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.

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.