Seoul Busan

Kim Gui Bae – Rare Visit To The Winner’s Circle Thirty Three Years After His First

Korea’s oldest professional Sportsman – except for a few veteran golfers – was back in the Winner’s Circle at Seoul Race Park today. However, in recent years, winning has been an all too rare experience for veteran jockey Kim Gui Bae.

Winner Again: Kim Gui Bae

Today, partnering 23/1 outsider Haetal (Volponi) in race 8, Kim produced his horse for a late run to sweep past odds-on favourite Something Good (Forest Camp) to score victory by just over a length.

It was the 49 year old’s first win of 2012. He scored seven wins in 2011 and the same number the year before. If past history is anything to go by, he’s unlikely to exceed that figure this year; those two years were his most successful out of the past twenty.

When Kim Gui Bae turned professional as a teenager in April 1979, President Park Chung Hee was in the final year of his authoritarian regime (Park would be assassinated in October that year) and horse racing in Korea was almost a different sport to what it is today. There was no Stud Book, no private ownership of horses and the pari-mutuel odds were still calculated manually for each race.

Kim Gui Bae started his career well and, throughout the 1980’s, was one of the top jockeys at the old Seoul Racecourse at Ttukseom. His biggest win came in 1986 on Po Gyeong Seon [Danseur Etoile-Leonotis (Lionhearted)] as the great New Zealand bred gelding captured his second consecutive Grand Prix Stakes. Kim rode him to six of his twenty career victories.

On that day, the jockey can’t have imagined that twenty-five years later, he would not only still be riding, but also still searching for a second Stakes win. Kim himself points to Seoul Racecourse moving from Ttukseom to Gwacheon in 1989 as being the moment his career changed for the worse. Indeed, he’s only ridden just over fifty winners at the new track over the past 23 years.

Blurry: Korean racing photography wasn't so great back in the days when Kim Gui Bae won the 1986 Grand Prix on Po Gyeong Seon

In an interview for the KRA in 2010, Kim said he never made the adjustment from racing clockwise at Ttukseom to anti-clockwise at Gwacheon. It seems a rather incredible, not to mention disappointing, excuse but the figures certainly agree with him.

Over the years his opportunities have slowly died up as new jockeys come through. When asked why he kept going instead of making more of an effort to pass the trainers’ exam and move into the barn (something which is also likely to be too late now), he simply replied that it is because he “enjoys riding.”

Despite this, Kim Gui Bae is not a jockey that punters avoid (and there are some). He can generally be relied upon to get a horse its best possible finish and its odds don’t drift because he’s riding it. Over his career, his win rate is 8.4% and longevity has made him popular; today he was welcomed back to the winner’s circle by a small group of old-time punters.

Of the current jockeys, only Park Tae Jong, Shin Hyoung Chul and Jung Pyeong Soo also rode at Ttukseom and Kim has at least eight years on all of them. While the newest generation of jockeys are undoubtedly better, there will be those who will be sad when the familiar racing colours of these four (Korean jockeys race in their own colours) disappear from the Korean track forever.

* Today’s feature race was won by second favourite Real Victor (Biwa Shinseiki-Hyunmo), scoring his second class 1 victory of the year.

* Yesterday at Busan, Lion Santa (Lion Heart-Santa Fe Strip) got back to winning ways after losing his unbeaten record at the end of last year. The four-year old US import took a two length win in the feature race and now has ten wins from eleven starts.

Sunday February 12

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 17:40
Busan Race Park: 8 races from 11:50 to 16:40

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Ace Galloper Does His Job

Dangdae Bulpae Beaten / Sad sub-plot to Seoul’s Feature

Four horses came into Sunday’s feature races at Seoul and Busan with high expectations. Only one could live up to them.

Ace Galloper and Park Tae Jong return as winners

At Busan, both Dangdae Bulpae and Jeonseong Sidae found themselves on the wrong end of a blanket finish but at Seoul Ace Galloper came out with his head held high after a battling win which saw champion mare Top Point well beaten.

Dangdae Bulpae (Biwa Shinseiki) hadn’t raced since successfully defending his President’s Cup crown in November and he was sent off the slight favourite ahead of Aussie import Jeonseong Sidae (Stromberg Carlson).

As they entered the home straight it was these two who looked set to battle out the finish. However, they reckoned without a late challenge on the outside from old warrior Yeonseung Daero (Creek Cat) and, even more surprisingly, 21/1 outsider Full Forest (Full Mandate) who ultimately got the decision in a tight five-way finish.

It was a disappointing start to 2012 for Dangdae Bulpae, a horse who was undoubtedly the outstanding Korean bred competitor of last year. For Full Forest, a veteran US bred six-year-old, it was the biggest of six wins from thirty-five career starts.

Up at Seoul, KRA Cup Classic winner Ace Galloper (Chapel Royal) didn’t have things all his own way but ultimately came out on top of a very competitive handicap. Main rival Top Point (Tom Cruiser), the champion mare of 20111 disappointed but Blue Pin (Lion Heart) pushed Ace Galloper all the way to the line, the margin of victory being just a neck on the line.

Ace Galloper and Blue Pin have the kind of connection that only horse racing – for all its joys and all its heartbreaks – can give. Ace Galloper, who is now five-years old, was not an especially impressive two-year-old.

However, in his second start, on July 25, 2009, he finished second – a very distant second – to a horse called Northern Ace. They were racing over five furlongs that day and Northern Ace, a ten-length winner, broke the track record. Tragically, Northern Ace (Didyme) went on to fatally break-down during the Korean Derby in May 2010.

Northern Ace was the first Korean bred foal out of mare Telegraph Road (Royal Academy). Champion Belt, currently one of Busan’s top horses was the second. When she arrived in Korea in early 2006 though, she was in foal to Lion Heart. That foal would be called Blue Pin.

Today we salute Ace Galloper who is a truly a great champion. But we also remember Northern Ace. And all those others whose potential was cruelly taken away.

Weekend Preview: The Big Boys Are Back

Smarty Moonhak vs Dongbanui Gangja vs Larrycat, Dangdae Bulpae vs Yeonseung Daero & Ace Galloper vs Top Point

A very Happy Year Of The Dragon to all punters out there. Gyongmaman spent the break “watching football” in Thailand and generally avoiding all things racing, but things are back to normal this weekend and for the first time in 2012, we’re getting some heavyweight clashes at both Seoul and Busan.

Smarty Moonhak (KRA)

If he’d won the Grand Prix, there was a good chance he’d have been sent to the US to try his hand on the Kentucky Derby trail. Lucky for us in Korea that Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) finished third and he makes his three-year-old debut in Saturday’s feature at Seoul.

In a mouth-watering main-event, he’s up against two-time Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja (Broken Vow) as well as the horse who finished second in the race in 2010, Larrycat (Fantasticat).

The young Smarty Moonhak should relish the 2000 metre distance and could make full use of the four kilo weight advantage he has over the now seven-year old Dongbanui Gangja.

A day later at Seoul there’s another clash of track’s top level stars as KRA Cup Classic winner Ace Galloper (Chapel Royal) makes his 2012 debut, headlining the feature race going up against Champion Mare of 2011, Top Point (Tom Cruiser).

Down at Busan, the feature event of the weekend sees two Korean-bred horses crashing an event for foreign-breds as double President’s Cup winner Dangdae Bulpae (Biwa Shinseiki) takes on old rival Yeonseung Daero (Creek Cat) over 1800 metres.

Dangdae Bulpae

They have plenty to keep them company too as prolific Aussie three-year-old Jeonseong Sidae (Stromberg Carlson), the evergreen Mighty Hero (Buddha) – who’s now left Peter Wolsley’s barn – and the well-handicapped but dangerous Viva Ace (Macho Uno) join them.

It should be a cracking race.

On Friday at Busan, Minister’s Cup winner Dongseo Jeongbeol (Vicar) looks for his second win of the year already as he heads the feature race. Winning Perfect (Doyen) and 2008 Derby winner Ebony Storm (Buster’s Daydream) will be among those looking to stop him as will be Joe Murphy’s very well-handicapped Deep Desire (Jump Start) and the in-form Bada Jewang (Social Charter).

The past few days have been some of the coldest of winter so far, however, the forecast for the weekend is bright. Temperatures should be into positive territory and the sun is set to shine. Come Racing!

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday January 27

Busan Race Park: 10 races from 12:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:00 to 17:30

Saturday January 28

Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:10 to 17:30
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:30 to 17:10

Sunday January 29

Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:10 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 7 races from 12:30 to 17:00