Power Blade will this week undergo surgery on the fractured sesamoid that ended his storied career one day before he was due to defend the Busan Owners’ Cup that he won last year. In his absence, Doraonpogyeongseon, the two-time SBS Sports Sprint winner, took top honours in the Group 3 contest at Busan Racecourse last Sunday.
The diagnosis on Power Blade was made public early Sunday morning , together with the announcement that once he recovers from surgery he will be retired to Stud.
In addition to sweeping all three legs of the 2016 Triple Crown, Power Blade (by Menifee) managed to place in Group company at the Dubai World Cup Carnival early in 2017, ran 2nd to Japan’s Graceful Leap in the Korea Sprint in September and rounded out the year by winning the Grand Prix Stakes, the traditional finale to the Korean racing year. While he was beaten on his only previous start of 2018, running 2nd to Silver Wolf in the Busan Ilbo Cup over 1200M in April, he was expected to get back in the winner’s circle last Sunday.
As it turned out, the up and coming US import Mighty Ssing (Congrats) was sent off as favourite ahead of fellow Seoul raider and last year’s champion filly/mare Silver Wolf (Oratorio). Doraonpogyeongseon (Kantharos), thought to be more a sprinter than a miler, was sent off only fourth-best among ten in the eyes of punters. Jockey Choi Si Dae rode the 5-year-old patiently, keeping him towards the back and on the rail and they steadily made progress rounding the turn, while Mighty Ssing went off in pursuit of early pacesetter King Of Ace.
Doraonpogyeongseon struck the front around a furlong and a half out and the rest had no answer as he strode away to a three-length win, the $50K purchase crashing through the Billion-Won prize-money barrier at the same time. Mighty Ssing was 2nd and Silver Wolf 3rd.
Doraonpogyeongseon won the Owners’ Cup (Pic: KRA)
In other news, Seoul headed into its short summer break – there is no racing in the capital this coming weekend – with two bumper cards last Saturday and Sunday and it was the most successful weekend yet for trainer Simon Foster.
The Australian handler sent out his biggest number of runners since arriving at Seoul at the end of last year and was rewarded with three winners across the two days. Filly Lovely Nute (Menifee) was a seven-length maiden winner on Saturday while on Sunday, another Foster-trained filly Sky Jump (Thunder Mocassin) also got her maiden win. She may have weighed in at just 397kg but the manner of her six-length win suggests she has a bright future. The more experienced Pro Matheus rounded off a good weekend for Foster later on Sunday.
Seoul’s break means attention will switch to Busan which this coming weekend runs a rare Saturday card as well as an expanded Sunday one, in order to make up for the capital’s absence
There is a heavyweight rematch in the Owners’ Cup (Korea Group 3) at Busan this Sunday as Silver Wolf and Power Blade face off once more having run 1st and 2nd in the Busan Ilbo Cup earlier this year. This time it’s at a mile and they’re joined by other big-hitters Doraonpogyeongseon and I’m Your Father as well as up and comer Mighty Ssing in what is set to be one of the races of the summer. There are 5 races at Busan from 12:40 to 16:20 and 12 at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00.
(Update 9/29 – It emerged on Sunday morning that on Saturday Power Blade fractured his proximal sesamoid bone in his right foreleg and has been scratched from the Owners’ Cup and retired from racing)
Silver Wolf (right) beat Power Blade to win the Busan Ilbo Cup (Pic: KRA)
Cheongdam Dokki was entered in the race but ultimately did not travel, to Busan. Full previews of every race in Korea on Sunday (and horse-by-horse of the Owners’ Cup) is below:
Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million
(2) DONGHAE SILVER was an improved 2nd over 1200 M last time, leading for much of the race before getting overturned in the closing stages. She drops back to 1000M today and can continue here progress. (3) SUN QUEEN ran a promising 2nd on debut over this distance behind Sagwarang, who went on to run 3rd at a higher level last weekend. She was a 70/1 shot that day but will get a bit more respect based on that and looks the main danger. (5) SKY JUMP also looked encouraging on debut, running 4th of 8 on a very wet track at the star of this month and can make progress here. (4) I’M HAPPY and (6) BLESSING ROAD look best of the rest.
Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 24 Million
(5) TAURUS run a good 2nd on debut at this distance on July 1st and the stars looked aligned for his maiden win here. (4) MAPAEBONG ran an improved 5th place in that race, his best in three outings so far and he could well prove to be the main danger today. (3) HYEONGMA PUBU keeps on being well backed and keeps coming up short although she should be looking to at least match her career-best finish of 3rd here. (6) MEGA CITY showed some glimpses of talent when finishing 3rd at odds of 90/1 last time. He’s been off since April and is a bit of an unknown quantity here. So too is first-timer starter (7) JJANGDAE but he trialled up competently enough earlier this month and must be given a chance of a place in this limited company.
(5) HADALRAE is up in class after getting his maiden win at the third time of asking on June 30th. It was at this distance and he made all on a wet track. He’s well drawn to get on speed again and can win again. (7) SHAR NAO and (1) HANSEN BAROWS came home 4th and 6th respectively when they raced each other on July 1stover 1700M and both drop back in trip today. Both are likely to challenge the favourite for the early lead and can go close here. (6) DONGTEUL TTAE has raced just the once this year and is a bit of a wildcard but has won at the distance and could go well. (8) SKY BIG remains a maiden after twenty-eight attempts but ran well for 3rd at class and distance on a wet track last time and could repeat.
(2) MASYA remains a maiden but acquitted herself well on her first try at this level having been promoted following a narrow defeat over 1000M at class 6 in May. She ran 4th of 12 at 1200M, running on nicely at the end and has as good a chance as any of winning here. (8) AMARONE was 2nd last start at 1200M, albeit beaten five-lengths by Geuma Thunder. Her solitary win came at this distance back in January and she’s another who can finish strongly. (1) JIGONG JEIL began well but quickly weakened when sent out at this distance on June 24th. It was her first outing in three months and first at this level and she can go much better today. She’ll likely be on the early speed and be joined by (4) HAETSAL WANGJA, who has plenty of experience at this level and can benefit from Manoel Nunes aboard today. (6) COMPLETE HIGH looks best of the rest.
Seoul Race 5: Class 4 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million
Another wide open race with plenty in the hunt. After several near-misses, (1) JUNGLE BEAT finally got his maiden with plenty to spare over 1000M three weeks ago. He’s up in class today and up to 1200M for the first time but he can win again. (11) SOMETHING MYSTERY and (8) WOOSEORA ICHEON are both up in class having finished 1st and 2nd at this distance on June 23rd and both should be competitive at this level. As for those who already have class 4 experience, (5) JEONGSANG MUJEOK is already a winner at this level and steps up in trip for the first time following a 2nd place over 1000M a month ago while (6) INCITATUS came home a creditable 5th in a decent race on a wet track at the beginning of this month and can get closer today.
Champion mare Silver Wolf downed Power Blade in a stretch battle to win the Busan Ilbo Cup, the 1st leg of the 2018 Korean Sprint Series at Busan on Sunday afternoon.
Power Blade was sent off the hot favourite but with a slightly more favourable draw, jockey Kim Dong Soo kept his nerve and kept Silver Wolf on the rail where she was able to gain valuable lengths on her rival as they rounded the turn. Power Blade meanwhile went wide around the field and had significant ground to make up in the straight.
Make it up he did and when Silver Wolf took the lead from early front-runner Perdido Pomeroy, Power Blade was right there. He got to within a length and no more, however, as Silver Wolf held on for what may not have been the richest win of her career but was certainly the best.
More to follow on the race over the next couple of days.
Busan Ilbo Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1200M – Sunday April 29, 2018
1. Silver Wolf (AUS) [Orotorio – Ready For More (More Than Ready)] – Kim Dong Soo – 6.0, 1.4 2. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonmacheong (Lost Mountain)] – Lee Hyo Sik – 1.1 3. Doraonpogyeongseon (USA) [Kantharos – Smartybegone (Smarty Jones)] – You Hyun Myung – 1.6 Distances: 0.5 lengths/4 lengths Also Ran: 4. Perdido Pomeroy (USA) 5. Paran Juuibo (USA) 6. Saengil Gippeum (USA) 7. Morning Daero (USA) 8. Dynamic Star (KOR) 9. Success Story (KOR) 10. Party Again (KOR) 11. Macheon Bolt (KOR) NR: Cheonha TOngil (KOR)
On Sunday, we probably saw the best Grand Prix Stakes we ever have. The 2015 edition, won by Bold Kings, was outstanding, while for those of us who go in for that sort of thing, Tough Win’s 2011 victory over fellow “troika” members, Mister Park and Smarty Moonhak will always be special, even if the race itself wasn’t that exciting. Power Blade’s victory this year, on the other hand, was in a race that involved a win by a genuine star in a contest that wasn’t settled until the final stride.
Power Blade wins the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)
Cheongdam Dokki, the three-year-old favourite, set a pace that was quite brutal by Korean standards. In a Grand Prix Stakes, only Ugildongja in 2009 and Beolmaui Kkum in 2014 had set anything close to his early sectionals – and both finished well back in their respective fields. Cheongdam Dokki didn’t. The final time of Power Blade broke the 2300M track record by over a second and was precisely three seconds quicker than the fastest previous Grand Prix – the aforementioned 2009 edition, which was won by Dongbanui Gangja.
The horses who went with Cheongdam Dokki – or at least tried to – simply had nothing left for the closing stages; Diferent Dimension, Dynamic Dash and last to succumb, Silver Wolf, fading through the pack. The only one who kept pace early and had something to offer was the outstanding Triple Nine. Lim Sung Sil, possibly fearing that Cheongdam Dokki was simply too good, began to get after Triple Nine as they began the long turn for home, a full four-furlongs out, in order to keep up with the leader. At the same time Oh Kyung Hwan on Power Blade and Park Jae I on Dongbang Daero opted to save energy and allowed their mounts a more leisurely trip, ultimately paying huge dividends in the closing stages.
It is therefore perhaps testament to the sheer ability of Triple Nine and the huge potential of Cheongdam Dokki that they still managed to finish 3rd and 4th respectively after such stiff early efforts. Less than three lengths separated the winner and 5th placed Buhwarui Banseok.
Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic: KRA)
Dongbang Daero had finished 3rd behind Saengil Gippeum in what was a trial for the Grand Prix over 2200M at Busan at the beginning of November. Saengil Gippeum blew them away that day but Dongbang Daero had finished the quickest, running on very nicely to become involved in a finish in which there was just half a length separating 2nd and 6th. Buhwarui Banseok was also involved in that finish and he too ran on very well on Sunday.
Last year’s winner Clean Up Joy didn’t look the part before the race and never really featured, ending up in 7th place.
It became clear around two furlongs out that Cheongdam Dokki wasn’t going to be able to keep things up the whole way around. Triple Nine got first crack at him but Power Blade and Dongbang Daero simply had too much in reserve and Power Blade’s class saw him home by a Head on the line.
It is a shame that neither Triple Nine nor Power Blade will be returning to the Dubai World Cup Carnival as both look eminently capable of winning a race this time around. Connections have other plans, however, and hopefully they’ll get a nice long rest through the worst of the winter – although in all honesty, it would be no surprise to see one or other lining up in a nondescript Class 1 handicap come February. The pair of them have been such good ambassadors for Korean racing over the past three seasons, that they went overseas even once is something we can be grateful for. That trip, plus their showings in the Korea Cup and Sprint demonstrated that the pair of them could hold their own to a good (not elite, but good) standard anywhere.
Trainer Kim Young Kwan can divide opinions, but there can be no denying that when a horse of his comes out to run in a big race, his team will have it in peak condition and Triple Nine and Power Blade are the epitome of this – Triple Nine’s Godolphin Mile aside (and he was in desperate need of a spell then), they never seem to have an off-day.
Both now have claims to be the top Korean-bred horse ever. Power Blade’s Triple Crown and Grand Prix matching up with Triple Nine’s President’s Cup hat-trick. Their prize money earnings are almost identical with both breaking the 3 Billion Won barrier at the Grand Prix. They’ve raced each other seven times now with Triple Nine leading the head-to-head by 4 to 3 – although Power Blade has now won three of their last four meetings.
We head into 2018 with plenty to be excited about on track. Cheongdam Dokki’s development along with the pair who ultimately didn’t run in the Grand Prix, Dolkong and New Citadel. Then there is the emergence of a new domestic three-year-old crop which looks stronger than this year’s. Still on top for now though are Power Blade and Triple Nine and next year they will still only be five and six-years-old.
Power Blade, the 2016 Korean Triple Crown winner on Sunday topped even that, racing to victory in Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes.
Power Blade in the Grand Prix winner’s circle (Pic. J. Kim)
3-year-old phenom Cheongdam Dokki was sent off as favourite for the 2300M season-finale with Triple Nine 2nd best in punter’s eyes ahead of Power Blade who started in excess of 12/1. Cheongdam Dokki did indeed set the pace in the early part of the race but once he got into unfamiliar territory in the home straight, he bag to tire. Triple Nine got first crack at him but ultimately it was Power Blade and – to the surprise of most – 150/1 Dongbang Daero who came through to dispute the finish, Power Blade triumphing by a Head on the line. Triple Nine was a game as ever 3rd with Cheongdam Dokki 4th and Bart Rice’s Buhwarui Banseok a very good 5th.
Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2300M – December 10, 2017
1. Power Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Cheonachong (Lost Mountain)] – Oh Kyung Hwan – 13.1, 2.1 2. Dongbang Daero (USA) [Curlin – Willa Joe (El Gran Senor)] – Park Jae I – 17.0 3. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.0 Distances: Head / 1.25 lengths Also Ran: 4. Cheongdam Dokki (USA) 5. Buhwarui Banseok (USA) 6. Champ Line (KOR) 7. Clean Up Joy (USA 8. Silver Wolf (AUS) 9. Dynamic Dash (USA) 10. Saengil Gippeum (USA) 11. Cheonjeok (USA) 12. Diferent Dimension (USA)
In the end the punters were much closer to getting it right than the pundits. The vast majority of the Korean racing world had managed to convince itself that when it came to the rivalry between Triple Nine and Power Blade, the younger horse was now in charge, even at 2000M. Bettors, however, sent the pair off as pretty much co-favourites and ultimately it was Triple Nine who prevailed at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday to match the achievement of Dangdae Bulpae in winning three consecutive President’s Cups.
Triple Nine beat Power Blade to win his 3rd President’s Cup at Seoul on Sunday (Pic: KRA)
l was guiltier than most, having gone from believing at the start of the week that Triple Nine still had every chance over his preferred distance to by the time of the race, being sure Power Blade would win. In the end, it wasn’t even close with Triple Nine collaring his rival a furlong from home and running on to win by an ever-increasing two lengths.
Triple Nine was given a very good ride by Lim Sung Sil who this year has established himself as the top big race rider in Korea. This was his third Group race victory of the year (more impressive than it sounds given the limited number), achieved on three different horses and he is likely to ride favourite World Sun in the Breeders’ Cup race back at Seoul in early December. Then of course, there is the prospect of Triple Nine in the Grand Prix Stakes.
Lim is an infrequent rider, his minimum weight of 54kg not being conducive to regular mounts in Korea, but some of the rides he has produced – initiative in the Minister’s Cup and timing in last week’s Gimhae Mayor’s Cup and of course on Triple Nine on Sunday – mark him out as a cut above most here.
Ultimately, the President’s Cup finishing order was exactly the same as last year, with Triple Nine winning, Power Blade 2nd and Success Story 3rd. Korean Derby winner Final Boss could only manage 4th. He raced prominently throughout but never looked likely in the home straight and is perhaps not quite at the very elite level yet. That elite level is set by the winner and runner-up, ten lengths clear of the rest.
Korean racing has been very lucky to have both Triple Nine and Power Blade over the past two years. Their performances over the summer must surely put an end to the general belief on the backstretches in Seoul and Busan that travelling overseas to race is detrimental to horses’ chances of racing successfully in Korea. Granted it took both a while to readjust on their return from Dubai and they probably did miss out on winning some easy prize money in routine handicaps – and granted too, remarkably this was Triple Nine’s first race win since the corresponding one a year ago. But both could have probably used the spell anyway after long campaigns.
Moreover, Power Blade especially came back a better horse and it has now been demonstrated that Triple Nine lost nothing either with both having beaten the other at their preferred trips. There is, of course a reason why in September, Power Blade ran in the Korea Sprint and Triple Nine in the Korea Cup. While Triple Nine will head for the Grand Prix, Power Blade almost certainly won’t and at least for him, another trip to Dubai would make perfect sense, even if he has to forego an easy win or two here. For now, connections remain unconvinced.
Dangdae Bulpae, whose three-timer Triple Nine has now equaled, did attempt a fourth in 2013. It was a race too far for him. A year is a very long time in flat racing but hopefully Triple Nine will still be here.
Triple Nine heads into Sunday’s President’s Cup (KOR G1) at Seoul Racecourse looking to match Dangdae Bulpae’s feat of three consecutive wins in what is the nation’s most valuable race restricted to Domestic-bred horses. More likely though is that we witness a changing of the guard of sorts as stablemate Power Blade will be favourite to assert his own claim to be top of the Korean racing tree.
Power Blade won the Korean Derby this year. He gets the chance to depose Triple Nine in the President’s Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)
That transition is almost complete. Both went to the Dubai World Cup Carnival and represented Korea with extremely creditable performances but since they’ve come back, it’s Power Blade who has gone on to excel. That’s not to say that Triple Nine is demonstrably any worse; just that that Power Blade has got better and better and the younger horse has already downed Triple Nine at distances of 1400M and a Mile.
Neither are straightforward horses. Power Blade needs urging all the way around while Triple Nine takes a very long time to reach his top gear. It’s those factors which combine with the 2000M distance of the President’s Cup that gives Triple Nine backers a glimmer of hope. Power Blade now though, is good enough to extinguish it.
Traditionally in Korea this would be the race where the top three-year-olds of the year faced their older counterparts in a Group race for the first time. Indeed, Korean Derby winner Final Boss takes his chance. Similar to the two favourites, he is anything but straightforward but on his day, looks an exceptional talent. Daeho Sidae, who beat Final Boss in the final leg of the Triple Crown also goes.
Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
(1) DUSON EYE just missed out by a neck over 1000M on October 1st and he’s the pick to go one better here, likely leading all the way. (2) SKY CAMP has been 3rd in both his starts so far, albeit in less than exalted company and there’s no reason why that record can’t continue here. He’ll likely join Duson Eye up front early. (5) GEUMEUN JUOK was well back behind Duson Eye on latest effort but had shown glimpses of talent before while debut-maker (3) BAEKDUUI JEONGSANG has to be given a chance in this company having trialled up in decent fashion last month.
Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
(8) HIGH STAR comes in having run 3rd and 4th in her latest two, both of them similarly modest contests to this one. She’s not necessarily the fastest of starters but will run on and could get her maiden win here. (3) O.J. HWAK DAB gets a fresh start today. She’s not been convincing in two outings to date but looked much improved when trialling up in October and can be backed here. (2) SOJUNGHAN SEONGBUL’s latest two have been too difficult and she should be much happier today – the champion jockey riding her will (more…)
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.
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.
(8) Stormy Passion (11) Geumeun Juok (5) Duson Eye (6) I Am Winner
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.
(7) Magic Ten (4) Seouri Byeol (3) Clean Up Teukgeup (9) Royal Tank
1, 5, 2
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.