Cheonnyeon Dongan Wins Gyeonggi Cup At Seoul While Busan Abandoned After Disturbances

Cheonnyeon Dongan confirmed her status as Seoul’s top Korean bred racemare with a commanding performance in the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup in the capital on Sunday afternoon.

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Cheonnyeon Dongan wins the Gyeonggi Governor's Cup

A 5-year-old, Cheonnyeon Dongan came into the race a multiple Stakes winner already and was duly sent off as the odds on favourite for the 2000M test, the same distance over which she beat plenty of her rivals here in last month’s Donga Ilbo Trophy.

Once more, she didn’t disappoint. Under champion jockey Moon Se Young, she sat in the middle of the pack until beimg unleashed in the home straight to beat Pinot Noir by just over a length, with Ua Deungseon a further 8 lengths back in 3rd.

It was Cheonnyeon Dongan’s 10th career victory from 22 starts and it takes her to just shy of $1Million in prize money. A tilt at the Queens’ Tour series in the latter half of the year looks the logical next step for her.

Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – March 29, 2015

1. Cheonnyeon Dongan [Ecton Park-Honeycakes (Hennessy)] – Moon Se Young – 1.4, 1.1
2. Pinot Noir [Capital Spending-Neungnyeokchungman (Pacific Bounty)] – Park Eul Woon – 1.3
3. Ua Deungseon [Menifee-Singgeureoun (Mr.Adorable)] – Seo Seung Un – 3.4
Distances: 1.5 lengths/8 lengths – 15 ran

At Busan though, some punters denied their fellow racegoers the opportunity of seeing Gyeongbudaero maintain his 100% record with the final two races having to be abandoned after crowd disturbances.

In race 4, Yeongung Bolt was sent off as the odds-on favourite and was sent towards the front by jockey Joe Fujji. However, after about a furlong, the saddle on Yeongung Bolt, who had been sweating up considerably, began to slip.

Fujii was soon left with no stirrups and very little in the way of control and he was left riding Yeongung Bolt home cowboy style in the straight. Unsurprsingly, the horse finished last.

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Jockey Joe Fujii explains what happened to Yeongung Bolt in an appeal to punters on the Racing Broadcast Network

No doubt emboldened by the racing authority’s decision to pay out on a disqualified horse at Seoul last week to end disorder, a small number of punters invaded the walkway between paddock and track demanding Yeongung Bolt be declared a non-runner.

To his enormous credit, Fujii appeared on the Racing Broadcast Network to explain exactly what happened and to (unnecessarily) aplogise to punters, something he repeated on twitter on Monday morning.

This time the Authority was not for turning and abandoned the final two races. The card at Seoul continued without incident.

https://twitter.com/joefujii1/status/582367085428277248?s=09

Following last week’s decision, it was inevitable that some punters would be looking for another opportunity to rebel as soon as possible. With Busan punters having now had their turn, hopefully it’s now out of everybody’system.

Cheonnyeon Dongan aside, it was less than a great day all round with Seoul jockeys Yoo Mira and Kim Ok Sung both requiring hospital treatment after seperate falls.

Next week it’s the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the 2015 Korean Triple Crown.

Weekend Preview: Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup, Tough Win at Seoul, Gyeongbudaero at Busan

A busy weekend of racing gets underway on the peninsula today and there will be plenty of big names in action over the next couple of days, as well as the year’s second Graded race in the shape of the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup at Seoul.

Should be a spring-like weekend

Should be a spring-like weekend

Sunday afternoon’s Cup, which this year has been shifted from its usual position at the end of October, is for Korean bred fillies & mares and has attracted 15 entrants, one short of the maximum permitted field size for Graded races in Korea.

Among them is last year’s Donga Ilbo and Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy winner Ua Deungseon and two time Donga Ilbo winner – including this year’s race just over a month ago –  and likely favourite for this, Cheonnyeon Dongan.

As usual on a Graded race day, there will be 10 races at Seoul on Sunday, however, Saturday sees a bumper 14-race program with one of the cancelled races from last week being added. In the feature Class 1 handicap, Tough Win will carry top weight as he seeks to make it three out of three for 2015.

Busan runs its usual cards on Friday and Sunday and there is a heavyweight clash in Sunday’s feature and finale as Gyeongbudaero takes on a host of dangerous types in the shape of Gamdonguibada, Donggeupcheogang, Mujinjang, Heba and Damyangui Jilju as the Grand Prix winner too seeks to maintain his 100% record for this year.

The weather is set to be fine and full racecards can be found here. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday March 27
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:25 to 17:20

Saturday March 28
Seoul Raecourse: 14 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 29
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:30

KRA Cup Mile: Triple Crown 2015 First Preview

The first leg of the 2015 Korean Triple Crown is just over a week away. The KRA Cup Mile at Busan on April 5 is the first jewel in a series which this year will be complete by July.

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Cheongnyong Bisang won the KRA Cup Mile for Seoul last year (KRA)

And while Cheongnyong Bisang took the honours for Seoul last year, Busan looks set to continue its ongoing domination of the big races with only two currently set to make the trip down South from the capital.

That’s an embarrassingly poor showing for Seoul and while there is respect for the connections who are actually going to have a go, those two do not exactly look like potential world-beaters.

And a crucial factor in Seoul staying away could be the strength of the line-up from the home track. There are nine in total with last year’s champion juvenile Doraon Hyeonpyo heading them. Class 2 winners Rafale and Mac And Cheese will be there too along with six other very strong contenders.

The KRA Cup Mile has been run at Busan every year since the track opened in 2005. For its first three seasons, it was a race open to older horses but in 2008, prize money was doubled and the race moved to its present spot on the calendar as the first leg of a new Triple Crown series that would incorporate horses from Busan and Seoul competing with each other for the first time.

Since then, Busan based horses have won five times while the prize been taken back to the capital on two occasions. Since the change, no horse has won all three legs of the Triple Crown. Sangseung Ilro came the closest when taking the Cup Mile and the Derby in 2009 before falling short much later in the season in the Minister’s Cup.

When J.S. Hold made a clean sweep in 2007, all three races were at Seoul.

Here are the current nominations for the race, which is restricted to Korean bred three-year-old colts and fillies. Final declarations are next Wednesday, April 1. No fools, hopefully. (Name [Sire] Sex (Runs/1st/2nd/3rd) Trainer):

KRA Cup Mile (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 1600M – April 5, 2015

Busan
Doraon Hyeonpyo [Colors Flying] C (6/5/1/0) Kwan Seung Joo
Rafale [Colors Flying] C (7/4/2/0) Kim Jae Sub
Mac And Cheese [Menifee] C (7/5/0/1) Kim Jae Sub
Yeongcheon Ace [Menifee] C (7/3/3/1) Baik Kwang Yeol
Summit Myeongun [Menifee] C (8/4/1/2) Kim Young Kwan
Yuseong Fighting [Didyme] C (6/4/0/1) Choi Ki Hong
Namhae Sinhwa [Vicar] C (7/3/3/0) Lim Keum Man
Yeonggwanguitaepung [Menifee] C (8/3/2/2) Kim Young Kwan
Special Line [Ecton Park] C (9/2/2/1) Baik Kwang Yeol

Seoul
Haetbinna [Didyme] C (6/2/1/0/)  Yoo Jae Gil
Lion Star [Exploit] C (5/1/2/0) Shim Seung Tae

So Menifee again dominates in terms of numbers although Colors Flying’s first crop to reach three-years-old looks formidable. Doraon Hyeonpyo won the Breeders’ Cup race at Seoul last autumn to be crowned Champion Juvenile while Rafale beat him to win the Gyeongnam Shinmun Cup a month earlier.

We’ll have more on the build-up as the race gets closer.

Gambling Figures Show Korean Racing’s Challenge In Face Of Competition, Regulation

The government last week released figures showing that overall legal gambling in Korea rose slightly in 2014 but that gambling on horse racing was down by 0.7%.

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Punting was slightly down at the races in 2014

Legal betting on horse racing with the KRA amounted to 7.6 Trillion Won (about US$6Billion) in 2014, which remained by far the largest individual share in a betting market worth 19.8 Trillion Won.

Other traditional Korean forms of gambling such as track cycling and motor boat racing suffered falls too while there were significantly fewer bullfighting festivals in the south of the country last year which almost wiped out that particular odd sector of the market.

The Sports TOTO, which enjoys far easier access than racing, being available in convenience stores and allows players to predict results of sporting events at home and overseas, showed strong growth as did Gangwon Land Casino, which saw revenues increase by almost 10%.

Gangwon Land, in the countryside three hours east of Seoul, is currently the only casino in the country where Korean citizens are permitted to play. There are numerous “foreigner only” casinos but their growth was static last year, with the Korea Herald pointing out that this was due to the largely Chinese clientele being subject to stricter anti-corruption rules which kept some former high-rollers away from the tables.

National Gaming Control Commission figures

National Gaming Control Commission figures

Racing is not in competition with the foreigner only casinos, however, recently there have been a number of cases of large casino groups offering significant investment in various regions but only if the government changes the law and allows Koreans to bet in them.

Most recently, the Korea Times reported on the Las Vegas Sands Corp. making what the paper described as a “sly offer” to build a 5 Trillion won casino and resort in Busan – on the condition that Korean citizens can enter. The newspaper went on to note that Busan Mayor Suh Byung Soo likes the plan and has called on the government to revise the laws.

It is hard to imagine many traipsing over the one bridge out of town to the Busan Racecourse in all weathers if that happens. And if Busan can have all that juicy tax revenue from a casino, why can’t Daegu or Daejeon? Or Incheon?

The trouble is that the government has no money and needs to find some. Racing is a huge contributor to the public purse and also plays a significant role in keeping the agriculture sector going, through its various support programs for rural communities. The racecourses have successfully positioned themselves as attractive destinations for families and young couples (Saturday’s mini-riot aside) as anyone who visited the racecourse prior to 2010 and then visits again today will confirm.

This doesn’t make much revenue but it is vital if the Sports TOTO generation are to ever come racing. It also provides a very safe way of legally gambling.

That’s all well and good but if the bottom line is falling then eventually the government is going to look elsewhere. Furthermore the family and young couple aspect stands to be undermined if the government goes ahead with making it compulsory for anyone wishing to have a legal bet to register for an electronic card that will track their spending.

So if that couple on their date at the track wants to bet a couple of dollars to show, they are going to need to register. One can imagine how young Eun Ji’s mother is going to react when she comes across her university age daughter’s gambling card while cleaning her room. Probably best to date at the cinema.

More to the point – and the point that all of the legal gambling operators have been making to the government – is that many bettors will not sign up for an Electronic Card. But they won’t stop betting. They will just find alternatives which don’t require a card and probably dont pay tax either. At least not to the government.

As we head into the second quarter of 2015, the challenges for Korean racing are not only on the track.

Cinderella Man Has A Ball At Busan

Cinderella Man added Hangangui Gijeok to his burgeoning list of big name scalps as he secured his second consecutive class 1 victory at Busan this afternoon.

Class 1 Handicap – Busan Racecourse – 1900M – March 22, 2015

1. Cinderella Man (KOR) [Southen Image – Tiza Fast Kat (Tiznow)] – Jo Sung Gon
2. Gandai (KOR) [Don’t Get Mad – Gamble To Victory (Prospectors Gamble)] – Song Keong Yun
3. Chogwang (AUS) [Lion Heart – Colonial Dancer (Pleasant Colony)] – Lee Hee Cheon
Distances: 4 lengths/Neck – 10 ran

Last time it was the Derby and Oaks winner Queens’ Blade, this time it was Hangangui Gijeok who went down to the Pegasus Stable owned and Peter Wolsley trained 4-year-old. Hangangui Gijeok was sent off as the favourite, but giving over 7Kg in the handicap to Cinderella Man was just too much and under Jo Sung Gon, the winner cruised away from the field in the final furlong for a 4-length victory.

Gandai and Chogwang finished together in 2nd and 3rd while Hangangui Gijeok labored home in 4th. suffering just his 4th defeat in 14 career starts to date.

For Cinderella Man it was an 8th win from 11 starts and the icing on yet another glorious day for trainer Peter Wolsley. The Australian saddled the winner of 4 of the 6 races on the card and in doing so, moved back ahead of Kim Young Kwan at the top of the Trainers’ Premiership at Busan.

Often when Wolsley has one of his dominant days, we note how shrewdly his runners have been entered. This time though, he simply had the better horses.

First up was Cheonji Park (Ecton Park) and the colt maintained his unbeaten record with his 4th straight victory in race 2. Macheon Bolt (Old Fashioned) was up next in race 3 and he too duly sauntered to his 4th consecutive victory. Lucky Gangja (Lookin At Lucky) made harder work of things in race 4 but, under a powerful ride by Kim Yong Geun, just got up by a neck for his 3rd win from 6 starts.

Kim Yong Kwan may eventually see off Wolsley in terms of numbers of winners and he will almost certainly saddle more big race winners over the course of the season. However, the perennial champion Trainer is going to be sweating a while longer before he is comfortable.

What Actually Happened At Seoul Racecourse Today

There are many words that can be used to describe Saturday’s events at Seoul Racecourse and most of them don’t have good meanings. Here is what actually happened.

Protesters crowd around the winning line attempting to get onto the track

Protesters crowd around the winning line attempting to get onto the track

Trainer An Byung Ki had a horse in race 2 called Argo Wisdom and a horse in race 3 called Little Angels. Jockey Kim Dong Soo was to ride both. At Seoul, jockeys weigh out an hour in advance of the race. This is especially important in the crowded early schedule on a Saturday. Argo Wisdom in race 2 was to carry 53Kg and Little Angels in race 3 had been assigned 51Kg.

Jockey Kim sat on the scales with two saddles and duly weighed out for both races. The best guess as to what happened next is that at some point after this, the saddle which ensured a carried weight of 51Kg somehow found its way onto the back of Argo Wisdom instead of Little Angels. And on his second career start, Argo Wisdom went on to win race 2 quite handsomely, paying dividends of 5.4 on the Pari-Mutuel. He had been second favourite in the race.

Naturally, no inquiry sign went up. There was no reason it would as the race was run cleanly. However, on weighing in, jockey Kim and his saddle were found to be 2.2Kg lighter than when weighed out. The rules are clear and they were applied. Argo Wisdom was disqualified and placed last while the 2nd place finisher Gangnamgul was promoted to 1st.

Riot police form their lines. They were not eventually deployed.

Riot police form their lines. They were not eventually deployed.

Although the disqualification was quickly announced once the weigh-in was complete, the first that many punters knew about it was when they went to collect what they thought were their winnings. When those winnings were not forthcoming, they were somewhat understandably, not amused.

It isn’t uncommon for punters to get angry and there was a genuine case for feeling aggrieved here, however, what happened next was something else. At betting windows across the racecourse – and no doubt at the OTBs – there was fury. The blameless tellers, as usual, bore the brunt. It was outside though where the significant action was taking place. A small but vociferous group gathered by the winning post and made clear their intention to disrupt the following race, runners for which were already at the starting gate.

Form guides, betting slips, pens and anything else that came to hand were hurled onto the track. They were followed by individuals climbing the fence and going out themselves. Security, lighter than in days gone, by was quickly overwhelmed and race 3 was abandoned.

Attention briefly turned to the pony race at Jeju and the Chair of the Stewards’ panel appeared on the Racecourse TV feed to explain exactly why Argo Wisdom had been disqualified.

Horses mill around prior to race 4 being officially abandoned

Horses mill around prior to race 4 being officially abandoned

The protestors were having none of it. Horses paraded for race 4 under a shower of vitriol, which was now taking on a life of its own, far beyond the usual anger at a DQ. Riot police arrived but they were unable to prevent a further set of incursions onto the track and it wasn’t safe for jockeys to bring their mounts past the grandstand.

Race 4 therefore went the same way as race 3. By this time, the overseas simulcast broadcast had begun and it wasn’t only domestic eyes watching.

Seven years ago, there were riots when a meeting was abandoned due to cold weather. The consequences to the Racing Authority, run as it is under the auspices of government, were dire. With no prospect of the protests subsiding, the rest of the meeting in danger and the potential for a full-scale riot on their hands if that happened, the Korea Racing Authority announced that bets would be paid out on the disqualified horse as a “goodwill” gesture to customers.

A KRA executive announces on the racecourse broadcast network that bets will be paid on the disqualified horse

A KRA executive announces on the racecourse broadcast network that bets will be paid on the disqualified horse

In the current context of racing here in Korea, the decision was an understandable one. The meeting was saved, the simulcast was saved and 30 minutes later, families were enjoying picnics by the winning line on what was a gorgeous (if dusty) spring day and we had some great racing later in the day. Daily turnover obviously took a massive hit – to the tune of approximately US$7Million for the two abandoned races – and that, perhaps even more so than the disturbances, is likely to be the focus of the inevitable political recriminations.

The alternative headlines after an abandonment of the meeting would have been too ghastly to contemplate. Mob rule prevailed today. The consequences of that may become clear in the weeks to come.

It started with a mistake. The rules were then applied but that wasn’t the end of it. The horse was called Argo Wisdom and a lot of wisdom is going to be needed in the fall out from today.

Namhae Daewang Owns The Silverware At Seoul

Namhae Daewang ran out the 17/1 winner of the first Graded race of the year in Korea, the Owners’s Association Trophy at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Namhae Daewang stands to attention in the Owners' Trophy winner's circle

Namhae Daewang stands to attention in the Owners’ Trophy winner’s circle

Truth be told, while this may have been a Group 3, it was a weak race, with class 1 at Seoul really struggling from a lack of talent at the moment, especially in the domestic bred ranks. Not that the huge crowd in attendance in the early Spring sunshine seemed in the slightest bit bothered about that.

And they were rewarded with a good race. Betting favorite Haemaru failed to make any real impresson on the race as Ganghae set the early pace in the six furlong sprint with Best High and old campaigner Gumanseok in close attendence. Namhae Daewang, on the other hand, had settled at the back of the field and had plenty to do as they entered the home straight.

Under jockey Lee Joon Chel, Namhae Daewang did it in style, flying home down the outside to take the line just over half a length clear of Ganghae with Gumanseok edged out into 3rd.

Five-year-old Namhae Daewang now has 7 wins from 26 career starts. For jockey Lee, it was his biggest career win to date with victory in the listed Segye Ilbo Cup his only previous visit to the Stakes winner’s circle.

Seoul Racehorse Owners’ Association Trophy (KOR GIII) – Seoul Racecourse – 1200M – March 15, 2015

1. Namhae Daewang (KOR) [Commendable – Caramel Candy (Awesome Again)] – Lee Joon Chel – 17.7, 3.3
2. Ganghae (KOR) [Didyme – Ocelot (Catrail)] – Seo Seung Un – 1.8
3. Gumanseok (KOR) [Vicar – Perfect Storm (Didyme)] – Lee Sang Hyeok – 2.8
Distances: 0.75 lengths / Head – 14 ran

Saturday at Seoul had seen a couple of notable events. Jockey Moon Se Young notched his 1,100th career winner and would end the weekend on 1,103, while the in-form Kim Hye Sun rode three more winners over the weekend. However it was the mount of one of the up and coming jockeys that caught the eye.

Under Seo Seung Un, Daegunhwang (Menifee-Lusi Pond) cruised to his 4th consecutive victory in dismissively easy fashion. This time it was over 1700M abnd he looks one to watch pver the next few months.

Naturally, Busan has its own up and comers too and US import Champ Line (Curlin) got his 5th win in 6 starts on Friday afternoon while it was the turn of domestic bred Summit Myeongun (Menifee) to impress on Sunday afternoon.

Summit Myeongun was ridden by Kim Yong Geun, who rode a treble on both Friday and Sunday. In Sunday’s feature race he gave Spring Gnarly (Master Command) a powerful ride to close late and win by just over a length. Spring Gnarly has won 8 of 11 starts.

In contrast to Seoul, class 1 at Busan is now very tough. However, the rules which up until now has prevented horses switching between the two racecourses are being relaxed and it would be no surprise to see some heading up the Gyeongbu Expressway permanently in the near future.