Cinderella Man Keeps On Winning

The weekend just passed was a rather low-key one for racing in Korea. We’re a month away from the Derby and the leading contenders will, for the most part, have already run their final prep race. There was one stand-out performer though as Cinderella Man landed his fifth straight win in Sunday’s feature race at Busan.

The Peter Wolsley trained Cinderella Man (Southern Image) was sent off as the favorite for the 1900M handicap, which also featured Spring Gnarly (Master Command), who was also coming into the race with 8 wins from 11 previous starts.

Cinderella Man would be the one who would move onto 9 from 12 as, under Jo Sung Gon, he flew home in the pouring rain to overcome long time leader Damyangui Jilju.

There was little of note across the weekend up at Seoul. South African jockey Jarred Samuel’s challenging introduction to racing here continued as he moved onto 26 rides without a top three finish. He hasn’t yet been given any ammunition that would make a better return possible.

A couple of personal milestones were reached though. Ji Yong Cheol became the first Korean trainer to saddle 10,000 runners in his career (it wasn’t a winner), while jockey Yoon Tae Hyuk reached 100 career wins.

This coming week should see more action with the likes of Nobody Catch Me, Beolmaui Kkum, Success Story, Gumpo Sky and Mujinjang all among early entries for Sunday’s feature at Busan.

From Pick Me Up To Queen’s Blade: It’s Time To Change

A few years ago, I wrote an article with the title “What have we learned from Pick Me Up?” If one definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, then it must be concluded that more than six years on, the answer to my question is “not a lot”.

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Bring her home: Queen's Blade wins the 2014 Korean Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Last year an unfit Speedy First and an out of sorts Major King, Korean Classic winners both, spent the spring and early summer in the United States, each getting humiliated three times, before coming home. That three times is important as, for some reason, all these years later, the Korea Racing Authority still picks up the bill if a horse goes to the US and runs three times. A couple of years previously, Oaks winner Baekpa did the same.

This past Saturday, the 2014 Korean Derby winner Queen’s Blade was entered in a six-furlong race for fillies and mares at Pimlico. I’ll not post the video but she was left in the gate at the start and never featured, ending last by some considerable distance. Inevitably she will race twice more to get the subsidy.

If we were learning something from this, it wouldn’t be so bad but we’re not. We already know that four-year old Korean horses who have been going non-stop since their debuts nearly two years ago will not be competitive in US racing. We also know that if a horse was expected to perform well in Korea this year, it would not be sent overseas.

Similarly, we know that Korean bred horses who go to the US when young can be competitive. As someone once said, “maybe  the problem isn’t the horse”.

We also know that when sent overseas at the right time and to the right race, Korean trained horses can compete – Watts Village winning the Interaction Cup at Ohi in 2013 proved that.

In the original piece about Pick Me Up, I wrote about the strange practice of sending a Korean horse halfway around the world in order to try and assess the strength of Korean bred horses, when there are plenty of imports racing in Korea, but only allowed to run in segregated races. The start of the rating system, whatever its critics may say, is finally addressing that.

In a year where Korea hopes to become recognised by IFHA as a Part II country, a second Derby winner in as many years going to the States and not even looking like a racehorse, is potentially damaging to the international perception of racing here.

If an owner wishes to take their horse themselves to race in the USA, then the very best of luck to them. Support though should focus on getting our best horses to Singapore in July, to Tokyo in late autumn and to Dubai early next year and also encouraging them to take on the visitors in the Ttukseom Cup, KRA Cup Classic and Asia Challenge Cup.

It’s time to do things differently.

Donggeupchoegang Stuns Gyeongbudaero & Beolmaui Kkum, Daegunhwang Derby-Bound?

What was billed as being a clash between Busan’s best two horses ended up being about neither of them as both Gyeongbudaero and Beolmaui Kkum fell to a late charge from 50/1 shot Donggeupchoegang in the track’s feature race on Sunday.

Beolmaui Kkum, the highest rated horse in Korea was sent off as the slight odds-on favourite ahead of the Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero. The former would, as he generally does, set the early pace and as they entered the home straight, it looked set to be a two way fight between the two favourites.

That was to reckon without Donggeupchoegang. The five-year-old was benefitting from a 6kg weight advantage and he made it count as he flew home under replacement jockey Jeong Dong Cheol, going from 5th to 1st in the final furlong and running on for victory by two and a half lengths.

Gyeongbudaero hung on for 2nd, just pipping another Grand Prix winner Gamdonguibada, by a nose. Beolmaui Kkum was 4th.

The longest shot on the board, US import Donggeupchoegang [Bernstein – Resurge (Seeking The Gold)] was recording his 7th win from 29 career starts and his 3rd from his most recent 6.

It may be at Busan where we get the higher quality racing these days as was evidenced by that track’s utter domination of the KRA Cup Mile last week, but there was some hope for Seoul on Sunday afternoon. That came in the shape of three-year-old colt Daegunhwang (Menifee), who landed his 5th straight win.

This time it was at class 2 and it was a fast time over 1700M. The colt made the running all the way around and while he was made to work a little harder than on previous starts, Daegunhwang looked to have plenty in hand as he stayed on to win by just under three lengths. He’s going to have to work much harder though if he is to beat the Busan raiders next month in the Korean Derby.

Speaking of the three-year-old Classics, the winner of last year’s final Classic Never Seen Before, made his way back to the winner’s circle at Busan on Friday, holding off stablemate Ms. Margaux in what was a competitive class 1 handicap over a mile.

Weekend Preview: Cherry Blossoms! Gyeongbudaero Vs. Beolmaui Kkum!

It’s springtime! The Cherry Blossoms are out and it’s set to be a great weekend of racing on the peninsula.

Seoul Racecourse Floodlit Cherry Blossom Festival runs from 18:00-22.00 from today until next Thursday

Seoul Racecourse Floodlit Cherry Blossom Festival runs from 18:00-22.00 from today until next Thursday

The big race of the weekend is at Busan on Sunday where the top two rated horses in Korea will face off over 1900M. Grand Prix Stakes winner Gyeongbudaero and Beolmaui Kkum will also face the likes of Gamdonguibada and Magic Dancer in a small but serious field in the afternoon’s feature.

At Seoul, South African jockey Jarred Samuel will make his Korean riding debut on Saturday with 6 rides.

Here’s what’s happening when and where across the weekend:

Friday April 10
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 12:50 to 19:00
Jeju Racecourse: 8 races from 13:15 to 17:10

Saturday April 11
Seoul Racecourse: 11 races from 10.50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

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

South African Jockey Jarred Samuel Set For Seoul

Two months after Ikuyasu Kurakane returned to Japan, Seoul Racecourse has a new foreign jockey with South African Jarred Samuel taking up a four-month license.

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Jarred Samuel (Picture: Gold Circle)

Samuel, a 27-year-old who was previously based in Durban, has ridden 103 winners since debuting in 2004 and was in Seoul watching the races this past weekend. He is available for rides from this week.

Able to make 50kg weight, Samuel will be looking to get more opportunities than some of the other foreign jockeys who have ridden at Seoul in the past.

Samuel will be the fifth South African jockey to ride regularly in Korea (many others have participated in the Seoul International Jockey Challenge). Chris Taylor and Stephan Swanepoel weren’t given many chances during their times at Seoul several years ago although Martin Wepner and Gerrit Schlechter both fared much better in their stints at Busan.

A huge football fan, he will no doubt fit in well in Korea as his favourite team is Manchester United, although he has pledged to attend some K-League too.

Just two months ago he was featured on a South African TV show:

Triple Crown 2015: Rafale Roars To KRA Cup Mile Glory

If we are to have a Triple Crown winner this year, it will be a colt by the name of Rafale. The co-favourite took out the first jewel, the KRA Cup Mile at Busan Racecourse this afternoon, getting the best of a keenly fought stretch duel with Doraon Hyeonpyo.

If ever there was going to be a race in which it was hard to look past the favourites, this was it with several of the field, including the two visitors from Seoul, never looking likely to be able to handle what was sure to be a quick pace. So it proved.

Yuseong Fighting and the other co-favourite, Doraon Hyeonpyo would set the early pace and were joined briefly at the front by Summit Myeongun. Rafale, however, was in close attendance and while others would challenge, by the furlong pole it was clear that it would be the two market leaders who would battle it out.

With Rafale on the rail and Doraon Hyeonpyo in the center of the track, it was Rafale, urged on by jockey You Hyun Myung, who took the spoils by half a length. Behind them Yeongcheon Ace just edged out the fast finishing Yeonggwanguitaepung for 3rd. Both must be under consideration for the Derby.

Behind them, it was carnage, with gaps of 4, 5, 7 and 10 lengths among the distances separating the rest of the field. The leaders truly outclassed the rest.

For trainer Kim Jae Sub, it was his second KRA Cup Mile in three years following Sting Ray’s victory in 2013. Jockey You Hyun Myung was riding his first Classic winner and the second biggest win of his career following Mister Park in the 2010 Grand Prix Stakes.

As for Doraon Hyeonpyo, Rafale remains the only horse to have beaten him. Indeed, Rafale now leads 2-1 in their head to heads having previously triumphed in the Gyeongnam Sinmun Cup last October. However, it was Doraon Hyeonpyo who came out on top when they met in the Breeders’ Cup in Seoul. When they reconvene in the capital for the Korean Derby six weeks today, will it become 2-2?

KRA Cup Mile (KOR G2) – Busan Racecourse – 1600M – April 5, 2015

1. Rafale (KOR) [Colors Flying – Dongbang Choego (Al Naba)] – You Hyun Myung
2. Doraon Hyeonpyo (KOR) [Colors Flying – Kilcoe Castle (Gone West)] – Kim Dong Young
3. Yeongcheon Ace (KOR) [Menifee – Dixie Avenger (Dixie Union)] – Choi Si Dae
Distances: 0.5 lengths / 2 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Yeonggwanguitaepung (KOR) 5. Summit Myeongun (KOR) 6. Yuseong Fighting (KOR) 7. Special Line (KOR) 8. Mac And Cheese (KOR) 9. Haetbinna (KOR) 10. Namhae Sinhwa (KOR) 11. Lion Star (KOR)

Only one horse has gone on to win the Derby after winning the Cup Mile; that was the filly Sangseung Ilro in 2009. We’ll reconvene at Seoul on May 16 to find out if Rafale can join her.

Weekend Preview

April is underway and the first Triple Crown weekend of the season is upon us with the running of the KRA Cup Mile at Busan.

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If at all possible, it would be nice to get through an entire weekend without any races cancelled due to punter unrest

The formidable looking quintet of Doraon Hyeonpyo, Rafale, Mac And Cheese, Summit Myeongun and Yeongcheon Ace head the field while the hope that Seoul’s two entries were actually some form of Korean racing April Fool’s Day joke have been dashed. See below for a full preview of the big race.

April also sees the shifting of Friday racing at Busan to a later start time with the first race now being 12.50 and the last 19.00. This will be the case for the next four months.

Full racecards are available here.

Here’s what’s happening when and where across this big weekend:

Friday April 3
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 12.50 to 19.00.
Jeju Racecourse: 8 races from 13.15 to 17.10

Saturday April 4
Seoul Racecourse: 13 races from 10.50 to 18.00.
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12.20 to 17.10.

Sunday April 5
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10.50 to 18.00.
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12.45 to 17.30 including the KRA Cup Mile at 16.35