Weekend Preview: Ikuyasu Is Back

Hopefully the Busan jockey colony enjoyed their weekend off last week because playtime is over. With it being Seoul’s turn to take a break, the south-coast track takes centre-stage and Ikuyasu Kurakane, Jockey of the Year at Seoul in 2014, is back in Korea and this time is ready to take on Busan.

Did you miss me? (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Did you miss me? (Pic: Hiromi Kobayashi)

Ikuyasu has four rides on Saturday and ten on Sunday and few would bet against him quickly adding to his 290 Korean winners spread over two previous stints at Seoul and Busan.

It is also a big weekend for Irish trainer Thomas Gillespie who sends out his first Korean runner on Sunday. The very best of luck to him.

Click here for full race cards.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday July 31
Jeju Racecourse: 14 races from 13:30 to 20:00

Saturday August 1
Busan Racecourse: 8 races from 15:05 to 20:00
Jeju Racecourse: 8 races from 13:00 to 17:10

Sunday August 2
Busan Racecourse: 15 races from 13:00 to 20:00

Korean Horses Return Home From Singapore

Three Korean horses who ran in the KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore on Sunday touched back down at Incheon Airport this afternoon.

The race was broadcast live in Korea

The race was broadcast live in Korea

The two Busan horses; Gamdonguibada and Nobody Catch Me, will stop off at the quarantine centre at Jangsu Stud & Training Farm in Jeolla Province, while Seoul-based Cheon Gu has gone straight back to the Seoul Racecourse which has its own quarantine facilities.

As for the race – the S$250,000 KRA Trophy – the horses did ok. Nobody Catch Me was 6th, Cheon Gu 9th and Gamdonguibada 11th in the twelve-strong event with the pack finishing together.

There had been some mildly silly talk in the local racing media here – not exactly discouraged by trainer Kim Young Kwan – about the possibility of one of the Korean horses actually winning the race. However, those of us who were hopeful of a decent performance, but still had nagging fears that they may be left behind in a race that was restricted to Singapore-trained horses with a rating of 90 or lower, were re-assured.

As it was, Cheon Gu led out of the gate and into the home-straight before tiring and being passed. Gamdonguibada, a little predictably for a miler dropping down to six furlongs, took a while to get going and never really fired. However, the pleasant surprise was Nobody Catch Me. Few had given him much chance of beating anything but he finished strongly on the outside to get up to 6th place, just over four lengths behind the winner.

That winner was the modestly-named Super Winner (Kaphero). Super Winner’s jockey, Soo Khoon Beng (more often known as KB Soo) has plenty of history with Korea having had a short stint at Busan in 2008 before returning and winning the Seoul International Jockey Challenge in 2012. Manoel Nunes, who also particiapted in that 2012 event, rode My Lucky Strike (Charge Forward), to 2nd place.

The race was beamed back live to racecourses and OTBs in Korea, the first time for an overseas race. While no betting markets were offered, a good number of the 40,000 crowd at Seoul Racecourse seemed to take an interest. It is to be hoped that those punters will start pushing for an opportunity to watch more overseas racing and for the necessary change in the law to allow legal betting on it. One or two races from places such as Singapore would be an ideal addition to either a Friday card at Busan or a Sunday mixed card.

There are many hurdles still to clear before that can become a reality but getting last Sunday’s race onto Korean screens means the first of those has been successfully navigated. The more exposure there is to high quality overseas racing, the better it will be for development here.

In some ways the result was a good one in that the horses did well enough to mean there is no reason to feel discouraged or embarrassed. And equally, they didn’t do well enough for anybody here to think the job is anywhere near done and there is no need to improve.

The next big event is just a little over a month away in the shape of the Asia Challenge Cup, for which the first nomination stage is this Friday. Nominations are expected from Singapore and Japan while a quarantine protocol has just been concluded in time with the UAE, however, it may be a little too late to get horses racing under that flag this time. The ACC is an invitational race but the KRA Cup Classic, held the same day, is also open to overseas runners this year.

Weekend Race Times

Seoul takes centre-stage this weekend as Busan goes off on its summer-holidays. Meanwhile, three Korea-trained horses are in Singapore for Sunday’s KRA Trophy.

Cheon Gu, Gamdonguibada and Nobody Catch Me, the three Korea-trained horses in SIngapore

Cheon Gu, Gamdonguibada and Nobody Catch Me, the three Korea-trained horses in SIngapore

Seoul flying solo means there is a bumper 15-race-card on Sunday in the capital which rather bizarrely will be followed after racing at 8pm by a pair of motorbike races on the track and K-Pop performances by 4Minute and Hong Jin Young. Which should be…interesting.

Also on Sunday, the KRA Trophy at Kranji in Singapore will be beamed back live. No betting markets will be operated in Korea (that’s still illegal) on the 1200M race which Gamdonguibada, Cheon Gu and Nobody Catch Me will take part in. The travelling Korean contingent in Singapore report that Cheon Gu and Gamdonguibada – the two who have the most chance of putting on a decent show – are both well.

Saturday July 25
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 13:00 to 17:45
Jeju Racecourse: 5 races from 17:20 to 20:00

Sunday July 26
Seoul Racecourse: 15 races from 13:00 to 20:00

Lee Yong Ho Winning At Busan While Takahashi Debuts At Seoul

Several new apprentice jockeys have debuted over the past couple of weeks at both Seoul and Busan with a couple of them catching the eye so far. Meanwhile there are comings and goings among the foreign jockey ranks.

Winning already: Apprentice jockey Lee Yong Ho

Winning already: Apprentice jockey Lee Yong Ho

Among the apprentices, the stand-out so far has been 18-year-old Lee Yong Ho who has already ridden 5 winners from his first 29 mounts at Busan. Lee, the youngest jockey to gain a license in Korea for many years, is the younger brother of Seoul rider Lee Chan Ho, who made a similarly impressive start to his career two years ago. The younger Lee had already built quite a reputation for himself before his debut and he has received support from trainers right from his first day.

At Seoul, the best so far has been another Lee; Lee Hyeon Jong. After several near misses the 21-year-old rode his first winner last Saturday and quickly followed up with another. He has only had 13 rides so far but 7 of them have finished in the placings.

Among the other new apprentices, Park Jae I and Jin Kyum, both at Busan, have managed to get 2nd places while Kim Do Jung at Seoul has a 3rd to his name.

Debuting at Seoul last Saturday was Japanese jockey Yuri Takahashi. The 28-year-old, who is affiliated with the Iwate Racing Association, endured a challenging opening weekend with seven rides, none of which had a chance. Hopefully things will get better for him in future weeks in the way they’ve certainly got better for Djordje Perovic. The “Serbian Frankie” rode his 14th Korean winner on Saturday and if he continues riding the way he has been, he looks set to be the first non-Japanese visiting jockey to make a real impact at the notoriously difficult Seoul.

The other foreign rider at Seoul, Jarred Samuel, who has been a popular and positive presence for the past four months, has opted not to renew his contract and will return to South Africa at the end of July. Samuel will be replaced and another foreign rider is expected to arrive at the end of August.

Down at Busan meanwhile, Ikuyasu Kurakane is set for his third Korean stint, having been granted a license once more. Kurakane won the “MVP Award” at Seoul Racecourse last year – an achievemnet that led to the Japanese NAR presenting him with a special prize at their annual “Grand Prix” awards ceremony in February.

Elsewhere, former Busan jockey Joe Fujii is now riding in Hokkaido and landed his first Japanese winner at Mombetsu Racecourse last week.

Rock Band Calls The Tune In Minister’s Cup

Rock Band led from gate-to-wire to win the Minister’s Cup at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon, holding off Triple Nine who had to settle for 2nd in his second consecutive Classic race.

Rock Band in the Minister's Cup winner's circle

The Rock Band/Triple Nine 1-2 was a remarkable achieivement for Isildore Farm, who bred the pair of them and also – although we have come to expect it by now – for trainer Kim Young Kwan.

Rock Band was sent off as the 4th fvourite in the betting in a field that was depleted in terms of numbers by the scratchings of Daegunhwang and Bulpae Line. Last time he faced such a small field, Rock Band got stuck in traffic and suffered his only loss to date. This time, jockey Kim Yong Geun decided to take the race by the scruff of the neck and lead from the gate.

Derby winner Yeongcheon Ace was slow to settle in the early stages but went with the leader as did Triple Nine, who began the race as favorite, and KRA Cup Mile winner Rafale. It was a lead Rock Band would never relinquish. Triple Nine lost some ground beginning the long turn for home and that would prove crucial as Rock Band had enough in hand to hold off his late charge and take victory by half a length on the line.

Yeongcheon Ace battled on for 3rd while Doraon Hyeonpyo, last year’s champion juvenile, got up for 4th ahead of a tiring Rafale.

For jockey Kim Yong Geun, it was a 2nd Classic of the year after winning the Korean Oaks on Jangpung Parang, also for trainer Kim Young Kwan, at Busan last month.

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – July 19, 2015

1. Rock Band (KOR) [Ecton Park -Plie (Dixieland Band)] – Kim Yong Geun – 8.6, 3.4
2. Triple Nine (KOR) [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.3
3. Yeongcheon Ace (KOR) [Menifee – Dixie Avenger (Dixie Union)] – Choi Si Dae – 1.5
Distances: 0.5 lengths/2.5 lengths
Also ran: 4. Doraon Hyeonpyo (KOR) 5. Rafale (KOR) 6. Seonbong (KOR) 7. Yuseong Fighting (KOR) NR. Daegunhwang (KOR) NR. Bulpae Line (KOR)

Rock Band is the full-brother to Indie Band, another product of Isildore. Indie Band won the 2013 President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes but has been sidelined for the past year. The younger brother never raced as a 2-year-old and today was only his 6th career start. There could be much more to come from him.

Next week, Busan takes its summer vacation but there will be plenty of action at Seoul. Trainer Kim Young Kwan will be in Singapore to saddle Gamdonguibada and Nobody Catch Me in the KRA Trophy at Kranji. He’ll not be training a 1-2 finish there. Today though, Rock Band was throroughly on song.

Minister’s Cup – Full Preview

Rafale struck first in the KRA Cup Mile. Yeongcheon Ace romped home in the Derby. They both line up, alongside just five others, for the final leg of the 2015 Korean Triple Crown – the Minister’s Cup – at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

Yeongcheon Ace led Triple Nine home in the Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Yeongcheon Ace led Triple Nine home in the Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

There have been two scratchings since declarations were made on Thursday mornings. Daegunhwang, 4th in the Korean Derby and Bulpae Line, who was set to take part in his first Triple Crown race, have both been ruled out. That means there won’t be a number 2 or number 7. Only one of the seven is from Seoul with the rest having travelled up from Busan. Here’s who’s left in:

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Racecourse – 2000M – July 19, 2015 – 16:55

1. Triple Nine [Ecton Park – A Little Poke (Pleasant Tap)] (7/5/2/0) – Lim Sung Sil
He will be either favourite or second-favourite. He didnt make it to the Cup Mile but finished 2nd in the Derby and won a quick race over 1800M last month to keep him ticking over. Didn’t finish that strongly in the Derby which may be a concern but trainer Kim Young Kwan will surely have him spot-on here. He probably wont lead but he should be handy.

3. Yuseong Fighting [Didyme – Maggie’s Prayer (Songandaprayer)] (9/5/0/1) – Yang Young Nam
Credit to connections for entering their horse in all three legs of the Triple Crown but Yuseong Fighting is a sprinter. He will go out quick but he won’t get the trip with 1400M so far being his limit against decent opposition. Expect to see him win plenty of races over six furlongs but don’t expect him to win this.

4. Rock Band [Ecton Park – Plie (Dixieland Band)] (5/4/1/0) – Kim Yong Geun
The wildcard. Unraced as a 2-year-old, he sauntered to victory without really being tested in his first four starts this year. He then had a chance to show what he was made of over 1800M last month but in a small field he got a dreadful trip, managing to get stuck behind slow-moving horses twice. Rock Band flew home but it was too late. Kim Young Kwan could have entered others and Kim Yong Geun gives up a weekend of rides at Busan to partner him. He can’t be ruled out.

5. Doraon Hyeonpyo [Colors Flying – Kilcoe Castle (Gone West)] (8/5/2/0) – Kim Dong Young
Second in the Cup Mile and fifth in the Derby, this is another for who the distance may be an issue. Doraon Hyeonpyo was last year’s Champion Juvenile but the Derby was his first attempt at a mile and while he should beat plenty there are a few who may be too quick at the business end of the race.

6. Rafale [Colors Flying – Dongbang Choego (Al Naba)] (9/5/3/1) – You Hyun Myung
The KRA Cup Mile winner and then 3rd in the Derby, less than three lengths behind Yeongcheon Ace. He is quick and the distance shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for him. Expect him to settle in the middle of the pack and improve around the home turn. Rafale is most likely to start 3rd favourite and he should be looking for at least a place.

8. Seonbong [Duality – Megabuck Gal (Montbrook)] (9/3/3/0) – Lee Joon Chel
A very creditable 6th in the Korean Derby but there is no strong reason to believe he can finihs much higher here. Seongbong has raced once since the Derby, dropping all the way down to five furlongs and coming 2nd. Following Daegunhwang’s scratching, he is the home-track’s sole representative. This is a small field so anything can happen but he is up against it here.

9. Yeongcheon Ace [Menifee-Dixie Avenger (Dixie Union)] (9/4/3/2) – Choi Si Dae
The Korean Derby winner and the likely favourite here. He is a closer and sat right in the middle of the pack in the Derby. Given the small field today, he may even go right to the back early on. Others have show more speed but he will get the distance and has every chance of grinding out another win. Choi Si Dae is the current big race jockey.

Weekend Race Times: Alexandra Debuts For Inglis

The era of foreign ownership of racehorses hits Seoul on Saturday. Race 1 sees Alexandra, owned by Arthur Inglis, making her debut in race 1.

Foreign buyers were active at the Jeju Sales this Spring

Foreign buyers were active at the Jeju Sales this Spring

Inglis purchased Alexandra (Hawk Wing) for KRW 15 Million at the Jeju 2-year-old sale in May. Hopes are not exactly sky-high yet as she scraped through her barrier trial just within the qualifying time. Kim Hye Sun will ride. A number of other 2-year-olds belonging to the newly licensed foreign owners are expected to debut in the next few weeks.

That’s the first race of two days at Seoul which culminate on Sunday afternoon with the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the 2015 Triple Crown. We’ll have a full runner-by-runner preview of the big race shortly.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Saturday July 18
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 13:00 to 20:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:00 to 17:30

Sunday July 19
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 13:00 to 17:50
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 16:20 to 20:00