Raon First, the only mare in the race, produced a home stretch burst up the inside to leave defending champion Simjangui Godong and Korea Cup winner Winner’s Man behind and score a sensational win in the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. The five-year-old is the first mare to win the race in its eighteenth year.
Coming in off his remarkable triumph in the international Korea Cup in September, Winner’s Man was sent off as the restrictive odds-on favourite for what is the most valuable race of the year that is restricted to horses bred in Korea. Last year’s winner Simjangui Godong was second in the market, ahead of Heunghaeng Jilju and the three-year-old Captain Yankee. Raon First was fifth in the betting but that was at 30/1, such was the market skewed towards Winner’s Man.
More renowned as a sprinter, Raon First ran 3rd in the Korea Sprint over 1200M the day Winner’s Man won the Korea Cup. But Raon First had raced at 1800M in the past, winning a Class 2 handicap in May of 2021 in addition to harvesting the Listed Donga Ilbo Trophy in restricted company against hopelessly outclassed fellow fillies and mares who she would probably beat at any distance from the minimum up to two miles earlier this year.
She had never tackled 2000M though and she had never faced anything like Winner’s Man around two-turns. Yet she beat him with ease. Settling handy instead of leading, jockey Choi Bum-hyun kept Raon First on the fence, saving ground the entire way around as outsider Jangsan Laser set a tough pace up front, matched by Winner’s Man and in the early stages, by Captain Yankee.
That shape would remain unaltered until the home straight when Captain Yankee quickly folded while Simjangui Godong loomed up to threaten. Staying on the fence, Raon First stole a couple of lengths on the turn and was quickly to the fore, hitting the front with just over 300M to go. It was then that the challenge from Winner’s Man was expected. It came, as did that from Simjangui Godong but any hope they had as quickly extinguished as the mare built up an unassailable lead a long way from home.
Raon First crossed the line two-lengths ahead of Simjangui Godong, who was himself a length and a quarter ahead of Winner’s Man in 3rd. The very game Jangsan Laser was a revelation in 4th, but Captain Yankee, also on pace early, found it hard to cope with the pace and finished back down the field.
Raon First has always done things a little quirkily. She came to prominence in her juvenile season in 2019 when instead of entering the traditional Juvenile Series races, she was pointed to the race that was open to imported juveniles (she is a product of Musket Man and Pink Candy, who both arrived in Korea in January 2016). She duly won it in fine style. Since then, she has mostly been kept in filly and mare company for her Group race appearances – understandable given her superiority and the value of the purses – but after an out of character but excusable well back finish in the KNN Cup at Busan, she has been let loose in the really big races. She moves on to twelve wins from twenty-one starts and six of her last eight.
It was a first President’s Cup win for veteran jockey Choi Bum-hyun and also for trainer Park Jong-kon.
Simjangui Godong ran his usual strong race in 2nd and as for Winner’s Man, who suffered his first defeat in 2022 after six consecutive wins it was a first defeat of 2022.