Major King

Surprise As Major King To Run In Pimlico Special

War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Tom Fool, Real Quiet, Cigar, Skip Away. That’s the kind of company that Major King will make a rather unlikely attempt to join when he lines up for the Pimlico Special this coming Friday.

Pimlico Special bound: Major King

Pimlico Special bound: Major King

The 4-year-old Korean classic winner has been in the United States since January and although his only start to date ended in a dismal defeat at Pimlico last month, he has somewhat bizarrely been entered for the Group 3 race which will be run over 1900 metres.

He’ll be among a field of nine which contains five graded Stakes winners including Revolutionary, who was narrowly beaten by Will Take Charge in April’s Oaklawn Handicap and was 3rd in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Brisnet notes that “several runners enter the Special in career peak form”

Major King [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] does not. The winner of 6 of his 12 starts in Korea, including the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Korean Triple Crown. He finished the season indifferently, well beaten in the President’s Cup and then 3rd in a Busan handicap.

At that point, he needed a lay-off and despite being shipped half-way around the world, he got a rest from racing and he can be forgiven his one poor start Stateside so far.

His wins have come from the front and he likes to set the pace. However, even an at peak-form Major King would be overmatched here and the 50/1 morning line odds – naturally the outsider of the nine – look rather miserly.

The best we can hope for is that he isn’t embarrassed. Either way, he will become the first Korean bred horse to run in an American Graded Stakes race.

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Jo Sung Gon & Kenny Seo Combine in Macau, Major King Flops at Pimlico

Mixed news from the overseas Korean racing diaspora over the past couple of weeks. There was an all-Korean connections winner in Macau but Minister’s Cup winner Major King was a major disappointment on his American racing debut.

Jo Sung Gon and Kenny Seo in the Taipa Winner's Circle (MJC)

Jo Sung Gon and Kenny Seo in the Taipa Winner’s Circle (MJC)

Seoul Racecourse based trainer Seo Beom Seok – better known as Kenny Seo – has been running a parallel stable in Macau for a year now, primarily training for Korean owners. Busan’s champion jockey Jo Sung Gon has been based in Macau since January.

On April 4, the Park Nam Sung owned, Kenny Seo trained and Jo Sung Gon ridden Liver Pool (All Bar One) took victory in the 1100 metre race 2 at Taipa. For trainer and jockey it was their 4th and 2nd winners respectively in the Special Administrative Region.

Taipa will host the Korea Racing Authority Trophy on May 2. The KRA Chairman will be among those making the trip from Seoul.

Seo’s attempt to make a go of things in Asia is at odds with the KRA’s seemingly never-ending fascination with the USA, a jurisdiction which despite the source of a large quantity of racehorses and breeding stock, has little in common with Korea and by their own admission, isn’t a model that authorities here are aiming to emulate.

The sending of 2-year-olds to Florida for early training has great merit and the latest batch of them will be returning to Korea next month much better for the experience. However, the habit of sending of mature Korean-bred horses to run in claiming races in the North-East is far more questionable.

2013 classic winners Speedy First and Major King headed Stateside in January and Major King (Pico Central) – who hadn’t exactly been pulling up trees in his most recent Korean outings was the first to make his debut. Korean racing fans are strongly advised to look away now.

It was hoped that the Pick Me Up and Baekpa debacles of 2008 and 2009 had been learned from but it seems we are doomed to keep repeating the same old mistakes – Horses that are bred and only trained in Korea are going to struggle when expected to race alongside animals that have been raised entirely differently.

More interaction with Asia-Pacific – of which the exchange races with Japan last year were a perfect example – is what’s needed now, not sending our Classic winners to plod around Pimlico.

Korean Classic Winners Speedy First & Major King In USA For 2014 Campaign

Korean Derby and Oaks winner Speedy First and Minister’s Cup winner Major King are in the United States where they will be trained and raced for at least the first part of the year.

Stateside: Korean Derby and Oaks winner Speedy First

Stateside: Korean Derby and Oaks winner Speedy First

The pair, who between them won 3 of the 4 Korean Classic races in 2013, arrived at JFK Airport last week and are currently in quarantine. They are then expected to transfer to Laurel Park in Maryland to enter training.

Speedy First [Menifee – Speedy Deedy (Victory Gallop)] is a 4-year-old filly who has won 6 of her 10 starts to date. In May last year, she became the 5th filly to win the Korean Derby and added another classic in August with a comfortable win in the Oaks at Busan.

Major King [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] was third in the Derby, but had his revenge in the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown when he scored a 2-length win. An out of sorts Speedy First finishing last that day.

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is a Classic winner. he is also in the US

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is a Classic winner. he is also in the US

Neither finished the 2013 season especially strongly, Speedy First slumping to another defeat in the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup while Major King was an also ran in the President’s Cup, the effects of a long season being blamed for both.

They are by no means the first Korea bred horses to run Stateside. In 2008, a horse called Pick Me Up went to the US and ran – extremely unsuccessfully – at Charles Town, Laurel and Delaware Park. A year later, 2007 Korean Oaks winner Baekpa also went across and ran similarly poorly.

That prompted the Korea Racing Authority to change their approach a little and to send a small group of yearlings and 2-year-olds to Florida each year in the hope of proving their belief that it wasn’t necessarily that Korean-bred horses could compete if trained the same way as their American counterparts.

They got their reward when Feel So Good won a race at Calder in September 2012. Now they’ve decided to try again with established horses.

If all goes to plan, Speedy First and Major King will make their American debuts in April. We’ll be following their progress.

Speedy First winning the 2013 Korean Derby

Major King winning the 2013 Minister’s Cup

Weekend Preview: Busan Takes Centre-Stage

Seoul Racecourse takes a weekend off so Busan switches to Saturday and Sunday for the final racedays of 2013.

Busan is the place to be this weekend

Busan is the place to be this weekend

Both days see class 1 action and while Saturday’s feature isn’t exactly one to set pulses beating too fast, Sunday’s sees the Kim Young Kwan trained duo of Road To Prince and Magic Dancer face off over 1900 metres. The 3-year-old Magic Dancer missed the Classics but has amassed 7 wins and 2 second places from his 9 starts to date and is quite a talent.

Meanwhile, the similarly prolific winner Road To Prince will be looking to get back into form after souring a fantastic year with a couple of lacklustre runs of late. Minister’s Cup victor Major King and Peter Wolsley’s Cheongchun Bulpae also go in what should be a decent contest.

In addition to the thoroughbreds at Busan, there are pony racing cards on Jeju Island on Friday and Saturday. Despite there being no live racing in the capital, Seoul Race Park will be open for simulcasting from Friday to Sunday.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday December 27
Jeju Race Park: 13 races from 11:50 to 18:00

Saturday December 28
Busan Race Park: 10 races from 11:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 7 races from 11:25 to 16:35

Sunday December 29
Busan Race Park: 14 races from 11:00 to 18:00

Major King Crowned Minister’s Cup Champion

Major King led from gate-to-wire to land the Minister’s Cup as the 2013 Korean Triple Crown wrapped up at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is now a Classic winner

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is now a Classic winner

Korean Derby and Oaks winning filly Speedy First was sent off as the short-priced favourite but she was never in the race and faded in the home straight to finish a tailed-off last.

Third in the Derby on this track in May, the grey Major King was a 9/1 chance at the start and was immediately sent into the lead by jockey Jo Sung Gon. When the expected challenges from Speedy First and Derby-second Unhae failed to materialise, it was left to outsider High Five and Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo winner Indie Band to apply the pressure.

They didn’t come close. Instead, Major King kicked on for victory, leading his fellow Busan visitors home by 2-lengths on the line.

Major King is by the late Brazilian sire Pico Central, who died earlier this year. The victory is his 6th from 10 career starts to date. For trainer Kim Sang Seok, it was a 3rd Classic winner, having won both the Korean Derby and Oaks in 2008 with Ebony Storm and Jeolho Chance respectively. For jockey Jo Sung Gon, Busan’s current champion, it was a 4th Classic and his 2nd in this race, having previously won it in on Sangseung Ilro in 2009.

As for the favourite, Speedy First returned with no obvious sign of injury, although fellow disappointment Unhae was found to be lame.

So, after Jigeum I Sungan upset the order of things by winning two Classics for Seoul last year, normal service has been resumed this with Busan horses winning all 4 Classics. When the two tracks collide again in the Gyeongnam Governor’s and President’s Cups over the next few weeks, it seems unlikely that this will change.

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – October 6, 2013

1. Major King (KOR) [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] – Jo Sung Gon – 9.1. 2.4
2. High Five (KOR) [Creek Cat – Nam’s Gulch (Gulch)] – Choi Si Dae – 5.5
3. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park – Plie (Dixieland Band)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.5

Distances: 2 lengths/0.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. K Tap 5. Brig 6. Geumbin Mannam 7. Sting Ray 8. Last Mudae 9. Best Captain 10. Unhae 11. Rising Joy 12. Speedy First

* There was no fairy-tale return to the track today for Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones). The 4-year-old, returning to racing for the first time since successful treatment for tendinitis which had kept him sidelined for 15 months, could only manage 6th in the class 1 race 13.

The event was won by the improving Watts Village (Forestry), who was 2nd in the Korea vs Japan race last month and who will travel to Tokyo for the return leg next month. The old Smarty Moonhak would have made short work of the likes of Watts Village but, while he was 5-lengths behind the winner, he was just 2 lengths adrift of 2nd and the run showed some promise.

* Down at Busan, Darryll Holland was the star of the show for the 2nd time this week. The British jockey notched up 4 winners on Thursday and added another 2 during the short 4-race card this afternoon. His haul included the feature race, where he partnered Peter Wolsley’s Perfect Jilju (Paradise Creek) to a very comfortable victory.

Korean Triple Crown 2013: KRA Cup Mile Entrants Published

With just over 2 weeks to go until the 1st leg of the 2013 Korean Triple Crown, 17 colts and 2 fillies remain among the entries for the KRA Cup Mile – the Korean 2000 Guineas – which will be run at Busan on Sunday April 7.

Gyeongudaero won the 2012 KRA Cup Mile - 19 remain in contention to succeed him this year

Gyeongudaero won the 2012 KRA Cup Mile – 19 remain in contention to succeed him this year

Host track Busan proves 11 while 8 could potentially travel down from Seoul for the big race. A maximum of 16 will be permitted to start. None are unbeaten and it is a competitive looking crop.

Aussie trainer Peter Wolsley has 2 possibles in the shape Amell’s Atom and Fantastic Jazz, a half-brother to 2008 Korean Derby winner Ebony Storm – a horse still going strong nearly 5 years after his surprise Classic win.

Pureun Energy, one of the 2 fillies left in, won Busan’s Champion Juvenile crown while Breeders’ Cup winner and overall national Juvenile Champion Yapung is also expected to start.

On the breeding side of things, reigning Champion Sire Menifee accounts for 6 of the entries while Forest Camp and the late Pico Central are also likely to be well-represented.

Here is a full list of the entrants with Sire and race records (Starts/1/2/3)

Busan

Major King (Pico Central) 5/4/1/0
Yapung (Menifee) 9/3/2/1
Global Gangja (Pico Central) 9/4/1/0
Harley (Menifee) 9/4/2/2
Rising Joy (Forest Camp) 10/4/2/1
Battle Field (Menifee) 7/3/3/0
Sting Ray (Forest Camp) 8/3/4/1
Fantastic Jazz (Menifee) 6/4/0/2
Amell’s Atom (Menifee) 8/3/3/0
Raon Boss (Pico Central) 5/4/1/0
Pureun Energy (Menifee) 7/3/2/0 (Filly)

Seoul

Rapide Bullet (Revere) 7/4/1/1
K Top (Menifee) 6/4/1/1
Cheonnyeon Dongan (Ecton Park) 5/3/0/2
Heungyong Bisang (Ft.Stockton) 10/4/1/1
Ruby Canter (Volponi) 6/2/0/2 (Filly)
Energy Cell (Unaccountedlea) 8/3/1/0
Last Mudae (The Groom Is Red) 11/1/3/1
Like The Sun (Forest Camp) 7/2/1/0