Moonhak Chief

Moonhak Chief Downs Tiz Plan On Return

Moonhak Chief, 2019 Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner returned to racing for the first time in just shy of a year at Seoul Racecourse on Friday afternoon. And it was a winning return too as the former Horse of the Year downed a hot class 1 field including the star of last summer Tiz Plan, by a full six-lengths.

Moonhak Chief dominated the Korea Cup in September 2019 before a disappointing showing behind Dolkong in the KRA Cup Classic a month later. He would return to form in the Grand Prix Stakes in December before opening what promised to be a glorious 2020 season by beating Cheongdam Dokki in early February just as the pandemic was taking hold.

Moonhak Chief was on the sidelines with a tendon injury while Cheongdam Dokki and the emerging Tiz Plan dueled for big purses over the abbreviated summer racing season but showed he hadn’t lost a step on his Friday return.

A field containing Moonhak Chief, Tiz Plan and the great – if fading – mare Silver Wolf, probably deserves better than to race at 5pm on a Friday afternoon in a deserted racecourse with no betting or live broadcast for a 1st prize of 28 Million Won (US$25,000). Such is Korean racing’s lot these days with customers no nearer being allowed back on track and the Government no nearer budging on allowing online betting.

Coming out of adjoining gates for the 2000M test, Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan came together at the start and under Johan Victoire, Tiz Plan seized the early initiative tracking leader The Gumpu. Once in the back straight though, Moon Se Young moved up a gear on Moonhak Chief and once the Pioneerof The Nile entire took command of the race, the result was scarcely in doubt.

Tiz Plan ran on well but could only get within six-lengths of Moonhak Chief while Tony Castanheira’s The Gumpu ran on for an excellent 3rd. Silver Wolf ran a creditable 5th of twelve but was a full thirteen-lengths behind the winner.

For Moonhak Chief it’s a thirteenth win from twenty-three starts. There will be other days for Tiz Plan and Cheongdam Dokki will surely have a say at some point as well. Then there is Blue Chipper, who may well make his return in a similarly underfunded race at Busan next Friday. Will they get to face each other with a suitable purse on the line with a suitable crowd watching and punting on them at any point? With a legislative lifeline looking ever more unlikely, just as it was a year ago, that will be up to the virus.

  • During January, with all three tracks racing simultaneously on Fridays, the Busan races have been available for international simulcast. With the Seoul coronavirus situation stabilizing a little as well as hopefully the temperature being a little warmer making race times less susceptible to changes, it will be the Seoul races (where there are 15 across the day, rather than the 10 at Busan) which will be broadcast overseas in February). Somewhat amusingly, it means that we have missed Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan this week and could well mean we miss Blue Chipper next week!

Moonhak Chief Bosses YTN Cup As Cheongdam Dokki & New Legend Falter

All year the YTN Cup has had a red ring around it as the day when Cheongdam Dokki and New Legend would meet. Not on the agenda was that both would be beaten. However, that’s what happened at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday as Moonhak Chief thoroughly trounced all rivals to win they 2nd leg of the Stayers’ Series by 12-lengths.

The doubts had started to creep in about New Legend, a Korean-bred horse who began his career in the USA, picking up a win at Arlington Park before returning to Korea in early autumn last year. He won his early domestic contests with ease before coming up short when tried at 1200M in April’s Busan Ilbo Cup. Nevertheless, he was sent off as the 4/1 second-favourite in the thirteen strong field.

Cheongdam Dokki had also struggled when asked to sprint in March but the phenom had returned to form with a facile victory in the Herald Business Cup, the first leg of the Stayers’, a month ago and that led him to begin as the long odds-on favourite to claim his second YTN.

Moonhak Chief finished as runner-up in the Herald Business, a full six-lengths behind Cheongdam Dokki, but on Sunday he looked a winner all the way.

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It wasn’t close…

“I actually had no intention to lead” said jockey Moon Se Young, after partnering Moonhak Chief to a gate-to-wire win in strikingly similar fashion to how the rider won the Korean Derby on Wonderful Fly two weeks ago. “But Cheongdam Dokki didn’t go like I expected him to, so I found myself in front and took it from there”.

That was somewhat modest from Moon when talking about what was a very good ride. Once in front, he shut the race down in the back straight conserving plenty of energy before asking for an effort after turning for home that put his mount out of sight. The winning time was just half a second outside the track record for the 2000M and it is debatable as to whether an even in top-form Cheongdam Dokki could have caught him.

As for Cheongdam Dokki, he didn’t have his usual zip from the gate and to his outside  Argo Brain made a nuisance of himself for the first hundred metres or so. Subsequently though, always at least three wide and non-responsive to his jockey’s urgings rounding the final turn, he never looked a winner, ultimately trailing home in 5th.

Cheongdam Dokki passed the immediate veterinary examination and unless something shows up later, it seems likely that Antonio Da Silva will end up the unlucky fall guy. He didn’t do anything wrong at all – Cheongdam Dokki was simply not in the mood for racing on Sunday – but this is Korean racing and Dokki’s owner is not renowned for being shy about changing things up on a regular basis.

New Legend ran a solid, if one-paced race in 4th. He was in 3rd or 2nd most of the way around but failed to kick on at the business end of the race. A month ago, he was Korea’s biggest hope for the International races in September, there are now plenty of question marks hanging over him. He will hopefully get a chance to show recent form has been a blip, in the Busan Mayor’s Cup at the end of June.  That will likely be Cheongdam Dokki’s shot at redemption too.

Old campaigner Shamrocker did what he does and mopped up the pieces late on to snatch 2nd place. It was the six-year-old’s tenth runner-up finish on his 34th start. He spent his three and four-year-old season chasing Clean Up Joy and then his five-year-old season in futile pursuit of Cheongdam Dokki. In Moonhak Chief, there is perhaps another whose posterior he can watch vanishing into the distance. Not many others will beat him though.

Revelation of the race was Jumbo Blade. The four-year-old was, along with the winner and Shamrocker, the only one truly going well in the closing stages and the four-year-old Mineshaft colt got up for 3rd under Franco Da Silva on what was just his thirteenth career start. He has the same owner as Cheongdam Dokki.

Moonhak Chief is four-year-old American-bred colt by Pioneerof The Nile and out of Tallullah Lula (by Old Trieste).

Next weekend there is a double-helping of Graded Stakes action at Seoul with both the SBS Sports Sprint and Ttukseom Cup taking place on Sunday.

Weekend Round-Up: Ecton Blade & Triple Crown Trail, Rainha, Moonhak Chief

Three-year-olds were the standout performers in Korea last weekend with some of the best of the crop turning in eye-catching performances at both Seoul & Busan.

Ecton Blade won the Breeders’ Cup race at Seoul in December and so headed into the New Year as the leading Triple Crown contender. 2nd placegetter in that race and Seoul’s top juvenile of last year Choinma could only manage another 2nd place on his own seasonal debut two weeks ago but Ecton Blade made no mistake at Busan on Sunday.  He’s already won over 1600M before and went into Sunday’s race 3, at the KRA Cup Mile distance as the prohibitive favourite, fully justifying it by sauntering to an eight-length win. Stiffer tests await.

Ecton Blade’s win leaves the top sixteen three-year-olds (sixteen being the maximum field-size) with Triple Crown eligibility currently looking like this:

1. Ecton Blade [Ecton Park]
2= Sinui Myeongryeong (filly) [Hansen]
2= Choinma [Menifee]
4. Yeonghui Sidae (filly) [Hansen]
5. Captain Force [Peace Rules]
6. Divide Wind [Menifee]
7. Magic Ten (filly) [Rock Hard Ten]
8. Hoeng Un Gol [Forest Camp]
9. Meni Bada [Menifee]
10. World Sun [Officer]
11. King Jjang [Simon Pure]
12= Green K (filly) [Chapel Royal]
12= Global Line [Rock Hard Ten]
12= Hae Hu [Peace Rules]
12= Bugyeong Daebak (filly) [Forest Camp]
12= Blue Flag (filly) [Menifee]

Ecton Blade’s trainer Kim Young Kwan has an embarassment of riches that has seen 20 of his 40 runners so far in 2018 win. Even my elementary maths can calculate that’s a scarcely believable 50% strike rate and 70% of his runners have finished in the Quinella. Perhaps the richest of all the talents could be Rainha.

The exiting filly stepped up to a mile for what was her third career start and Rainha maintained her 100% record in a dismissively easy manner, cruising around on the bridle for a four-length win. Having been imported in-utero, she’s not on the Classic trail but nevertheless looks a very promising talent.

Rainha is owned by Shunsuke Yoshida and her dam is Allwise (Mr. Greeley) who had three foals in Japan before being relocated to Nokwon Farm on Jeju Island in late 2014 while in foal to Gold Allure. That resulting foal was Rainha. In the meantime, her filly by Heart’s Cry, born a year earlier and called Historia, last November won the TVK Sho at Tokyo Racecourse and now boasts a record of three wins from nine starts in the JRA.

Also in the non-eligible three-year-old ranks is Moonhak Chief. The US import by Pioneerof The Nile stepped up to class 2 and also to 1800M for the first time at Seoul on Sunday. And mightilu impressive he was too,  being ridden patiently by Lim Gi Won early on beofre stikign the front with just over a furlong to go and running on to win by a comfortable two lengths. He’s now won five of his seven outings.

In other news, Doraonpogyeongseon (Kantharos) went down by a nose in Busan’s Sunday sprint feature. Under an apprentice jockey so as he wouldn’t have to carry 60kg, the third-placegetter in the Korea Sprint couldn’t quite get up over 1200M, beaten a nose by Ever In Ever (Sharp Humor)/