Triple Crown 2021

KRA Cup Mile 2021 Review

A little late but: It was billed as the hottest opening leg to a Korean Triple Crown ever but in the end Heat Yegam turned it into a procession with a scorching gate to wire win in the KRA Cup Mile (KOR G2) at Busan last Sunday afternoon.

The first race of the three-year-old Classic series had been delayed from its usual April spot by six months due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the racing industry. That delay led to what is usually green and unexposed field in the Cup Mile, reaching the starting line this time with in-excess of sixty previous race wins between them.

Heat Yegam was sent off as the betting favourite and from gate nine he got a beautiful start while some of the expected speedsters on his inside faltered and was quickly into an early and surprisingly easy lead. Big rival Winner’s Man was quickly on his shoulder but having come out of gate twelve was being made to work hard. Meanwhile Seoul’s big hope, Heungbaragi, was content to sit handy and wide with jockey Choi Bum-hyun having quickly abandoned any hopes of leading from gate fifteen.

By the top of the stretch, Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man held a four-length advantage over the rest of the field, but it was clear the latter was feeling the effects of the early pace. Heat Yegam though was fresh and while he drifted a little in the final furlong and a half, he cruised home two-lengths to the good. Heungbaragi – who having been wide for most of the race, ended up on the inside fence – ran a strong race in 2nd, while another Seoul raider, Chief Indy closed ominously for 3rd. Mr. Indie was 4th and Winner’s Man a brave 5th.

The win itself may have been soft but the performance was anything but. Heat Yegam completed the first six furlongs just one-tenth of a second outside the track record for that distance – no wonder Winner’s Man couldn’t cope any longer – and then ran on to record an overall time only a second shy of the track record for a mile, held by Blue Chipper.  It was his eighth win in nine starts.

For jockey You Hyun-myung, post-race feelings were a mixture of elation and relief. “Going on my experience with this horse so far, I had to expect him to win,” You told the Korea Racing Broadcasting Channel (KRBC) after the race. “There was always going to be a lot of pressure at the start, so I just wanted to get out of the gate in a straight line with no trouble. As it happened, we got away very well and, in the end, everything was much smoother and easier than I expected.” 

Next up will be the Korean Derby in Seoul on November 7th, as Heat Yegam seeks to emulate J.S. Hold and Power Blade in winning a Triple Crown. You Hyun-myung thinks the horse will be ready. “

Heat Yegam was bred by the Yeonhak Agricultural Corporation at the Yeonhak Farm on Jeju Island and was sold privately to owner Kim Joon-hyun for 150 Million Korean Won as a yearling in September 2019. Sired by Take Charge Indy, during that stallion’s brief sojourn in Korea before his American farm bought him back due to the unexpected success of his Stateside progeny, he is out of Desert Heat, a mare from the final crop by the legendary sire, Mr. Prospector.

How they ran:

1st  Heat Yegam – started favourite today  showed great speed to sit a tad wide but a fast comfortable rhythm, on the corner he applied some pressure to get a good break on the field and while he drifted out in the early part of the straight came back towards the finish. This was a sensational run and the fastest ever KRA Cup Mile run to date.

2nd Heungbaragi – He had a challenge from barrier 15 but showed  good speed to get forward however he was very wide most of the journey lost ground on the corner and then fought on strongly in the straight making up much ground. A stellar performance

3rd  Chief Indy – Settled wide and midfield then on the corner the jockey elected to go inside near the fence where he was balanced up and urged forward. It was at the 150m when he came into the picture and kept taking ground off the leaders. A great run and further distance will also suit him.

4th Mr. Indie – He was ridden hard early to get a more forward position settling on the fence midfield then slotted forward just behind Mach Titan. He stayed on the rails saving much ground, into the straight and he was a clear 4th he kept fighting in the straight to maintain 4th in a strong run.

5th Winner’s Man – Ridden hard early to be on the shoulder of Heat Yegam and was wide from a less favourable gate. Couldn’t maintain that pace after such a fast opening but plenty of merit in the way he ran on for 5th. He may be a different prospect in Seoul at the Korean Derby.

Sunday Seoul & Busan: KRA Cup Mile Day Race-By-Race Preview (October 10)

Sunday is KRA Cup Mile Day! See below for selections for the big race or here for a runner-by-runner preview. There are 6 races at Busan from 12:10 to 17:30 and 9 at Seoul from 10:45 to 18:00. Here are the previews:

There were no spectators at the KRA Cup Mile last year. A year later and only 20% is allowed at Busan. And still none at Seoul. (Pic: KRA)

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Juvenile maidens to get us underway and it involves one of the banker favourites of the day. Having won a trial in fine fashion in August, (4) WORLD FORCE ran a close 3rd on debut on September 4th having led from the gate until the closing stages, only to get narrowly overhauled close to the line. It was a fast time, and she won’t need to have improved very much – if at all – to win this. The others will need to improve. (5) JILJU JEONSA has raced twice before and showed improvement at the second of those on August 28th, running 5th at this distance in a good time, albeit someway behind a good winner. He will settle midfield and run on and should be looking for a better finish today. (7) SPEED GALLOP goes for the second time having run 5th on debut behind Bencal Princess, who has since gone on to run well in two big Juvenile Stakes race. She came from well off the pace after a slow start that day and should be ready to improve. (9) YOUNG BLOOD beat a couple of these when 4th on debut and along with (2) NO SMALL SUN, has placing claims here.

Selections(4) World Force (5) Jilju Jeonsa (7) Speed Gallop (9) Young Blood
Next Best2, 6
Fast Start4, 5, 7, 9

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1300M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Competitive maiden with a couple of them looking ready to win. (2) REAL CONCORD comes in following her best finish to date when 2nd over this distance on August 8th. She has run good times at the distance, is well drawn and while she does come in off a nine-week layoff, has solid claims here. So too does (1) GRAY CAT. He has gone even faster at this distance and should strip fitter second up following his return from five-months out in early September when he ran 4th at 1200M. With an apprentice climbing aboard today he gets a 4kg allowance and the inside gate should allow him to get to a prominent position early and maybe lead – if he does, he can win. It is the low numbers who are favoured here. (3) DOUBLE TAKE has mixed her form but ran well for 3rd over 1400M at her latest start when settling back and running on. She should be in the mix here. (4) TEUKGEUP YEOWANG weakened badly having led over this distance last time but has shown some ability and may be worth another chance. (5) YELLOW CAT, 5th on debut at the end of August is another in the hunt.

Selections(2) Real Concord (1) Gray Cat (3) Double Take (4) Teukgeup Yeowang
Next Best5, 6
Fast Start1, 4, 7, 9

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1700M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

All twelve of these maidens step up to racing at two turns for the very first time and the one it should benefit the most is (9) WONDERFUL K. The Purge colt has been consistent over seven starts so far with his best result being 3rd over 1200M two starts back. He ran well at his latest effort for 4th over 1400M and there is no indication that the additional 300M won’t suit. He’s the one to beat. (10) WONDERFUL SAM has been doing his best work late in both his two outings so far at 1200M and 1400M. Both times he has been right at the back entering the straight and has only started to pick up when too late. His final furlong times have been good so the extra distance to play with may help today. (12) SANGSEUNG HAENGJIN has been showing signs of improvement in his latest couple of outings including last time when he came from well back to run 4th over 1300M. An apprentice keeps the weight nice and light which he may benefit from given the extended trip today. (11) SINUI HANSU has only raced three times and has stuck to his task on all three occasions. He’ll probably be aimed for the early lead here and could still be around at the business end. If you prefer your two-turn picks to come from a good barrier, then (1) LUCKY BALLY could be the one.

Selections(9) Wonderful K (10) Wonderful Sam (12) Sangseung Haengjin (11) Sinui Hansu
Next Best1, 3
Fast Start1, 3, 9, 11

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1000M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Juvenile filly maidens get to compete for a big prize here with six of them racing for the first time. It’s the experience that’s favoured though with all five who have previously raced having shown enough to suggest they have wins in them. We’ll take a chance with (8) GREEN SPEED, who ran 3rd on debut on September 12th. That day’s impressive winner didn’t run well on reappearance last week, but Green Speed should have improved for the run and the Bart ice/Seo Seung-un combination is a good one. (5) H. DAY will probably be betting favourite. After three trials, she ran 3rd on debut in a scorching time on September 17th. It was a very wet track that day which made it quicker, but it was very promising and from a good draw she should be leading or on pace here. (1) B.K. MARSHALL has raced twice before, notching a 3rd and a 2nd, both at this distance and both in decent times. She has sat handy before running on and from the inside gate is another who will be on pace here. (3) STELL LUNA ran 4th behind B.K. MARSHALL on what was her debut on September 3rd when she settled in midfield and finished well. With some natural progression she can go close here. This is a really tough race to debut in but if any of the first-timers is to break through, (10) DOCTOR KONGSUNI looks the most likely.

Selections(8) Green Speed (5) H. Day (1) B.K. Marshall (3) Stell Luna
Next Best10, 7
Fast Start1, 3, 5, 8

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1400M) Handicap / KRW 45 Million

(9) NAMSAN SIDAE is the clear pick here on the basis of a close 2nd at this distance on September 11th. That was first-up and his first time up in class too following a maiden win in April. The time was good and while he comes up 2kg in the weights and draws a touch wider than ideal, he will try to sit handy to the lead and is the one to beat. (5) SILVER DRAGON is worth some thought following his last start 5th over 1300M on his first try at this class. He had the outside barrier that day and after a slow start settled a long last before swinging wide in the straight to come home very nicely. The extra distance appears to be in his favour as his solitary win came at this trip and while those slow starts are a habit of his, the better gate may limit the damage this time. (6) NONSTOP GISANG drops back in trip and into contention after a couple of swings around 1700M. He is a winner at 1300M at class 6 level and ran a fair 5th at that distance at this class. He is another who likes to be handy to the lead and then run on. (2) WONDERFUL ORANGE is up in class after a win over 1300M when she was midfield before finishing strongly for a narrow score. While the margin wasn’t big on the line, she was running on and has the benefit of a good gate today giving her placing chances. (7) ROCK FIGHTER another with placing claims.

Selections(9) Namsan Sidae (5) Silver Dragon (6) Nonstop Gisang (2) Wonderful Orange
Next Best7, 12
Fast Start7, 8, 10, 12

Busan Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

Not the strongest of maidens and that allows us to take a chance on a debut-maker. Isidore Farm’s homebred (3) SUNSET MELODY looked accomplished in her trial, given an easy time early and then responding very well when asked for an effort in the straight. It seems she knows her business and there’s every chance she could score right away here. If you prefer your maidens to be experienced, (5) MY DESTINY is the one to go for. She has four top four finishes from six starts so far and has run consistently decent times. She draws well and should be in the mix. Back to the first-timers and (9) BLUE SKY went through two trials showing improvement in the second of them to the extent that she may be considered a placing chance first up. (11) MYEONGSEONG CHARGE was handy to the lead on debut on September 9th before ultimately coming home in 5th. She should strip fitter for the experience and get closer today. (8) DAEHO PYEONGEONG the best of the rest.

Selections(3) Sunset Melody (5) My Destiny (9) Blue Sky (11) Myeongseong Charge
Next Best8, 4
Fast Start2, 5, 7, 11

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

Fillies only here. (7) DREAM KNOCK won a class 6 race over 1200M in fine style by eight-lengths in July before following up with 2nd place in a similar all-filly affair on her first try at this class on August 28th, beating several of today’s rivals in the process. She will have benefited from that experience and looks hard to beat here. (12) BLACK ROOKIE is a filly who is adapting to class 5 and at her last start was a good 3rd over 1300M when wide all the way yet still ran on. Given some better luck in running and ideally a bit of cover, she could be a threat here. (4) K BLADE ran 6th on his first try at this class on September 4th. That was over 1400M, and he came out of gate ten but two starts back he got his maiden win at this distance when handy from the same gate as today and he is in with a shout here. (11) DANCING WITH YOU ran 3rd behind Dream Knock on August 28th showing she is getting to grips with racing at this level and while her draw isn’t great, she can go close again. (5) GOLD SPIKE another in the hunt.

Selections(7) Dream Knock (12) Black Rookie (4) K Blade (11) Dancing With You
Next Best5, 6
Fast Start4, 6, 7, 11

Busan Race 3: Class 5 (1800M) Allowance / KRW 40 Million

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Jockey Lee Hyo-sik Targets Cup Mile Salute Before Obeying Marching Orders

The jockey game is a tough one where even at the best of the times, a rider can never be certain when or why he or she might be replaced on a good horse. It’s different this time for Lee Hyo-sik, who knows that even if he rides a flawless, winning race on leading KRA Cup Mile (1600M – KOR G2) contender Winner’s Man on Sunday, he won’t be aboard the colt in next month’s Korean Derby. That’s because by that time, he will be in boot camp beginning his eighteen months of mandatory military service.

Lee Hyo Siks in the Stakes race winner’s circle with King Socks 2 years ago

“Of course, I am a little disappointed that just when we finally have Stakes races back, I have to go,” Lee told in-house broadcaster KRBC this week. “But there is nothing I can do about it.” He then quipped “Maybe Winner’s Man will wait for me. He will still only be five-years-old when I come back.”

For now, Lee preferred to focus on the business at hand with his mount being one of the favourites in what is arguably the highest ever quality field for the opening leg of a Korean Triple Crown. “I believe in (Winner’s Man); his condition is similar to how it was at his last win. He has always been a mature horse and forward in his ability.”

Identifying Heat Yegam and Seoul raider Heungbaragi as the primary dangers among the sixteen strong field, Lee was able to reflect on the fact that he knows one of those rivals very well and sought to ease any pressure. “I have ridden both Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man. I think they are of similar ability but maybe Heat Yegam is slightly better right now.”

Heat Yegam, a winner of seven from eight and likely to be the betting favourite inside Korea, will be ridden by You Hyun-myung whose own military experience is long in the rear-view mirror, but he knows how his younger rival will be feeling. “He’s starting his military service next week so he will be very hungry to win.” You missed Heat Yegam’s latest two victories in August. “I was injured in August so Lee Hyo-sik rode him twice and won twice. He ran very well. Since I have come back, I have been working on getting my strength up for this race.”

On Heat Yegam’s readiness for the race, You Hyun-myung was confident. “I don’t really need to worry about the horse because the stable management is so good there isn’t very much the rider needs to do. We have galloped him, and he was good and fast. Our draw isn’t great, but others have worse.” On which horse he fears most, he was clear. “Winner’s Man is the most dangerous rival.”

It is by no means a two-horse race as the fact that the sixteen runners have no fewer than sixty-one victories between them heading in bears out. Five of those wins belong to Galaxy Road, so could he upset the favourites? “Yes,” according to trainer Kim Kil-jung. “We finished up the main training with him on Thursday morning and I was very satisfied,” Kim told KRBC. “It’s my first runner in a Triple Crown race so I’m excited, we’ve got a great draw and we can run well. (Jockey) Lee Sung-jae has ridden him a lot and I think his expectations are high too. We are well prepared, so we are confident.”

The Seoul challenge is headed by Heungbaragi. He may have been drawn wide but remains dangerous for trainer Lee Joon-chel, who rode him in his earlier races before taking over the training license this summer. Lee has made a super start to his career with eight wins from his first thirty runners.

Joining Heungbaragi in making the journey from the capital was Chief Indy, who will give Antonio Da Silva his very first ride at Busan, despite him having ridden in Korea for more than four years now. “Moon Se-young usually rides the horse but he had a fall last month, so I got the call three weeks ago and rode him in work and then a barrier trial. He seems to be a good horse and in good condition,” Da Silva said of the colt who has won his latest four. “On Sunday I hope we can show 100% of our ability. I know it is a strong race, he likes to sit behind the lead, I am not sure if the middle gate is good or not, but he is a good horse, and we can win.”

The theme of the strength of the race was echoed by Kim Yong-geun, who won the Cup Mile on eventual Triple Crown winner Power Blade in 2016 and is a former Busan Champion jockey now plying his trade in Seoul. “I’ve ridden in a lot of these races and usually there are just one or two standouts but not this time. There are the two big ones though (Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man), who look like class 1 horses already.” As for his own mount, Royal Road: “It’s going to be important to get a good racing position. Get a good start and be up with the pace. If we’re up there at the beginning of the straight, then we have a chance.”

Spot Flatter earned his spot with back-to-back wins at Seoul over 1400M and jockey Ham Wan-sik rides him for the first time. “(Alan) Munro usually rides him but he needed to be in Seoul this week, so I got the chance,” said Ham. “I think he is a good horse; the distance is good. We know there are some very good horses in this race and there will be a hot pace early. I won’t worry about. I will ride my own race and not get impatient.

Patience is something Lee Hyo-sik is going to need during his next year and a half in uniform. Whether he can play a role in helping Winner’s Man on the way to a Triple Crown will become clear on Sunday afternoon.

The KRA Cup Mile is race 5 at Busan on Sunday afternoon.

KRA Cup Mile 2021: Horse-By-Horse Preview

The 2021 Korean Triple Crown gets underway a full six-months later than originally planned with the KRA Cup Mile taking place at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. As a result of the delay, the depth of form is incredible with the full field of sixteen having collectively won sixty-one races between them already and all runners will go to post with some justifiable confidence. Last year the race was won by Touch Star Man, who went on to finish 5th in the Korean Derby before winning the final leg of the Crown, the Minister’s Cup Here is a run-down of the field:

Touch Star Man won last year’s KRA Cup Mile

1. SPOT FLATTER [Cowboy Cal – Palmetto Flatter (Flatter)] – Gets his chance after back to win wins over 1400M up to class 4 level in Seoul when sitting midfield and running on with both times good. He draws nicely draw and should get the trip, but this is a level up in difficulty for him.

2. MACH TITAN [Hansen – Send An Angel (Street Sense)] – Scorching winner at this distance at class 3 two starts back in a time that would have won every edition of this race to date. He did though run poorly at his latest start over 1800M three weeks ago, running very wide early before working hard to be on the pace but then finding the extended trip a bit much. Back at a mile he should be a different prospect and he is the big winner from the draw. He likes to sit handy and run on.

3. GALAXY ROAD [Afleet Express – How Bout Tonight (Proud Citizen)] – Winner of his latest three including last start when he overcame gate twelve to lead all the way over 1800M at class 4. He has the second fastest time among those who have tackled a mile and won at this distance when sitting handy and running on strong. May lead but there is plenty of other speed in this race. Placing chances.

4. MR. INDIE [Indie Band – Candace Gold (Seeking The Gold)] – Races for the first time since July when he ran out a comfortable front-running class 4 winner over 1800M. Twelve weeks off since then but he looked well when trialing up last week. Jockey Seo Seung-un won this race in 2014 and a bold showing is possible from a nice draw.

5. ROYAL ROAD [Afleet Express – Officer Lady (Officer)] – An all the way nine-length win at class 5 over 1700M put him on the radar for this although he was a touch disappointing when 3rd at class 4 over the same distance four weeks ago. He did have to contend with gate twelve that day and drifted wide on jumping before eventually finding the rail. He is better than that and can get an easier run from a better draw, but he is not in the first line of favourites here. Jockey Kim Yong-geun partnered Power Blade to victory in the race in 2016 on his way to sweeping the Triple Crown.

6. DONGJIN CHOEGANG [Officer – Pureun Miso (Malibu Moon)] – Untried at further than 1400M and his best form has been at 1200M, he come in following a narrow runner-up finish at that distance in a very fast time on a wet track on September 12th. It’s deeper waters today and despite Park Tae-jong, who won the race on Money Car in 2010, being engaged to ride, others are favoured.

7. WILD INDIE [Indie Band – Wild Dixie Gal (Wild Event)] – Yet to be out of the top two in five career starts, he won back-to-back races at this distance to be rapidly promoted up to class 4. On his first try at that level he ran 2nd over 1800M, sitting midfield and then running on strong. He has one of the strongest finishes in the race so don’t rule him out of passing plenty late on. Definite place chances.

8. CHIEF INDY [Take Charge Indy – City Splash (City Zip)] – He has won his last four starts including carrying 58kg to victory over 1700M at class 4 level. He hasn’t raced since June which may be a concern, but he looked well when winning a trial in mid-September. He will want to sit handy to the lead and run on and the jockey booking is a plus.

9. HEAT YEGAM [Take Charge Indy – Desert Heat (Mr. Prospector)] – Super horse who beat Winner’s Man when the pair were juveniles. Both have come a long way since and Heat Yegam enters following a strong of four victories up to Class 2 level when made all over 1200M on August 27th by seven-lengths. He was an eleven-length all the way winner on his only try at this distance which came at class 3 level in June in a fast time. His style is to get out in front and just go. If he gets the lead, he may be hard to catch. He’s the favourite, with jockey You Hyun-myung bidding for an unprecedented third win in the race.

10. TK BOY [Cowboy Cal – Indian Myeongun (Indian Charlie)] – Not likely to be among the top line of favourites but could be an interesting outsider. Has a fast finish on him and while he just missed out when 2nd over 1700M at class at his latest start, he has won well at 1400M, and he will be flashing home strong. May prefer it if it’s wet.

11. JERA [Musket Man – High Key (Menifee)] – A good winner two starts back at this distance at class 4 when he settled in midfield before taking the lead entering the straight. That was in May though and he was out of sorts in his latest race when having been in a prominent position early, he weakened to last in the straight. That makes him hard to have here but punters will always take note of jockey Lim Sung-sil climbing aboard in a big race.

12. WINNER’S MAN [Musket Man – Winner’s Marine (Volponi)] – A winner of seven races so far and he fairly bolted in by eight-lengths in class 2 company over 1800M when eased down at the 50M on September 12th. He has won at a mile and there should be no issue in dropping back today and while he will need some luck position-wise from his wide draw, he is race fit and is a big chance.

13. DOCTOR GIANTS [Cowboy Cal – Ms. Fool Proof (Not For Love)] – A fine 3rd over 1400M on September 17th, it was at class 4 level and while in four attempts at that class he has shown he is competitive he hasn’t looked like winning in it. Accordingly, in much deeper waters today, this appears to be a hard ask.

14. ONNURI JILJU [Officer – Onnuri Plaza (Touch Gold)] – Super consistent type who since a 4th place on debut, has finished no worse than 2nd in eight subsequent outings. That includes a runner-up finish to Mach Titan at 1400M in June and most recently, 2nd to the excellent filly Doctor Fappiano (who skips this to go for the filly Triple Crown, which begins next week) over 1800M at class 3. Times are very good, and he has a big race jockey aboard, so he is not to be dismissed, but he looks more a place line.

15. HEUNGBARAGI [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] – Top juvenile in Seoul last year, he could not have been more impressive on his latest start on September 12th when a runaway gate-to-wire winner by six-lengths over 1800M. He likes to lead though, and this barrier draw has done him no favours. Nevertheless, he will be in this a long way and a win isn’t impossible.

16. YUJEONG CHAMP [Forest Camp – Yujeong Yeojanggun (Warrior’s Reward)] – Back-to-back wins over 1400M in fast times at classes 6 and 5 allow him to take his chance here but he struggled behind Royal Road on his first go at class 4 level over 1700M on September 12th. That suggests this is going to be tough.