Strike

Weekend Preview: Segye Ilbo Highlights Slimmed Down Seoul / Gyeongbudaero Up For The Fight At Busan

It has been a tense week in Korean racing. However, despite the threat of a boycott by owners, declarations went ahead as normal at Seoul Racecourse on Thursday morning following Busan where it had been business as usual the day before. Although some planned races have been cancelled, a big weekend still awaits.

Let's Run! And we are running this week, albeit not much at Seoul

Let’s Run! And we are running this week, albeit not much at Seoul

There have been a couple of casualties from the uncertainty earlier in the week. The scheduled overseas simulcast on Friday and Saturday was cancelled in case a large scale boycott materialised and a last minute reorganisation of the schedule was required, while there are also no regular class 1 or class 2 races in the capital. The Segye Ilbo Cup, a Stakes race, will go ahead, however, as it remains restricted to Korean bred runners.

Busan hosts class 1 action on Sunday afternoon though and there is a mouth watering clash in store as Gyeongbudaero heads the weights on his first appearance of 2015. The Grand Prix Stakes winner is the best of six Korean bred horses taking on six imports in exactly the kind of race the new rating system was intended to provide. Gumpo Sky (taking on foreign-bred horses fort he first time), and imports Cheonji Bulpae and Spring Gnarly will also be going in the handicap over 2000M.

At Seoul, where not all stakeholders are yet onboard with the new system, we are down to eight races on Saturday and ten on Sunday. The highlight is the Segye Ilbo Cup on Sunday in which the track’s top-rated Korean-bred horse Gwanggyo Bisang will be favoured to get back to winning ways.

To make up for the lost races on Saturday, eight of the nine pony races from Jeju Island will be simulcasted back to punters at Seoul instead of the usual four.

It’s the first weekend of the post Ikuyasu Kurakane era at Seoul but the four Japanese jockeys at Busan; Joe Fujii, Masa Tanaka, Nozomu Tomizawa and Nobuyuki Oyama are all in action.

Full race cards are available here. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday February 6
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday February 7
Seoul Racecourse: 8 races from 11:15 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 10:50 to 17:30

Sunday February 8
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

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

Round-Up: Beolmaui Kkum, Success Story, Rafale Impressive Winners / Japanese Riders Going Strong / Opposition To KRA’s Race Plan

While Seoul’s top horse, Wonder Bolt, was scratched from what was supposed to be his 2015 debut in the capital on Sunday, down at Busan there were some strong performances last weekend.

Beolmaui Kkum was a winner on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum was a winner on Sunday (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Beolmaui Kkum (Put It Back), who for the second year running, couldn’t quite get it done in the Season-ending Grand Prix Stakes a month ago, returned to Busan and returned to the winner’s enclosure on Sunday afternoon. The 5-year-old carried top weight of 60kg for the 1900M Class 1 race, a full 8kg more than the other nine runners, but that didn’t stop him leading from gate-to-wire, running on for a two length victory, his 12th from 18th career starts.

Another who disappointed on his visits to Seoul last year was Success Story. A late arrival on the Triple Crown trail, he was 4th in the Minister’s Cup and last October and then a disappointing 10th in the President’s Cup a month later. Both those races were run over 2000M but on his return to Busan in December, he blitzed a class 2 field by a full seventeen lengths at 1400M. On Friday, Success Story (Peace Rules) was stepped up to a mile on what was his first try at a class 1 handicap.

And the results were impressive. Jockey Jo Sung Gon took the 4-year-old to the front right out of the gate and the pair stayed there for a very easy 8-length win. Success Story is going to be one to watch out for this year, possibly, with his sprinting credentials as they are, for such event as the Asia Challenge Cup.

There was also interest at Busan last Friday for this year’s Triple Crown. Rafale (Colors Flying), 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup race at Seoul at the end of November, made his own 2015 debut and his first attempt on the Derby distance of 1800M. It was a successful one with the colt streaking away for a 7-length win on the line. Rafale joins Doraon Hyeonpyo at Busan and Cosmos King at Seoul as having made very impressive first tries around two-turns and this year’s 3-year-old crop looks to be shaping up very nicely ahead of the first leg of the Crown, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan on April 5.

In other news, the Japanese jockey contingent continues to go strong. Ikuyasu Kurakane looks set to ride winners right until the bitter end at Seoul. The 2014 Jockey of the Year rode another two on Sunday. At Busan, Joe Fujii continues to be his consistent self, guiding 4/1 chance Battle Master to victory on Sunday while Masa Tanaka’s strong start to the year shows no signs of abating.

Tanaka ride two more winners across the weekend, first on Nobel Shinhwa (Ecton Park) on Friday and then on Sunday on Triple Nine (Ecton Park). The latter was a 5-length win on a favourite for Busan’s top trainer Kim Young Kwan. Even though he managed to pick up a ban as well, that kind of result bodes extremely well for Tanaka. He lies in 5th in the Jockey Championship with 5 winners from 23 mounts, just behind Fujii who is in 3rd with 6 from 33.

On the political front, the Korea Racing Authority’s new race plan for 2015, which has embraced a new rating system, a revamped Stakes calendar and permission for foreign ownership of racehorses, is being resisted by a coalition of breeders, owners and trainers. While such a disparate group is never, within itself, going to have the same priorities, one thing they do appear to agree on was that they were not consulted in the way they would have liked. There are interesting times ahead in the next few weeks