Triple Nine

Korea Cup & Sprint 2017 – The Review

The 2nd Korea Autumn Racing Carnival took place at Seoul Racecourse over the weekend. There’s no need to re-tell what happened here as pleasingly, the race has received plenty of international coverage, save to say that Yutaka Take guided Graceful Leap to victory in the Sprint while in the Cup, London Town downed last year’s winner Chrysolite to make it a Japanese one-two.

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London Town and Chrysolite dominated for Japan in the Korea Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

On the track, London Town was simply sensational. He came in having broken the 1700M track record at Sapporo less than a month ago and absolutely dominated the Cup, taking well over a second off the Seoul 1800M track record in the process. Last year’s winner Chrysolite had absolutely no answer. That said, the Japanese pair finished a full 17-lengths clear of Papa Shot in 3rd and demonstrated just how good JRA horses, even those not quite at the very top, really are.

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London Town in the Korea Cup Parade Ring (Pic: KRA)

Graceful Leap’s Sprint win was naturally less emphatic but it was still convincing. Korean Triple Crown winner Power Blade ran a huge race in 2nd place and while he was never likely to be as inconvenienced as some others by the wide draw, one can’t help but wonder whether he would have got much closer had he been able to begin from a more favourable gate. Doraonpogyeongseon ran on very nicely too proving himself a real racehorse. In the Cup for Korea, while Champ Line put in a good run, ultimately it was all about Triple Nine as it so often is. He and Power Blade have turned into such good ambassadors for Korean racing that how to replace them when their powers begin to wane is starting to be an issue. But of course, that’s part of what makes racing so fascinating.

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Graceful Leap and Yutaka Take cross the line in the Sprint (Pic: KRA)

The performances of the two American-trained horses was one of the Carnical’s highlights. In the Sprint, The Truth Or Else was drawn in gate 1 but jockey Dylan Davis was forced off the rail and went wide to find a run. He closed very strongly for 4th place and a tidy prize that fully vindicated the decision of his enterprising connections to bring him. Trainer Kenny McPeek was a boisterous presence throughout the week and led his charge in the parade ring himself prior to the race. Picking up an even tidier prize was Papa Shot, 3rd in the Cup despite having to recover from some interference four furlongs out.

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Take returns to scale (Pic: Ross Holburt)

McPeek estimated that The Truth Or Else would be ranked around 20th in terms of sprinters in the United States and one wonders what one ranked even higher could achieve especially as the nature of the Sprint makes it by no means a race that JRA horses will automatically dominate. As for Papa Shot, he’s a very solid horse but no superstar but looks the kind of horse you’d love to own. Bill Nader, representing the man who does own him, Barry K. Schwartz, made the point before the race that Papa Shot had run at all sorts of tracks in the US and almost always gave a good account of himself. Those tough and grinding types can find their reward on the Seoul sand and while at 1800M, it would take something special to beat a JRA horse or a Hong Kong galloper that gets on with the track, a really top American horse might just be able to do it.

One disappointing note was the performances of the Hong Kong horses. With the races being beamed live to a busy Sha Tin, it was a pity that neither Lucky Year nor Circuit Land made any impact in the Sprint and Cup respectively. Circuit Land perhaps had some excuses having been prominent early but was then forced to check with four furlongs to go as a result of a poorly judged manouevre by Lee Chan Ho on Dynamic Jilju. However, Papa Shot was also disadvantaged by that incident and overcame it and jockey Nash Rawiller admitted his mount never really looked to be in the hunt. Meanwhile, Lucky Year didn’t get the start he needed and once the sand started flying, his race was over.

However, Super Jockey won the Sprint last year and both Circuit Land and Lucky Year appeared to pull up fine so hopefully the races will still prove attractive to Hong Kong connections in 2018.

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Graceful Leap (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was tough too for the French contingent. City Money unfortunately was scratched from the Sprint after picking up an injury between the airport and the racecourse on his way in. Meanwhile Skiperia and Nimr found life difficult in the Cup although Nimr’s 6th was by no means a bad performance. The enthusiasm that all connected with the horses brought, as well as the always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the weekthe always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the week and hopefully more French challengers will return in future.

Promising young Singapore-based trainer James Peters brought across Wimbledon for the China Horse Club. After showing prominently early on under Daniel Moor, he faded in the closing stages but reportedly pulled up fine.

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One thing that is evident is that despite being in just its second year, the Carnival is already establishing itself as an event in its own right to the extent that what happens in the actual races becomes almost secondary. Everyone knows about the track surface by now – it is what it is – and the atmosphere surrounding the whole week was extremely positive.  The travelling international press corps was larger than last year and within Korea, cable network KBS N Sports broadcast highlights of the races in a 75 minute show at 10pm on the day of the race and then repeated it in primetime at 8:20pm on Monday night. There is a feelgood environment about the event that is perhaps only possible with a relatively young race, enthusiastic connections and still a sense of the huge potential that could be realised in future years. That Keeneland go out on a limb to sponsor the race right on the very eve of one of their biggest and most important sales of the year, perhaps demonstrates this.

On to attendance and turnover.  Attendance was actually down on last year but there is a good reason for that. In 2016, the Korean “Chuseok” Thanksgiving holiday – one of only two weekends of the year with no racing – immediately followed the Carnival. Attendance always shows a spike prior to dark weeks as there is no opportunity for a legal punt for the next 12 days. As it was 39,910 paid ($2 each) to come through the gates at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday compared with in excess of 44,000 last year.

Wagering turnover on the day was also down but interestingly, both Cup and Sprint showed slight increases. The Sprint handled 4.37 Billion Won in 2016 to 4.39 Billion Won this time while the Cup went from 4.8 Billion Won last year to 5.12 Billion Won in 2017 and followed the regular pattern of turnover getting bigger as the day progresses (for obvious reasons, turnover on the final race of the day is always the biggest). Local punters find it very hard to handicap international races due to the form being hard to assess but with more familiarity, it appears Korean racegoers are now prepared to have a go.

Internationally, both races were simulcasted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and by Sky Racing in Australia. The Singapore Turf Club took the Sprint as did Malaysia while the entire day was available for betting at the Macau Jockey Club. In the USA, Sky Racing World distributed every race to  ADW’s. TVG Network broadcast both Sprint and Cup. Overall international turnover slightly exceeded domestic turnover (Hong Kong obviously accounting for the vast majority). Dubai Racing TV also screened both big races live.

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Laboum in the winner’s circle (Pic: Ross Holburt)

This is Korea. There needs to be progress year on year. Local assessments will probably focus on the dominance of the Japanese runners and that one fewer country was represented than in its inaugural year (the USA joined but the UK and Dubai didn’t send any runners this time). However, that should be countered by the sheer quality of London Town’s performance and also by the positive showing by the US runners. There’s a year to go until the next Carnival. The Korea Cup & Sprint have not yet come of age, but they are very much on the right course.

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I’m Your Father Wins Busan Mayor’s Cup For New Zealand Trainer David Miller

I’m Your Father pulled off a remarkable win in the Busan Mayor’s Cup on Sunday afternoon, defeating Dubai hero Triple Nine by half a length to give New Zealand trainer David Miller a huge victory in Busan’s biggest race.

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I’m Your Father bests Triple Nine in the Mayor’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

Grand Prix winner Clean Up Joy was sent off as favourite but despite overcoming gate 2 to get a good start, it was not to be his day. Returning with a swollen hind leg, he looked to have been feeling it for much of the race and had little to offer in the home straight, coming home in 9th place.

The early pace was set by last year’s winner Beolmaui Kkum with Success Story going along for the ride too. At one point beginning the long turn for home, the pair had put almost seven lengths into the field but with Beolmaui Kkum not at the level he once was, it was never likely to last. I’m Your Father and Triple Nine meanwhile sat patiently at the head of the chasing pack waiting for the leaders to come back to them.

They came back at the top of the straight. By this time it was clear that Clean Up Joy was labouring and wouldn’t be taking part in the business end of the race. Success Story lingered longer than Beolmaui Kkum but under Lee Hee Cheon, I’m Your Father struck the front just over a furlong out. Only Triple Nine, under the urging of Jo In Kwen, could go with him but he couldn’t quite get there. I’m Your Father maintained his pace to the line and jockey Lee had time to celebrate as they broke the wire with a half length in hand.

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Lee Hee Cheon returns to scale on I’m Your Father (Pic: KRA)

Saengil Gippeum, Jiljuui Sin and Ms. Margaux all closed deeply to finish 3rd to 5th while Diferent Dimension, like Triple Nine in his first start since returning from Dubai, put in a very creditable 6th. Clean Up Joy aside, Champ Line was perhaps the disappointment of the race. The 5-year-old entered having won his last five but had an off day. Mupae who was also relatively well-backed, reportedly took a knock coming out of the gate and struggled throughout.

For jockey Lee Hee Cheon, it was a 2nd group win following his victory on Never Seen Before in the 2014 Minister’s Cup. Lee doesn’t get a huge amount of opportunities at the elite level but he rarely disappoints when he does – he also rode Macheon Bolt to 2nd place in the Korea Sprint last year.

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Trainer David Miller joins the Mayor of Busan and connections in the winner’s circle (Pic: KRA)

As for David Miller, it is a stunning success. He began training at Busan last autumn and has steadily built up his stable but is yet to acquire the kind of firepower needed to achieve sustained success. Nevertheless, his place and show rates are good (12.2% and 20.4% respectively) and his horses have consistently been finishing better than their odds have suggested. His success with I’m Your Father will perhaps put potential owners on alert.

Busan Mayor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 1800M – July 8, 2017

1. I’m Your Father (USA) [Tiznow – Clear Thinking (Awesome Again)] – Lee Hee Cheon – 7.4, 2.5
2. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Jo In Kwen – 1.7
3. Saengil Gippeum (USA) [Parading – Minnie’s Niece (Quiet American)] – Lee Sung Jae – 9.9
Distances: 0.5 lengths / 6 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Jiluui Sin (USA) 5. Ms. Margaux (USA) 6. Diferent Dimension (USA) 7. Success Story (KOR) 8. Dongbang Daero (USA) 9. Clean Up Joy (USA) 10. Champ Line (KOR) 11. Buhwarui Banseok (USA) 12. Doraonpogyeongseon (USA) 13. Mupae (USA) 14. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) NR: King Of Ace

Next week the big race action moves to Seoul and the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup. Korean Derby winner Final Boss is expected to face the surprise Oaks winner Jejui Haneul over 2000M. 

Busan Mayor’s Cup 2017: Triple Nine & Clean Up Joy (And More!) – Full Preview (July 9)

Last December Clean Up Joy bested Triple Nine to win Korea’s most prestigious race, the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul. Since then Clean Up Joy has harvested listed races against inferior opposition in the Capital while Triple Nine was taken to the Dubai World Cup where despite the Godolphin Mile being a race too far, he managed to acquit himself admirably. There are 6 races at Busan from 13:25 to 17:40 and 11 at Seoul from 11:45 to 19:00

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Clean Up Joys wins this year have been dismissively easy. It’s going to be much harder on Sunday (Pic: KRA)

Their paths now collide in what is often called the “Summer Grand Prix” over 1800M at Busan. All eyes will be on the start. A notoriously troubled starter, at Seoul Clean Up Joy (Purge) has special dispensation to begin in the widest gate and not having a horse on his outside has settled him down enormously in his most recent appearances. At Busan he is afforded no such special treatment and indeed in last year’s race, he blundered coming out of gate 5 and could only rally late for an eventual 4th. This time he is in gate 2 but most seem to think that under Djordje Perovic, Clean Up Joy can overcome.

As for Triple Nine (Ecton Park), the two time President’s Cup winner has had a rest since arriving back in Korea in April and cantered through a trial last week looking in shape and ready to go. It’s not necessarily a two horse race though. The Thomas Gillespie trained Champ Line (Curlin) enters on a five-race winning streak and only looks to be getting better. He has a great draw and could well be a factor.

Then there are the up and comers. Kiwi trainer David Miller saddles the highly thought-of I’m Your Father (Tiznow) in his first Group race and the colt is not without a chance. Not is Triple Nine’s stablemate Mupae (Paddy O’Prado), who has won five of six starts to date.

It’s set to be the hottest race of the year so far and should offer plenty of clues ahead of the 1 Billion Won international Korea Cup, which will be run over the same distance in Seoul in September. Race cards are here and form comments for the whole card at Busan are below:

Selections: Race 1: 8 2 4 3 Race 2: 11 7 6 1 Race 3: 1 6 4 5 Race 4: 5 2 6 7 Race 5: 2 10 7 1 Race 6: 9 11 2 7
Race 1: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million
1. NORTHERN VICAR – Maiden win at the 7th time of asking in April but only beat one home on first try at this class three weeks ago.
2. SWAG – Landed maiden win on Good Friday and was 2nd last start over 1000M. Hasn’t gone well at further than the minimum in the past but in the frame here.
3. MUNHWA DAERO – Up in class following maiden win over 1300M last time. That win had been coming and there’s not too much to fear here. Repeat not impossible.
4. WIDAEHANGWANGGYONG – Yet to win but has come close on several occasion including latest two. Steps back in trip from a mile today and should come close again.
5. CHEONJIGAEBYEOK – Struggled in three efforts since maiden win saw him promoted to this level.
6. RED SIREN – 4th at class and distance last start and should be looking to at least match that today.
7. SEONGGONG PLAN – Not beaten many in four attempts at this level.
8. YEOKJEONUI GIHOE – A winner on his second start on June 9th, beating two who have since gone on to perform well. Up in class and distance today but a real chance.

(more…)

Curtain Closes On Landmark Dubai Carnival

Had we been told before the 2017 Godolphin Mile that Triple Nine would ultimately finish just one place behind pre-race favourite North America, we may have been very excited. Well that’s what ultimately happened. That North America weakened to finish at the back of the main group with Triple Nine, for whom it proved a race too far, many lengths further adrift, might have been disappointing but does nothing to detract from what was a wonderful Carnival from a Korean perspective.

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Triple Nine at the Godolphin Mile (Screengrab from Dubai Racing TV)

Naturally, there are a bucket load of excuses that could be put forward for why Triple Nine didn’t do himself anything like justice (wrong trip, bad draw, muddy track of the type he lost to Beolmaui Kkum on last year, tired after a long campaign and so on and so forth) but it doesn’t really matter. It’s racing. It happens.

As it was, the closest Triple Nine came to a win ay Meydan was his first appearance on January 19th, when he closed strongly but just a little late to run 2nd to Hunting Ground over 2000M. The gutsy Triple Crown winner Power Blade landed consecutive 3rd places over a mile and 1900M before the pair of them both ran 5th in their respective Group races on Super Saturday.

Then, of course, there was Main Stay. He and Seoul Bullet both lined up for the 1200M Dirt Handicap on January 19th and for the first time there was real pressure not only to perform well but to actually win the race. As Dubai Racing TV pointed out as the horses came out onto the track “this race really is the Koreans’ to lose”. Seoul Bullet was slow out of the gate but ran on for 4th but Main Stay made no mistake. The race was won with a furlong to go and Terry Spargo’s “Chalk one up for Korea” call has been played at Seoul & Busan Racecourses every week since.

Seoul Bullet would pull up lame and play no further part in the Carnival as indeed would Main Stay after his second run three weeks later.

While Main Stay gets to go down in the history books, arguably the most significant result was that achieved by Diferent Dimension when he defied odds of 33/1 to come 3rd over a mile on turf on February 11th.

It was the first time for a Korean horse to run on turf at the Carnival and the race was well received back home not only because of the result but also for the way the horses ran tightly together as opposed to the wide margins on dirt. Plans are at an advanced stage for a turf track to be installed alongside the sand one at Seoul Racecourse and if the project is to be successful,  a substantial shift in mindset among horsemen in Korea in going ot be required. Actual proof that a Korea-trained (albeit by an Australian) horse can run well on turf is surely the best way to start that process.

Korea’s runners at this year’s Carnival were made possible by the performance of Success Story last year, his pair of 3rd places giving courage to owners and trainers. The unique nature of the Carnival also makes it ideal for a nation wishing to develop its racing, such as Korea. The horses get to spend a number of months in Dubai as do the grooms and workriders. They get to work alongside local grooms and riders and train alongside horses from all over the world providing an opportunity both to observe and to learn. Top international jockeys ride the horses – this year Ireland’s Pat Cosgrave handled the bulk of riding duties of the Korean string and a fine job he did too, both in work and in the races; his exhausting ride in Power Blade’s second outing standing out.

That regular Carnival races are competitive but not overwhelming also gives encouragement. The most exciting thing now is to see who emerges as a contender to make the trip in 2018.

Korea’s results at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival:

Triple Nine
1/19: 2000M (Dirt) – 2nd
2/9: 2000M (Dirt) – 4th
3/4: 2000M (Dirt – G1) – 5th
3/25: 1600M Godolphin Mile (Dirt – G2) – 11th

Power Blade
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 3rd
2/2: 1900M (Dirt) – 3rd
3/4: 1600M (Dirt – G3) – 5th

Main Stay
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 1st
2/11: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Diferent Dimension
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th
2/11: 1600M (Turf) – 3rd
2/16: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th

Seoul Bullet
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Triple Nine & Power Blade Set For Stern Super Saturday Tests

Power Blade and Triple Nine take to the Meydan dirt one final time tonight as they become Korea’s first representatives on “Super Saturday” at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Triple Nine has a 2nd and a 4th to his name in Carnival races so far while Power Blade has run 3rd in both of his starts. Tonight they are operating at another level altogether.

Power Blade will run in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over a mile (Race card):

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The race is not quite as strong as it could have been but Power Blade still looks up against it. Heavy Metal, who comfortably beat Power Blade in his first Meydan run, returns and looks as dangerous as ever while the even higher rated Polar River and Le Bernardin also take their chances. Stormardal and Godolphin’s Alabaster also can’t be ruled out. Power Blade is available at 16/1 with most operators and given the way he gamely runs on, that might be worth something each-way.

Just over an hour later, Triple Nine has an even tougher assignment as he takes part in a Group 1 3rd leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge at 2000M (Race card):

tn3 Japan’s Lani is the most recognisable name on the list but the 3rd place-getter in last year’s Belmont Stakes won’t necessarily be favourite. Furia Crizada and Second Summer were 1st and 2nd  in the second leg of the challenge last month (with Power Blade 3rd). Triple Nine closed very strongly in his first Meydan outing but was a little one-paced and failed to change leads running on for 4th in his second. He is surely better than the 33/1 being offered by most operators.

Tonight is another hugely significant moment as Power Blade and Triple Nine run in these races on merit. If they can pull off a surprise and hit the board, it would be wonderful. If not, the way they and the other Korean horses have run at the Carnival before tonight has already ensured that Korea will be back next year.

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Triple Nine, Main Stay & Diferent Dimension Run At Meydan This Week

The 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival is starting to head towards its business end and following Power Blade’s 3rd place in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge last Thursday, three of the other Korea-trained horses, Triple Nine, Main Stay and Diferent Dimension will line up this week. Triple Nine races on Thursday while Main Stay and Diferent Dimension will go on Saturday.

Triple Nine ran on very nicely for 2nd on his Meydan debut last month and he is likely to be one of the favourites for his race, a 2000M Dirt Handicap which is race 3 on Thursday’s card. There are plenty of dangers though. Mizbah beat Hunting Ground, who himself beat Triple Nine last start, by no fewer than seven and a half lengths on January 5. While he carries an additional 5.5kg on Thursday, he is sure to be dangerous. Godolphin’s Emotionless was a highly thought-of juvenile in the UK in 2015 but only raced twice as a three-year-old. He was 6th on his Meydan debut in the first leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge at a mile and may well have come on for it. Click here for Race Card.

On Saturday Main Stay, who is already a winner at this year’s Carnival, makes his re-appearance. He faces a much tougher assignment this time around though as he takes on two Hong Kong raiders in the shape of Dundonnell and, especially Fabulous One as they begin their preparations for Super Saturday and World Cup Night. The rest of the field offers little to write home about although the Godolphin pair of Comicas and Acolyte, the latter a non-Carnival turf winner at the distance in January may be dangerous while the Sweden-trained duo of Breakdancer and Saving Kenny are unknown quantities. The start is going to be important and attempting to live with the two Sha Tin horses will be the target. Click here for Race Card.

Diferent Dimension is going to do things differently in that he’s going to become the first Korea-trained horse at the Carnival to run on the Turf. He goes in the ultra-competitive Mile handicap. The Peter Wolsley trainee has reportedly taken well to the surface and does have a good draw. He has the toughest ask of all the Korea-trained horses though and a competitive showing will be the goal against a group of horses with some very solid European form amongst them. Click here for Race Card.

In other Dubai news, the Dubai Racing Club has released initial World Cup Day nominations. This nomination stage is free and accordingly, all five of the Korean horses at the Carnival have been nominated for various races, something the Dubai Racing Club noted in their accompanying notes. It remains extremely unlikely that any of them will get into any of the races, however, with a run for one or more of them on Super Saturday considered to be the more realistic goal.

Triple Nine, Seoul Bullet & Main Stay All Go At Meydan Thursday

It was Power Blade and Diferent Dimension last week, this time it’s the turn of rest of the Korean stable at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival to make their Meydan debuts. Triple Nine, Seoul Bullet and Main Stay will all run at the Carnival meeting on Thursday evening (early Friday in Korea).

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Triple Nine is among the Korea contingent going at Meydan Thursday night (Pic: Alex Cairns/The Winning Post)

Triple Nine will take part in the 2000M race 4 while Main Stay and Seoul Bullet will try their luck at 1200M in race 6. Pat Cosgrave, who rode Power Blade to 3rd place last week, partners both Triple Nine and Main Stay while Tadhg O’Shea will ride Seoul Bullet.

Race 4 (20:15): Meydan Sobha – 2000M Handicap – USD 125,000

 

As it was for Power Blade last week, Triple Nine’s race looks very competitive. The trouble is that as joint top-rated, he will be carrying 60kg which is 1.5kg more than he has ever carried in an actual race and 3kg heavier than he has won at in Korea. Nevertheless, Triple Nine remains a best-priced 5/1 2nd-favorite with most odds-makers. Favourite with those same odds-makers is Godolphin’s Fog Of War who hasn’t raced since September 2015 but there’s little to choose between a whole host of them. Munaaser won this race last year but doesn’t enter in tremendous form. The Mikael Barzalona ridden Hunting Ground is sure to be well backed as is Doug Watson’s Etijaah.

Race 6 (21:25): District One – 1200M Handicap – USD 125,000

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Race 6 is a similarly tricky puzzle. Both Korea-trained horses carry light weights in what doesn’t look a very intimidating field. Main Stay defeated Seoul Bullet over 1400M at Busan last month although the latter did stumble coming out of the gate. The Sweden-trained Giftorm is currently favourite having performed creditably at Meydan last year and winning a Swedish G3 in the Spring. The rest don’t appear to have a lot of solid recent form to go on although Shaishee, Indianapolis and Spirit Quartz have all recorded decent times, if not finishes, so at the strong risk of tempting fate, if there is a solid pace, the Korean-pair have a chance.

For those watching from Korea, it will be a late night with race 4 set for 1:15am Seoul time and race 6 coming under orders at 2.25am.