Ikuyasu Kurakane Wins KRA Cup Classic on Samjeong Jewang

The year just keeps on getting better for Ikuyasu Kurakane. The Japanese rider, who is 2nd in the Jockey Championship, got his first Group win or his second stint in Korea by riding Samjeong Jewang to the narrowest of victories in the KRA Cup Classic at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.

Samjeong Jewang just gets up to beat Rush Forth (obscured) in the KRA Cup Classic (Pic: KRA)

Samjeong Jewang just gets up to beat Rush Forth (obscured) in the KRA Cup Classic (Pic: KRA)

Indian Blue, who Kurakane has had success on in the past, was sent off as the odds on favourite, but despite a change in tactics from jockey Moon Se Young, the filly still found herself left with too much ground to make up in the final furlong.

Instead, it was Samjeong Jewang who beat out a determined challenge by outsider Rush Forth and filly My Day to win by a nse on the line. Indian Blue came hom in 4th but last year’s winner Mari Daemul could only manage 10th.

Samjeong Jewang moves on to six wins from nine career starts and a possible run for the Grand Prix Stakes in December.

KRA Cup Classic (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – October 19, 2014

1. Samjeong Jewang (USA) [Patriot Act - Ms.Sadira (Dixieland Heat)] – Ikuyasu Kurakane 3/5, 1.6
2. Rush Forth (USA) [Rush Bay - Fourth Quest (Norquestor)] – Kim Ok Sung – 6.0
3. My Day (KOR) [Touch Gold - Smart Advice (Smart Strike)] – Jang Chuyoul – 3.6
Distances: Nose/0.5 lengths
Also ran: 4. Indian Blue (USA) 5. Unbeatable (USA) 6. Cheonma (USA) 7. Sun Speed (USA) 8. Him Jjang (USA) 9. Hwanggeumbiyul (USA) 10. Mari Daemul (USA) 11. Mani Income (USA) 12. Daehan Janggun (USA)

Mari Daemul Set For KRA Cup Classic Defence

Mari Daemul heads the field this coming Sunday at Seoul Racecourse as he attempts to successfully defend the Group 3 KRA Cup Classic that he won here a year ago.

Mari Daemul was in the KRA Cup Classic Winner's Circle this time last year

Mari Daemul was in the KRA Cup Classic Winner’s Circle this time last year

He will face eleven rivals. Let’s take a look at them (Name [Pedigree] Age Sex (Runs/1st/2nd/3rd) – Jockey)

KRA Cup Classic (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – October 19, 2014 – 16:35

1. Mani Income (USA) [Irish Road - Lemon Zest (Lemon Drop Kid)] 5 G (27/3/4/3) – Yoo Seung Wan
Decent horse who hasn’t finished higher than 4th this year. Probably won’t be getting a whole lot of income out of this race.

2. Samjeong Jewang (USA) [Patriot Act - Ms.Sadira (Dixieland Heat)] 3 G (8/5/0/2) – Ikuyasu Kurakane
Comes into the race off the back of three consecutive wins, including at this class and distance last time out. He beat Indian Blue in that race and while he doesn’t have the same weight advantage here, he ahs every chance of doing it again.

3. My Day (KOR) [Touch Gold - Smart Advice (Smart Strike)] 4 F (23/10/4/2) – Jang Chuyoul
The only Korean bred in the race, this filly has been in good recent form although she was found wanting in her only previous attempt against imported opposition. Good speed and likely to come from just off the pace, she is though, hard to recommend for the win

4. Unbeatable (USA) [Eddington - Baxter Hall (Rahy)] 4 C (25/4/5/6) – Ham Wan Sik
Not the most appropriate name for this one but he does usually finish in the money at least. Has a chance of doing so again but will probably find one or two too quick among this field.

5. Sun Speed (USA) [Pleasant Tap - Eva's Way (Dixie Union)] 5 H (25/3/5/2) – Kim Hye Sun
Takes his chance after finishing 2nd of 7 in a slowly run race over 1900M last time out. Should get a good position but others will be quicker in the final furlong.

6. Him Jjang (USA) [Pure Prize - Aroarable (Roar)] 4 C (13/4/2/1) – Park Byeong Yun
This one was a really promising 3-year-old but has struggled since making it up to class 1 and is unplaced in three starts since returning from a layoff in June. Will most likely be unplaced again.

7. Rush Forth (USA) [Rush Bay - Fourth Quest (Norquestor)] 4 G (14/4/2/3) – Kim Ok Sung
Another who has the ability to go close without being likely to actually win. Fourth behind Samjeong Jewang and Indian Blue last time out, that seems a reasonable ambition again here.

8. Hwanggeumbiyul (USA) [Indian Ocean - Dixieland Gulch (Gulch)] 5 G (18/6/4/2) – Oh Kyoung Hoan
Three of his six wins have come at class 1 and he comes in after two consecutive triumphs. Likely to be among the frontrunners and with good closing speed, he is not without a chance.

9. Daehan Janggun (USA) [Zanjero - Casual Friday (Fit To Fight)] 3 C (9/3/3/2) – Shin Hyoung Chul
A first try at class 1 for this 3-year-old. He’s never been out of the money in his nine starts to date and has good late speed. May meet his match in his couple of these but shouldn’t be too far away.

10. Indian Blue (USA) [Henny Hughes - Gambler's Passion (Prospector's Gamble)] 4 F (20/5/4/5) – Moon Se Young
It really is a travesty that Indian Blue has only won 5 of her 20 races. One of the quickest closers in Korea – and the quickest in this race – she does have a habit of finding just a little bit too much to do. Second place should be a minimum requirement.

11. Mari Daemul (USA) [Go For Gin - Token Beauty (Gold Token)] 5 H (27/9/4/3) – Seo Seung Un
The defending champion hasn’t been seen on the track since finishing a disappointing 9th in the Busan Metropolitan in July. His last run at Seoul ended in success though and while he may not be the favourite, he has a chance of successfully defending his title.

12. Cheonma (USA) [Langfuhr - Rash Decision (Mt.Livermore)] 3 G (11/3/4/1) – Park Eul Woon
Steps up in class and in distance after two consecutive wins at class 2. Likely to be among the front-runners and he is quick, but this field is much superior to anything he has faced before.

Friday October 16
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday October 17
Seoul Racecourse: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:50

Sunday October 18
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00

Cosmos King, Rafale Take Juvenile Honours At Seoul & Busan

It was 2-year-old Championship weekend at Seoul and Busan and it will be Cosmos King and Rafale who head to the Korean Breeders’ Cup at Seoul next month as the top juveniles from their respective tracks.

Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – Oct 11, 2014

1. Cosmos King (KOR) [Ingrandire - Lovely Shine (French Deputy)] – Lee Hyeok – 2.4, 1.3
2. Dream Queen (KOR) [Creek Cat - Fine Jilju (Duality)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.6
3. Keunbada (KOR) [Menifee - Keungori (Essence Of Dubai)] – Jang Chuyoul – 1.9
Distances: 1 length / 2 lengths – 10 ran

Cosmos King was sent off as the slight favourite for the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup at Seoul on Saturday, just ahead of fellow unbeaten colt Raon Rusa. Punters were proved right as, under Lee Hyeok, Cosmos King closed from 5th to 1st in the final furlong to win by a length from filly Dream Queen.

On Sunday, it was Busan’s turn to run its Championship race. And there was a little more of a surprise here as 9/1 chance Rafale overcame hot-favourite Doraon Hyeonpyo in a final stretch battle to take the prize. The two were a dominant 6-lengths ahead of their nearest other rival on the line.

Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1200M – Oct 12, 2014

1. Rafale (KOR) [Colors Flying - Dongbang Choego (Al Naba )] – You Hyun Myung – 9.6, 2.1
2. Doraon Hyeonpyo (KOR) [Colors Flying - Kilcoe Castle (Gone West)] – Jeong Song Cheol – 1.1
3. Yuseong Fighting (KOR) [Didyme - Maggie's Prayer (Songandaprayer)] – Jo Sung Gon – 1.5
Distances: 0.75 lengths / 6 lengths – 11 ran

The best 2-year-olds of this year’s crop from both Seoul and Busan will reconvene in the capital at the end of next month for the “Breeders’ Cup” to decide the nation’s overall Juvenile Champion.

Bart Rice Rare Raids Reap Rewards

South African trainer Bart Rice was on the mark today, sending out two runners at Busan Racecourse today and coming home with two winners.

Strike Rate: Bart Rice (KRA)

Strike Rate: Bart Rice (KRA)

It’s the kind of thing the 38-year-old has become renowned for in his short time at the track so far. When punters see a Rice horse running, they know it will be in fine order and wouldn’t be running if it can’t win. The odds usually reflect that.

Today, Rice sent out Better Than You (Ft.Stockton) in race 2 and Aussie import Ace Cheonbok (Zizou) in race 7. Both won comfortably at short-odds under Japanese rider Masa Tanaka.

The wins take Rice onto some extremely noteworthy figures. He has 22 horses in his stable and lies in 11th in the Busan Trainers’ Championship with 23 wins in 2014. However, these have come from just 102 starters. To emphasize his focus on winners, there have been a further 10 second places and just 4 thirds.

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Only the Peter Wolsley stable and the Kim Young Kwan factory can boast a better strike rate; Rice leads the next best by some considerable distance. Wolsley has sent out 205 runners this year and Kim over 300.

Among the 32 trainers at the South-Coast track, the only ones who have sent out fewer runners than Rice are Ahn Woo Sung and Gu Young Jun and they only received their licenses this summer.

Rice looks like a man who wants to to do things properly. He’s one of very few trainers in korea who has a website and has clearly set out to train and race his own way. In Masa Tanaka, he also has a very capable de-facto stable jockey (Tanaka is officially freelance).

Whether he can sustain this strategy long-term in the face of notoriously demanding Korean owners who, with decent prize-money going all the way down to 5th place, want their horses running whether they have a chance of winning or not, remains to be seen. For now though, it has been a remarkable debut year.

Better Than You is an interesting one. The 3-year-old gelding spent a year in the United States, racing in Florida four times before returning to Korea this summer. Today was his first race in his homeland and he romped home by a full 11 lengths.

He wasn’t the only one of those who went to the US running today. Gangnam Camp (Forest Camp), who was with Better Than You on the same program in Florida, actually landed a 2nd place at Gulfstream Park earlier this year and comfortably won his Korean debut last month. He was on target again today taking race 6 by four lengths.

Weekend Preview: Juvenile Championships At Seoul & Busan

It’s that time of year already. Both Seoul and Busan host their Championship races for this year’s 2-year-old crop this coming weekend with the best performers from each race qualifying to face each other in Seoul next month in the Korean Breeders’ Cup to decide 2014’s Champion Juvenile.

Cheongnyong Bisang was Champion Juvenile in 2013. The race to succeed him begins in earnest this weekend

Cheongnyong Bisang was Champion Juvenile in 2013. The race to succeed him begins in earnest this weekend

The races also impact on next year’s Triple Crown. With the first leg, the KRA Cup Mile, being held in early April, it is vital to get points on the board now in order to qualify.

Unbeaten horses look the pick of both events. In the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup at Seoul on Saturday, Raon Rusa is set to be favourite while Doraon Hyeonpyo is the one to beat in the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup at Busan on Sunday.

Here are the full line-ups for both races with pedigrees, race records and riders:

Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – Saturday October 11, 16:00

1. Good Start [Limitless Bid - Yesangbaek (Pacificbounty)] (3/2/0/1) – Yoo Seung Wan
2. Always Winner [Creek Cat - Hallat'Eukkeup (Land Rush)] (2/1/0/0) – Oh Kyoung Hoan
3. Dream Queen [Creek Cat - Fine Jilju (Duality)] (4/2/2/0) – Seo Seung Un
4. The Zone Sesang [Creek Cat - Namdosarang (Chullo)] (2/2/0/0) – Jun Duck Yong
5. Raon Rusa [Pico Central - Kkumaeul (Curia Regis)] (4/1/0/1) – Moon Se Young
6. Hwanhuiuisungan [Sakura Seeking - Ma Home Cat (Tomorrow's Cat)] (1/0/0/0) – Yoon Tae Hyuk
7. Vulcan [Ecton Park - Maid Of Cognac (Hennessey] (2/1/1/0) – Ham Wan Sik
8. Keunbada [Menifee - Keungori (Essence Of Dubai)] (2/1/1/0) – Jang Chuyoul
9. Comsmos King [Ingrandire - Lovely Shine (French Deputy)] (2/2/0/0) – Lee Hyeok
10. Clean Up Queen [Officer - Hera (Archer City Slew)] (3/1/0/0) – Ikuyasu Kurakane

Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup – Busan Racecourse – 1200M – Sunday October 12, 16:10

1. Yuseong Fighting [Didyme - Maggie's Prayer (Songandaprayer)] (2/2/0/0) – Jo Sung Gon
2. Rafale [Colors Flying - Dongbang Choego (Al Naba )] (3/2/1/0) – You Hyun Myung
3. Fine Star [Volponi - T'ojong Kosu (Glorify)] (2/0/2/0) – Yang Young Nam
4. Namhae Sinhwa [Vicar – Intriga (Lord At Law) (2/1/1/0) – Kim Dong Young
5. Doraon Hyeonpyo [Colors Flying - Kilcoe Castle (Gone West)] (3/3/0/0) – Jeong Dong Cheol
6. Mac And Cheese [Menifee - Squared (Posse)] (2/1/0/1) (3/1/1/0) – Song Keong Yun
7. Special Line [Ecton Park - Rich Musique (Rizzi)] (3/1/1/0) – Jo Chang Wook
8. Ganghan Baram [Didyme - Benbane Head (Giant's Causeway)] (3/0/2/0) – Lee Sung Jae
9. Summit Myeongun [Menifee - Summit Party (Ecton Park)] (3/1/1/1) – Masakazu Tanaka
10. Kkumui Hanbal [Colors Flying - Baengman Buja (Successful Appeal)] (3/1/1/0) – Lee Hee Cheon
11. Yeonggwanguitaepung [Menifee - Grand Pass (Grand Slam)] (3/1/1/1) – Chae Gyu Jun

* There is plenty of other action across the weekend. Aussie trainer Peter Wolsley will be looking to follow-up his Minister’s Cup victory last weekend with another class 1 win when My Winner goes in Friday’s feature at Busan. Also on the south coast, Gamdonguibada takes on Beolmaui Kkum and New York Blue in a class 1 race on Sunday.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday October 10
Busan Racecourse: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday October 11
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday October 12
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:05

Round-Up: Yeongsan II Suffers First Defeat But Watts Village Wins Prep

Queen’s Blade getting beaten in the Minister’s Cup on Sunday may have been a surprise but the Derby and Oaks winning filly’s reverse in the final Classic of the season wasn’t the biggest shock of the weekend at Seoul.

Gwanggyo Bisang - seen here after a Stakes win, became the first Korean horse to beat Yeongsan II

Gwanggyo Bisang – seen here after a Stakes win, became the first Korean horse to beat Yeongsan II

Yeongsan II had won all six of his races in Korea in dismissively easy fashion, culiminating in the Ilgan Sports Cup in September. However, on Saturday afternoon, he stepped up in class and distance and finally met his match in the shape of last year’s Ilgan winner, Gwanggyo Bisang.

Sent off as the odds on favourite, Yeongsan II set the pace under Moon Se Young and as they entered the home straight looked ready to cruise to another routine victory. That was to reckon without Gwanggyo Bisang though as while Yeongsan II was by no means slow in the final furlong, his fellow 4-year-old – depite carrying 60Kg – was able to go up a gear to reel him in and pass him to win by just under a length on the line.

The result, along with Queen’s Blade’s setback, Indie Band on the long-term injured list, and Wonder Bolt on the doubtful list, sets next month’s President’s Cup – Korea’s richest race – wide open with Busan’s Hangangui Gijeok, currently on a winning streak of seven, now the likely favourite. Gwanggyo Bisang, now with eleven wins from sixteen starts, may have to now be considered too.

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – October 4, 2014

1. Gwanggyo Bisang (KOR) [Menifee - Touch Upon (Touch Gold)] – Park Tae Jong – 3.8, 1.3
2.Yeongsan II (KOR) [Menifee - Foxxy Cleo (Peintre Celbre)] – Moon Se Young – 1.2
3. Gumanseok (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme) – Ham Wan Sik 1.5
Distances: 0.75 lengths / 3 lengths – 10 ran

Another race that is on the near horizon is the Japan/Korea Interaction Cup at Tokyo Ohi on November 11. With big prizes such as the President’s Cup on offer at home in November and only Seoul horses able to make the trip, there is a diminishing pool of talent available to make the trip to defend the title so memorably won by Watts Village last year.

And it was Watts Village (Forestry) who won a preparation race for the Interaction Cup on Sunday afternoon, getting the disappointment of his performance in the Asia Challeng Cup at the end of August out of his system.

Watts Village is unlikely to go to Tokyo but back at his favourite distance of 1200M and under Moon Se Young for the very first time, the 4-year-old led from gate-to-wire to win by 7-lengths in what was one of the fastest ever recorded times over the distance at Seoul. Sing Sing Cat was 2nd with Here He Comes, who is in-line to go to Japan, a creditable 3rd.

This coming weekend it is the 2-year-olds who take centre stage with Juvenile Championship races at both Seoul and Busan. The capital hosts the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup on Saturday with the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup at Busan on Sunday. The best performers will re-convene in Seoul at the end of November to decided the nation’s overall champion juvenile in the Korean Breeders’ Cup.

Brilliant Never Seen Before Wins Minister’s Cup For Peter Wolsley

Never Seen Before, a 26/1 outsider, produced the run of his life at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon to win the Minister’s Cup – the final leg of the 2014 Korean Triple Crown – and hand Australian trainer Peter Wolsley the biggest win of his Korean career.

Never Seen Before and Lee Hee Cheon win the Minister's Cup

Never Seen Before and Lee Hee Cheon win the Minister’s Cup

Unsurprisingly, it was the Korean Derby and Oaks winning filly Queen’s Blade who was sent off as the solid favourite for the 10 furlong test, with plenty of support too for fellow Busan raiders Gumpo Sky and Success Story.

It was the latter of these, Success Story who set the early pace under Jo Sung Gon, bounding out of gate 15 and going across to take the lead into the first corner. He would maintain it for much of the race, with Queen’s Blade, under You Hyun Myung for the first time in the absence of regular jockey Kim Yong Geun, in close attendance throughout.

Meanwhile, Never Seen Before sat patiently in the front half of the field with plenty of cover. As they swung for home it looked like Queen’s Blade was ready to strike as Success Story went to the rail. The Derby and Oaks winner though had nothing. Instead, Gumpo Sky and outsider Ganghae came through the middle while Never Seen Before came around to fight out the finish.

By the furlong pole, Success Story and Ganghae had been seen off and it was a straight duel between Gumpo Sky and Never Seen Before, the outsider finally getting in front 50 metres from the finish and pulling away for a half-length win. Ganghae ran on gamely for 3rd with Success Story 4th and Queen’s Blade a further 4-lengths back in 5th.

Never Seen Before moves on to five wins from ten starts. There looks to be more to come too from Gumpo Sky while Ganghae was a revelation in 3rd.

For winning jockey Lee Hee Cheon, it was unquestionably the pinnacle of a tough career to date. Wolsley is far too much of a diplomat to say so but it is likely that Lee was at best 2nd or maybe 3rd choice for the ride after stable jockey Jo Sung Gon opted to go elsewhere and You Hyun Myung got the ride on Queen’s Blade.

Lee, who 8 years since turning professional still has only 92 winners to his name, gave the colt the perfect ride. Those of us – including this blog – who doubted his ability to close out a tight finish when the pressure is on, were emphatically put in our place. He was superb.

As for the trainer, over the years we’ve written plenty about Peter Wolsley. The 51-year-old Aussie arrived in Korea in late 2007 (coincidentally around the same time this blog started) and endured an extremely rough first couple of years at first, taking charge of the “breakdown barn” – the horses no-one else wanted to train.

Slowly but surely, he started getting winners and when there are winners, suddenly there are more owners and more – and better – horses. His stable is now firmly established as second only to the Kim Young Kwan machine in terms of winners. What had been missing until recently were the big ones.

Old favourite Khaosan won Wolsley his first Group race back in September 2011, although it was by virtue of being promoted from 2nd after Cheonnyeon Daero was disqualified. Late last year, Secret Whisper took the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup by a head to land what would be Wolsley’s biggest victory until today.

In many ways, Wolsley is the exception that proves the rule. It is extremely difficult for foreigners to make a go of things in Korean racing and his achievements standing out so much only emphasize this. But his success is no accident. Seven years of sheer hard work against all odds paid off in full today and he deserves every plaudit.

The bars of Gimhae will need to be fully stocked with Martini Rosso and Coca Cola tonight.

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – October 5, 2014

1. Never Seen Before (KOR) [Ecton Park - Gwangyeolhan (Stormin Fever)] – Lee Hee Cheon – 26.0, 4.1
2. Gumpo Sky (KOR) [Vicar - Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Choi Si Dae – 1.7
3. Ganghae (KOR) [Didyme - Ocelot (Catrail)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 10.4
Distances: 0.5 lengths/2.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Success Story 5. Queen’s Blade 6. Ildeung Hanghaesa 7. K Man 8. Jeongsang Bima 9. Wild Rush 10. Cheongnyong Bisang 11. Winner’s Marine 12. Nubi Queen 13. Major Star 14. Super Legend NR. Super Lucky