Moonhak Chief

Seoul & Busan Sunday: Race-By-Race Preview (May 23)

Korea Cup winner Moonhak Chief will try to avoid the fate that has befallen Blue Chipper, Cheongdam Dokki and Tiz Plan over the past few weeks and win Seoul’s Sunday feature despite giving away significant weight to all of his rivals. There are behind closed doors meetings at both Seoul (10 races from 10:45 to 18:00) and Busan (6 races from 12:05 to 17:00). Here are the previews:

Moonhak Chief and Moon Se Young will need to overcome both the weight and the draw on Sunday

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(8) BURUI GASOK has put in two very good runs to date, has shown he can handle different track conditions and has the benefit of an apprentice claim. Last start he worked to lead from a wide draw only getting caught late on and he could be the one to beat here. Likely favourite will be one of the first-time starters. (10) GWANGYANG EUTTEUM looked good when winning a trial in a nice time, on pace all the way from the same barrier he draws today. He could easily be in the finish here. So too could (3) YEONGWANUI HAENGJIN. He looks a chance based on his last start 2nd when he was bumped early before settling handy and running on. (1) SMILE LADY is another first-timer who showed plenty of speed in her trial and draws nicely first up while (11) GREEN FEELSTAR hasn’t been very quick but hasn’t done much wrong in two midfield finishes to date.

Selections(8) Burui Gasok (10) Gwangyang Eutteum (3) Yeongwanui Haengjin (1) Smile Lady
Next Best11, 5
Fast Start4, 5, 8, 10

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(6) ACE PRINCE has been consistent across his five starts to date. He ran well for 3rd over 1400M last time, leading in the straight and only collared close to the line and the drop back to 1200M to suit. We’ll go with him to defeat likely favourite (12) DONGHAENG. The filly showed good ability in her first start on April 25th when she was very keen early before making up a lot of ground late on. The extra furlong should be ideal and while she may need a bit of luck from the wide draw, she’ll be right in the finish. (13) CUPID KOREA has been placed in his latest two outings, both at 1400M. he has pace and even though back to 1200M a repeat of those runs puts him in the picture. (3) SONGAM CAT was a crazy priced winner two starts back at this distance in a good time. She couldn’t follow up but her latest run was better than the 9th place suggests after being slowly away and she warrants consideration. (10) MISS YANGHO the best of the rest.

Selections(6) Ace Prince (12) Donghaeng (13) Cupid Korea (3) Songam Cat
Next Best10, 5
Fast Start2, 5, 6, 13

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(1) P.K. ROAD is perhaps deserving of a change in luck having been in the money at least at all of her starts. Last time she settled behind the runaway leader, ultimately bringing the field across only to be passed herself late on. She’s also run well at this distance and could make the breakthrough today. Also working his way towards a win is (3) NONSTOP GISANG. He was ridden hard from gate nine last time before settling in midfield and running on strong and a repeat of that performance from a better barrier makes him a top chance. (4) ALJJA also looks to be on an upward trajectory and can continue his progress here while (12) IMUGI has also been improving across his three outings and the slight step up in trip today may suit. (11) BLACK KING drops back in trip after a useful spin around 1700M and is another in the placing frame.

Selections(1) P.K. Road (3) Nonstop Gisang (4) Aljja (12) Imugi
Next Best11, 7
Fast Start4, 8, 12, 14

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Maidens here. (5) ECHO RUSH has the fastest time of any of these and has been consistent across his five starts so far with two runner-up finishes to his name. An apprentice jockey helps take some weight off here and while he isn’t necessarily a front-runner, he is well drawn and can win. (10) MENI GLORY began his career with back-to-back runner-up finishes at 1000M and 1400M before putting in a lackluster effort over 1300M last time when he began poorly. Perovic remains aboard though and if he gets away well and gets on pace then he has every chance. (14) PARTY INDY is the other leading hope. She has shown some decent speed and while the draw is not ideal, she shouldn’t be too far away at the business end. It’s slim pickings beyond those with (3) TRIPLE JILJU and (7) CROWN KING STAR perhaps most likely to go close.

Selections(5) Echo Rush (10) Meni Glory (14) Party Indy (3) Triple Jilju
Next Best7, 6
Fast Start3, 6, 7, 14

Seoul Race 4: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies only here. (3) DELPHINI has been improving with every run and the way in which she resolutely runs on, especially after a poor start last time out, suggests the step up in trip is what she has been waiting for. She has finally drawn a good barrier as well and today could be her day. The only question is whether she can catch the favourite (8) QUEENS TOUR. She’s shown consistency over her own three appearances and was a fair 3rd over this trip last start when she settled midfield and ran on well. (7) NOKRICHONG is the only previous winner in the field having scored over 1200M in a fair time two starts back. She was then behind Delphini last start and will need to lift from that but there is ability there. (9) NONGBON BADA could sneak a place. She was well back but ran on well over 1000M last time and going back up in trip should help.

Selections(3) Delphini (8) Queens Tour (7) Nokrichong (9) Nongbon Bada
Next Best5, 10
Fast Start1, 4, 7, 9

Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies (and one mare) only here. The only previous winner is (10) WHITE GALLOPER, who scored over this distance on April 24th with a few of these down the track behind her. She came from well back that day, as has been her style so far, and the same apprentice jockey keeps her weight down. A repeat isn’t impossible. The primary danger is (13) SECOND WIND. She came from a similarly wide just two weeks ago to run a strong 3rd. It was a decent time and we’re going to narrowly favour her to come out on top here. (4) SWEET BAND and (2) STEADY WINNER came home 3rd and 4th respectively behind White Galloper in that April race and both are capable of placing here. Similarly, (14) DREAM DANCER beat a few of these last start when registering her third 3rd place finish from six starts to date and if she can overcome the widest gate, then she too can find some money.

Selections(13) Second Wind (10) White Galloper (2) Steady Winner (4) Sweet Band
Next Best14, 7
Fast Start2, 5, 13, 14

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 28 Million

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Tiz Plan Overturns Form On Moonhak Chief To Square Rivalry at 1-1

Last year it took Tiz Plan three attempts to get the better of Cheongdam Dokki. It’s taken him just two to record a victory over the other member of the Seoul Staying Big Three as the six-year-old avenged January’s defeat to Moonhak Chief with a comprehensive win at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

The 2019 Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner Moonhak Chief only raced once in 2020, just before racing’s first prolonged shutdown in February. He returned in January this year and defeated Tiz Plan by six-lengths at level weights over 2000M.

With Sunday’s race under handicap conditions, Tiz Plan was able to get 3kg from Moonhak Chief but punters still sent the Moon Se-young ridden champion off as the odds-on favourite.

It looked to be business as usual as Moonhak Chief sat behind early pacesetter Platinum Euro before taking over at the head of proceedings in the back straight. He soon opened up a lead but under Johan Victoire, Tiz Plan was stalking, never less than four-lengths behind.

By the top of the stretch the pair were on level terms and it was Tiz Plan who proved the strongest running on to win by two-lengths on the line. Moonhak Chief rallied well and held off the fast finishing Brigadier General to claim 2nd place and keep the quinella punters happy.

Both Tiz Plan and Moonhak Chief are owned by Kwon Kyung-ja but are under the care of different trainers. Tiz Plan was winning for the eleventh time in twenty-one starts.

No Stakes schedule has yet been published as with Covid restrictions remaining in place and the government continuing to stall the legalization of online betting what with important regional elections just around the corner, racing’s income remains at 10% pre-pandemic levels. Regardless, a third chapter in their rivalry is inevitable regardless of the conditions or prize money of the race.

In other news at Seoul on Sunday, Dolkong’s half-sister Jangsan Gold got her maiden win at start number six. The four-year-old Goldencents filly was a dominant winner of race 12 at under Moon Se-young.

Moonhak Chief v Tiz Plan – Seoul Sunday: Race-By-Race Preview (March 21)

There is a heavyweight collision at Seoul on Sunday as Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan, two of the top three horses at the track, square off for the second time this year. The pair will clash in the feature and finale race 15 over 2000M. Sadly nobody will be there to see it but punters located in the south of the country will at least be able to attend betting branches. Seoul and Gyeonggi Province remain shuttered. There are 15 Sunday races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00:

Moonhak Chief faces Tiz Plan on Sunday. Sadly there won’t be packed galleries to see it

Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies only in the opener. (12) GANGSEO PRINCESS beat several of these on her way to an easy victory on debut over the 1000M on January 29th. She steps up in trip and has a less favourable gate today but the manner of that win suggests that the result will be the same and she will be the hot favourite here. (1) NONGBON BADA and (2) MAGIC TIDE both ran 3rd on their respective debuts in January. In the case of Nongbon Bada it was behind Gangseo Princess so that brings her straight into contention again while Magic Tide ran on strong in a good time and should go well with the extra furlong today. Already experienced at this distance is (7) MACH JIJON. She ran an on pace 2nd in a good time over the trip on January 29th, her best finish to date and can build on it here.

Selections(12) Gangseo Princess (2) Magic Tide (1) Nongbon Bada (7) Mach Jijon
Next Best14, 4
Fast Start1, 5, 7, 8, 12

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(6) EAST IMPACT was a sixteen-length winner on debut posting one of the fastest times ever recorded at the distance at class 6. It was impressive and while it would only be natural for there to be a slight dip in performance second time around, if he runs anything near like that again, then frankly the rest could start now and he’d still win. The only other previous winner in the race is (1) DREAM PELLA and he’s the one to take advantage should something happen to the favourite. He made all for his win over the distance in December and while his 5th on reappearance in January was nothing to write home about, he should get on pace from the inside. (3) SWEET JUICE BAR was 4th – about half a furlong – behind East Impact on debut and has placing claims here while first-time starter (7) BLUE HAMMER caught the eye in trials and can go well first-up today.

Selections(6) East Impact (1) Dream Pella (7) Blue Hammer (3) Sweet Juice Bar
Next Best8, 10
Fast Start1, 6

Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

The betting market will be a little bit more competitive in this one with no clear standout. A couple of them look potentially ready to win though. Likely favourite is (2) THUNDER CHAMP. He ran on well for 2nd – a distant 2nd but well clear of 3rd place – to East Impact on what was for him start number three on January 29th. He steps up marginally in trip here but won’t need to improve much to have very good claims. (8) EAST JILJU ran an improved 3rd on what was his second start at the end of January, beating a couple of these in the process. He ran on strongly and the extra half furlong today keeps him right in the mix with an apprentice also keeping the weight low. (14) BIG RED could only manage 6th at the distance last start but it was by no means a bad run in what was a good race. He should be there or thereabouts. (3) BOGO TTO BOGO and (7) GEOSEN JILPUNG are others in the minor money hunt.

Selections(2) Thunder Champ (8) East Jilju (14) Big Red (3) Bogo Tto Bogo
Next Best7, 13
Fast Start2, 3, 11, 14

Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Fillies only here. (14) FASHIONED PASSION has drawn the car park but could well overcome it. The filly has improved across three starts so far and has the fastest final furlong average time of all of these. She moves up by half a furlong today and it could well suit with Moon Se Young climbing aboard for the first time. (1) SERVE ACE beat three of these on her way to 3rd place at this distance on January 29th recording by some margin the fastest time of those who have tackled the 1300M before. Munro can be patient from the inside here and she can run on strong. (3) MISS YANGHO was 4th behind Serve Ace last time out. She is one of only two previous winners in the field and will warrant respect again here. (2) GANGHWA CHEONYEO has shown signs of figuring things out across her latest couple of runs and can go close while (11) GREEN POKJU has been inconsistent but should be on pace here and can be involved at the business end.

Selections(14) Fashioned Passion (1) Serve Ace (3) Miss Yangho (11) Green Pokju
Next Best2, 5
Fast Start6, 10, 11, 13

Race 5: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

With two wins to her name already (9) USORYUNG gets a third crack at class 6 and is the one to beat again. True, she hasn’t race – or even trialed – since last November, but she has proven capable of leading and of coming from off the pace and with Munro riding, her credentials are burnished even more. She’ll be favourite but a vulnerable one. (5) COLJOY comes in off a smart 3rd ahead of a number of these on January 29th over 1400M. In the process he recorded the fastest time among those here who have tackled the distance and he should provide a stern challenge. (6) NUBIGO and (1) SAENAE CHOICE came home 4th and 5th respectively in the same race and both have claims to match or better that here while (2) COWBOY TANGO could only manage 7th that day but along with Usoryung is the only one of these to have experienced victory before and can’t be discarded.

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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)/