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.
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.
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.
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.
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.