Singapore’s El Padrino On For Korea Return In Asia Challenge Cup

El Padrino is set to return to Korea to defend the Asia Challenge Cup at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday August 30.

El Padrino wins the 2014 Asia Challenge Cup  (Pic: Elan959)

El Padrino wins the 2014 Asia Challenge Cup (Pic: Elan959)

The 7-year-old will face a stern test in this year’s event which will be run over the shorter distance of 1200M. Scheduled to accompany him from Singapore is Daniel, who comes into the race off the back of consecutive victories, along with Huka Falls, another very solid runner.

Two are expected from Japan. Taisei Legend and Kogyo Douglas, the latter of which has run in both editions of the Interaction Cup against Korean opposition at Ohi in 2013 and 2014.

As for the home team, Wonder Bolt and New York Blue, 2nd and 3rd respectively in last year’s race, are set to go again as is Watts Village, winner of the Interaction Cup at Ohi in 2013. Oreuse, on his day Korea’s best sprinter, is also among the nomnations while Cheon Gu, who has just returned from Singapore is likely to be there too.

El Padrino (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] 7 G (36/10/5/4)
Daniel (NZ) [Guillotine – Tina (Danasinga)] 5 G (18/7/5/1)
Huka Falls (NZ) [Align – Diamond Lady (Senor Pete)] 6 G (37/14/2/6)

Taisei Legend (JPN) [King Kamehameha – Sharp Kick (Mejiro McQueen)] 8 H (39/9/5/2)
Kogyo Douglas (JPN) [Sterling Rose – Amore Pegasus (Mejiro Ryan)] 8 H (37/13/6/2)

Yeongung Champ (USA) [More Than Ready – Word Of Mouth (Saint Ballado)] 3 C (7/4/1/0)
New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] 4 F (19/6/8/1)
Super Gangja (USA) [Sharp Humor – Honey Fritters (Helmsman)] 5 H (24/4/8/1)
Oreuse (USA) [Smoke Glacken – Heavenly Splendor (Point Given)] 6 H (28/12/4/3)
Gabo Myeongun (USA) [Sharp Humor – Tingwithasting (Wild Rush)] 3 C (8/4/2/1)
Watts Village (USA)[Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] 5 H (19/8/5/2)
Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] 5 G (23/6/9/1)
Choegang Schiller (USA)[Artie Schiller – Changeable (Miswaki)] 4 G (12/6/2/1)
Geumbit Hwanhui (KOR) [Peace Rules – Sincheonchun (Silent Warrior)] 4 F (16/5/3/2
Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] 4 F (14/5/4/2)
Cheon Gu (USA) [Old Fashioned – So Much Fun (Speightstown)] 3 C (6/4/1/1)

The Asia Challenge Cup is the showpiece even of this year’s international weekend at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August, which will also involve Trophy Exchange races with the Singapore Turf Club, Selangor Turf Club, Turkey Jockey Club and Horse Racing Ireland as well as the Asia Young Guns Jockey Challenge and the KRA Cup Classic.

Thomas Gillespie Saddles First Runner & Winner, Bart Rice Trains A Treble, Tanaka Rides a Four-Timer, Ikuyasu Wins Too

It was a good day for much of the overseas contingent at Busan. So good, it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s start with the newcomer. Thomas Gillespie joined the training ranks at the south-coast track in June and has put together a string numbering 23 in total. Today he sent out his first runner. Indeed, Mangang (Creek Cat), who was returning from 10 months away from the track, was to be his only runner all weekend. Punters spotted it a mile off and duly sent Mangang off as the favourite.

Under Masa Tanaka, Mangang duly obliged but it was very tight with the gelding just getting up to overcome Pico Taeyang and hold off the fast finishing Big Echo by a neck on the line. May it be the first of many for Gillespie but it wouldn’t be the only close finish of the day.

Gillespie joins two other foreign trainers at Busan. Peter Wolsley evidently took the day off but South African Bart Rice was in fine form. Rice only sent out four horses all day but three of them returned winners. 10/1 shot Gold Bank (Bernstein) crept down the rail under Masa Tanaka to win race 11 before You Hyun Myung guided favourite Captainiji (Mineshaft) to the honours in race 13.

It was quite a bizarre ending to the race with jockey You taking Captainiji down the rail – which had been the place to be all day – while his closest rival Last Ticket shifted well wide only to fly home and be beaten a neck on the line. It was Captainiji’s second consecutive win over 1800M. Rice wasn’t done. Race 14 saw his Alpha Plus (Biwa Shinseiki) get sent off at 8/1 but in the hands of Masa Tanaka, he defied those odds to land a comfortable 5-length triumph.

Bart Rice has now seen six of his last ten runners return home as winners. Since he started in Korea, his win strike rate is 18%; 27% of his runners have finished in the top two while he has managed to get 33% to show. He is currently 14th of 33 trainers in the 2015 Championship in terms of winners but has sent out significantly fewer runners than any other trainer on the list. Except Thomas Gillespie.

It is this care for his runners – that he sends them out only when they are right – that has made Rice the trainer of choice for some of the new foreign owners at Busan. Dr. Joe Dallao, the first foreign owner to be licensed, has two with him and he in turn introduced Barry Irwin, head of Team Valor (owner of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom), who has sent his gelding Swoop to Bart’s barn.

It’s time to talk about Masa Tanaka. In between getting Mangang home for Thomas Gillespie and his double for Bart Rice, the Japanese rider also had time to get the best of a desperately close finish to race 4 on Grageo (Biwa Shinseiki). He coaxed the 8/1 chance into beating the favourite Seorabeol Gongju by a nose on the line and it was one of those instances where the jockey made the difference.

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

Masa Tanaka (Pic: Busan Ilbo)

It was Grageo’s second win. His first was on his racecourse debut back last Boxing Day when he was ridden by Tanaka’s Japanese compatriot Joe Fujii. Fujii won just about every big race during his time in Korea while Tanaka is yet to win a Stakes but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He’s now racking up the numbers and with his four victories today moves onto 84 Korean winners and his stated aim of reaching 100 will surely be a formality.

Tanaka is a very good judge of pace who gets his mounts into exactly the right positions and given the right ride in a big race, there is no doubt that he will get the job done. Held in high esteem among punters and connections alike, it’s hoped he will be here for a long time to come and will soon reset his ambition to 200 winners.

On the subject of getting the job done, we turn to Ikuyasu Kurakane. The Seoul Racecourse “MVP” of 2014, despite not winning the Jockey Championship (for a foreigner at Seoul that is an immense achievement), returned to Korea last week after five months riding at his home track of Kochi in Japan. It didn’t take him long to get back in the winner’s circle as he partnered Rising Bravo (Discreet Cat) to victory in race 6. The “Punter’s Friend” is back.

Peter Hill’s Pegasus Stables on Jeju Island has been a big supporter of Bart Rice and has also sent some horses to Thomas Gillespie (and previously to Peter Wolsley too) and to round out a good day for the foreign influence, the Pegasus owned Binggoragio (Blazonry) was the 20/1 winner of the final event on a long day, race 15.

All in all it was a cracking day’s sport at Busan. The foreign influence; the South African track riders, the trainers and the jockeys have played an important role in making Busan far superior to Seoul when the two tracks race their horses against each other. 32,000 punters were at Seoul today to bet solely on Busan. In Gillespie, Rice, Tanaka and Kurakane, they were betting on quality.

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.