Korea’s biggest day of racing of the year takes place at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday with the 2nd runnings of the Keeneland Korea Cup & Sprint. Ten overseas-trained runners are in the Korean Capital for the two races which have a combined purse of approaching $1.5Million. 10 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 11:55 to 17:00. Here is a full preview of the two big races and below a race-by-race guide to all 16 contests taking place in Korea on Sunday.
Chrysolite won the Korea Cup in 2016 and seeks to defend his title today (Pic: Ross Holburt)
Seoul Race 7: The Korea Sprint (KOR G1) 1200M / KRW 700 Million
With the withdrawal of France-trained City Money, there are just four overseas contenders. If the trophy is to be Hong Kong bound once more then it’s up to LUCKY YEAR. The Danny Shum-trained 6-year-old arrives in Korea having rounded out last season at home with a very good win in the Sha Tin vase over this distance in May. It was the kind of run, getting very close to the early pace, that would be ideal here and he’s got the perfect draw, coming out of gate 4, to do it. It won’t be easy for him to get to the lead though. Nash Rawiller rides.
Japanese-trained horses haven’t tended to have the best of luck in Korean Sprint races but GRACEFUL LEAP, a solid dirt-track horse in the JRA and with Yutaka Take making his Korean debut in the saddle, must be respected. Likewise THE TRUTH OR ELSE, who becomes the first US-trained horse to run in Korea, can’t be completely ruled out coming out of gate 1. Kenny McPeek’s 5-year-old won the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park April and subsequently performed well at Churchill Downs in the early summer. While his closing style may not be in his favour here, he has adapted very well and it’s not impossible.
The final visitor is Singapore-trained WIMBLEDON, who represents the China Horse Club, and he won’t be without backers. He’s a consistent type with the only question mark being how he takes to the sand track – though usually a turf horse, he did run well on the Kranji polytrack over this distance earlier this year.
The leading Korea-trained contenders, POWER BLADE and PERDIDO POMEROY drew the two widest gates but that may not actually be the calamity it first seems. Power Blade wasn’t likely to lead anyway while Perdido Pomeroy, who led this race last year, is so quick out of the gate that he will probably still get to the front along with BEOLMAUI KKUM. Last year’s Triple Crown winner and place-getter at the Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting, Power Blade was 4th in the Korea Cup last year and drops back to this distance for the first time in a long time but he enters in top shape and looks to have every chance. He can defy the track and win from behind.
PERDIDO POMEROY himself is in much better form than when he was 5th behind DORAONPOGYEONGSEON in the SBS Sports Sprint here at the same distance in June. DORAONPOGYEONGSEON got up late to win that race in a three-way photo finish and is nicely drawn in gate 2. SILVER WOLF probably wants further but there’s no denying she’s in great form while GASOKBULPAE could be the wildcard. He briefly held the track record for this distance last month and if he gets the lead, anything can happen.
As for the rest, TOHAMSAN is in good form but this is stiff for him while the trio of DROP THE BEAT, HAEYA and OPEN THE SKY all remain relatively unexposed. Drop the Beat especially turned in two eye-catching performances recently and could make for an interesting outside prospect. ZENTENARY on the other hand, is overmatched.
||(14) Power Blade (4) Lucky Year (7) Graceful Leap (15) Perdido Pomeroy
||10, 13, 6, 2, 1
||3, 5, 9, 11, 15
Seoul Race 8: The Korea Cup (KOR G1) 1800M / KRW 1 Billion
Twelve months ago CHRYSOLITE absolutely romped home to win the first ever running of the Korea Cup by as many lengths as his jockey chose. He returns here as likely favourite to retain his crown.
Chrysolite has been lightly raced since then but comes in here with a win and two 2nd places from his three 2017 outings and he is the one to beat. There is a chance though, that he won’t get it all his own way. The race set up beautifully for him last time with a good draw and an early leader going too fast. The draw is not quite as ideal this time and the others will be very aware of him but nevertheless, if you beat Chrysolite, you are likely to be the winner. Yutaka Takes comes to Korea for the first time specifically to ride him.
The only one drawn wider than Chrysolite is LONDON TOWN. He was very impressive when breaking the 1700M track record at a sloppy Sapporo a month ago and could well be his compatriot’s biggest danger.
Any Hong Kong-trained horse warrants respect and that certainly includes CIRCUIT LAND. After recent near misses on firmer ground at Sha Tin it’s possible that he could be one of those horses who gets on well with the deep sand of Seoul. Under Nash Rawiller, he’s firmly in the hunt.
NIMR and SKIPERIA are both trained in France with the former looking to have the better claims although Skiperia has looked well in work. The US representative is the Linda Rice-trained PAPA SHOT, who spent the summer running creditably at Belmont Park and Saratoga and despite perhaps needing to find a bit to compete with the horses from Hong Kong and Japan, he can give a good account of himself.
As for the Koreans, last year’s 3rd place-getter TRIPLE NINE returns once more. Except for an always unlikely tilt at the Godolphin Mile, he ran well at the Dubai World Cup Carnival but has come up short on two starts back in Korea since. Both times he took just a little too long to get properly into gear. If jockey Lim Sung Sil can get him stoked up in time, a money finish is possible. CHAMP LINE saw a winning streak of five come to an end behind Triple Nine in July. He’s been off since and we’ll give the Thomas Gillespie-trained colt another chance today.
SHAMROCKER goes well too but does look overmatched against the visitors while since returning from a long spell out injured, BOLD KINGS hasn’t been quite the same horse he was when winning the Grand Prix Stakes, Korea’s most prestigious non-international race as a three-year old. Rounding out the field, DYNAMIC JILJU is a decent handicapper and could well opt to lead but is up against it here.
||(11) London Town (3) Circuit Land (10) Chrysolite (6) Triple Nine
||5, 1, 4
Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Competitive opener but (6) BULHUUI SEUNGJA looks to be the standout. She generally starts well, has a 3rd and a 2nd to her name and the champion jockey on board. The main danger is (2) JUNGJEON MAMA, who has been a rather one-paced 4th on both her outings to date but has shown enough to suggest she can beat plenty of these. While (10) (more…)