Yukio Abe

Dominant Jigeum I Sungan Owns Seoul

Feel So Good Fades as Derby Winner Adds Owners’ Trophy to Collection

Jigeum I Sungan stormed to a dominant victory in the Owners’ Association Trophy at Seoul Race Park this afternoon in the process cementing his place as the top Korean-bred horse at the track and handing a first defeat on Korean soil to Feel So Good.

Jigeum I Sungan and Moon Se Young win the Owners' Cup

Jigeum I Sungan and Moon Se Young win the Owners’ Cup

The 2012 Korean Derby winner, Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire) has shown improvement with every run and today was no exception. Despite dropping back to 1400 metres and facing Feel So Good (Ft.Stockton), the first Korean-bred horse to win a race in the United States and who had won his first 3 Korean starts without breaking into a gallop, Jigeum I Sungan was sent off the heavy favourite.

Jigeum I Sungan and Moon Se Young Return

Jigeum I Sungan and Moon Se Young Return

While Feel So Good was quick out of the gate and into an early lead there was never a stage when the result looked in doubt.

As they entered the home straight, Moon Se Young brought Jigeum I Sungan around the outside of the field and into contention while Kim Ok Sung got no response from Feel So Good.

After that it was just a matter of how much he would win by, jockey Moon spending most of the final furlong contemplating how he would pose for the cameras on the finish line.

7 lengths was the ultimate margin. Behind him, two rank outsiders got the closest. New And Best (Trick Of Fate) was guided into 2nd by Japanese jockey Yukio Abe at odds of well over 200/1 while coming in third was 125/1 Jeumeundeungi (War Zone). Feel So Good trailed over the line in 10th and was later found to be lame in his left foreleg.

Jigeum I Sungan now has 10 wins from 19 career starts – with 8 of those wins coming in his most recent 11 starts. The last horse to beat him was Dangdae Bulpae as the Busan superstar romped to his 3rd consecutive President’s Cup last November. Next time the face each other, the younger horse should be much more competitive.

Winning jockey Moon Se Young spent the first 3 months of this year riding in Macau, notching 7 winners. The 2012 Champion has given his rivals a big head start but, having grabbed 5 winners over the course of the weekend and 10 in total since returning, it would be a brave man who’d bet against him grinding his rivals down over the rest of the season.

Japanese jockey Yukio Abe (right), who rode New And Best to a shock 2nd place, congratulates winner Moon Se Young

Japanese jockey Yukio Abe (right), who rode New And Best to a shock 2nd place, congratulates winner Moon Se Young

He had missed 3 wins on this horse while in Macau but Moon showed his delight on being back on him with the kind of celebration he used to reserve for his former favourite mount, Bally Brae.

Bally Brae became one of the best horses of his decade. If Jigeum I Sungan – his name means “This Is The Moment” – keeps up this form, it is very possible he may end up remembered as one of the best of his.

Owners’ Association Trophy (KOR GIII) – Seoul Race Park – 1400M – April 21, 2013

1. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) [Ingrandire – Solmaru (Mujaazif)] – Moon Se Young – 1.6, 1.0
2. New And Best (KOR) [Trick Of Fate – Yongunch’Eon (Phizam)] – Yukio Abe – 24.3
3. Jeumeundeungi (KOR) [War Zone – Taraxacum (Meadowlake)] – Lee Joon Chel – 20.4

Distances: 7 lengths/1.25 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Geuma Champ 5. Special Win 6. Global Fusion 7. Jangbi Sarang 8. Sobaengnyeong 9. Yeongung Icheon 10. Feel So Good 11. Yacheonsaryeongbu

Weekend Round-up: Global Fusion Takes New Year Stakes While Moon Se Young Rides First Winner in Macau

The first Stakes race of 2013 was run at Seoul Race Park on Saturday afternoon and it went the way of 3/1 joint second-favourite Global Fusion (Menifee).

Global Fusion and Cho Kyong Ho return after winning the New Year Stakes

Global Fusion and Cho Kyong Ho return after winning the New Year Stakes

Yaho Pilseung (Exploit) was sent off as favourite but, despite jockey Choi Bum Hyun’s frantic efforts, refused to break when the gates opened, leaving himself with 20 length to make up on the field – much to the chagrin of punters. In his absence at the business end of the race, Global Fusion, who was always well-placed, got the better of Naejangsan (Menifee) in the final furlong.

Global Fusion (Menifee-Morning Red Sky) is a 4-year-old colt and moves onto 6 wins from 12 starts, qualifying for class 1 races in the process. For jockey Cho Kyoung Ho, it was a welcome return to big race form after a disappointing end to 2012.

Another jockey enjoying a good start to 2013 was Yukio Abe. The Japanese rider has had a challenging time getting rides since moving to Seoul midway through last year after a successful stint at Busan. He’s begun the year well though, landing a double on Saturday first through Sudden Fortune (Latent Heat) in race 5 and then on Appealing Jeil (Exploit) in race 13.

Winning: Seo Seung Un

Winning: Seo Seung Un

The best start of all, however, was made by Seo Seung Un. The second year jockey ride four winners across the weekend and, along with Jo In Kwen, looks set to make Champion Jockey Moon Se Young work very hard if he is to retain his title.

They will certainly have a chance to gain a big lead as Moon is spending the early part of the season riding in Macau. On Saturday, Moon rode his first winner there, partnering 22/1 chance Mr. Excellency to victory over 1200 metres on turf. As well as Moon, Boo Min Ho is also riding on a short-term license in Macau but is yet to score after 5 ides.

* One notable result from Busan on Friday was a second consecutive win for 3-year-old gelding My Key (Macho-Uno-Worldly Pleasure). The half-brother of US champion Game On Dude broke his maiden last time out by 10 lengths and on Friday, despite stepping up in class, was a 7 length winner in race 6.

Busan’s Sunday feature race was won by another horse with a famous sibling – in Korean terms anyway. Dongteuja (Montbrook-Maremaid) is the half-sister of two-time Grand Prix winner Dongbanui Gangja. She was the 3 length winner of the 1800 metre contest to record her 7th victory from 12 starts.

Weekend Review: Washouts & Winners

The monsoon season finally arrived in Seoul with a vengeance on Friday evening. The rain was so hard that Gyongmaman struggled to keep his red wine dry. It all proved too much for Seoul Race Park’s drainage system and with no let-up on Saturday morning, the decision was made to call off the day’s racing.

Uh oh: The Seoul track was designed to cope with the monsoon but it couldn’t cope on Saturday (Pic: Ilgan Sports)

The monsoon season happens every year and racing continues even during the most extreme downpours, however, this time the 15 hour deluge was overwhelming and the track was deemed unsafe to race.

The rain stopped mid-afternoon Saturday and Sunday was a glorious day at both Seoul and Busan. The pick of the action was on the South Coast and the foreign jockey contingent was in fine form. South African Gerrit Schlechter got things rolling with a win on Peter Wolsley’s promising filly Sangseungdaecheong (Ft. Stockton) in race 1.

Winners: Yukio Abe

Yukio Abe took race 2 on US import Kellan (Cape Town) before he and fellow Japanese rider Narazaki Kosuke took the honours in the two feature races. Kosuke rode hot favourite Tamna Hwangje (Montbrook) to a comfortable six-length victory in race 5 before Abe and five-year-old Saeroun Taeyang (Volponi) upset KRA Cup Mile winner Gyeongbudaero in the finale.

With Joe Fujii coming in second to Abe twice today, the foreigners continue to do well down in Gyeongnam

* Up at Seoul, the feature race went to favourite Prime Galloper (Strodes Creek), with a dominant 8 length win. It was a fourth straight victory for the four-year old who, if he continues his current form, could find himself competing for some very big prizes later in the season.

Weekend Round-Up: Abe, Kosuke, Schlechter In-Form at Busan

Foreign Jockeys Win Five Of Six

It wasn’t a good Sunday for the local Jockeys’ Union in Busan. While apprentice rider Jeong Dong Cheol did manage to win race 2, he was the only Korean rider to score on the six-race card at the south-coast track as the visiting jockeys continued to show how things are done.

Winners: Yukio Abe

Yukio Abe, Narazaki Kosuke and Gerrit Schlechter had all ridden winners on Friday and it was the Japanese pair who led the way again today, each landing a double.

Abe guided one-time Korean Derby hopeful Predict (The Groom Is Red) to a five-length win in race 3 before landing the afternoon’s feature race on Champion Belt (Exploit).

Winners: Narazaki Kosuke

Kosuke meanwhile bookended the card with wins in race 1 on US filly Damyang Jukbuin (Harlan’s Holiday) and in race 6 on hot favourite Tamna Hwangje (Montbrook).

As for Schlechter, the South African came very close to pulling off a shock in the feature race on Peter Wolsley’s Khaosan (Sundaw Well), however, Champion Belt just had enough in him to hold off the ever-game seven-year old by a nose. Schlechter was not to be denied in race 4 though, partnering Jeoldae Jijon (Dixieland Band) to a similarly narrow win.

Although all three are relative newcomers to the track, Abe, Kosuke and Schlechter now make up three of the top four riders at Busan with Jo Sung Gon the only local able to compete with them. Wherther this inspires the local riders or simply fosters resentment remains to be seen. One thing that is for sure though, is that the visitors are getting the best rides because connections believe they are far more likely to help their horse win than the locals.

Winner: Gerrit Schlechter

How different to Seoul where Makoto Noda, who has been plugging away manfully for nearly a year now with little success, must look at his countrymen down south with something approaching envy. On the plus side, his license keeps on getting renewed, on the minus side, that may be because he doesn’t win very much. At least he gets plenty of rides. Some of the visitors, such as young JRA jockey Sho Ueno who went back to Japan last week, don’t even get that. Today, Noda was on plenty of horses but for the most part, they were slow horses.

Winner: Prime Galloper

Not slow was Prime Galloper (Strodes Creek), winner of the Sports Kyeonghyang Cup, Seoul’s Sunday feature race. Under veteran jockey Park Tae Jong, the four-year old scored a narrow win over Geuma Champ (Vicar) and Andy’s Runner (The Groom Is Red). It was his seventh win from eighteen career starts.

Saturday at Seoul saw feature race favourite Jumong (Johar) struggle under top weight for the second consecutive start. This time he went down to a four-length defeat at the hands of fellow US import Sing Sing Cat (D’Wildcat).

Stakes action returns to Seoul next Sunday in the shape of the Sports Chosun Cup. We also have potential appearances at Seoul by Tough Win and at Busan by Mister Park – the two top-rated horses on the peninsula.

Schlechter & Abe Join Foreign Jockey Ranks At Busan

There are two new foreign jockeys in town at Busan.

Japanese Yukio Abe made a winning debut last weekend while South African veteran Gerrit Schlechter will ride for the first time this coming Friday.

New Boys: Gerrit Schlechter and Yukio Abe

Forty-three year old Abe, who usually rides at Nagoya, has over 2600 career victories to his name and opened his Korean account with victory on 7/1 shot Fine Fine in race 3 at Busan last Sunday. Officially freelance, Abe has so far been booked by a wide range of trainers.

Cape Town rider Schlechter, who also has over 2600 victories over the course of his near thirty-year career, is already known to Korean racing fans having ridden in and won the 2007 International Jockey Challenge at Seoul Racecourse.

At the time, this blog described him as a “man with a truly incredible head of hair” – which in retrospect may have been a slight exaggeration – and also noted that he wasn’t afraid to interact with heckling punters, suggesting confidence that may serve him well here full-time.

It appears that Schlechter, while also officially freelance, will replace Nathan Stanley as de-facto first-choice jockey for Australian trainer Peter Wolsley. Joe Murphy also puts the forty-six year old up this weekend.

Schlechter is the fifth South African to take up a riding licence in Korea. They’ve had mixed experiences.

Exception: Martin Wepner

Chris Taylor spent seven weeks at Seoul in 2008 while the less said about Willie Uys’ one weekend in the Capital, before he dashed to the airport, the better.

Down at Busan Deryl Daniels had the misfortune to be riding at the track at the same time as Toshio Uchida was monopolizing the winners and went home, initially on vacation but decided not to return.

After a spell in the United Arab Emirates, Taylor is now riding in Durban. Also in Durban, Daniels meanehile recorded his first Group 1 winner recently and has just relocated to Johannesburg. Uys has been forced into retirement through injury.

The one successful exception in Korea was Martin Wepner who was arguably Busan’s top jockey for a while in 2009 and early 2010, picking up victory in the Minister’s Cup on Namdo Jeap.

His was a turbulent stint, however, which wasn’t made any easier by his being inadvertently stuck in the middle of a bitter dispute between the Jockeys’ Union and the Trainers.

With backing from Wolsley though, it is likely that Schlechter will have every opportunity to do well. Both he and Abe have been granted initial licenses for four months.