Sky Bay ran out the emphatic winner of the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup, the final leg of the 2018 Queens’ Tour at Busan last Sunday. The three-year-old US-bred filly ran away from the field in the home straight to win by five-lengths and secure a first Group race victory for trainer Lee Shin Young.
Sky Bay was sent off as favourite for the 2000M test and was prominent throughout. While other early pace-setters Blue Flag and Catch Nine gave way, the Adios Charlie filly was too strong and fast-finishers Seouri Byeol and Damyang Hwanho never looked like getting close. With Sky Bay not having competed in either of the first two legs of the Queens’ Tour, 4th place-getter Cheongsu Yeogeol, winner of the Ttukseom Cup and 2nd in the KNN Cup, was crowned the overall Series winner
Sky Bay [Adios Charlie – KK’s Kitty (Yes It’s True)] was a $95,000 purchase from the OBS 2017 Spring Sale of two-year-olds and has now won five of her nine races. It is the biggest win of trainer Lee Shin Young’s career as she becomes the first Korean female trainer to saddle a Group winner.
For jockey Lee Chan Ho, one of the most naturally gifted riders Korea has produced but who has seen his career weighed down somewhat by suspensions for off-track issues, it was a second Group winner following Choegang Schiller’s triumph in the 2015 Asia Challenge Cup.
Speaking of jockeys, up at Seoul it was a sensational weekend for Johan Victoire. The French rider rode three winners on Saturday and then managed to top that feat on Sunday, partnering four more for a total of seven across the weekend.
Victoire, who is seventeen months into his Korean sojourn, has now ridden 73 winners from 729 rides in the country.
While Sky Bay’s win was impressive, the performance of the weekend, however, may have been up in Seoul. In the very last race on Sunday, Gaon Champ stepped up to class 1 for the first time and completely dominated, running in the second fastest time of the year over 1400M for an untroubled length-and-a-half victory.
Gaon Champ (Ecton Park) is a three-year-old colt whose only defeats so far have come at the hands of Mask, in the Seoul Classic trial back in March, and then in the KRA Cup Mile at Busan when he played up in the gates beforehand. He moves on to six wins from eight total starts and will hopefully be one to look out for in the bg sprints next year. He’ll probably not get the opportunity to carry just 51kg again though.
Saturday saw day 1 of the Korea Cup meeting and there were several Trophy Exchange races throughout the day:
Raon Amos won the Singapore Turf Club Trophy (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)
Trainer Lee Shin Young sent out the winners of both the Singapore Turf Club Trophy and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy. Raon Amos took the STC while Gray Socks was the winner of a messy event for 2-year-olds in the HKJC.
Gray Socks and Moon Se Young return to scale having won the inaugural HKJC Trophy (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)
HKJC Trophy ceremony (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)
Moon Se Young also won a race in a mini-jockey challenge that was held involving some of the jockeys who will ride in Sunday’s Korea Cup & Sprint. Abderahim Faddoul, representing France was the best visitors although he has to wear the British silk after the French one went missing:
Abderahim Faddoul received his trophy from Yangtae Park (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)
Earlier the Macau Jockey Club Trophy had been won by Ham Wan Sik on Dixie Ploit while later on, the Horse Racing Ireland Trophy ended with an easy win for Kim Hye Sun on Cheonji Storm:
A slightly awkward looking HRI Trophy presentation party (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)
On Sunday it’s the main events, the Keeneland Korea Cup & Korea Sprint.
Jigeum I Sungan was a shock 4th as 15/1 Full Moon Party won the Turkey Jockey Club Trophy for trainer Lee Shin Young at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.
Full Moon Party and Jo In Kwen win the Turkey Jockey Club Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)
Last year’s Korean Derby winner Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire) entered the race having won his last 6 consecutive starts and was sent off as the overwhelming odds-on favourite. However, Full Moon Party (Vicar) led from start to finish while Jiegum I Sungan – perhaps feeling the heat and humidity while conceding 6 kilos to his rivals, never managed to get into his stride.
Full Moon Party, a 4-year old filly, has now won 7 of her 16 career starts.
Trainer Lee Shin Young with Full Moon Party in the TJK Winner’s Circle (Pic: Ross Holburt)
Turkey Jockey Club Cup – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – Aug 11, 2013
1. Full Moon Party (KOR) – Jo In Kwen 2. Special Win (KOR) – Ham Wan Sik 3. Gumanseok (KOR) – Lee Dong Kug Distances: 2 lengths/1.25 lengths – 12 ran
Last Saturday afternoon at Seoul, something happened that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Race 7, an otherwise unremarkable domestic class 4 allowance race, was won by jockey Yoo Mi Ra. The second place horse was ridden by Kim Hae Sun and Ahn Hyo Ri was on the third. Female jockeys had swept the placings for the first time ever in Korea.
Earlier in the afternoon, a horse called Dewma had given Lee Shin Young, Korea’s first female trainer, her 39th winner and the following day, Sunday, saw Lee Ah Na ride Imperial Girl to second place behind Tough Win in the afternoon’s feature event.
It is questionable what would be the more unlikely: that by 2013, South Korea would have a female President or that women would be performing so strongly in the traditionally ultra male dominated world of Korean horse racing.
Korea’s first female jockey, Lee Ok Rae in 1975. At the time, the horses were not thoroughbreds
Park Geun Hye was elected the nation’s first female President last month, however, somewhat surprisingly, you have to go back to the now long-gone Ttukseom Racecourse on the north bank of the Han River and to the Spring of 1975 when 21-year-old Lee Ok Rae became the first woman to be granted a jockey license in Korea.
South Korea was, at the time, under the authoritarian rule of President Park Chung Hee – father of the new President Park Geun Hye – who had recently survived the second of three assassination attempts – this one had resulted in the death of his wife. Then, as now, racing held a near monopoly on gambling and Ttukseom was full to bursting on each race-day.
Lee Ok Rae graduated in the same class as Bae Dae Sun and Ji Yong Cheol, who would go on to become two of the top riders of their generation and today are among the country’s most successful trainers. Assigned to trainer Kwon In Deok, on March 17 that year, Lee rode in her first race.
In true storybook fashion it was a winning debut as in race 4 that day, she partnered horse number 1, “Kansas” to victory over five and a half furlongs.
Lee continued to establish herself over the coming months, however, in August that year, disaster struck in the shape of a fall in which she sustained injuries that would end her career. She retired just six months after her first ride with seven wins from forty-eight starts. No Korean woman would ride in a race for the next quarter of a century.
By the time they did, Park Chung Hee had been dead for two decades and his once bitter enemy Kim Dae Jung was now President of South Korea. Seoul had hosted the Olympic games in 1988 and Ttukkseom Racecourse was closed as the huge new track at Gwacheon opened, having been constructed on the site of the Olympic Equestrian events. At the turn of the millennium, the KRA made an effort to get more women into the sport.
From left: Lee Ae Li, Lee Keum Ju and Lee Shin Young in the early 2000s (KRA)
In 2001, two jockeys were granted licenses, Lee Keum Joo and Lee Shin Young. They were followed a year later by Lee Ae Li and Park Jin Hee. Lee Keum Joo and Lee Ae Li are these days occasional riders, the former having only ridden sporadically since her marriage while the latter, despite retaining her popularity with punters with her “Ae Li Gongju” (Princess Ae Li) image complete with pink silks and boots, has only ridden 50 times in the past year.
Of Lee Shin Young and Park Jin Hee, we will return to shortly.
Tragedy struck the next intake. Granted a license in 2005, Lee Myoung Hwa took her own life shortly afterward. She was found to have been suffering from depression that is believed to have been exacerbated by worries about constant reducing to make weight. A year later, newly licensed Kim Seo Jin quit before her first ride.
In 2006, female jockeys received mainstream publicity in Korea with the release of the movie “Gaksoltang” (Lump Sugar). Starring actress Im Su Jeong as a jockey and largely shot at Seoul Race Park, the movie is, for its acting and focus on the horse as a star, arguably one of the best racing movies ever produced (Click here to see trailer.). KBS Television produced a one-off documentary about Lee Ae Li to coincide with the film’s release.
Na Yu Na after winning the Jeju Cup (KRA)
Meanwhile, down on Jeju Island Kim Joo Hee and Na Yu Na became the first women to receive jockey licenses for the pony racing there. Kim was formerly a promising athlete while Na was an Aerobics instructor. Both have become prolific winners with Na becoming the first woman to reach first 100 – and now 200 – career winners as well as landing the prestigious KRA Jeju Cup.
Na and Kim have found it easier to compete riding the Jeju ponies than their counterparts have on the thoroughbreds on the mainland and in a short time have risen to first and third in the all-time female winners list. They’ve been joined in recent years by Kim Da Young who is also winning regularly.
Back in Seoul, Yoo Mi Ra qualified in 2008. She along with 2010 graduate Park Jong Hyun have struggled to gain much of a foothold but are still working hard although Yoo did make all to win that historic race on Saturday.
2010, however, saw another desperately sad turn of events, one that shook everybody involved in racing here. Having begun racing at Seoul in the same graduation class as Lee Ae Li, Park Jin Hee moved to the new track at Busan when it opened in 2005.
She started riding winners and became well established but in 2009 her form began to dip. One Friday in March 2010, she failed to appear for her rides. After the alarm was raised, she was found dead in her apartment. She was 28.
Park Jin Hee
Park Jin Hee left behind a detailed suicide note, outlining what she believed to be unfair treatment and bullying in racing in general and that she in particular had suffered, principally from trainers. The recriminations were bitter with the jockeys and trainers unions engaging in furious rows.
Nearly three years on and for all that Busan is a much more progressive track than Seoul in terms of its raceday operation, its rules and its openness to foreigners, no Korean woman has been licensed at the track since.
Later in 2010, the Korean movie industry once more turned its attention to female jockeys as Kim Tae Hee starred in “Grand Prix” Unlike Gaksoltang, however, this was not a movie to live long in the memory.
At Seoul Lee Shin Young, who qualified as a jockey nine years earlier, sat and passed the exam needed to gain a trainers’ license. She continued riding for nearly a year until, with 90 winners to her name, a barn became vacant. On July 1, 2011 and still only 31 years old, Lee Shin Young surrendered her jockey license and became Korea’s first female trainer.
Kim Hae Sun is winning on the track
She has started well, saddling 35 winners including one in a listed race.
Her barn now has 24 horses in it, including Feel So Good, the first Korean bred horse to win a race in the US and she is thought of as one of the most promising talents on the backstretch. As a jockey she had an aggressive style which landed her in the stewards room far too often.
It is an attitude has served her well in an environment where many people were hoping for her failure.
On the track, Lee Shin Young’s protegé is Kim Hae Sun who has 80 winners to her name. A product of the Seoul Jockey Academy, which has started to churn out a series of promising young riders who have been putting their elders to shame, Kim along with 2011 graduate Lee Ah Na and 2012’s Ahn Hyo Ri, have every chance of making it to the very top.
All time List – (Winners/Rides as of January 2013):
1. Na Yu Na* – 219 (1829)
2. Lee Shin Young – 90 (895)
3. Kim Joo Hee* – 88 (1542)
4. Kim Hae Sun – 80 (1147)
5. Lee Ae Li – 53 (1062)
6. Park Jin Hee – 38 (651)
7. Kim Da Young* – 35 (450)
8. Lee Keum Ju – 19 (755)
9. Lee Ah Na – 12 (165)
10. Ahn Hyo Ri – 9 (134)
11. Lee Ok Rae – 7 (48)
12. Yoo Mi Ra – 7 (629)
13. Park Jong Hyun – 2 (110)
14. Lee Myoung Hwa –
15. Kim Seo Jin –
*Jeju Pony Racing
** There have also been three Japanese women riding in Korea and all of them have been successful. Mai Beppu rode at Seoul in 2011 while Hitomi Miyahsita rode plenty of winners at Busan in 2009/2010. Akane Yamamoto also had a successful speel at Busan in 2011/2012. Unfortunately, Akane suffered a serious injury in a paddock accident in Japan last year.
*** This post is an updated version of one published on this blog back in 2009 titled “Korean Racing Girls”. Much of the information for that original post was sourced from the excellent Korean language blog “Enjoy Horse Racing” whcih is still going strong.
By the end of the year, Korea may well have its first female President. Of course, the woman in question has had some advantages. She is, after all, the daughter of the dictator who presided over nearly two decades of extraordinary economic development – and numerous human rights abuses. However, if it happens, it will still be an historic moment.
Another Milestone: Lee Shin Young (Pic: KRA)
There is another woman worthy of respect; a woman who should be headlining news bulletins and giving speeches at the nation’s top Universities. For more than ten years, Lee Shin Young has been achieving things no other woman has ever before come close to in the ultra-male dominated world of Korean horse racing. Today, she achieved a little more.
Lee Shin Young was only the third Korean woman to gain a jockey license. She rode 90 winners before last year, at the age of 31, becoming the first Korean woman to qualify as a trainer and open her own barn. It would be wrong to say that most expected her to fail.
Even those who may wanted have her to fall on her face – and there were some – knew enough about Lee to not make the mistake of underestimating her. A formidable character and talent, she was always going to succeed.
With 15 winners from her first 100 runners, Lee entered four-year old colt Holy Moely (Nihon Pillow Neil) into the Selangor Turf Club Trophy at Seoul Race Park today. Under jockey Shin Hyoung Chul – 13 years Lee’s senior, the 9-1 chance led from gate-to-wire in driving rain to record a comfortable victory.
It wasn’t a Stakes race, but it was by far the biggest win of Lee’s training career to date. She has 17 horses under her care now and more are likely to come.
You never see a woman leading-up or hot-walking a horse at Seoul or Busan. However, young jockeys such as Kim Hae Sun and Lee Ah Na are coming through and there are now more young women in the KRA’s education system. Check their Facebook pages and without fail, they list Lee Shin Young as the person they most admire.
She’s unknown outside of racing circles and she’s probably not at all bothered by that. She should be as what she has achieved deserves wider recognition. What’s most exciting though, is at just 32 years of age, her greatest achievements are perhaps still yet to come.
Selangor Turf Club Trophy – Seoul Race Park – 1800M – April 21, 2012
1. Holy Moely (KOR) [Nihon Pillow Neil-A.P.Ranshu (Adjudicating)] – Shin Hyoung Chul – 9.6, 3.2 2. Special Win (KOR) [Tahamkke-Wellbeing Cat (Creek Cat)] – Moon Jung Kyun – 2.0 3. Capital Song (KOR) [Capital Spending-Songstress (Bluebird)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 1.7
We’re just a few days away from the start of the 2012 racing season so there’s just time to look back at some of the big events in Korean racing in 2011, selected not necessarily in order of importance:
Mister Park wins for a record-breaking 16th consecutive time (KRA)
Mister Park Breaks the Record – In the US there was Rapid Redux. In Korea in 2011 there was Mister Park. In fact they would probably give each other quite a good race. In September, he surpassed Po Gyeong Seon and Saegangja, horses who have almost mythical status among Korean racing fans, with whom he was tied on fifteen wins, to claim the all-time record. He would extend his streak to seventeen before coming unstuck in an epic Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December.
Some of the shine was taken off when connections avoided going for the record in the Busan Metropolitan but regardless of this – and regardless of his defeat to Tough Win in the Grand Prix – Mister Park has done something no horse has been able to do in Korea before. For that, he is this blog’s Horse Of The Year.
Jang Chu Yeol 's Win Picture in the USA
Jang Chu Yeol Rides Winners in the USA – It shouldn’t really be a big story but it is. Young Korean jockeys at Seoul are getting better and better and most now get sent overseas for a short spell to expose them to different riding styles. Some have been to South Africa and some to Australia.
Jang Chu Yeol went to the USA and in November, rode 2 winners at Charles Town, the first Korean jockey to do so. Despite taking those two months out, Jang finished eleventh in the Seoul championship, one place behind…
Kim Hae Sun – Third year jockey Kim Hae Sun looks well set to become the first Korean female jockey to break through to the elite level, riding an impressive 29 winners in 2011. Now comes the difficult bit as she has ridden out her weight allowance and now will be competing on equal terms with the best in the weighing room. Part of Kim’s success has come with a certain new trainer, which brings us onto the next entry…
Kim Hae Sun contemplates getting on her horse in the snow-filled paddock - she got on 29 winners in 2011
Lee Shin Young – Last year she made this list by being the first Korean woman to earn a trainer’s licence. In 2011, she took control of her own barn and by the end of the year had landed 8 winners from her 51 runners, with Kim Hae Sun riding the majority of them.
Shin Woo Chul waits patiently for his interview after Tough Win landed him his 1000th career win as a trainer
Shin Woo Chul trains 1000 winners – The veteran trainer leads the all-time list and scored his 1000th winner in 2011. Fittingly it was Tough Win who got him the milestone victory and it was the same horse who crowned a wonderful year for him by winning the Grand Prix Stakes in December.
The KRA gets a new Chairman – Kim Gwang Won came to the end of his term in September this year and, after a delay of two months, was replaced by Jang Tae Pyeong. A career civil servant, the 62-year-old Jang joins a KRA that has been treading water recently. While former Chairman Kim was popular in some quarters, he leaves behind problems. The new track at Yeongcheon (a ridiculous place for a racecourse) is running into regulatory trouble, as is a KRA Plaza in Seocho in Seoul. Chairman Kim tried hard but Chairman Jang will need to try harder.
A diverse lot, aren't they?. Jang Tae Pyung and the KRA (front row, centre-KRA)
Korea Exports Racehorses – Three Korean bred racehorses were exported to Malaysia in October reflecting the rapid development made by the local breeding industry.
Publicity poster for the movie "Champ"
Champ – The racing movie starring Cha Tae Hyeon and very loosely based on the story of champion racemare Luna was released in September. Unlike last year’s “Grand Prix” it was a good watch and even has a cameo from South African Martin Wepner at the end riding the real Luna. Unfortunately, an on-set accident involving a horse cast a long shadow over the production.
Sires – The battle for leading sire went down to the last day of the season and was eventually won by Exploit. Just behind were Menifee and Vicar. With Forest Camp strolling the freshman sire list and with Ecton Park foals about to start racing, next year looks like it’s going to be very interesting.
A Two-Year-Old Comes Third In The Grand Prix – The Smarty Jones colt Smarty Moonhak was beaten on his debut but won his next four in a canter, including the Turkey Jockey Club Trophy. He was billed as the future of Korean racing. The first two-year-ol to ever run in the Grand Prix Stakes, in finishing third, just behind Tough Win and Mister Park, Smarty Moonhak showed that he’s very much the present of Korean racing.
Smarty Moonhak (KRA)
Smarty Moonhak, Mister Park and Tough Win were the biggest names of 2011 but they were joined by the likes of Yeonseung Daero, Dangdae Bulpae, Cheonnyeon Daero, Gwangyajeil, Useung Touch, Ace Galloper and Dongseo Jeongbeol – Stakes winners all. Lion Santa went nine races unbeaten at Busan while Khaosan gave Peter Wolsley his first Stakes winner. The great Bally Brae kept on winning into his ninth year while the equally great Baekgwang was retired.
Of course, only a small minority of horses who make it into this blog and indeed into the winner’s circle. Racing would not run without them and it is worth taking a moment to remember the contribution that the likes of Charming Girl, Haneulcheoreom, Perfect Love and all the other old-stagers make. Some have good owners, some do not. Jang Tae Pyeong would do well to pay more attention to this area in 2012.