Queen’s Blade

Queen’s Blade Welcomed Home A Winner

After fifteen long months in the Korean racing wilderness, Queen’s Blade, the 2014 Korean Derby and Oaks winning filly, was back in the winner’s circle at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon having triumphed in the Jeju Governor’s Cup.

Queen's Blade in the Jeju Governor's Cup winner's circle

Queen’s Blade in the Jeju Governor’s Cup winner’s circle

Being sent to the USA is generally a career death-knell for a Korean racehorse with connections understandably taking advantage of the inexplicably generous subsidy available for running a Korean Group race winner in the States (you have to do it three times and one of them must be a Stakes race) only when they feel their horse isn’t going to win an equivalent amount at home anymore.

And while Queen’s Blade, unlike another Derby winning filly Speedy First, was at least sound, she wasn’t in race shape in America and duly met with the now familiar humiliation that greets participants in this program. Home, retirement and the breeding shed seemed to await, not the racecourse.

This filly was a little different though and after the three-month spell on the farm that she was long overdue, she returned to work last month, flying through a barrier trial and found herself in the starting gate today.

True, this was not the toughest assignment first up with race-watchers here scratching their heads trying to recall a weaker looking Stakes race which had no upper class or rating limit on its entrants. They put on a decent show though and under a characteristically skilful ride from Japanese jockey Ikuyasu Kurakane, Queen’s Blade battled hard to earn victory by a neck.

Queen’s Blade was always handy and while she and stablemate Bukbeol Sinhwa (a full sister to President’s Cup winner Triple Nine) stayed on, the rest of the early front-runners would fade in the closing stages and it was left to closers Pinot Noir and Meni Money to get the closest to the winner with Pinot Noir, an 18/1 chance, just running out of track in the end.

Queen’s Blade is a half sister to 2008 Korean Oaks winner Jeolho Chance and was recording her first victory since her own Oaks success last August. It was her 8th career win in total from sixteen (Korean) starts. For jockey Ikuyasu Kurakane it was a third Korean Stakes race win while for trainer Kim Young Kwan it was business as usual in the biggest races.

Jeju Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – November 15, 2015

1. Queen’s Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Harboring (Boston Harbor)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 2.9, 1.6
2. Pinot Noir (KOR) [Capital Spending – Neungnyeokchungman (Pacificbounty)] – Park Eul Woon – 2.9
3. Meni Money (KOR) [Menifee – Pocketful Of Money (Running Stag)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.7
Distances: Neck/2 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Bukbeol Sinhwa 5. X File 6. Smart Time 7. Winner’s Marine 8. Indian Star 9. Hwanggembitjijung 10. Jokwang 11. Jibong Sarang 12. Appealing Star 13. Space Shuttle 14. Chongal Gongju 15. Blue Guardian 16. Geumbit Hwanhui

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From Pick Me Up To Queen’s Blade: It’s Time To Change

A few years ago, I wrote an article with the title “What have we learned from Pick Me Up?” If one definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, then it must be concluded that more than six years on, the answer to my question is “not a lot”.

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Bring her home: Queen's Blade wins the 2014 Korean Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Last year an unfit Speedy First and an out of sorts Major King, Korean Classic winners both, spent the spring and early summer in the United States, each getting humiliated three times, before coming home. That three times is important as, for some reason, all these years later, the Korea Racing Authority still picks up the bill if a horse goes to the US and runs three times. A couple of years previously, Oaks winner Baekpa did the same.

This past Saturday, the 2014 Korean Derby winner Queen’s Blade was entered in a six-furlong race for fillies and mares at Pimlico. I’ll not post the video but she was left in the gate at the start and never featured, ending last by some considerable distance. Inevitably she will race twice more to get the subsidy.

If we were learning something from this, it wouldn’t be so bad but we’re not. We already know that four-year old Korean horses who have been going non-stop since their debuts nearly two years ago will not be competitive in US racing. We also know that if a horse was expected to perform well in Korea this year, it would not be sent overseas.

Similarly, we know that Korean bred horses who go to the US when young can be competitive. As someone once said, “maybe  the problem isn’t the horse”.

We also know that when sent overseas at the right time and to the right race, Korean trained horses can compete – Watts Village winning the Interaction Cup at Ohi in 2013 proved that.

In the original piece about Pick Me Up, I wrote about the strange practice of sending a Korean horse halfway around the world in order to try and assess the strength of Korean bred horses, when there are plenty of imports racing in Korea, but only allowed to run in segregated races. The start of the rating system, whatever its critics may say, is finally addressing that.

In a year where Korea hopes to become recognised by IFHA as a Part II country, a second Derby winner in as many years going to the States and not even looking like a racehorse, is potentially damaging to the international perception of racing here.

If an owner wishes to take their horse themselves to race in the USA, then the very best of luck to them. Support though should focus on getting our best horses to Singapore in July, to Tokyo in late autumn and to Dubai early next year and also encouraging them to take on the visitors in the Ttukseom Cup, KRA Cup Classic and Asia Challenge Cup.

It’s time to do things differently.

Se Young Storms Back At Seoul / Cinderella Man Steps Up At Busan

The fun’s over for the Seoul Jockey colony. There have been plenty of wins to go around so far this year but the main man was back this weekend. And Moon Se Young promptly asserted his dominance riding eight winners across the weekend.

And well he might smile. Moon Se Young was back and in-form this weekend (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

And well he might smile. Moon Se Young was back and in-form this weekend (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Last year’s champion jockey picked up a 6-meeting ban during the final weekend of 2014 giving him a pleasant few weeks off on what should have been the coldest race-days of the winter. As it transpired, it wasn’t that cold but in his return to race riding this weekend, Moon was red-hot.

To the surprise of no-one, he was in the winner’s circle after his first ride back on Saturday and he would return there a further seven times across the weekend – two more on Saturday followed five on Sunday. He added three 2nd places and two 3rds and is remarkably already in 3rd place in the 2015 Jockey Championship. Park Tae Jong, racing’s “President”, will know its odds-on Moon Se Young will have overtaken him at the top by the end of next weekend.

At Busan, the performance of the day came from Cinderella Man. The Peter Wolsley trained 4-year-old made his class 1 debut in the feature handicap. Under Jo Sung Gon, he led home last year’s Derby winner Queen’s Blade and solid handicapper My Key for victory by just under three lengths.

Cinderella Man (Southern Image) now has seven wins from ten career starts and looks a force to be reckoned with. Aussie trainer Wolsley has built up another strong stable this year and already sits in third place in the Trainer Championship. Another promising one of his, the (poorly-spelled, in an orthographical rather than a having a rest on the farm way) Diferent Dimension (Into Mischief) was an easy winner on Friday.

Also on the foreign training front, Bart Rice saddled his first winner of the year on Friday, with his Aussie-bred filly Ace Sinhwa (Onemorenomore) scoring on her racing debut.

As for the foreign jockeys, both Ikuyasu Kurakane at Seoul and Joe Fujii at Busan were among the winners on Sunday.

Back at Seoul, the feature race of the weekend was won by Strong Road (A.P.Warrior) who, just like Cinderella Man at Busan stepped up to class 1 for the first time and duly registered his 7th win from 10 career starts so far.

Weekend Preview: Moon Se Young Is Back, Heukgisa At Seoul, Queen’s Blade At Busan

The fallout from the Korea Racing Authority’s 2015 plan continues with local media in Korea reporting that a coalition of breeders, owners and trainers may boycott the races from the first weekend of February. As punters, we’ll worry about that next week though because in the meantime, there’s a full set of cards definitely going ahead over the next three days.

Busan hosts the pick of the action this weekend

Busan hosts the pick of the action this weekend

The feature race of the weekend is, as has become the norm so far this year, at Busan and takes place on Sunday when 2014 Korean Derby winner Queen’s Blade faces My Key and Peter Wolsley’s impressive Cinderella Man in the feature handicap.

At Seoul, champion jockey Moon Se Young returns from suspension for his first rides of 2015 and has plenty of live chances across the weekend. Moon will ride Impetus in Seoul’s feature race of the weekend, a race which sees Heukgisa carrying top weight in the handicap.

Among the foreign riders, Ikuyasu Kurakane, who’s nearing the end of his license period, should be in the winner’s circle at Seoul while Joe Fujii has plenty of decent rides at Busan. Nozomu Tomizawa will also be in action at Busan as will Nobuyuki Oyama who has made a quick return from injury. Masa Tanaka is suspended.

Click here for full racecards from the KRA.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday January 23
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00 (Click here for a full preview of races 4-11)
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday January 24
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday January 25
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

Racing Review: Hangangui Gijeok Dominates Queen’s Blade

Hangangui Gijeok was the star of the show in Korea this weekend, scoring a dominant 12-length win over Derby and Oaks winning filly Queen’s Blade at Busan on Friday.

Ineligible for the Triple Crown races this year due to being a gelding, Hangangui Gijeok went up to Seoul last month after seven conseuctive wins at Busan including the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup. He finished 4th behind Gyeongbudaero, who would go on to win last week’s Grand Prix Stakes but was the best of the three-year olds in the race, ending just a nose ahead of Queen’s Blade.

There was rather more than a nose between them when they raced over a mile in Busan’s Friday feature. leading from gate-to-wire, Hangangui Gijeok finished a full 12-lengths clear of Queen’s Blade who put a further full 4-lengths between herself and the rest of the field. Hangangui Gijeok moves onto nine wins from twelve career starts and his 2015 campaign will be one of the most eagerly awaited on the peninsula.

Class 1 – Busan Racecourse – 1600M – Dec 19, 2014

1. Hangangui Gijeok (KOR) [Didyme – Legendary Destiny (Giant’s Causeway)] – You Hyun Myung – 1.9, 1.0
2. Queen’s Blade (KOR) [Menifee – Harboring (Boston Harbor)] – Kim Yong Geun – 1.3
3. Road To Prince (KOR) [Pico Central – Ransom Bay (Red Ransom)] – Chae Sang Hyun – 2.1

Distances: 12 lengths / 4 lengths – 11 ran

At Seoul, the feature race was on Sunday when Gwanggyo Bisang struggled under top weight of 60Kg in the big class 1 handicap and could only manage third place as Namhae Daewwang (Commendable) landed his second consecutive win at the highest level. Four of the four-year old’s six career wins have come this year and he closed late to overturn a tiring Nulpureunchongyong in the closing stages of the 1800M event.

Jockey performance of the weekend came, as usual from Moon Se Young, who partnered five horses to victory at Seoul on Saturday, before adding another two on a snowy Sunday. Among them was the still unbeaten US import Bear Queen Trophy (Exchange Rate) who made it three wins from three starts on Sunday afternoon.

Joe Fujii too, got the second win of his comeback from injury on Sunday, guiding the Kim Young Kwan trained Buho to race 6 at Busan on Sunday.

While the racing season was originally scheduled to finish on Sunday, an extra set of cards have been added for the final weekend of the year with a bumper 13-race card at Busan on Friday and the usual weekend racing around the three tracks. There are some big fields in store, especially at Seoul, and racing will be simulcast to Singapore on Friday and Sunday.

Gyeongbudaero Wins President’s Cup At Third Attempt

The expressway between Seoul and Busan is called “Gyeongbu”. Given that so much big race prize-money has disappeared down that road from the capital, it is perhaps appropriate that a horse called Gyeongbudaero, returned back South with the biggest prize of them all in the President’s Cup yesterday.

Gyeongbudaero (far side) just edges Best Captain in the President's Cup (Pic: KRA)

Gyeongbudaero (far side) just edges Best Captain in the President’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

Now five-years-old, Gyeongbudaero won the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the Korean Triple Crown in 2012.

He followed it up with a third place in the Korean Derby and that year’s President’s Cup. Last year he would come back to Seoul and finish second. This year he finally got it right in the nation’s richest race.

It was another Busan raider, Hangangui Gijeok, who was sent off as the pre-race favourite, with Magic Dancer also ahead of Gyeongbudaero in the betting. And it was Magic Dancer who set much of the early pace with the favourite and Ganghae, a shock third in the Minister’s Cup, in close attendance.

This would turn out to be a race for the closers though and as first Ganghae disappeared and then Hangangui Gijeok Magic Dancer began to wane, it was Gyeongbudaero and outsider Best Captain who took full advantage. They would battle all the way to the line but it was Gyeongbudaero who got there first by a head.

Magic Dancer came home three lengths back in third ahead of Hangangui Gijeok with Derby and Oaks winning filly Queen’s Blade in fifth.

It was a tenth career victory for Gyeongbudaero and his fourth Stakes win. Twelve of his twenty-seven starts have been in Stakes company and he is now approaching the KRW 2 Billion mark in prize-money won.

If connections want it, they will be sure of getting an invite back to Seoul next month for the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes. Gyeongbudaero’s sixth place in last year’s race is one of only two occasions to date on which he has been out of the money.

President’s Cup (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – November 9. 2014

1. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – Choi Si Dae – 6.7, 1.9
2. Best Captain (KOR) [Revere – Onethindime (Tactical Advantage)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 4.9
3. Magic Dancer (KOR) [Forest Camp – Woldly Magic (Peterhof)] – Kim Yong Geun – 1.7
Distances: Head / 3 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Hangangui Gijeok 5. Queen’s Blade 6. Haneuli Chubok 7. Gumpo Sky 8. New And Best 9. Gwanggyo Bisang 10. Success Story 11. Gumanseok 12. Heukgisa 13. Ganghae

* So yet another big race win for Busan and it is the southern track that looks likely to take the honours when horses from the two tracks clash again next Sunday – this time on the South Coast – in the Gyeongnam Owners’ Cup, the final leg of the Queens’ Tour.

President’s Cup: Thirteen To Contest Korea’s Richest Race

It’s the big one. Not in terms of prestige – that belongs to the open to all comers season-ending Grand Prix Stakes – but in terms of prize money, nothing in Korea can top the President’s Cup which will be run at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

Hangangui Gijeok and You Hyun Myung win the Owners' Cup at Busan. Can they add a President's Cup too? (KRA)

Hangangui Gijeok and You Hyun Myung win the Owners’ Cup at Busan. Can they add a President’s Cup too? (KRA)

Restricted to Korean bred horses, the Derby and Oaks winner is here in the shape of Queen’s Blade. She’s the only filly among a very competitive field of 13 that includes old favourites such as Gyeongbudaero and young up-and-comers like Hangangui Gijeok.

It will be one of the biggest betting races of the year Here is a full run-down of the field (Name [Pedigree] Age Sex (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) Korean Rating – Jockey):

President’s Cup (KOR G1) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – Sunday November 9, 2014 – 16:40

1. Gumanseok [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] 5 G (27/9/5/5) 115 – Seo Seung Un
Beaten into third last time out by a very impressive Gwanggyo Bisang and the much-hyped Yeongsan II, this is a tough gelding who has some big wins on his resume. Not likely to be winning this but he can challenge for a place.

2. Ganghae [Didyme – Ocelot (Catrail)] 3 C (15/5/5/1) 109 – Choi Bum Hyun
A revelation in the Minister’s Cup last month when he stayed on for a very creditable 3rd behind Never Seen Before and Gumpo Sky. Again, he may find one or two too quick for him here but another big run can’t be ruled out.

3. Hangangui Gijeok [Didyme – Legendary Destiny (Giant’s Causeway)] 3 G (10/8/1/0) 124 – You Hyun Myung
The latest phenom to emerge from Busan, he comes into the race off the back of seven consecutive wins, most recently the Busan Owners’ Cup in September. He will come from off the pace and has very good late speed. On form, he will be tough to beat and while it will be his first time at Seoul, he is difficult to oppose.

4. Gwanggyo Bisang [Menifee – Touch Upon (Touch Gold)] 4 G (16/11/1/3) 122 – Park Tae Jong
A double Stakes winner last year, he comes in with three consecutive victories and was especially impressive carrying 60kg to victory over this distance a month ago. He is perhaps Seoul’s best hope but he is going to need to find even more improvement to beat the visitors from Busan.

5. New And Best [Trick Of Fate – Yongungch’eon (Phizam)] 7 H (61/4/6/3) 101 – Kim Ok Sung
No. His 4th place over this distance last time out was his first money finish since January. He has been a good and competitive horse but is overmatched here.

6. Haneului Chubok [Revere – Mina D’Oro (Afleet)] 6 G (33/6/10/4) 118 – Kim Tae Kyung
Fourth in the Busan Owners’ Cup last time out, just three lengths behind winner Hangangui Gijeok, eh may go close again but with both Magic Dancer and Gyeongbudaero also both ahead of him that day, it is difficult to see him reversing that form here.

7. Magic Dancer [Forest Camp – Wildly Magic (Peterhof)] 4 C (16/10/4/0) 126 – Kim Yong Geun
A proven winner at Seoul, having taken the Jeju Governor’s Cup back in June over this distance, this is a classy horse who must be respected. He will be towards the front throughout and will stay on. He also has the fastest final furlong among this field. Beaten by Hangangui Gijeok in the Busan Owners’ Cup, he will have supporters to overturn that form here. Jockey Kim Yong Geun opts for him over Queen’s Blade.

8. Gyeongbudaero [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run) 5 H (26/9/6/7) 125 – Choi Si Dae
One of the stars of the track over the past three years, he doesn’t have the win record that he might have had with eleven of his starts coming in Stakes races. His third place in the Busan Owners’ Cup was his first start since February. He has only been out of the money twice in twenty-six starts and it will be a brave punter who leaves him off his or her tickets here.

9. Queen’s Blade [Menifee – Harboring (Boston Harbor)] 3 F (12/7/3/0) 113 – Masakazu Tanaka
The Derby and Oaks winner was beaten eight lengths into fifth in the Minister’s Cup at this distance last month when sent off as favourite. Three of those who beat her in that race go again today. It has been a long season for her and while she is clearly a huge talent, this may be a race too far. It would be fantastic to be proved wrong.

10. Gumpo Sky [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] 3 C (14/5/5/2) 111 – Park Geum Man
Second in the Minister’s Cup a month ago, this is another horse whose win record doesn’t reflect his talent. Expect him to be close to the pace early and force the rest to try to come past. He should be aiming for at least a place.

11. Best Captain [Revere – Onethindime (Tactical Advantage) 4 C (17/7/5/3) 116 – Ikuyasu Kurakane
A very consistent money winner who has only failed to bring home a prize once out of his seventeen outings to date. A comfortable winner over 1800M last time out. He won that from the front and is likely to be among a large number here looking to get to the front early and stay there.

12. Success Story [Peace Rules – Power Pack (Lil’s Lad)] 3 C (9/5/0/2) 100 – Jo Sung Gon
He came into the Minister’s Cup last month off the back of three consecutive wins and showed the way for much of that race. He was found wanting in the final furlong though and that makes him difficult to support here. Jockey Jo Sung Gon doesn’t come to Seoul unless he thinks he has a chance though, so he will have some supporters.

13. Heukgisa [A.P.Dancer – Mansumugang (Half Term)] 5 G (22/9/5/2) 119 – Yoo Seung Wan
A very good-looking nine-length class 1 win over this distance a month ago is what gives him such a high rating here and also means he must be respected. Another who likes to be at the front early, he won’t be favourite but can’t be ruled out.