Wonder Bolt Crushes Fly Top Queen, Watts Village in Asia Challenge Cup Trial

Wonder Bolt shook up the sprint division with an emphatic win over Fly Top Queen and the returning Watts Village in a trial for August’s Asia Cup Challenge race at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday night.

While Watts Village, who memorably won the Japan/Korea Interaction Cup at Tokyo Ohi last year, was returning form a 6-month lay-off and was not expected to be at 100%, Fly Top Queen, Korea’s most expensive imported racehorse, had looked in imperious form when dominating over the same 1400M distance a month ago.

Fly Top Queen was duly sent off as the odds-on favourite but Wonder Bolt, who had sat in the middle of the pack during the early stages, surged to the front with just over a furlong to go and then produced an unanswerable sprint to win by a full 9-lengths. To compound the disappointment for Fly Top Queen backers, Watts Village got up to edge her into third place.

Wonder Bolt and Lee Chan Ho, seen here winning a previous race in May (Pic: Elan959*)

Wonder Bolt and Lee Chan Ho, seen here winning a previous race in May (Pic: Elan959*)

The Asia Challenge Cup is scheduled to be run at Seoul Racecourse on August 31 and is set to involve 3 horses from Singapore and 3 horses from Japan. An encouragingly large number of nominations from Singapore have been received, all of them for horses with ratings in excess of 100. Japan – chastened perhaps after Watts Village’s 100/1 triumph in Tokyo – has also indicated that they plan to send stronger horses than last time, when they won the Seoul leg of the race with Tosen Archer.

This means that Korea needs all its A-listers on their game if they are to compete. With Busan horses currently still not eligible to run, the focus has been on Fly Top Queen – and Yeongsan II if connections can be persuaded to take a sporting chance. Wonder Bolt may just have shot to the top of the list.

Class 1 – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – July 20, 2014

1. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior - Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – Lee Chan Ho – 4.4, 1.4
2. Watts Village (USA) [Forestry - Edey's Village (Silver Deputy)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.7
3. Fly Top Queen (USA) [Henny Hughes - Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] – Moon Se Young – 1.0

Distances: 9 lengths/1 length – 10 ran.

*Picture from the very excellent Elan959 blog

Nobody Catches 50/1 Outsider in Busan Metropolitan

Nobody Catch Me, a 50/1 shot, landed the Stakes race upset of the year to date with a comprehensive 4-length victory in the Busan Metropolitan City Stakes this afternoon.

Nobody Catch Me and Yang Young Nam win the Busan Metropolitan (Newsis)

Nobody Catch Me and Yang Young Nam win the Busan Metropolitan (Newsis)

In a race run on wet track after an earlier downpour, Gamdonguibada, the 2012 Grand Prix winner and victor of two big Stakes races already this year was sent off the odds-on favourite.

And she looked to be every inch value for that as she set off just behind the early pace-setter, the sprinter Cowboy Son. However, when they arrived in the home-straight, Gamdonguibada, just like when trying to defend her Grand Prix in Seoul last December, had nothing to give, turning her head towards the stands and seemingly going backwards.

That left the way free for Nobody Catch Me, Gamdonguibada’s stablemate in the formidable Kim Young Kwan operation, to make a move. Having been just behind the leaders all the way around, jockey Yang Young Nam was now able to take him to the lead. With a furlong to go, it was clear that indeed, nobody was going to catch him.

The one that came closest was Peter Wolsley’s Cheonji Bulpae. Dead-last as they entered the home straight, jockey Kim Yong Geun weaved his way between horses until he found a clear run and then flew home down the outside of the field. It was a fine run but trainer Wolsley was left to reflect on yet another case of what might have been, just three weeks after his My Winner was also 2nd in the Jeju Governor’s Cup.

Cowboy Son stayed on impressively for 3rd, silencing those who had him down as a pure sprinter who wouldn’t be able to last the distance. Heba came in 4th, with Dynamic Jilju picking up the final bit of prize money in 5th.

It was another miserable race for Seoul-based runners. Sangnyu led home the visitors from the capital in an inglorious 6th place, one ahead of Indian Blue whose formidable closing speed never materialised.

Nobody Catch Me was a $20,000 purchase at the OBS June sale in Ocala in 2012. Now a 4-year-old gelding, this was his 5th win in 16 starts to date. He’s now won nearly half a million dollars in prize money.

For jockey Yang Young Nam, it was a first Stakes win since 2005. For trainer Kim Young Kwan, it was yet another in a seemingly never-ending – or even broken – streak of big race winners. On the backstretch, nobody catches him.

Busan Metropolitan City Stakes (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 2000M – July 20, 2014

1. Nobody Catch Me (USA) [With Distinction - Nana's Babe (Allen's Prospect)] – Yang Young Nam – 57.2, 5.6
2. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini - Purrfection (Tale Of The Cat)] – Kim Yong Geun – 3.5
3. Cowboy Son (USA) [Cowboy Cal - Nosmallacheivement (Smart Strike)] – You Hyun Myung – 2.7

Distances: 4 lengths / 1.25 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Heba (USA) 5. Dynamic Jilju (USA) 6. Sangnyu (USA) 7. Indian Blue (USA) 8. Cheongchun Bulpae (KOR) 9. Mari Daemul (USA) 10. Russian To Win (USA) 11. Chogwang (AUS) 12. Gamdonguibada (USA) 13. Bichui Wangja (USA) 14. Hwanggeum Jijon (USA) 15. Star Bolt (USA)

Busan Metropolitan City Stakes: Full Preview

The “Summer Grand Prix” is upon us. 15 horses will go to post at Busan on Sunday for what is the fast becoming the most prestigious race of the summer months in Korea, the Busan Metropolitan City Mayor’s Cup.

Who will follow Tough Win as the Busam Metrpolitan winner? (KRA)

Who will follow Tough Win as the Busam Metrpolitan winner? (KRA)

The Cup – known as the Busan Metropolitan for short – has been Open to horses from both Busan and Seoul since 2009 and has been won by such big name horses as Tough Win (twice), Yeonseung Daero and Dangdae Bulpae. There will be a new name in the winner’s circle this year, however.

Here’s full look at the runners and riders:

Busan Metropolitan City – Busan Racecourse – 2000M – Sunday July 20, 17:15

1. Indian Blue (USA) [Henny Hughes - Gambler's Passion (Prospector's Gamble)] 4 F (17/5/4/4) – Ikuyasu Kurakane (Seoul)
A really good filly, she was 4th in the Grand Prix in Seoul last December but was well beaten behind Gamdonguibada at Busan in the KNN Cup. The fastest closer in the field, if Gamdonguibada and the other front-runners go too quickly, too soon, she could have a chance.

2. Gamdonguibada (USA) [Werblin - Radyla (Country Pine)] 4 M (19/11/3/3) – Masakazu Tanaka (Busan)
She’s won the first two legs of the Queens’ Tour in imperious style in her last two outings and neither facing the makes nor the step back up in distance will hold any fears here. The 2012 Grand Prix winner is a top quality filly. Lost to Heba at this distance in January when giving away 9kg – that shouldn’t happen here. Huge opportunity for Masa Tanaka replacing the injured Joe Fujii in the saddle.

3. Hwanggeumjijon (USA) [Medallist - Milady Sadie (Meadow Monster)] 5 G (22/2/2/3) – Kim Gui Bae (Seoul)
Nothing to recommend here. His two wins came on his first two starts two years ago. Has never actually made it to regular class 1 racing and he was 12th in this race last year. Connections clearly enjoy the day out at Busan.

4. Chogwang (AUS) [Lion Heart - Colonial Dancer (Pleasant Colony)] 5 H (23/3/5/3) – Kim Hyun Joong (Busan)
A really good-looking 8-length winner last time out at this distance against class 1 horses at odds of nearly 30/1. Unlikely to repeat here but expect him to be challenging for the lead early.

5. Russian To Win (USA) [Mayakovsky - Aristie (Loustrous Bid)] 4 C (14/3/0/1) – Yoon Tae Hyuk (Seoul)
Another from Seoul who’s here for the day out. Was a decent prospect at one time but never really recovered form after a 6-moth layoff last year. Has never graduated from class 2 although usually runs in class 1 company and generally doesn’t do very well. No chance.

6. Bichui Wangja (USA) [Roman Ruler - Quiet Delight (Grindstone)] 4 C (16/6/5/2) – Shin Hyoung Chul (Seoul)
Has two class 1 wins to his name this year and is by no means a bad horse. Likes to come from just off the pace and while he is quick, it’s questionable whether he’ll have enough speed to go past the front-runners here or hold off the likes of Indian Blue late on. Outside chance of a place.

7. Cheongchun Bulpae (KOR) [Milwaukee Brew - Placid Star (Placid Fund)] 5 G (23/12/2/2) – Jo Sung Gon (Busan)
The first of two for trainer Peter Wolsley. He comes into the race off the back of two consecutive wins at this distance against class 1 Korean bred horses. He’ll face tougher opposition here but is quick enough to compete. Likes to be towards to front early on and then stays on the straight.

8. Star Bolt (USA) [Fusaichi Pegasus - D'Oro Doll (Touch Gold)] 4 F (20/3/6/1) – Park Geum Man (Busan)
Third behind Gamdonguibada in the KNN Cup last time out and will probably be aiming for a similar finish here. Likely to be close to the pacesetters early on but it is questionable whether she will have enough speed to get past them in the home straight. A Place bet.

9. Dynamic Jilju (USA) [Forestry - Beat Your Feet (Dixieland Band)] 3 C (15/5/2/1) – Choi Si Dae (Busan)
Hasn’t won in four class 1 starts but has finished in the money on each occasion, second place in the Gukje Sinmun being the highlight. Will expect to challenge for a similar position again. Another who sits just off the lead early on and another who may not be quite quick enough when it counts.

10. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS) [Bernardini - Purrfection (Tale Of The Cat)] 5 H (21/10/0/3) – Kim Yong Geun (Busan)
Peter Wolsley’s second entrant was 3rd in the Grand Prix last December and then won his first two starts of 2014 before showing up out of sorts in his most recent two. When he wins, it’s from a spot just behind the leaders, generally hitting the front early in the home straight. There will be plenty of competition for that position but on his day, Cheonji Bulpae can compete with this field.

11. Nobody Catch Me (USA) [With Distinction - Nana's Babe (Allen's Prospect)] 4 G (15/4/4/2) – Yang Young Nam (Busan)
Despite his name, trainer Kim Young Kwan’s second entry doesn’t usually lead from the front and then hope no-one catches him. Beaten 7-lengths last time out by resurgent stable-mate Magic Dancer, he still comes in here not without a chance. Tough to see him winning but should be challenging at the business end of the race.

12. Cowboy Son (USA) [Cowboy Cal - Nosmallacheivement (Smart Strike)] 3 C (10/8/1/1) – You Hyun Myung (Busan)
The biggest earner to date worldwide for his sire, Cowboy Son is so far only proven up to 1500 metres. He undoubtedly has the fastest sprint in the race but whether he can do that after an extra two and a half furlongs is the big question here. Definitely has class, but will he stay? The dark-horse of the field.

13. Mari Daemul (USA) [Go For Gin - Token Beauty (Gold Token)] 5 H (26/9/4/3) – Ham Wan Sik (Seoul)
The somewhat surprising winner of the KRA Cup Classic last autumn has been in reasonable form this year and comes into the race following a win over 1800 metres last month. Generally comes from off the pace and if he runs to his best, can compete.

14. Heba (USA) 4 F [Peace Rules - Sue's Temper (Temperence Hill)] (21/6/4/1) – Jeong Dong Cheol (Busan)
Scored a win over Gamdonguibada back in January although she had a huge weight advantage that day which she doesn’t have here. Has been in indifferent form since then and will need to step up significantly to compete. Another who will most likely try to come out of the pack as they enter the home straight.

15. Sangnyu (USA) [Borken Vow - Midtown Miss (Yes It's True)] 5 M (23/5/3/3) – Jang Chuyoul (Seoul)
Was 9th on her last start which was at Busan in the KNN Cup. Hasn’t won for a year and while she has a quick finish, it is highly unlikely to be quick enough to trouble the favourites here.

Round-Up: Fujii Has Surgery, Korean Horses Back From US, Yongsan OTB Controversy Rumbles On

Lots to catch up on…

Lets Run

Joe Fujii underwent surgery on his broken shoulder on Monday. Fujii fell heavily coming out of the gate in race 4 at Busan last Sunday, breaking his scapula. While he was originally hopeful of being back within 6 to 8 weeks, a visit to a Seoul specialist confirmed the need for an operation which is likely to keep him out for between 3 to 4 months. The Japanese rider hopes to be back in time for either the Busan Owners’ Cup or the President’s Cup at Seoul.

Speaking of falls, Park Tae Jong, is currently sidelined from a bad one suffered a month ago. “President” Park is currently on 1881 winners, by far the most of all time by a Korean jockey. However, he could be about to have company in the “Thousand Club” after Moon Se Young’s victory on Yeongsan II on Sunday took the 33-year-old to 987.

Three Korean horses arrived back from the United States last week and will go through a Seoul sales ring in a few days time. Gangnam Camp, Seoul Bullet and Better Than You have spent the past 17 months in Ocala training and, more recently racing. None of the three actually managed to win a race Stateside.

Gangnam Camp managed a 2nd place from his 7 starts while Seoul Bullet secured one 3rd place from his 4. Better Than You, however, was unplaced in all of his 4 starts. Seoul Bullet did achieve the rather dubious honour of getting himself claimed at one point though.

2013 Minister’s Cup winner Major King, who had been racing fruitlessly in the North-East US for the past few months, joined them on the flight home, however, last year’s Derby and Oaks winning filly Speedy First remains in the US.

Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the long-running dispute over the relocation of the KRA’s off-site betting Plaza in Seoul’s Yongsan district. The new plaza finally opened amid tight security and vehement protest at the end of June and the dispute – originally started by the fact that the new Plaza is a block closer to a school than the old one – has now become something of a political football between governing and opposition parties.

Counter protests by Unions with interests in the racing industry have also taken place at the site with the most memorable banner being one imploring the other side to “Please Stop Insulting Racing Fans”, a reference to the ongoing campaign against the Plaza which has, among other things, sought to link the presence of Plazas with a rise in sex-crimes.

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

Pro-Plaza counter-protestors at Yongsan

While the KRA has been busy producing glossy videos on the history of the Plazas and the community facilities they provide on non race-days, playing those videos at Seoul Racecourse seems somewhat like preaching to the converted. It’s certainly unlikely to change the minds of the anti-Plaza campaign which has raised a petition with 50,000 signatures calling for the Plaza’s closure.

Best to finish on news from the track and this coming Sunday sees the Busan Metropolitan City Mayor’s Stakes – colloquially known as the “Summer Grand Prix”. It’s been the lowest key build-up to the Metropolitan since Seoul horses became eligible to run a few years ago although the expected presence of the likes of Oreuse, Gamdonguibada, Cheonji Bulpae, Cowboy Son and Indian Blue among others, should make for an interesting race. We’ll start the full previews later this week.

Yeongsan Too Good In Munhwa Ilbo

Yeongsan made it five wins from five Korean starts, claiming the Munhwa Ilbo Cup in emphatic fashion at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

Yeongsan II

Yeongsan II

The gelding, who was sold to Malaysia as a 2-year-old, only to be re-imported at the end of last year, was sent off as the long odds-on favourite for the 7 furlong race.

Under champion jockey Moon Se Young for the first time, Yeongsan was taken to the lead early on and, with minimal promoting from his jockey, accelerated away from the field in the home straight to record one of the easiest Stakes race victories seen at Seoul for a long time. At least since Magic Dancer last month. Or Queen’s Blade the month before.

In the entirely separate race for second place, Sun Gear got the better of Clean Up Speed, a full 12-lengths behind the winner.

Yeongsan is yet to be tested in Korea. He didn’t especially impress on the turf in Malaysia where he scored one 2nd place from two total starts, but has taken to the Seoul sand exceptionally well and is, at least until this year’s 2-year-old crop start proving their worth, currently the most exciting horse on the peninsula.

Yeongsan II [Menifee - Foxxy Cleo (Peintre Celebre)] (he has to officially be named “II” due to a previous “Yeongsan”), has now won 5 races at distances between 1200 metres and 1700 metres all by wide margins and without facing any challenge. Still officially at class 2, at least for one more race, it may still be a while before we see what he is capable of.

It’s wise not to be carried away as we’ve been here before with the likes of Feel So Good and Fly Top Queen. While the latter has turn out to be a very good horse, she hasn’t been quite the international class race she looked early on.

Where Yeongsan goes next is the big question. In an ideal world, he would be taking on the visitors from Japan and Singapore in the SBS Asia Challenge Cup at the end of August over the same distance.

Munhwa Ilbo Stakes – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – July 13, 2014

1. Yeongsan II (KOR) [Menifee - Foxxy Cleo (Peintre Celebre)] – Moon Se Young – 1.2, 1.2
2. Sun Gear (KOR) [Vicar - Arabian Jewel (Fraar)] – Lee Chan Ho – 1.8
3. Clean Up Speed (KOR) [Pico Central - Rich Emotions (Rizzi)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane – 2.8

Distances: 12 lengths/0.75 lengths – 13 ran

The Dazzler Bows Out Of Busan

Darryll Holland has returned to the UK after a successful 16 month stint in Korea. The British jockey racked up 66 winners from 350 rides in his time here, which puts him in 6th place in the all-time list of foreign jockeys to ride in Korea.

Darryll Holland (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Darryll Holland (Pic: Ross Holburt)

A few eyebrows were raised when Holland – a winner of numerous big races worldwide – arrived and many predicted that he would, like so many others before him, either leave quickly or at the very latest, quietly after his initial contract was up. To the pleasant surprise of the racing community – not to mention the delight of punters – he not only saw out his contract but renewed it twice.

Darryll Holland at Busan (KRA)

Darryll Holland at Busan (KRA)

Holland adapted well to life in Busan and while he experienced the similar frustrations to many foreign riders who come here, he embraced the local culture and got down to some serious hard work. Of course, the thing that overcomes all in racing is winners and he rode plenty of them.

It started on his debut day when he rode two winners and he never looked back. Riding for all of the top trainers here, including Busan’s main man Kim Young Kwan, he formed a particularly strong partnership with Australian trainer Peter Wolsley which saw them win the Gold Circle Trophy together with My Winner and culminated in a memorable Friday in January this year when they combined for four winners on a single afternoon.

Although they went their separate ways before the end of his time here, the Wolsley/Holland combination is one that will live long in punters’ memories.

He didn’t always see eye-to eye with the Stewards, feeling were overly keen to penalize what he termed “competitive race riding” – something that top local riders Mooon Se Young and Seo Seung Un, who try to ride in a similar way also complain of. Regardless, the Korea Racing Authority were as happy with him as punters were and made clear that he is welcome back at any time and supplying him with a glowing reference on departure.

Holland’s last ride in Korea was due to be on Indie Band in the Jeju Governor’s Cup at Seoul on June 29 but sadly Korea’s best colt fractured a leg in the build-up to the race. That meant his last ride was at Busan on June 22. It was, of course, a winner.

Here he is winning from gate 12 on a horse called Geumsaero back in January:

Fujii Sidelined After Fall While Hangangui Gijeok Takes DoMin Ilbo

The life of a jockey certainly isn’t a dull one but it has its ups and downs. A week ago, Joe Fujii was able to wake up on Monday morning reflecting on one of his biggest winners after steering Magic Dancer to victory in the Jeju Governor’s Cup. This Monday, he starts recovering from a broken shoulder suffered at Busan yesterday.

Joe Fujii and Magic Dancer last weekend at Seoul

Joe Fujii and Magic Dancer last weekend at Seoul

He suffered the injury when he was violently dislodged from 14/1 chance Hybrid just after they exited the gate at the start of race 4. Eventual winner Bada Gangja was deemed to have been culpable in the incident to the extent that the colt was stripped of the race after an Inquiry.

Fujii, who has won 130 races – including 6 Stakes races – in Korea, now faces around two months on the sidelines, missing the ride of Gamdonguibada in the Busan Metropolitan – the “Summer Grand Prix” – in two weeks’ time. With Darryll Holland having finished his successful stint in Korea last week, Busan is now two star-jockeys short for the time being.

That fall meant Fujii missed the ride on Namdo Trio in the weekend’s feature race, the Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Stakes.

The race came down to a final furlong battle that went all the way to the line with favourite Hangangui Gijeok just getting the better of Gumpo Sky by the narrowest of noses. The Peter Wolsley trained pair of Never Seen Before and Jungle Jim came home 3rd and 4th.

Hanganui Gijeok didn’t run in either of the first two legs of the Korean Triple Crown due to his being a gelding and therefore ineligible but was recording his 6th straight victory on his 8th career starts. Bigger races await.

Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1800M – July 6, 2014

1. Hangangui Gijeok (KOR) [Didyme - Legendary Destiny (Giant's Causeway)] – You Hyun Myung – 1.7, 1.0
2. Gumpo Sky (KOR) [Vicar - Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Kim Yong Geun – 1.7
3. Never Seen Before (KOR) [Ecton Park - Gwangyeolhan (Stormin Fever)] – 2.0
Distances: Nose / 4 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Jungle Jim 5. Jokwang 6. Namdo Trio 7. Hwanggeumbitjijung 8. Mega Bolt 9. Lady Medal 10. Challenger Dream

Next week the Stakes action is at Seoul. All eyes will be on Yeongsan II as he aims to get his first big race victory in the Munhwa Ilbo Cup.