such as Singapore would be an ideal addition to either a Friday card at Busan or a Sunday mixed card.

There are many hurdles still to clear before that can become a reality but getting last Sunday’s race onto Korean screens means the first of those has been successfully navigated. The more exposure there is to high quality overseas racing, the better it will be for development here.

In some ways the result was a good one in that the horses did well enough to mean there is no reason to feel discouraged or embarrassed. And equally, they didn’t do well enough for anybody here to think the job is anywhere near done and there is no need to improve.

The next big event is just a little over a month away in the shape of the Asia Challenge Cup, for which the first nomination stage is this Friday. Nominations are expected from Singapore and Japan while a quarantine protocol has just been concluded in time with the UAE, however, it may be a little too late to get horses racing under that flag this time. The ACC is an invitational race but the KRA Cup Classic, held the same day, is also open to overseas runners this year.

Gamdonguibada, Nobody Catch Me and Cheon Gu Set To Represent Korea In Singapore

Three Korean-trained horses have been nominated to run in the Korea Racing Authority Cup at Kranji Racecourse in Singapore on Sunday July 26.

Gamdonguibada

Gamdonguibada

In what is set to be a quite historic occasion, the race will mark not only the first time Korean horses have run in Singapore but also the first time that an overseas race will be beamed back live to racecourses in Korea.

The KRA Trophy will be run over 1200M on the Kranji Polytrack with a prize fund of S$250,000. Crucially, only Singapore horses with an MRA rating no higher than 90 are eligible and this could make for an interesting race.

Busan’s top trainer Kim Young Kwan will send two horses. The best known is his 2013 Grand Prix Stakes winner and 2014 Queens’ Tour champion mare Gamdonguibada. The other is the 2014 Busan Metropolitan City Mayor’s Cup winner Nobody Catch Me. From Seoul, trainer Seo In Seok sends his up and coming colt Cheon Gu.

Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin – Radyla (Country Pine)] 6yo mare (28/13/4/6/1/1) – She won the Grand Prix Stakes in 2013 and has gone on to become one of the most successful fillies or mares ever to race in Korea. In addition to the Grand Prix, she has won the the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup twice, the KNN Cup and the Ttukseom Cup on the way to earning more than KRW 2 Billion in prize money. After completing a clean sweep of the Queens’ Tour races in 2014, she was expected to retire but returned as a 6-year-old and won her most recent race on May 17. She hasn’t run at such short a distance as 1200M since she was a 2-year-old in 2011. Lim Sung Sil is expected to ride her at Kranji.

Nobody Catch Me (USA) [With Distinction – Nana’s Babe (Allen’s Prospect)] 5yo gelding (20/6/4/2/0/0) – The wildcard. He was the winner of the Busan Mayor’s Cup last year at odds of over 50/1 and added one win after that but was a disappointment – and eventual disqualification – from the Grand Prix Stakes last year. He’s only run twice in 2015 and has struggled. However, he may well appreciate running at a sprint distance once more.

Nobody Catch Me won the 2014 Busan Metropolitan (Newsis)

Nobody Catch Me won the 2014 Busan Metropolitan (Newsis)

Cheon Gu (USA) [Old Fashioned – So Much Fun (Speightstown)] 3yo colt (6/4/1/1/0/0) – The only one of the three to be based at Seoul Racecourse and the only one who still looks yet to reach his full potential, Cheon Gu has won four of his six starts to date. He was beaten in his only Stakes race when second in the Herald Business Cup over 1400M in May but returned to the winner’s circle in a class 2 race at the same distance last week and is considered one of the brightest imported prospects at Seoul. Yoo Seung Wan is expected to ride him in Singapore.

Cheon Gu will carry 54.5kg, Nobody Catch Me 57.5kg and Gamdonguibada 56kg. While the Korean horses had to be nominated by Monday this week, Singapore based horses have until July 15 to enter the race.

The KRA Trophy will come under orders at 17:15 Singapore time and will be shown live at Seoul and Busan Racecourses during the normal raceday broadcast. No betting markets will be offered in Korea – the law needs to change before that can happen – nevertheless, having permission granted for it is a big step in the right direction. The Singapore Turf Club has been a great friend of Korean racing in recent years and it is fitting that Kranji hosts the first race to be beamed back.

The Singapore Turf Club has been a big supporter of the internationalization of Korean racing

The Singapore Turf Club has been a big supporter of the internationalization of Korean racing

The history of Korean-trained horses racing abroad is extremely brief. Watts Village pulled off a remarkable victory in the Interaction Cup in Japan in 2013 but the following year, the three Korean horses who went fared less well. Meanwhile, Singapore trained El Padrino came to Seoul last August and broke the track record for 1400M in the process of winning the Asia Challenge Cup.

While it remains to be seen what kind of line-up Singapore puts out, the horses nominated from Korea have every chance of acquitting themselves well. Whatever happens, it will be an important milestone in the internationalization of Korean racing.

Japan’s Esmeraldina Just Too Good In Ttukseom Cup

Esmeraldina was dominant in winning the 27th Ttukseom Cup for Japan at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon. Under jockey Joe Fujii, the 4-year-old swept to a 3-length in the first leg of the 2015 Queens’ Tour.

Esmeraldina and Joe Fujii return to scale

Esmeraldina and Joe Fujii return to scale

Korean punters sent the sole Japanese raider off as the odds-on favourite. She was the quickest out of the gate to such an extent that it drew admiring gasps from the huge crowd but it would be Fly Top Queen who would quickly come across to take things up.

In the end, this set things up perfectly for Esmeraldina who when Fly Top Queen inevitably faded in the home straight, was left with a clear run for home. A burst of acceleration gave her an unassailable lead by the time they hit the furlong pole and while New York Blue valiantly tried to chase her down, she won by three lengths on the line, pulling ever further clear.

The winning time was just one tenth of a second outside El Padrino’s track record in the Asia Challenge Cup. New York Blue was 3rd that day last August, today once more chasing a visitor, she showed her sprinting class by running 2nd. Bichui Jeongsang got the best of a tight finish for 3rd.

The 27th Ttukseom Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – June 7, 2014

1. Esmeraldina (USA) [Harlan’s Holiday – Tasha’s Star (Spanish Steps)] – Kanichiro Fujii – 1.4, 1.1
2. New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] – You Hyun Myung – 2.4
3. Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 2.0
Distances: 3 lengths/5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. My Day (KOR) 5. Heba (USA) 6. Ms. Margaux (USA) 7. Halla Chukje (USA) 8. Cheonnyeon Dongan (KOR) 9. Fly Top Queen (USA) 10. Ua Deungseon (KOR) 11. Golden Lass (KOR) 12. Joy Lucky (KOR)

Esmeraldina is owned by Ms. Kazumi Yoshida, who also owned Testa Matta, who now stands at Nokwon Farm on Jeju Island. She is trained by Makoto Saito out of the Miho Training Centre.

For jockey Joe Fujii, a man who has won the Grand Prix Stakes, the Korean Derby, the Korean Oaks and the Jeju Governor’s Cup this victory today – riding a horse for a Japanese owner and Japanese trainer in Seoul – may well be one of the most significant of his career to date. After the race, he played down his role, putting all the credit on the horse. He still had to do the job though.

Fujii will leave Korea at the end of June to return to Japan and hopefully this win today will go someway to burnishing his reputation in his home country – a place he has never ridden professionally before. Fujii will ride initially in the NAR and will take the JRA exam to try to enter Japan’s elite racing circuit. He has been a true ambassador and has bounced back from both injury and accidental controversy in fine style. Today was a fitting reward.

Esmeraldina and smartly dressed travelling head lad in the winner's circle

Esmeraldina and smartly dressed travelling head lad in the winner’s circle

It was an important day. The Ttukseom Cup race was an international open race, not an invitational meaning that Esmeraldina’s connections paid their way here. There were no gala dinners (although by all accounts, the bars and restaurants of Anyang have been on high alert the past few days) and they didn’t come for the fresh air. They came for business and they came for sport. Their courage paid off.

Where does this leave Korea? Our sprinters are supposed to be our strong point and although there were no stars in the line-up today, being outclassed by a talented but by no means superstar Japanese horse is less a wake-up call than a cacophony of alarm bells.

The next big international weekend in Korea is the final weekend of August. Seoul Racecourse will host the Asia Young Guns Apprentice Jockey Challenge, the Asia Challenge Cup, which will remain an invitational race, plus two more Open races, the KRA Cup Classic and the Singapore Turf Club Trophy. Before that, Korean horses are expected at Kranji in Singapore for the Korea Cup on July 26.

Ttukseom Cup D-5: Japan’s Esmeraldina Heads 13 Left In

There are thirteen left in this coming Sunday’s Ttukseom Cup at Seoul Racecourse, the track’s first International Open race. They are headed by Japan-based Esmeraldina, who arrived in Korea last week.

Esmeraldina

Esmeraldina

Esmeraldina’s connections have shrewdly opted to give the ride to Busan-based Japanese jockey Joe Fujii, a man who has won three big Stakes races in the Korean capital before; the Grand Prix Stakes, the Korean Derby and the Jeju Governor’s Cup. The four-year-old Esmeraldina has reportedly settled into Seoul Racecourse very well.

The other Japan-based filly initially entered to run, Robe De Soie, was unable to make the trip after suffering a bleeding attack.

Four are set to travel up from Busan with Heba and New York Blue among them with the rest coming from the home track.

We will have a full preview after final declarations later in the week but in the meantime, here is a run-down of those left in with pedigree (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) and home track:

Ttukseom Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M (Fillies & Mares 5yo and down) – June 7, 2015

Cheonnyeon Dongan (KOR) [Ecton Park – Honeycakes (Hennessy)] (22/10/5/3) Seoul
Ua Deungseon (KOR) [Menifee – Singgeureoun (Mr. Adorable)] (13/6/0/1) Seoul
Geumbit Hwanhui (KOR) [Peace Rules – Sincheongchun (Silent Warrior)] (16/5/3/2) Seoul
Joy Lucky (KOR) [Vicar – Proper Gun (Prosper Fager)] (16/10/1/0) Seoul
Esmeraldina (USA) [Harlan’s Holiday – Tasha’s Star (Spanish Steps)] Japan
My Day (KOR) [Touch Gold – Smart Advice (Smart Strike)] (30/11/7/4) Seoul
Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] (12/5/4/0) Seoul
Heba (USA) [Peace Rules – Sue’s Temper (Temperence Hill)] (30/7/5/1) Busan
Halla Chukje (USA) [Gottcha Gold – C D Player (Montbrook)] (19/3/4/1) Seoul
Golden Lass (KOR) [Ecton Park – Golden Eagle (Big Sur)] (12/4/2/3) Busan
Fly Top Queen (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] (15/7/1/1) Seoul
New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] (17/5/7/1) Busan
Ms. Margaux (USA) [Midnight Lute – Sixtyone Margaux (Cozzene)] (17/1/7/7) Busan

The JRA is Coming! Ttukseom Cup Attracts Two Raiders From Japan’s Premier Racing Circuit

Primary nominations were made this Friday for June’s Ttukseom Cup and the stand-out names among the 22 early entries are two Japanese-trained horses. If they run, they will be the first horses from the Japan Racing Association to run in Korea and also become the first overseas-trained horses to run in a regular Korean Open Stakes race.

Esmeraldina

Esmeraldina

Four Korean Stakes races have this year been designated as open to overseas-trained runners this year and it’s the two from Japan who have stepped up to take on the challenge.

The Ttukseom Cup, which will take place on Sunday June 7, is a 1400M race open to fillies and mares and is the first leg of the “Queens’ Tour”. US-bred Esmeraldina and Japan-bred Robe de Soie are both experienced runners in the JRA.

Esmeraldina [Harlan’s Holiday – Tasha’s Star (Spanish Steps)] is a four-year-old who has won three of her eight races to date. She won her only start as a 2-year-old at Tokyo Racecourse in November of 2013 before starting 2014 successfully with a victory at Nakayama before finishing 3rd in the Group 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue, a Japanese 1000 Guineas Trial, at Hanshin last March.

Her biggest prize was earned through victory in an NAR/JRA Exchange race at Kawasaki, the Kanto Oaks, in June with Craig Williams in the saddle. Since then she’s raced just three times without success, most recently at Nakayama on April 19 this year. Her best (and only) time recorded over the Ttukseom Cup distance of 1400M is 1:22.5 – inside El Padrino’s Seoul Racecourse track record – and was recorded on turf.

Robe de Soie

Robe de Soie

Robe de Soie [Special Week – Velvet Robe (Gone West)] is also a four-year-old. She has four wins from nine career starts. A winner on her debut at Chukyo, she went on to win the Yamaboushi Sho at Hanshin in September 2013. As a three-year-old, she was an also-ran behind Esmeraldina in the Kanto Oaks but would finish the year with back-to-back wins at Hanshin and Kyoto.

She was 7th on her most recent start at Hanshin on April 4. Her best time over 1400M is 1:23.3 on dirt. A dedicated sprinter to the all-rounder Esmeraldina, Robe de Soie comes in here with the more imposing recent form while Esmeraldina has won far more prize-money over her career. It is likely we will see some familiar jockeys riding both of them.

And it’s prize-money that they come here looking for and that is what makes this race so significant. The Korea/Japan Goodwill Cup in 2013 and last year’s Asia Challenge Cup were both invitational races meaning that the hosts picked up the bill. Win or lose, they couldn’t actually lose. In an Open race that isn’t the case and connections will be paying a substantial proportion of the costs involved in bringing their horses to the race.

The Asia Challenge Cup, which will also feature horses from Singapore and possibly Dubai, remains an invitational and on that weekend in August there will be two further races open to overseas-trained runners; the Singapore Turf Club Trophy and the KRA Cup Classic, as the internationalization program for Korean racing continues to gather momentum.

Korean connections have decided to meet the challenge head-on. In Primary nominations for the Ttukseom Cup, there were a total of 20 domestic entries; 10 from Busan and 10 from Seoul and includes most of the best fillies and mares in the country. We’ll have much more on the race over the next few weeks.