Both Blue Chipper and Tiz Plan met their matches at Busan and Seoul last weekend. While both were beaten by good horses, it was more the weight advantage they were giving away that saw the two (literal) heavyweights trail home 2nd in their respective features on Sunday.
With minimal income entering into the industry for more than a year now, there are currently no Listed or Stakes races races for the top horses to compete in. That means they need to take part in handicaps where they will, naturally be giving a lot of weight away. Blue Chipper conceded 9kg to the up and coming Doctor Carson (Hansen), who continued to burnish his reputation as he defeated the champion by a length over 1200M
It was a similar story at Seoul for Tiz Plan. He too was game but was unable to match the finish of Brigadier General (Tapit), an Australian-bred five-year-old, who came past him in the closing stages to score by three-quarters of a length. Both Blue Chipper and Tiz Plan received 2nd place prize money of 15 Million Won ((US$13,317), a far cry from what they would have expected to have been competing for in normal times.
The grim state of affairs was apparent Jangsu Breeze-up sale last week, one of the main Juvenile sales to take place on the mainland, where business was sluggish. Just thirteen of the fifty-three lots offered reached the minimum reserve price of 10 Million Won. Overall it was a slight improvement on last year but well down on the same sale two years ago in terms of numbers sold and in average price, with purchasers uncertain if and when their horses will ever be able to run.
The sale-topper was a colt by Testa Matta and out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Coulis De Fraises., bred by Nokwon Farm and bought for 60 Million Won by owner Park Cheol-geun. He fetched almost double the next best, an Old Fashioned filly out of Revereduction (by Revere).
Meanwhile, local media has been reporting that financial figures for Korean “Public” (i.e. government run) companies for 2020 are out and they are, to put it mildly, not good. The Korea Racing Authority swung from a 144.9 Billion Won (US$128.8 Million) profit in 2019 to a 436.8 Billion Korean (US$338.3 Million) loss in 2020 caused by a total collapse in wagering revenue after February. The loss surpassed that even of the Incheon Airport Corporation whose own Covid crisis saw a loss of 423 Billion Won last year.
Racing has been kept going at reduced prize money levels by using “Emergency Reserve” funds, However, local media has reported that these will be finally exhausted in July. Barring something unexpected happening, there seems little prospect on restrictions on attendance at the racecourses and off track betting sites being lifted to an extent that would allow a break-even point to be reached any time soon so it appears the only hope of saving the industry in any recognizable form lies in the legalization of online sales of betting tickets.
Racing continues though so let’s turn attention to the weekend where we will have the same schedule as recent weeks. Jeju will run a pony race meeting on Friday while Seoul and Busan will run thoroughbred-meets on both Saturday and Sunday. The only betting outlets open will be those in Jeju, Daegu, Gwangju, Changwon and Cheonan (advance reservation by My Card app required). Here are some selections for Friday’s Jeju Pony meeting:
Two of the biggest names in Korea racing will be in action on Sunday. Blue Chipper headlines Busan’s 6 race card (from 12:50 to 17:00) while Tiz Plan goes in the feature at Seoul (10 races from 10:45 to 18:00). Both meetings will be staged behind closed doors although betting outlets at Jeju, Daegu, Changwon, Cheonan and Gwangju are open to pre-booked punters. Here are the previews:
Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Fourteen maidens go around here. (5) CHOEGANG JANGSAN is the first foal out of 2014 Korean Derby and Oaks winning filly Queen’s Blade. He wasn’t ready when he first trialed in January, after which he was gelded. He then put in a more assured and workmanlike performance when having another go in a good time two weeks ago. He should go well first-up in modest company. (2) MORNING FLASH was well back in the field last start before running on well late for 7th. He was wide the time before but ran on resolutely for a close 3rd. He draws well here and is worth some thought. (6) BANGTAN YEOGEOL has shown improvement across three starts so far, running on strong last time and looks a placing hope while (13) KOREA GIJEOK too has hinted at ability and while he may need some luck in running, shouldn’t be dismissed. (11) HOUYHNHM another in the placing frame.
Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Fillies only here. (4) LEAD VOCAL was a winner at her last start in fine style when she led on a very wet track. She led by a large margin and while it was cut, she drops back in trip today which could suit even more and she is a real chance. (1) RUBICON has finally drawn a decent gate. She’s had to deal with wide draws in three of her starts so far and last time overcame gate 14 to work home strong for 2nd place. She has very solid claims of making her breakthrough today. (12) CHOEGANG BLACK ran a great race on a wet track on debut. She drew in the car park and slightly fly-jumped on exiting the barrier but still ran on for 2nd. The draw doesn’t help her much again but the experience might. (8) MISS ELITE is constant at this class and distance and while she doesn’t leap off the page as a winner she has enough form to suggest a place line. (5) CHEONGDAM TANK drops back in trip after a god 2nd over 1400M last start and should also be in the calculations.
(4) Lead Vocal (1) Rubicon (12) Choegang Black (8) Miss Elite
1, 3, 10, 13
Seoul Race 3: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 28 Million
Three standouts here. (1) WINNER IS WELL has own both starts so far and comes in having bolted up last start when handy early and then wide and fighting his jockey because he wanted to go faster. The lightly-raced five-year-old steps up to 1400M and can settle handy here with strong claims to make it three in a row. (5) K N MENIQUEEN got her maiden win two starts back and might have won last time as well had the barriers been reversed with the ultimate winner. She ran on well for 2nd and while up in class and trip today, has plenty going for her. So too does (6) BIG RIVER. She ran a nice 2nd last start when on pace at class and distance beaten only by the very promising Winner Templar. She will run on strong here. (10) MANSE is never far away at the finish and looks like he has another win in him at some stage. If he can settle a bit closer to the action today, he should be in the frame.
(1) Winner Is Well (5) K N Meniqueen (6) Big River (10) Manse
3, 4, 5, 11
Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Fillies only to kick off the Busan card. There is going to be a strong favourite in (10) GOLD LUCK. She’s run on strong for 2nd in both her latest two starts, beaten by reasonable winners on both occasions and recording by some margin the best pair of times of any of these for the distance. She can settle handy again and should be winning. The rest of them all need to step up. (13) USEUNG GANGJA was 6th behind Gold Luck last start following on from a 5th on debut. She’s been improving at the line on both occasions and can be aiming to place here. (3) MACH ROAD hasn’t done too much wring in two outings to date and like Useung Gangja has been finishing off her races well. She draws well here and can be competitive. Draw a line through the latest effort of (9) WONDERFUL SMILE. She got sent back to trial after it and she looked decent enough when requalifying two weeks ago. There are two first-time starters and of the pair, (5) IRON GIRL looks best equipped first-up following a positive trial.
Seoul Race 4: Class 4 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 35 Million
(5) LOVELY K shapes up as a real contender here following a good win on a very wet track on March 28th. She raced handily and ran on late indicating the extra furlong will be no trouble. (4) ANYANG OXEN has serious claims of his own. He loves the 1400M, getting his solitary win at it two starts back and then beating a couple of these at the end of March running a super time on an admittedly fast track. He has a better barrier today as he likes to be close to the pace and with any luck at all, he will be right in the finish. (1) EAGLE EAGLE is still a maiden but has shown good consistency in his recent appearances. He likes to lead and the inside draw should help him in that aspect and he must be considered for at least another place. (13) MOONHAK DREAM ran 4th behind Anyang Oxen on March 28th. He is another maiden but the Gemologist colt has also been a consistent placegetter at shorter distances and looks a fair shout for some money again. (14) JANGSAN TANK perhaps best of the rest.
Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Competitive race. (2) NEW FIRE is probably a worthy favourite with a 4th and a 3rd from his first two efforts at 1000M and 1400M respectively. He beat three of today’s rivals last time coming from midfield to run 3rd to Mr. Indie and he can make his breakthrough today. (5) CHOEGANG LIGER remains a maiden after eleven attempts but is rarely far away and he has been very consistent of late. He was 4th behind New Fire last start from a wide draw and is tactically versatile so will probably sit handy here and run on. (4) FIRST CHANCE has shown promise in his first two outings, acquitting himself well in decent looking company and he can continue to make progress today, most likely from on the pace. (12) SHINING HILL and (13) SKY MORE are others who should come into the calculations.
(2) New Fire (5) Choegang Liger (13) Sky More (12) Shining Hill
1, 2, 4, 13
Seoul Race 5: Class 4 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 35 Million
We can draw a line through the latest effort of (8) HEUNGROK DAEBU at what proved a too much too soon 1800M. Instead, we’ll focus on his class and distance victory two starts back in a good time. That win had been coming and he can return to successful ways today. (5) BULGULUI RUNNER also needs his last start disregarded. In his case he was badly hampered at the start so we will look to his prior win at this distance. Although he has run on strong in his latest two, he seems to get better results when in a handy position and he’s well drawn to do that today. This isn’t an especially strong race so (9) QUANTUM JUMP is another who can be forgiven his latest. He has since trialed up well and is worthy of another chance here. (4) DANGCHAN SERYEOK and (6) LIONETTE are others in the hunt.
Busan Race 3: Class 6 (1600M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
(2) LUCKY BREAK was a last start winner at class and distance with a prominent run form a wide draw. While that win came from nowhere, she warrants respect here and nothing else in the field has matched the time at the distance that she recorded so a repeat isn’t impossible. We’ll take her on though with (4) YEONGWON POWER. He too had an uptick in form when stepped up to a mile last start when 2nd to Haenam Hammer, coming from well off the pace. Expect similar tactics today and he could be too strong late on. (8) MAJOR FORCE has run on well a couple of times, hinting that he might take to running at this distance well and should be aiming for a career best finish so far here. (5) GOLD MAGIC another in the placing frame in what can be described as a modest affair.
Last year it took Tiz Plan three attempts to get the better of Cheongdam Dokki. It’s taken him just two to record a victory over the other member of the Seoul Staying Big Three as the six-year-old avenged January’s defeat to Moonhak Chief with a comprehensive win at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.
The 2019 Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner Moonhak Chief only raced once in 2020, just before racing’s first prolonged shutdown in February. He returned in January this year and defeated Tiz Plan by six-lengths at level weights over 2000M.
With Sunday’s race under handicap conditions, Tiz Plan was able to get 3kg from Moonhak Chief but punters still sent the Moon Se-young ridden champion off as the odds-on favourite.
It looked to be business as usual as Moonhak Chief sat behind early pacesetter Platinum Euro before taking over at the head of proceedings in the back straight. He soon opened up a lead but under Johan Victoire, Tiz Plan was stalking, never less than four-lengths behind.
By the top of the stretch the pair were on level terms and it was Tiz Plan who proved the strongest running on to win by two-lengths on the line. Moonhak Chief rallied well and held off the fast finishing Brigadier General to claim 2nd place and keep the quinella punters happy.
Both Tiz Plan and Moonhak Chief are owned by Kwon Kyung-ja but are under the care of different trainers. Tiz Plan was winning for the eleventh time in twenty-one starts.
No Stakes schedule has yet been published as with Covid restrictions remaining in place and the government continuing to stall the legalization of online betting what with important regional elections just around the corner, racing’s income remains at 10% pre-pandemic levels. Regardless, a third chapter in their rivalry is inevitable regardless of the conditions or prize money of the race.
In other news at Seoul on Sunday, Dolkong’s half-sister Jangsan Gold got her maiden win at start number six. The four-year-old Goldencents filly was a dominant winner of race 12 at under Moon Se-young.
There is a heavyweight collision at Seoul on Sunday as Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan, two of the top three horses at the track, square off for the second time this year. The pair will clash in the feature and finale race 15 over 2000M. Sadly nobody will be there to see it but punters located in the south of the country will at least be able to attend betting branches. Seoul and Gyeonggi Province remain shuttered. There are 15 Sunday races at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00:
Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Fillies only in the opener. (12) GANGSEO PRINCESS beat several of these on her way to an easy victory on debut over the 1000M on January 29th. She steps up in trip and has a less favourable gate today but the manner of that win suggests that the result will be the same and she will be the hot favourite here. (1) NONGBON BADA and (2) MAGIC TIDE both ran 3rd on their respective debuts in January. In the case of Nongbon Bada it was behind Gangseo Princess so that brings her straight into contention again while Magic Tide ran on strong in a good time and should go well with the extra furlong today. Already experienced at this distance is (7) MACH JIJON. She ran an on pace 2nd in a good time over the trip on January 29th, her best finish to date and can build on it here.
Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
(6) EAST IMPACT was a sixteen-length winner on debut posting one of the fastest times ever recorded at the distance at class 6. It was impressive and while it would only be natural for there to be a slight dip in performance second time around, if he runs anything near like that again, then frankly the rest could start now and he’d still win. The only other previous winner in the race is (1) DREAM PELLA and he’s the one to take advantage should something happen to the favourite. He made all for his win over the distance in December and while his 5th on reappearance in January was nothing to write home about, he should get on pace from the inside. (3) SWEET JUICE BAR was 4th – about half a furlong – behind East Impact on debut and has placing claims here while first-time starter (7) BLUE HAMMER caught the eye in trials and can go well first-up today.
(6) East Impact (1) Dream Pella (7) Blue Hammer (3) Sweet Juice Bar
Race 3: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
The betting market will be a little bit more competitive in this one with no clear standout. A couple of them look potentially ready to win though. Likely favourite is (2) THUNDER CHAMP. He ran on well for 2nd – a distant 2nd but well clear of 3rd place – to East Impact on what was for him start number three on January 29th. He steps up marginally in trip here but won’t need to improve much to have very good claims. (8) EAST JILJU ran an improved 3rd on what was his second start at the end of January, beating a couple of these in the process. He ran on strongly and the extra half furlong today keeps him right in the mix with an apprentice also keeping the weight low. (14) BIG RED could only manage 6th at the distance last start but it was by no means a bad run in what was a good race. He should be there or thereabouts. (3) BOGO TTO BOGO and (7) GEOSEN JILPUNG are others in the minor money hunt.
(2) Thunder Champ (8) East Jilju (14) Big Red (3) Bogo Tto Bogo
2, 3, 11, 14
Race 4: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
Fillies only here. (14) FASHIONED PASSION has drawn the car park but could well overcome it. The filly has improved across three starts so far and has the fastest final furlong average time of all of these. She moves up by half a furlong today and it could well suit with Moon Se Young climbing aboard for the first time. (1) SERVE ACE beat three of these on her way to 3rd place at this distance on January 29th recording by some margin the fastest time of those who have tackled the 1300M before. Munro can be patient from the inside here and she can run on strong. (3) MISS YANGHO was 4th behind Serve Ace last time out. She is one of only two previous winners in the field and will warrant respect again here. (2) GANGHWA CHEONYEO has shown signs of figuring things out across her latest couple of runs and can go close while (11) GREEN POKJU has been inconsistent but should be on pace here and can be involved at the business end.
(14) Fashioned Passion (1) Serve Ace (3) Miss Yangho (11) Green Pokju
6, 10, 11, 13
Race 5: Class 6 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million
With two wins to her name already (9) USORYUNG gets a third crack at class 6 and is the one to beat again. True, she hasn’t race – or even trialed – since last November, but she has proven capable of leading and of coming from off the pace and with Munro riding, her credentials are burnished even more. She’ll be favourite but a vulnerable one. (5) COLJOY comes in off a smart 3rd ahead of a number of these on January 29th over 1400M. In the process he recorded the fastest time among those here who have tackled the distance and he should provide a stern challenge. (6) NUBIGO and (1) SAENAE CHOICE came home 4th and 5th respectively in the same race and both have claims to match or better that here while (2) COWBOY TANGO could only manage 7th that day but along with Usoryung is the only one of these to have experienced victory before and can’t be discarded.
Moonhak Chief, 2019 Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes winner returned to racing for the first time in just shy of a year at Seoul Racecourse on Friday afternoon. And it was a winning return too as the former Horse of the Year downed a hot class 1 field including the star of last summer Tiz Plan, by a full six-lengths.
Moonhak Chief dominated the Korea Cup in September 2019 before a disappointing showing behind Dolkong in the KRA Cup Classic a month later. He would return to form in the Grand Prix Stakes in December before opening what promised to be a glorious 2020 season by beating Cheongdam Dokki in early February just as the pandemic was taking hold.
Moonhak Chief was on the sidelines with a tendon injury while Cheongdam Dokki and the emerging Tiz Plan dueled for big purses over the abbreviated summer racing season but showed he hadn’t lost a step on his Friday return.
A field containing Moonhak Chief, Tiz Plan and the great – if fading – mare Silver Wolf, probably deserves better than to race at 5pm on a Friday afternoon in a deserted racecourse with no betting or live broadcast for a 1st prize of 28 Million Won (US$25,000). Such is Korean racing’s lot these days with customers no nearer being allowed back on track and the Government no nearer budging on allowing online betting.
Coming out of adjoining gates for the 2000M test, Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan came together at the start and under Johan Victoire, Tiz Plan seized the early initiative tracking leader The Gumpu. Once in the back straight though, Moon Se Young moved up a gear on Moonhak Chief and once the Pioneerof The Nile entire took command of the race, the result was scarcely in doubt.
Tiz Plan ran on well but could only get within six-lengths of Moonhak Chief while Tony Castanheira’s The Gumpu ran on for an excellent 3rd. Silver Wolf ran a creditable 5th of twelve but was a full thirteen-lengths behind the winner.
For Moonhak Chief it’s a thirteenth win from twenty-three starts. There will be other days for Tiz Plan and Cheongdam Dokki will surely have a say at some point as well. Then there is Blue Chipper, who may well make his return in a similarly underfunded race at Busan next Friday. Will they get to face each other with a suitable purse on the line with a suitable crowd watching and punting on them at any point? With a legislative lifeline looking ever more unlikely, just as it was a year ago, that will be up to the virus.
During January, with all three tracks racing simultaneously on Fridays, the Busan races have been available for international simulcast. With the Seoul coronavirus situation stabilizing a little as well as hopefully the temperature being a little warmer making race times less susceptible to changes, it will be the Seoul races (where there are 15 across the day, rather than the 10 at Busan) which will be broadcast overseas in February). Somewhat amusingly, it means that we have missed Moonhak Chief and Tiz Plan this week and could well mean we miss Blue Chipper next week!
Tiz Plan ground down Cheongdam Dokki in a seesaw stretch duel to win the Busan Mayor’s Cup on Sunday afternoon, sealing his first Group level victory and denying Cheongdam Dokki a second sweep of the Korean Stayers’ Series.
Whereas in the first two legs of the Series, the Herald Business and YTN Cups at Seoul, Cheongdam Dokki had simply run away from his rivals and put both races to bed before his , this time jockey Johan Victoire, with a furlong less to worry about, kept Tiz Plan much handier in the early stages and while Cheongdam Dokki did lead, at no time did the gap look insurmountable.
Leading by just over a length at the top of stretch, Cheongdam Dokki was reeled in by Tiz Plan and the two went nose to nose. Dokki briefly regained the upper hand before a final effort from Tiz Plan saw the younger horse draw level once more and finally pull away to win by a length and a half. As usual, Shamrocker came home in 3rd place.
Tiz Plan [Tiznow – Amusing Plan (Pleasantly Perfect)] was bred by Three Chimneys Farm and arrived in Korea as a two-year-old in 2017. His win was his tenth from twenty starts.
For trainer Park Jae-woo, who gained his license in 2011, it was a first Group race victory. Jockey Johan Victoire was winning this race for the second year in a row having been successful on Dolkong a year ago. Victoire also won the G3 SBS Sports Sprint last month.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic preventing any wagering from taking place in Korea and with the Korea Cup accordingly not being run this year, the racing calendar remains somewhat up in the air. However, it is possible that Tiz Plan and Cheongdam Dokki could meet again in the KRA Cup Classic at 2000M in early October.