Winner's Man

Raon First Beats Simjangui Godong & Winner’s Man to Win President’s Cup

Raon First, the only mare in the race, produced a home stretch burst up the inside to leave defending champion Simjangui  Godong and Korea Cup winner Winner’s Man behind and score a sensational win in the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. The five-year-old is the first mare to win the race in its eighteenth year.

Raon First and Choi Bum-hyun win the President’s Cup (Pic: KRA)

Coming in off his remarkable triumph in the international Korea Cup in September, Winner’s Man was sent off as the restrictive odds-on favourite for what is the most valuable race of the year that is restricted to horses bred in Korea.  Last year’s winner Simjangui Godong was second in the market, ahead of Heunghaeng Jilju and the three-year-old Captain Yankee. Raon First was fifth in the betting but that was at 30/1, such was the market skewed towards Winner’s Man.

More renowned as a sprinter, Raon First ran 3rd in the Korea Sprint over 1200M the day Winner’s Man won the Korea Cup. But Raon First had raced at 1800M in the past, winning a Class 2 handicap in May of 2021 in addition to harvesting the Listed Donga Ilbo Trophy in restricted company against hopelessly outclassed fellow fillies and mares who she would probably beat at any distance from the minimum up to two miles earlier this year.

It wasn’t close. (Pic: KRA)

She had never tackled 2000M though and she had never faced anything like Winner’s Man around two-turns. Yet she beat him with ease. Settling handy instead of leading, jockey Choi Bum-hyun kept Raon First on the fence, saving ground the entire way around as outsider Jangsan Laser set a tough pace up front, matched by Winner’s Man and in the early stages, by Captain Yankee.

That shape would remain unaltered until the home straight when Captain Yankee quickly folded while Simjangui Godong loomed up to threaten. Staying on the fence, Raon First stole a couple of lengths on the turn and was quickly to the fore, hitting the front with just over 300M to go. It was then that the challenge from Winner’s Man was expected. It came, as did that from Simjangui Godong but any hope they had as quickly extinguished as the mare built up an unassailable lead a long way from home.

Raon First crossed the line two-lengths ahead of Simjangui Godong, who was himself a length and a quarter ahead of Winner’s Man in 3rd. The very game Jangsan Laser was a revelation in 4th, but Captain Yankee, also on pace early, found it hard to cope with the pace and finished back down the field. 

Raon First has always done things a little quirkily. She came to prominence in her juvenile season in 2019 when instead of entering the traditional Juvenile Series races, she was pointed to the race that was open to imported juveniles (she is a product of Musket Man and Pink Candy, who both arrived in Korea in January 2016). She duly won it in fine style. Since then, she has mostly been kept in filly and mare company for her Group race appearances – understandable given her superiority and the value of the purses – but after an out of character but excusable well back finish in the KNN Cup at Busan, she has been let loose in the really big races. She moves on to twelve wins from twenty-one starts and six of her last eight.

It was a first President’s Cup win for veteran jockey Choi Bum-hyun and also for trainer Park Jong-kon.

Simjangui Godong ran his usual strong race in 2nd and as for Winner’s Man, who suffered his first defeat in 2022 after six consecutive wins it was a first defeat of 2022.

President’s Cup Sunday Seoul & Busan: Race-By-Race Preview (November 13)

Sunday is President’s Cup Day. Click here for a full runner-by-runner preview of the most valuable race of the season that is restricted to Korean-bred runners. The big race is race 8 of an 11-race program at Seoul which runs from 10:45 to 18:00. There are also 6 races at Busan from 12:15 to 16:45 with King Of The Match in the feature. Here are the previews:

Winner’s Man will be seeking to add the President’s Cup to his Korea Cup success (Pic: Ross Holburt/KRA)

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

Juvenile maiden fillies in the opener with six of the twelve racing for the first time. And among those debut-makers is the eagerly awaited (10) RAON EMPIRE. She’s half-sister to Raon The Fighter, currently the highest rated horse in Korea and she looked very well in two trials, crossing the line 1st in one and an unhurried 3rd in a fast time in the second when overcoming gate twelve. She will be a very short-priced favourite. (5) NAOL HAEGBOK did nothing on debut in June but was looked a better prospect when trialing up again behind Raon Empire in October. She should go better this time around. (1) YOUNGYOUNG SOCKS put in the best debut of those that have run before, showing on pace before finishing in the middle of the pack. She should have come on for that run and can improve here. (12) RED TAEPUNG should also improve from her debut while (4) WALGADAK looks the second best of the first timers.

Selections(10) Raon Empire (5) Naol Haengbok (1) Youngyoung Socks (12) Red Taepung
Next Best4, 3
Fast Start1, 5, 6, 10

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

(5) SUPREME STAR looks the one to beat here. Her best result to date came on debut but she has run well in two starts since including her latest when stepping up to this trip and posting a time as fast as any of the others here have managed when 5th. She sat handy that day which she will probably do again, and this time she can stick to her task. (2) DANAEUN ROSE has a 3rd and a 2nd from her first three outings. Her only poor result so far came when drawn very wide and being unable to find a position. That shouldn’t happen here as she can get an easy run to the front and can be in this a long way. (11) WORLD PLAY has run on pleasingly enough across three starts so far and is showing signs of improvement. He should be aiming to better the 5th place scored last time out at 1000M and can be running on late here. (3) VESPER and (7) NEVER NEVER STOP other potential improvers.

Selections(5) Supreme Star (2) Danaeun Rose (11) World Play (3) Vesper
Next Best7, 8
Fast Start2, 5, 8, 10

Seoul Race 3: Class 5 (1200M) Handicap / KRW 40 Million

(6) BLACK CHOCOLATE ran out an emphatic winner on debut over this distance on October 16th, settling midfield before cruising away in the home straight. He comes up in class today, but the manner of that win suggests there is more to come, and he is strongly favoured to maintain his 100% record here. (1) JEONGMUN PAPAGO got promoted to this level with back-to-back runner-up finishes at this distance before running 4th of twelve in a fair time on his first try at this class on October 9th. He can build on that here. (2) CONCORD QUEEN already has a 2nd place finish to her name at class and distance and from another good draw today can be on pace and in this a long way. (9) CHANCELLOR weakened late on at his latest start and may be better for being slightly back in trip today. (4) B. J. STORM another in the placing frame.

Selections(6) Black Chocolate (1) Jeongmun Papago (2) Concord Queen (9) Chancellor
Next Best4, 8
Fast Start2, 4, 5, 8

Busan Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 60 Million

Juvenile maidens in the opener on the south coast. (4) GOODY ran in improved 3rd at start number two over this distance on October 2nd having gone right back from a wide gate and then run on well. He draws inside for the first time here and if he can a little but more prominent, he could win here. (5) FINAL SEVEN enters with a similar record having also improved to 3rd on his second outing on October 9th. He too sat back and ran on and can continue his development here. (8) HAEUNDAE STAR also showed progress when racing for the second time He comes up in trip for the first time here and under a very light weight can be running on well. (3) FLYING TOUCH by contrast ran poorly at her second career start but based on her debut can be given another chance here. There are three debut-makers and among them, (1) MULTI HIT looks to have the best chance of an immediate impact.

Selections(4) Goody (5) Final Seven (8) Haeundae Star (3) Flying Touch
Next Best1, 6
Fast Start2, 3, 5, 6

Seoul Race 4: Class 5 (1300M) Handicap / KRW 60 Million

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Winner’s Man Completes Stayer Sweep

It’s long been known as the “Summer Grand Prix”, and this year’s Busan Mayor’s Cup (1800M KOR-G2) didn’t disappoint as Winner’s Man completed a clean-sweep of the Stayer Series at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, propelling him one step closer to a clash with the internationals in September’s Korea Cup while also confirming a generational change at the elite level of Korean racing.

Despite having won the first two legs of the Stayer Series, the Herald Business Trophy (2000M KOR-L) and the YTN Cup (2000M KOR-G2), Winner’s Man was only sent off as second-favourite for the nine-furlong Mayor’s Cup as punters backed Grand Prix Stakes winner Haengbok Wangja to avenge his YTN defeat.

As it turned out, the perils of anything but a low draw in a big field over the 1800M at Busan, what with its short run to the first turn, ensnared Haengbok Wangja as following a slightly below par jump from the gate, Haengbok Wangja found himself pushed wide on the first corner and trailing the field. While he would ultimately record the second fastest final furlong time of all of them, it was in vain, and he finished 9th.

Winner’s Man wins the Mayor’s Cup (KRA)

That left double Classic winner and runner-up to Winner’s Man in the 2021 Derby, Hit Yegam, to claim the early lead with Winner’s Man matching him stride for stride. They would remain that way until the home straight when Winner’s Man finally shook off old rival Hit Yegam, who was the colt who beat him to Champion Three-Year-Old honours last year, and Winner’s Man strode away for a three-length win.

The always prominent Simjangui Godong ran on powerfully for 2nd with up and coming four-year-olds Success Macho and King Of The Match in in 3rd and 4th. Hit Yegam, after his early exertions, was 5th.

“I’m really happy” winning trainer Choi Ki-hong told national broadcaster KBS, which screened the race live on their N Sports channel.  “The race played out exactly as we had planned but that was only possible due to the hard work of everyone at the stable who made sure everything was right for Winner’s Man today.”

“(Jockey) Seo Seung-un really played his part too, he gave Winner’s Man the perfect ride. It’s a huge achievement for the horse and for us to win all three races in this series and we’ll make sure to keep Winner’s Man happy and plan carefully for what is to come next”.

Ultimately that could be the Korea Cup (1800M-G3) in Seoul on September 4th with the international race set to return for the first time since 2019. On today’s evidence, Winner’s Man is at least worth a chance against overseas opposition and with Korean-bred runners occupying six of the first seven places in the Mayor’s Cup, there is little to fear, either in the international race or in the imminent resumption of imported racehorses.

The Mayor’s Cup also signaled a confirmation of the changing of the guard. Simjangui Godong was the only horse older then four in the top five and the only three runners aged seven or above, occupied the last three places. Longest shot on the board Super Socks was one of those but he was at least in touch with the field.

That wasn’t the case for Cheongdam Dokki and Blue Chipper. The latter bled for the second time in as many races and while he was a winner as recently as January and Dokki as recently as last autumn, it seems that retirement is the best option for both champions now.

Winner’s Man is now where Cheongdam Dokki and Blue Chipper were when they were four years old. The future is a bright one.

Race Video (English): https://youtu.be/4jRRxWA53Zc

Winner’s Man Jockey Cam: https://youtu.be/t0KB5hLmVhY

Blue Chipper Back On Top At Busan

Blue Chipper returned to the winner’s circle at long last at Busan Racecourse on Sunday afternoon as Korea’s 2019 Breeders’ Cup hero registered an effortless class 1 win over seven-furlongs.

With the Covid-induced financial crisis still biting, Sunday’s Busan feature was contested for a 1st prize of just KRW 24 Million (US$21,400). Nevertheless, in addition to Blue Chipper the race also attracted the likes of Ssonsal, the up-and-coming sprinter who came in off the back of four consecutive wins, as well as multiple winner King Of Glory and Dubai World Cup Carnival alumnus Today among a full field of fourteen.

None stood a chance as under jockey Djordje Perovic and coming out of gate five, Blue Chipper quickly assumed command of the race, before motoring away from the field in the home straight. Ssonsal, who had to overcome the widest draw, got closest, finishing three-lengths in arrears.

It’s been a long way back for Blue Chipper, who last tasted victory in the Korea Sprint (KOR G1) at Seoul Racecourse in September of 2019. Knowing that he held a Breeders’ Cup nomination, connections then opted to take a chance on him in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup First Mile at Santa Anita where, under an enterprising Flavien Prat ride, Blue Chipper finished 3rd behind Spun To Run and Omaha Beach.

Blue Chipper was then pointed at the Dubai World Cup Carnival and a tilt at the Goldolphin Mile. Disaster struck, however, when on arrival he was found to have travel sickness, the complications of which ruled him out of competing at Meydan.  By the time he was passed fit to fly, he returned to a Korea where racing, with no legal remote betting, was amid the still ongoing Covid crisis.

Having returned to training in December – and moved to trainer Min Jang-ki’s stable – Blue Chipper was given a low-key return to racing in February in a race which had no legal betting markets either at home or overseas. Going over a mile he showed at the front early but visibly tired in the final furlong ultimately ending up in 5th. He came out of that race in good order though and the improvement was there for all to see on Sunday.  

Where to next is the million-dollar (hopefully not the 24 Million Won) question for Blue Chipper. Now six-years-old, the Tiznow gelding seems unlikely to travel again given the risks involved and with no confirmed Stakes schedule for Korea as the pandemic continues to squeeze prizemoney, it may be some time before he even gest to face the likes of Seoul-based rising-star Eoma Eoma in Korea.

Other News

Jockey Kim Hye-sun rode her first winner back since returning from maternity leave just a week ago. The thirty-two-year-old, who is married to fellow jockey Park Jae-I, partnered Haeundae Bada to victory in race 1 at Busan on Sunday.  It was career victory number 284 for Kim, who is the most successful female thoroughbred jockey in Korean history. She rode Jejui Haneul to victory in the Korean Oaks in 2017.

In the three-year-old ranks, Winner’s Man returned to winning ways at Busan on Saturday. The Musket Man colt was beaten by the very good Golden Winner on his first try around the Korean Derby distance of 1800M last month and while he suffered another scare this time around, he had enough about him to hold off long-shot Man Of Top by a head at class 3 level for his first success around two turns. Winner’s Man now has a record of five wins and two runner-up finishes from seven starts.

Three-Year-Olds Suffer Reverses / Hunch Continues To Impress

Heat Yegam and Winner’s Man came home as winner and runner-up in Busan’s top juvenile race last autumn but the two up and comers both came unstuck – and yet still emerged with credit – over the weekend. In the older division there were no such problems for Hunch as the four-year-old continued his stately progress towards the elite level of Korean racing with an easy win.

With In-person attendance severely restricted and online betting remaining stubbornly illegal, it remains to be seen if there will even be a Triple Crown series this year but both Heat Yegam went into their Saturday preps at Busan as odds-on favourites. Heat Yegam, went first, sticking to the 1200M at which he had won all his juvenile starts. Despite having led for much of the way round, the Take Charge Indy colt was passed as he drifted wide in the home straight, ultimately coming home 2nd to the four-year-old Great Boss.

Later on in the card Winner’s Man, 2nd to Heat Yegam last November but considered more of a Classic contender having already won at a mile, tackled two turns for the first time in the 1800M race 9 at class 3 level. From gate 12, the Musket Man colt had to work hard early to get on the pace. He came together with Golden Winner in the straight and ended up being pushed out slightly wide, finishing just under a length in arrears to the Djordje Perovic ridden winner.

Neither lost very much in defeat. For Heat Yegam it was a positive return after a three-month spell while for Winner’s Man, a better barrier may well have seen him victorious. The defeats though may have piqued the interest of connections of another three-year-old at Busan on Saturday who did actually win his race. That was Alpha Again (by Strike Again), who led from gate to wire over 1400M at class 4 level to take his record to three wins from six starts. It is probably enough to get him into the starting gate if and when the KRA Cup Mile kicks off the Triple Crown.

The star of the show at Busan on Friday was Hunch. Peter Wolsley’s American import made three undistinguished starts as a juvenile back in 2019 but after nine months off, he reappeared following the first shutdown last summer looking a much better prospect and has gone on to register five wins from six subsequent starts. The latest of those was in Friday’s class 2 Busan feature when under Perovic, outclassed a very useful set of rivals by five-lengths in the kind of time that would see him close in Group races.

With rating increases still being limited in line with the current reduced prize money, Hunch will get at least one more crack at class 2 before he has to dip his toe into class 1. By To Honor And Serve, more than one observer pointed out that his winning time on Friday was faster than that recorded by a somewhat more established Korean runner by the same sire in his own latest two wins – Cheongdam Dokki.  On Friday’s performance, Hunch may end up facing Korea’s favourite chestnut at some point this year.

Seoul’s fifteen-race card on Sunday was a somewhat low-key affair with the feature class 2 handicap being won by Top Brain (Uncle Mo). There were, however, doubles for foreign jockeys Johan Victoire and Antonio Da Silva while trainer Luigi Riccardi also recorded a welcome victory.

Next weekend’s racing in Korea will follow the same pattern with ten races slated for Busan on Saturday and fifteen at Seoul on Sunday.

Eoma Eoma Returns To Winner’s Circle With Track Record Setting Effort

Eoma Eoma was the star of Friday’s behind-closed-doors meeting at Seoul Racecourse, taking out the class 1 feature and in the process breaking the track record for 1400M,

They might only be racing for small stakes but for the second week running, the form mostly held up. Aside from Eoma Eoma, the shock Korean Oaks winner Uaryung (Testa Matta) showed that her win in Busan in August was no fluke by handily defeating a batch of class 4 gallopers while down at Busan, exciting juvenile Winner’s Man (Musket Man) moved on to three wins from three starts with an easy score over older horses, also at 1400M.

Eoma Eoma (Algorithms) didn’t debut until December of his juvenile season but won his first three races – either side of the first shutdown – in such style that he was allowed to take his chance in both the SBS Sports Sprint and Owners; Cups. He performed valiantly in both finishing 3rd and 2nd to Morfhis and East Jet respectively. Given his lack of experience those were a tough ask but he ran well both times and the manner of his win today, with Moon Se Young needing to do very little in the way of encouragement, suggests he will be the one they need to beat next season.

As it stands, there is a possibility that some spectators can be admitted to the racecourses next weekend, which would mean that racing would return to a more normal Friday to Sunday schedule. However, this morning’s Covid-19 figures showed 138 new local transmissions nationwide with 98 of them in Gyeonggi Province – in which Seoul Racecourse is located. If the numbers remain at that level or higher over the next few days, there is a chance the government may reinstate “Level 2” social distancing, which would in effect put everything back to square 1 and would mean these Friday “zombie meetings”, with no crowds and no betting and low Stakes, would have to continue.