never seen before

Donggeupchoegang Stuns Gyeongbudaero & Beolmaui Kkum, Daegunhwang Derby-Bound?

What was billed as being a clash between Busan’s best two horses ended up being about neither of them as both Gyeongbudaero and Beolmaui Kkum fell to a late charge from 50/1 shot Donggeupchoegang in the track’s feature race on Sunday.

Beolmaui Kkum, the highest rated horse in Korea was sent off as the slight odds-on favourite ahead of the Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero. The former would, as he generally does, set the early pace and as they entered the home straight, it looked set to be a two way fight between the two favourites.

That was to reckon without Donggeupchoegang. The five-year-old was benefitting from a 6kg weight advantage and he made it count as he flew home under replacement jockey Jeong Dong Cheol, going from 5th to 1st in the final furlong and running on for victory by two and a half lengths.

Gyeongbudaero hung on for 2nd, just pipping another Grand Prix winner Gamdonguibada, by a nose. Beolmaui Kkum was 4th.

The longest shot on the board, US import Donggeupchoegang [Bernstein – Resurge (Seeking The Gold)] was recording his 7th win from 29 career starts and his 3rd from his most recent 6.

It may be at Busan where we get the higher quality racing these days as was evidenced by that track’s utter domination of the KRA Cup Mile last week, but there was some hope for Seoul on Sunday afternoon. That came in the shape of three-year-old colt Daegunhwang (Menifee), who landed his 5th straight win.

This time it was at class 2 and it was a fast time over 1700M. The colt made the running all the way around and while he was made to work a little harder than on previous starts, Daegunhwang looked to have plenty in hand as he stayed on to win by just under three lengths. He’s going to have to work much harder though if he is to beat the Busan raiders next month in the Korean Derby.

Speaking of the three-year-old Classics, the winner of last year’s final Classic Never Seen Before, made his way back to the winner’s circle at Busan on Friday, holding off stablemate Ms. Margaux in what was a competitive class 1 handicap over a mile.

Weekend Preview: Never Seen Before, Beolmaui Kkum At Busan / Sports Seoul Trophy In….Seoul

Racing returns this weekend after the break for the Lunar New Year holiday with big cards across the board and some big names making an appearance.

Beolmaui Kkum is in action on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum is in action on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It’s been four months since Never Seen Before galloped down the home straight at Seoul to win the Minister’s Cup, the final jewel in Korea’s Triple Crown. Now finally, the colt who gave Aussie trainer Peter Wolsley his first Korean Classic victory, reappears on the track.

This time he is at home, in Busan’s Friday afternoon feature. He shouold be the favourite although he will have the likes of Useung Radar and Damyangui Jilju for company in the Class 1 handicap over a mile.

Sunday at Busan also sees a heavyweight – literally – match-up as the top-rated horse in Korea, Beolmaui Kkum, carrying 60kg looks to make it two out of two for 2015 with Gamdonguibada among those out to stop him in the feature handicap.

Earlier on Sunday, Busan plays host to the Macau Jockey Club Trophy while up at Seoul, the Sports Seoul Trophy headlines Sunday’s card.

February turns into March and while we seem to be getting one last blast of winter in the Korean capital right now, it should be mild by the weekend.

Complete Racecards can be found here

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 27

Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11.40 to 18:00 (races 4-11 will be simulcast by the Singapore Turf Club, full race by race preview here)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday February 28
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 1
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:30

Brilliant Never Seen Before Wins Minister’s Cup For Peter Wolsley

Never Seen Before, a 26/1 outsider, produced the run of his life at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon to win the Minister’s Cup – the final leg of the 2014 Korean Triple Crown – and hand Australian trainer Peter Wolsley the biggest win of his Korean career.

Never Seen Before and Lee Hee Cheon win the Minister's Cup

Never Seen Before and Lee Hee Cheon win the Minister’s Cup

Unsurprisingly, it was the Korean Derby and Oaks winning filly Queen’s Blade who was sent off as the solid favourite for the 10 furlong test, with plenty of support too for fellow Busan raiders Gumpo Sky and Success Story.

It was the latter of these, Success Story who set the early pace under Jo Sung Gon, bounding out of gate 15 and going across to take the lead into the first corner. He would maintain it for much of the race, with Queen’s Blade, under You Hyun Myung for the first time in the absence of regular jockey Kim Yong Geun, in close attendance throughout.

Meanwhile, Never Seen Before sat patiently in the front half of the field with plenty of cover. As they swung for home it looked like Queen’s Blade was ready to strike as Success Story went to the rail. The Derby and Oaks winner though had nothing. Instead, Gumpo Sky and outsider Ganghae came through the middle while Never Seen Before came around to fight out the finish.

By the furlong pole, Success Story and Ganghae had been seen off and it was a straight duel between Gumpo Sky and Never Seen Before, the outsider finally getting in front 50 metres from the finish and pulling away for a half-length win. Ganghae ran on gamely for 3rd with Success Story 4th and Queen’s Blade a further 4-lengths back in 5th.

Never Seen Before moves on to five wins from ten starts. There looks to be more to come too from Gumpo Sky while Ganghae was a revelation in 3rd.

For winning jockey Lee Hee Cheon, it was unquestionably the pinnacle of a tough career to date. Wolsley is far too much of a diplomat to say so but it is likely that Lee was at best 2nd or maybe 3rd choice for the ride after stable jockey Jo Sung Gon opted to go elsewhere and You Hyun Myung got the ride on Queen’s Blade.

Lee, who 8 years since turning professional still has only 92 winners to his name, gave the colt the perfect ride. Those of us – including this blog – who doubted his ability to close out a tight finish when the pressure is on, were emphatically put in our place. He was superb.

As for the trainer, over the years we’ve written plenty about Peter Wolsley. The 51-year-old Aussie arrived in Korea in late 2007 (coincidentally around the same time this blog started) and endured an extremely rough first couple of years at first, taking charge of the “breakdown barn” – the horses no-one else wanted to train.

Slowly but surely, he started getting winners and when there are winners, suddenly there are more owners and more – and better – horses. His stable is now firmly established as second only to the Kim Young Kwan machine in terms of winners. What had been missing until recently were the big ones.

Old favourite Khaosan won Wolsley his first Group race back in September 2011, although it was by virtue of being promoted from 2nd after Cheonnyeon Daero was disqualified. Late last year, Secret Whisper took the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup by a head to land what would be Wolsley’s biggest victory until today.

In many ways, Wolsley is the exception that proves the rule. It is extremely difficult for foreigners to make a go of things in Korean racing and his achievements standing out so much only emphasize this. But his success is no accident. Seven years of sheer hard work against all odds paid off in full today and he deserves every plaudit.

The bars of Gimhae will need to be fully stocked with Martini Rosso and Coca Cola tonight.

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – October 5, 2014

1. Never Seen Before (KOR) [Ecton Park – Gwangyeolhan (Stormin Fever)] – Lee Hee Cheon – 26.0, 4.1
2. Gumpo Sky (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Choi Si Dae – 1.7
3. Ganghae (KOR) [Didyme – Ocelot (Catrail)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 10.4
Distances: 0.5 lengths/2.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Success Story 5. Queen’s Blade 6. Ildeung Hanghaesa 7. K Man 8. Jeongsang Bima 9. Wild Rush 10. Cheongnyong Bisang 11. Winner’s Marine 12. Nubi Queen 13. Major Star 14. Super Legend NR. Super Lucky

Beolmaui Kkum Blasts Back At Busan

With Seoul having taken its annual summer vacation this past weekend, all eyes were on Busan as the only venue for thoroughbred racing on the peninsula. And for Beolmaui Kkum, it was a welcome return to form after a long absence.

Beolmaui Kkum, seen here at the Grand Prix in Seoul, returned to form at Busan on Saturday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum, seen here at the Grand Prix in Seoul, returned to form at Busan on Saturday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Touted as a potential star at the end of last season having won 7 of his 10 starts, Beolmaui Kkum (Put It Back) led the way in the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in December before fading in the home straight to end up near the back. This would be repeated on two starts at the beginning of this year before he was given close to six months off.

Returning to the track in Saturday’s feature race, punters clearly hadn’t forgotton about him, sending him off as 3rd favourite in the 1900M class 1 handicap.

As he tends to do, Beolmaui Kkum went straight to the front but this time had plenty left when jockey Lee Hee Cheon asked him for an effort in the home straight and he cruised away from his rivals to record a 5-length victory.

Beolmaui Kkum’s return to form was welcome in what had been looking a rather stale group of class 1 horses at both Seoul and Busan. Over the weekend, however, enough up-and-coming imports put in solid enough performances to suggest that we have plenty to look forward to over the coming months.

On Saturday, there were two such stand-out performances. First, Australian colt Gumpo Daeseung (Shaft) made it 4 wins from 5 starts in a class 2 race over 1400M. He had to work for it though. Late to the gate after being re-shoed, Gumpo Daeseung was tracked all the way to the line by 2nd-favourite Uregachi, just holding on to win by a nose.

At a lower class, there was far less stress for US gelding Spring Gnarly (Master Command), who was guided to a 3-length win by apprentice rider Chae Sang Hyun and now moves onto 3 wins from 5 starts.

Sunday’s marathon 15-race card saw another import put in an impressive performance as Mujinjang (Silver Train) strolled to his 6th win in 7 career starts, claiming the class 2 race 14 by two lengths.

On the domestic fron there were encouraging performances too. Derby also-ran Gumpo Sky (Vicar) offered further proof that his disappoiting run in the Classic at Seoul was an aberration, by strolling to a 7-length victory in Saturday’s class 2 race 6. One race earlier, Peter Wolsley’s Never Seen Before (Ecton Park), who didn’t even make it to the Derby, was similarly impressive in deconstructing a similar class 2 field by the same 7-length margin.

Both are now likely to be pointed towards the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October.

Next week, action returns to Seoul and it is International Exchange race weekend.
Although there is no International Jockey Challenge this year (due to the Asia Challenge Cup being run later in the month which will include 6 visiting jockeys), there will still be plenty to look forward to. Full previews up soon.