Power Blade

Power Blade Cuts Down Triple Nine Again

Power Blade asserted his dominance, at least at short distances,  over stable-mate and long-time rival Triple Nine with a commanding win in the Kukje Sinmun Cup at Busan Racecourse on Sunday Afternoon.

Since the pair returned from the Dubai World Cup Carnival earlier this year, they have raced each other twice with Power Blade prevailing both times; first over a mile in August’s Owners’ Cup and then again in Sunday’s Kukje at 1400M. Last year, Triple Nine got the better of the then 3-year-old Power Blade at 1800M, 2000M and 2300M.

Given a better draw, Power Blade may well have won the Korea Sprint. Instead he was a fast finishing 2nd behind Japanese raider Graceful Leap. That day Triple Nine went in the Korea Cup and once more was the best Korean finisher in 4th. Today they raced together but at the distance, Triple Nine was always going to struggle to get into top gear in time to trouble his younger rival.

As it was Franco Da Silva took things up on Power Blade as they entered the home straight and he ran on strongly to win by almost three lengths on the line. Triple Nine, still getting faster, was 2nd with Seoul-trained City Star pipping Success Story for 3rd.

It was Power Blade’s tenth career win and took his earnings to well in excess of US$2 Million. Whether he takes on the President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes once more at unfavourable distances remains to be seen but hopefully connections can be persuaded to have another crack at Meydan in the new year. Cheongdam Dokki and Final Boss (if we forgive the unpredictable latter’s 4th in a 1200M Sprint on Sunday) are the young pretenders but Power Blade and Triple Nine remain very much the big boys of Korean racing right now.

Kukje Sinmun Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1400M – October 1, 2017

1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmachong (Lost Mountain)] – Franco Da Silva – 1.5, 1.1
2. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.0
3. City Star (KOR) [Menifee – City Styling (Carson City)] – Kim Yong Geun – 1.7
Distances: 2.5 lengths/3 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Success Story 5. Dongchonui Achim 6. Cheonji Park 7. Baedari Bobae 8. Rocket Blade

Racing takes a one week break now with the action resuming at Busan on Friday October 13th.

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Sunday Seoul & Busan: Power Blade vs Triple Nine / Final Boss (October 1)

It’s the final day of racing before the Korean Thanksgiving break and at both Seoul and Busan, some of the top names on the peninsula are coming out for a run. The day’s main attraction is on the south-coast where stablemates Triple Nine and Power Blade face each other once again, this time in the Kukje Sinmun Cup. There are 11 races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00 and 6 at Busan from 12:40 to 17:05.

Power Blade finally got the better of Triple Nine in the Owners’ Cup over a mile in August and had he had a slightly ore favourable draw at Seoul last month, could well have won the Korea Sprint. At 1400M today he will be favoured to prevail once more over Triple Nine, who is yet to win since returning from Dubai. Also among the small field of eight are Success Story and Seoul raider City Star.

Korean Derby winner Final Boss returned to winning ways over 1800M in August and today he too steps down to a Sprint distance in the concluding race 11. He’s up against sprint-specialist Choegang Schiller over 1200M which means he carries a very light weight.

Only Seoul is simulcast overseas today – here are the notes:

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

It’s been a long time coming but (8) STORMY PASSION should finally get her maiden win today. She’s been getting closer, culminating in a 3rd place three weeks ago but has always run into one or two too quick. It will be her first time as favourite and she should have too much against this limited set of opponents. Main danger is (11) GEUMEUN JUOK, who has been a little one-paced but shown glimpses of ability across three improving outings to date. (6) I AM WINNER made an underwhelming debut in August but looked useful when trialling up again a couple of weeks ago and may have something to contribute if she gets a good start while (5) DUSON EYE and debut-maker (12) CHOEGO BISANG are others who could go ok.

Selections (8) Stormy Passion (11) Geumeun Juok (5) Duson Eye (6) I Am Winner
Next Best 12, 7
Fast Start 1, 5, 6, 12

Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Restricted to juveniles this one with six first-timers joining three who have raced before. It’s one of those three, (7) MAGIC TEN, who will be the strong favourite. She finished off very nicely for 2nd over 1000M on debut at the end of August and given the extra furlong today, should win. (4) SEOURI BYEOL similarly should be happier today at this distance than she was on her own debut and can improve. None of the debut-makers were hugely impressive in trials although (3) CLEAN UP TEUKGEUP will be backed by virtue of having recorded the fastest time. Likewise, (9) ROYAL TANK also showed that he knows what he’s supposed to in the latest of three trials he went through a couple of weeks ago.

Selections (7) Magic Ten (4) Seouri Byeol (3) Clean Up Teukgeup (9) Royal Tank
Next Best 1, 5, 2
Fast Start 2, 8, 9

Race 3: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

Competitive contest. (1) CLEO and (5) GOLD LEG are both up in class following decent showings at class 6, the latter running out an all the way winner by three lengths over 1300M last time. Both should be competitive at this level. They won’t be favourites though. (4) MENI BADA didn’t quite get home when well backed on his first try at the distance on September 2nd. The two-year-old shows promise though and should have learned from that. He can win today. Also with promise is (2) HARPY EAGLE. The

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Korea Cup & Sprint 2017 – The Review

The 2nd Korea Autumn Racing Carnival took place at Seoul Racecourse over the weekend. There’s no need to re-tell what happened here as pleasingly, the race has received plenty of international coverage, save to say that Yutaka Take guided Graceful Leap to victory in the Sprint while in the Cup, London Town downed last year’s winner Chrysolite to make it a Japanese one-two.

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London Town and Chrysolite dominated for Japan in the Korea Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

On the track, London Town was simply sensational. He came in having broken the 1700M track record at Sapporo less than a month ago and absolutely dominated the Cup, taking well over a second off the Seoul 1800M track record in the process. Last year’s winner Chrysolite had absolutely no answer. That said, the Japanese pair finished a full 17-lengths clear of Papa Shot in 3rd and demonstrated just how good JRA horses, even those not quite at the very top, really are.

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London Town in the Korea Cup Parade Ring (Pic: KRA)

Graceful Leap’s Sprint win was naturally less emphatic but it was still convincing. Korean Triple Crown winner Power Blade ran a huge race in 2nd place and while he was never likely to be as inconvenienced as some others by the wide draw, one can’t help but wonder whether he would have got much closer had he been able to begin from a more favourable gate. Doraonpogyeongseon ran on very nicely too proving himself a real racehorse. In the Cup for Korea, while Champ Line put in a good run, ultimately it was all about Triple Nine as it so often is. He and Power Blade have turned into such good ambassadors for Korean racing that how to replace them when their powers begin to wane is starting to be an issue. But of course, that’s part of what makes racing so fascinating.

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Graceful Leap and Yutaka Take cross the line in the Sprint (Pic: KRA)

The performances of the two American-trained horses was one of the Carnical’s highlights. In the Sprint, The Truth Or Else was drawn in gate 1 but jockey Dylan Davis was forced off the rail and went wide to find a run. He closed very strongly for 4th place and a tidy prize that fully vindicated the decision of his enterprising connections to bring him. Trainer Kenny McPeek was a boisterous presence throughout the week and led his charge in the parade ring himself prior to the race. Picking up an even tidier prize was Papa Shot, 3rd in the Cup despite having to recover from some interference four furlongs out.

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Take returns to scale (Pic: Ross Holburt)

McPeek estimated that The Truth Or Else would be ranked around 20th in terms of sprinters in the United States and one wonders what one ranked even higher could achieve especially as the nature of the Sprint makes it by no means a race that JRA horses will automatically dominate. As for Papa Shot, he’s a very solid horse but no superstar but looks the kind of horse you’d love to own. Bill Nader, representing the man who does own him, Barry K. Schwartz, made the point before the race that Papa Shot had run at all sorts of tracks in the US and almost always gave a good account of himself. Those tough and grinding types can find their reward on the Seoul sand and while at 1800M, it would take something special to beat a JRA horse or a Hong Kong galloper that gets on with the track, a really top American horse might just be able to do it.

One disappointing note was the performances of the Hong Kong horses. With the races being beamed live to a busy Sha Tin, it was a pity that neither Lucky Year nor Circuit Land made any impact in the Sprint and Cup respectively. Circuit Land perhaps had some excuses having been prominent early but was then forced to check with four furlongs to go as a result of a poorly judged manouevre by Lee Chan Ho on Dynamic Jilju. However, Papa Shot was also disadvantaged by that incident and overcame it and jockey Nash Rawiller admitted his mount never really looked to be in the hunt. Meanwhile, Lucky Year didn’t get the start he needed and once the sand started flying, his race was over.

However, Super Jockey won the Sprint last year and both Circuit Land and Lucky Year appeared to pull up fine so hopefully the races will still prove attractive to Hong Kong connections in 2018.

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Graceful Leap (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was tough too for the French contingent. City Money unfortunately was scratched from the Sprint after picking up an injury between the airport and the racecourse on his way in. Meanwhile Skiperia and Nimr found life difficult in the Cup although Nimr’s 6th was by no means a bad performance. The enthusiasm that all connected with the horses brought, as well as the always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the weekthe always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the week and hopefully more French challengers will return in future.

Promising young Singapore-based trainer James Peters brought across Wimbledon for the China Horse Club. After showing prominently early on under Daniel Moor, he faded in the closing stages but reportedly pulled up fine.

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One thing that is evident is that despite being in just its second year, the Carnival is already establishing itself as an event in its own right to the extent that what happens in the actual races becomes almost secondary. Everyone knows about the track surface by now – it is what it is – and the atmosphere surrounding the whole week was extremely positive.  The travelling international press corps was larger than last year and within Korea, cable network KBS N Sports broadcast highlights of the races in a 75 minute show at 10pm on the day of the race and then repeated it in primetime at 8:20pm on Monday night. There is a feelgood environment about the event that is perhaps only possible with a relatively young race, enthusiastic connections and still a sense of the huge potential that could be realised in future years. That Keeneland go out on a limb to sponsor the race right on the very eve of one of their biggest and most important sales of the year, perhaps demonstrates this.

On to attendance and turnover.  Attendance was actually down on last year but there is a good reason for that. In 2016, the Korean “Chuseok” Thanksgiving holiday – one of only two weekends of the year with no racing – immediately followed the Carnival. Attendance always shows a spike prior to dark weeks as there is no opportunity for a legal punt for the next 12 days. As it was 39,910 paid ($2 each) to come through the gates at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday compared with in excess of 44,000 last year.

Wagering turnover on the day was also down but interestingly, both Cup and Sprint showed slight increases. The Sprint handled 4.37 Billion Won in 2016 to 4.39 Billion Won this time while the Cup went from 4.8 Billion Won last year to 5.12 Billion Won in 2017 and followed the regular pattern of turnover getting bigger as the day progresses (for obvious reasons, turnover on the final race of the day is always the biggest). Local punters find it very hard to handicap international races due to the form being hard to assess but with more familiarity, it appears Korean racegoers are now prepared to have a go.

Internationally, both races were simulcasted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and by Sky Racing in Australia. The Singapore Turf Club took the Sprint as did Malaysia while the entire day was available for betting at the Macau Jockey Club. In the USA, Sky Racing World distributed every race to  ADW’s. TVG Network broadcast both Sprint and Cup. Overall international turnover slightly exceeded domestic turnover (Hong Kong obviously accounting for the vast majority). Dubai Racing TV also screened both big races live.

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Laboum in the winner’s circle (Pic: Ross Holburt)

This is Korea. There needs to be progress year on year. Local assessments will probably focus on the dominance of the Japanese runners and that one fewer country was represented than in its inaugural year (the USA joined but the UK and Dubai didn’t send any runners this time). However, that should be countered by the sheer quality of London Town’s performance and also by the positive showing by the US runners. There’s a year to go until the next Carnival. The Korea Cup & Sprint have not yet come of age, but they are very much on the right course.

Derby Winners Power Blade & Final Boss Back To Winning Ways

The winners of the last two Korean Derby’s found their ways back into the winner’s circle last Sunday. 2016 Triple Crown winner Power Blade defeated stablemate Triple Nine to win the Busan Owners’ Cup while 2017 Derby victor Final Boss scored in a rather more modest contest at Seoul.

For Power Blade it was a first start since returning from the Dubai World Cup Carnival where he scored a couple of very creditable 3rd place finishes. He won the domestic Triple Crown last year with ease but had to play second fiddle to stablemate Triple Nine, one year his senior, in the later season races. On Sunday, at a mile though, it was all about Power Blade who gave jockey Franco Da Silva his first Korean Group race winner.

Owners’ Cup (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 1600M – August 13, 2017

1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] – Francisco Da Silva – 9.5, 2.3
2. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Gil – 1.0
3. Doraon Hyeonpyo (KOR) [Colors Flying – Kilcoe Castle (Gone West)] – Jo Sung Gon – 1.7
Distances: 1 length / 0.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. City Star 5. Success Story 6. Zettabyte 7. Beolmaui Sin 8. Baedari Bobae 9. Two Two Raptor

Up at Seoul, this year’s Derby winner was also triumphant, albeit in slightly less illustrious company. Nevertheless, Final Boss still had to defeat Sinjo Daehyeop, one of the track’s top class 1 handicappers, as well as his greatest danger – his own erratic style – to prevail over 1800M.

Champion juvenile last year, Final Boss was well fancied heading to Busan for the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown, the KRA Cup Mile in April but arrived looking out of sorts and blew his race in the early stages before rallying for 5th. He then won the Korean Derby despite running wild and wide in the closing stages before beng lackluster once more in the Minister’s Cup with another 5th place.

On Sunday, champion jockey Moon Se Young, freshly returned from a stint in Singapore, took the mount and took Final Boss forward early, stalking the leader before hitting the front turning into the home straight and going clear to win comfortably. Sinjo Daehyeop, who was conceding 6kg, could only finish 4th.

Curtain Closes On Landmark Dubai Carnival

Had we been told before the 2017 Godolphin Mile that Triple Nine would ultimately finish just one place behind pre-race favourite North America, we may have been very excited. Well that’s what ultimately happened. That North America weakened to finish at the back of the main group with Triple Nine, for whom it proved a race too far, many lengths further adrift, might have been disappointing but does nothing to detract from what was a wonderful Carnival from a Korean perspective.

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Triple Nine at the Godolphin Mile (Screengrab from Dubai Racing TV)

Naturally, there are a bucket load of excuses that could be put forward for why Triple Nine didn’t do himself anything like justice (wrong trip, bad draw, muddy track of the type he lost to Beolmaui Kkum on last year, tired after a long campaign and so on and so forth) but it doesn’t really matter. It’s racing. It happens.

As it was, the closest Triple Nine came to a win ay Meydan was his first appearance on January 19th, when he closed strongly but just a little late to run 2nd to Hunting Ground over 2000M. The gutsy Triple Crown winner Power Blade landed consecutive 3rd places over a mile and 1900M before the pair of them both ran 5th in their respective Group races on Super Saturday.

Then, of course, there was Main Stay. He and Seoul Bullet both lined up for the 1200M Dirt Handicap on January 19th and for the first time there was real pressure not only to perform well but to actually win the race. As Dubai Racing TV pointed out as the horses came out onto the track “this race really is the Koreans’ to lose”. Seoul Bullet was slow out of the gate but ran on for 4th but Main Stay made no mistake. The race was won with a furlong to go and Terry Spargo’s “Chalk one up for Korea” call has been played at Seoul & Busan Racecourses every week since.

Seoul Bullet would pull up lame and play no further part in the Carnival as indeed would Main Stay after his second run three weeks later.

While Main Stay gets to go down in the history books, arguably the most significant result was that achieved by Diferent Dimension when he defied odds of 33/1 to come 3rd over a mile on turf on February 11th.

It was the first time for a Korean horse to run on turf at the Carnival and the race was well received back home not only because of the result but also for the way the horses ran tightly together as opposed to the wide margins on dirt. Plans are at an advanced stage for a turf track to be installed alongside the sand one at Seoul Racecourse and if the project is to be successful,  a substantial shift in mindset among horsemen in Korea in going ot be required. Actual proof that a Korea-trained (albeit by an Australian) horse can run well on turf is surely the best way to start that process.

Korea’s runners at this year’s Carnival were made possible by the performance of Success Story last year, his pair of 3rd places giving courage to owners and trainers. The unique nature of the Carnival also makes it ideal for a nation wishing to develop its racing, such as Korea. The horses get to spend a number of months in Dubai as do the grooms and workriders. They get to work alongside local grooms and riders and train alongside horses from all over the world providing an opportunity both to observe and to learn. Top international jockeys ride the horses – this year Ireland’s Pat Cosgrave handled the bulk of riding duties of the Korean string and a fine job he did too, both in work and in the races; his exhausting ride in Power Blade’s second outing standing out.

That regular Carnival races are competitive but not overwhelming also gives encouragement. The most exciting thing now is to see who emerges as a contender to make the trip in 2018.

Korea’s results at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival:

Triple Nine
1/19: 2000M (Dirt) – 2nd
2/9: 2000M (Dirt) – 4th
3/4: 2000M (Dirt – G1) – 5th
3/25: 1600M Godolphin Mile (Dirt – G2) – 11th

Power Blade
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 3rd
2/2: 1900M (Dirt) – 3rd
3/4: 1600M (Dirt – G3) – 5th

Main Stay
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 1st
2/11: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Diferent Dimension
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th
2/11: 1600M (Turf) – 3rd
2/16: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th

Seoul Bullet
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Triple Nine & Power Blade Set For Stern Super Saturday Tests

Power Blade and Triple Nine take to the Meydan dirt one final time tonight as they become Korea’s first representatives on “Super Saturday” at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Triple Nine has a 2nd and a 4th to his name in Carnival races so far while Power Blade has run 3rd in both of his starts. Tonight they are operating at another level altogether.

Power Blade will run in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over a mile (Race card):

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The race is not quite as strong as it could have been but Power Blade still looks up against it. Heavy Metal, who comfortably beat Power Blade in his first Meydan run, returns and looks as dangerous as ever while the even higher rated Polar River and Le Bernardin also take their chances. Stormardal and Godolphin’s Alabaster also can’t be ruled out. Power Blade is available at 16/1 with most operators and given the way he gamely runs on, that might be worth something each-way.

Just over an hour later, Triple Nine has an even tougher assignment as he takes part in a Group 1 3rd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge at 2000M (Race card):

tn3 Japan’s Lani is the most recognisable name on the list but the 3rd place-getter in last year’s Belmont Stakes won’t necessarily be favourite. Furia Crizada and Second Summer were 1st and 2nd  in the second leg of the challenge last month (with Power Blade 3rd). Triple Nine closed very strongly in his first Meydan outing but was a little one-paced and failed to change leads running on for 4th in his second. He is surely better than the 33/1 being offered by most operators.

Tonight is another hugely significant moment as Power Blade and Triple Nine run in these races on merit. If they can pull off a surprise and hit the board, it would be wonderful. If not, the way they and the other Korean horses have run at the Carnival before tonight has already ensured that Korea will be back next year.

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Power Blade Set For Stiff Meydan Test

Power Blade will need to be at his best as he faces a stern examination in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge in the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan this Thursday night.

The 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner was an encouraging 3rd on his Dubai debut three weeks ago but steps up in both distance and in opposition for this week’s 1900M test. It’s the 2nd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge and the top four place-getters from the first leg, run over a mile on the Carnival’s opening day on January 5th, all return.

The winner that day was Le Bernadin and the 8-year-old is set to be favourite here. Long River, Lindo Amor and Gold City ran 2nd to 4th and all three try their luck again. Fitzgerald ran poorly that day but prior to that won back to back non-Carnival races at Meydan while Second Summer is a Graded Stakes winner in the USA. Storm Belt showed little in his Carnival race three weeks ago but is a Meydan winner while Chile bred Furia Cruzada makes her Dubai debut but has solid form in Europe.

Despite being some way behind the winner and runner-up on January 12, Power Blade ran on very nicely for 3rd and hopes are high that he will at least be competitive once more as he becomes the first Korea-trained horse to compete at Group level at the Carnival. With the pattern of races on the deep Seoul and Busan sand being different to that on the Meydan dirt, the horses have taken some time to adapt and have tended to lose a bit of ground in the middle parts of the races, but with Pat Cosgrave, who has partnered most of the Korean runners so far this Carnival in the saddle once more, this can be overcome.

It’s now two weeks since Main Stay scored the breakthrough that Korea had been waiting for, comfortably landing a 1200M handicap. It wasn’t a strong race but crucially it was the first time a Korean horse was actually expected to win and with the pressure on, he delivered. It was a huge relief for all concerned and that hugely enjoyable evening – on which Triple Nine also ran a big race in 2nd over 2000M – helped to finally put to rest some nagging doubts, especially at home, as to whether horses from Korea really belonged at the Carnival. Now we know they do, if Power Blade runs to his best, another placed finish isn’t out of the question.

Seoul Bullet, 4th in Main Stay’s race, is recovering from a slight injury but the the other three Korea-trained horses are all likely to race over the next couple of weeks. Peter Wolsley’s Diferent Dimension, who ran well but weakened late on behind Power Blade on January 12 is expected to try his luck on turf while Main Stay and Triple Nine will return to the dirt within the next two weeks.

Power Blade runs in race 5, the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 at 20:50 Dubai time on Thursday evening. Click here for the full race card.