Tuhonui Banseok

TUHONUI BANSEOK STUNS WINNER’S MAN BY CRUSHING MARGIN AS BART RICE TRAINS FIRST KOREAN GROUP WINNER

The second leg of the Stayer Series was every bit as one-sided as most expected. It just wasn’t the result most expected as Tuhonui Banseok produced a spectacular performance to beat defending Champion and Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes hero Winner’s Man by an astonishing eleven-lengths in the YTN Cup (2000M KOR-G3). It was a first Korean Group race win for both jockey Park Jae-I and trainer Bart Rice.

Tuhonui Banseok in the clear in the YTN Cup (Pic: KRA)

Having won the first leg of the Stayer Series, last month’s Herald Business Cup by three-lengths, Winner’s Man was sent off as a prohibitive 1.4 favourite for the YTN ahead of Tuhonui Banseok, who had been a fast-finishing 3rd in the Grand Prix and then 2nd in the Herald Business. Breaking from gate two, Park Jae-I pushed Tuhonui Banseok to the lead right from the gate. Knowing where the greatest threat was, Seo Seung-un on Winner’s Man immediately moved to track him.

Tuhonui Banseok (Pic: KRA)

Winner’s Man stayed locked to Tuhonui Banseok’s heels as the race passed through the back straight and reached its crucial stages. Passing three-furlongs and beginning to turn towards the home straight, the seeming inevitability of Winner’s Man eventually blowing past the upstart was confounded when Seo Seung-un was the first to get to work, while Park Jae-I remained stationary aboard the leader. When Park did get down to business, the gap was already up to three-lengths and rising. Between the 300M and the 200M, Winner’s Man briefly regained some ground, but Tuhonui Banseok quickly slammed the door and romped away for a devastating victory.

Winner’s Man was 2nd, eleven-lengths in arrears but still well clear of the rest, while Winner Gold, a 78/1 chance, emerged from the rear down the rail to claim an excellent 3rd.  

It perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Tuhonui Banseok was running in his fifth Graded race and the trajectory had very much been upwards. Last June he encountered the elite for the first time and ran 8th in the Busan Mayor’s Cup behind Winner’s Man. A 3rd in last October’s KRA Cup Classic behind Raon The Fighter was followed by another 3rd in the Grand Prix Stakes. That day with every stride, he was gaining on Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter, and may have got closer were it not for his having to navigate around tired horses at the top of the straight. Then there was that 2nd in the Herald Business last month.

Park Jae-i (Pic: KRA)

This time everything went right for Tuhonui Banseok, a five-year-old American-bred entire by Verrazano and out of the Street Sense mare, Sense of Beauty. He was a $13,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

For jockey Park Jae-I, 2022 was a standout year in terms of winners when he leapt from a previous yearly best of twenty-seven, to a tally of sixty-two and 3rd place in the Premiership behind only You Hyun-myung and Sunday’s vanquished rival, Seo Seung-un. Now the twenty-seven-year-old has his first Graded race win.

It was surprising for some observers to realise it was also a first Korean Graded winner for trainer Bart Rice. The South African handler has been a fixture around the top of the Busan Trainer Premiership ever since debuting in late 2013 and sports a healthy 14%-win rate and 34% top-three rate across his time in the country.

Bart Rice finally gets his Group Race Presentation (Pic: KRA)

Previous Rice stable stars such as the fellow Lim Byung-ho owned Buhwarui Banseok were solid class 1 horses but had the misfortune to be around at the same time as the likes of Cheongdam Dokki, for his entire career, as well as Triple Nine and Power Blade at the start of it.  That said, Tuhonui Banseok has had the misfortune to be around at the same time as Raon The Fighter and Winner’s Man. Now that gap on the resume has been filled and with Tuhonui Banseok still seemingly getting better, there could be more to come.

Don’t write off Winner’s Man. He has had his setbacks before, most notably when 3rd in last November’s President’s Cup. It didn’t take him long to return to the summit. But there is plenty of intrigue now ahead of the Busan Mayor’s Cup on July 2nd and the biggest of them all, the Korea Cup, looming into view. In Tuhonui Banseok, a new heavyweight is on the scene.

Winner’s Man Heads Stayer Series 2nd Leg Field Sunday

The Stayer Series holds its second leg at Seoul Racecourse this Sunday as ten go to post for the YTN Cup (2000M KOR-G3). And with Raon The Fighter now firmly ensconced atop the sprinting ranks following his dominant wins in the Busan Ilbo Sprint in April and the SBS Sports Sprint last weekend, the path appears clear for Winner’s Man to continue his dominance over the longer trips. 

Winner’s Man won the 1st leg of the Stayer Series from Tuhonui Banseok. (Pic: KRA)

Having won the Korea Cup and Grand Prix Stakes in 2022, WINNER’S MAN, who also won the Korea Derby as a three-year-old, began the Stayer Series as the one to beat and he duly obliged in the first leg, the Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-G3) on April 16th when he struck the front in the home straight and ran on to win by three-lengths. Over the same distance and under a set weight scale, it is hard to see any other result on Sunday.

Winner’s Man does throw in the odd poor run though. He looked undercooked when 3rd behind Raon First in last November’s President’s Cup, and he was out of sorts when 4th on his seasonal re-appearance at class 1 level over 1800M in February. He was giving 8kg away that day but with all due respect to that day’s winner Flat Babe, Winner’s Man shouldn’t have been losing to her.

As for those who can take advantage should the favourite be below his best, TUHONUI BANSEOK looks the most likely. He was another who had an off day in that February Class 1 behind Flat Babe although in finishing 3rd, he did at least beat Winner’s Man. He ran 2nd in the Herald Business building on his breakthrough performance when 3rd in the Grand Prix Stakes, when he made excellent ground to almost catch Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter. One of two in the race for trainer Bart Rice along with lively outsider Jessieui Kkum, Tuhonui Banseok will be a clear second-favourite again.

Tunhonui Banseok isn’t the only one in the gate to have finished ahead of Winner’s Man. SIMJANGUI GODONG did that when 2nd to Raon First when attempting to defend his President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) last November. He skipped the Herald Business but returned to the winner’s circle at Class 1 level over 2000M in April.  Moon Se-young returns to the ride and he is a clear place chance again.

The top-three in the Herald Business was rounded out by BARBARIAN, a length and a quarter in arrears of Tuhonui Banseok. He too will be backed to place again. BLACK MASK had a poor day at the office in the Herald Business but shapes as the next best in what will be a final Group race ride for the retiring jockey Ham Wan-sik.

The YTN Cup is race 8 on Sunday’s 11-race card at Seoul Racecourse with a local post time of 16:10.

Winner’s Man Bests Raon The Fighter in Grand Prix Battle for the Ages

Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter turned the 40th running of the Grand Prix Stakes (2300M) into a match race and just as in the Korea Cup, it was Winner’s Man who ultimately prevailed as the pair duelled the final two-furlongs at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter drive for the line in the Grand Prix (Pic: KRA)

With Raon The Fighter having blitzed the KRA Cup Classic while Winner’s Man laboured to 3rd in the President’s Cup on their respective post-Korea Cup outings, punters were predicting a form reverse and sent Raon The Fighter off as the odds-on favourite.

From the plum draw of barrier two Moon Se-young took Raon The Fighter straight to the front and immediately dictated the pace the race would be run at. By the time they left the back straight and began the long turn for home, only Winner’s Man, who as he had done in the Korea Cup, improved up the field in the back straight under jockey Seo Seung-un, along with President’s Cup winner Raon First, remained with him.

Remote of the finish with Tuhonui Banseok looming (Pic: KRA)

Raon First was promptly seen off and Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter would duel throughout the long Seoul Racecourse home straight. Raon The Fighter held firm, but Winner’s Man loomed up alongside with a furlong to run. Still Raon The Fighter didn’t buckle and matched him stride for stride for half the remaining distance. But Winner’s Man was relentless. At the one hundred metre point, he finally struck the front and this time Raon The Fighter had no more.

It had been a battle of wills and a battle of the two best horses in the country. Winner’s Man now carries off the accolade of Horse of the Year having vanquished Raon The Fighter at 1800M in the Korea Cup and 2300M in the Grand Prix, but Raon The Fighter lost nothing in either of those defeats. And given he remains arguably both the best sprinter and middle-distance horse in Korea, yet has runner-up finishes in both those longer distance Group 1 races, the debate as to which is better won’t go away.

The rest of the field might as well have been running in a different race but there was a stand-out performance by Tunhonui Banseok. The Bart Rice trainee had only raced eleven times previously, but under Park Jae-i, he navigated his way through a tiring field in the closing stages to get within a length and a quarter of Raon The Fighter on the line. Nine-lengths further back, the three-year-old Saryeoni First led the rest home in 4th.

How quickly things change. A year ago, after Haengbok Wangja’s emphatic win in the race, aged just four, he seemed set to dominate. Yet no horse who took part in last year’s race was among the first nine home this year, Simjangui Godong, 5th last year, was best placed in 10th. Haengbok Wangja himself only beat two home, while there was disappointment too for fellow Dubai Carnival hopeful King Of The Match. He was one of those two the 2021 champion finished ahead of.

(Pic: KRA)

Winner’s Man is by Musket Man who is owned, perhaps a touch ironically, by Raon The Fighter’s owner Son Chun-soo and is the centrepiece of the emerging Raon breeding and racing empire. Winner’s Man himself is owned by Lee Gyeong-hui. He is out of Winner’s Marine (by Volponi) who was bred and raced in Korea. Musket Man is now assured of finishing the year as Leading General Sire.

For trainer Choi Ki-hong it was his first Grand Prix and his fifth Group race win – all of them with Winner’s Man. Jockey Seo Seung-un rode his first Grand Prix winner. Having already ridden a President’s Cup and Korea Cup winner, he is just missing the Korea Sprint and Korean Derby from the Group 1 set.

Seo Seung-un with owner Lee Gyeong-hui and Winner’s Man (Pic: KRA)

With the running of the Grand Prix, the 2022 Stakes race program has finished, although there are still two more weeks remaining of the season, which concludes on Christmas Day. In Winner’s Man and Raon The Fighter, racing heads into 2023 with two genuine stars on its hands.