The KRA Cup Mile: All The Winners So Far

Sunday will see the first leg of the 2015 Korean Triple Crown. The race in question, the KRA Cup Mile, has been run every year since 2005 but only since 2008 has it been open to horses from Seoul and run on its current date in the calendar as the first jewel in the 3-year-old crown.

Gyeongbudaero, KRA Cup Mile winner in 2012 (KRA)

Gyeongbudaero, KRA Cup Mile winner in 2012 (KRA)

The track configuration at Seoul Racecourse has never allowed for races to be run at a distance of a mile so, when the Busan Racecourse was designed, that was to be a key feature. The track opened in 2004 and the first Cup Mile, held on a Friday in September 2005, was won by US import Siseon Jeap (Precise End).

The following year the race got a name change, the KRA Chairman’s Cup and a distance change to 1800M. Golding (Gold Alert), who would continue to be a stalwart at Busan until 2011, took the honours. In 2007, it was back to being the Cup Mile and Luna (Concept Win) landed the biggest win of her career. Australian jockey Garry Baker became the first of three foreign riders to date to have won the race.

In that same year, J.S. Hold won all three races of the Seoul Triple Crown but for 2008 Busan horses were invited to take part for the first time and the track invited to host the first leg. As a result, the Cup Mile was shifted to the first Sunday in April. Here is a list of the winners every year since then and what’s become of them:

2008: Rainmaker [Revere – Wandering Katie (Tejano)] – The 3/1 favourite won the race by two and a half lengths but then finished last in the Derby and would never win a race again. He suffered some injury setbacks and was finally retired in 2010. He was registered for breeding and covered the occasional mare but last September began training for Equestrianism.

2009: Sangseung Ilro [Concept Win – Ms. Whiskey (Whiskey Wisdom)] – The first of two superstar winners, she was a 16/1 outsider (the first and only correct tip ever given on this blog’s twitter feed!) and despite behind the scenes shenanigans with Eiki Nishimura getting jocked off in favour of Jo Sung Gon, she went on to win the Korean Derby. Long odds-on favourite for the Korea Oaks. she was caught on the line by Pang Pang and then, at 80% fitness, ran 3rd in the Minister’s Cup when trying to seal the Triple Crown. She is the only Cup Mile winner so far to go on to win the Derby. Sangseung Ilro won two more Stakes races as a 4-year-old before being retired for broodmare duties. One of the best fillies ever produced in Korea.

Sangseung Ilro and Eiki Nishimura win the KRA Cup Mile in 2009 (Pic: KRA)

Sangseung Ilro and Eiki Nishimura win the KRA Cup Mile in 2009 (Pic: KRA)

2010: Money Car [Newsprint – Pinocchio (Big Sur)] – The first of just two winners from Seoul, he came into the Cup Mile with 5 wins from 6 starts and was a dominant 11-length winner. Odds-on favourite for the Derby, he looked home and hosed a furlong out but was run down on the line by Cheonnyeon Daero. He only ran once more, his career ended by injury. Out at pasture for a few years, he was registered for breeding in 2013 and occasionally covers mares at Hyunma Farm on Jeju Island.

2011: Soseuldaemun [Meisei Opera – This Ole Way (Vigors)] – This was a 3-year-old crop that, filly Useung Touch and solid handicapper Singgereounachim aside, didn’t really live up to its early promise. Toshio Uchida, “Mr. Pink” rode 7/1 chance Soseuldaemun to a 2-length win but the colt didn’t travel well to Seoul for the Derby and, 20 kilos lighter, finished 7th. He only raced twice more, a very solid 3rd in the Gyeongnam Do-Min Ilbo was followed by a return to Seoul for the Minister’s Cup where he was last of 14. Not registered for breeding, he was retired to Myeongsin Farm on Jeju.

2012: Gyeongbudaero [Menifee – Princess Lanique (Cherokee Run)] – One of the finest Korean-bred racehorses who is only now peaking. He was Busan’s champion Juvenile in 2011 and was the 3-length winner of the Cup Mile. A month later, he finished 3rd in the Derby, just a length behind Jigeum I Sungan and was 3rd behind the same horse in the Minster’s Cup. The same year, he was also 3rd in the President’s Cup. 13 of his 29 starts have come in Stakes races and it was in 2014 where he rose to the very top of Korean racing. Having won the President’s Cup at Seoul in November, he returned to win the biggest race of all, the Grand Prix Stakes, in December. Currently the highest rated Korean bred horse.

2013: Sting Ray [Forest Camp – Straight Cash (Straight Man)] – A victory for the Korean breeding program with dam Straight Cash being a winner of the JRA Trophy in Korea. Sting Ray was the odds-on favourite for the Cup Mile and duly won by 4-lengths. He finished 6th in the Derby a month later and is still running and regularly winning money in class 1 races at Busan in races up to a mile.

2014: Cheongnyong Bisang [Volponi – Miss Alwuhush (Alwuhush)] – The 20/1 chance filly became Seoul’s second winner of the KRA Cup Mile when taking a 2-length victory last year. Another filly, Queen’s Blade, had been sent off as the odds-on favourite and she would come good a month later in the Korean Derby in Seoul with Cheongnyong Bisang back in 4th. Blighted by injury, the KRA Cup Mile winner has only run twice since the Derby and remains in training.

Final declarations for this year’s race will be made on Wednesday. A full preview of the big race is to follow.

Stallion Sharp Humor Has Passed Away

Desperately sad news from Jeju Island as Let’s Run Stud Farm has reported that one of the jewels of its breeding program, Sharp Humor, died as the result of an accident on March 18.

Sharp Humor, 2003-2015.

Sharp Humor, 2003-2015.

Aged just 12, Sharp Humor was in his 3rd breeding season in Korea, having been purchased by the Korea Racing Authority in November 2011, arriving the following February.

He covered 97 mares in 2013 and 85 in 2014, with another full book in progress this year.

Sharp Humor [Distorted Humor – Bellona (Hansel)] was a good racehorse whose full promise was thwarted by injury. As a two-year-old, he won two Stakes races at Belmont Park and there were high hopes of him as he began his three-year-old campaign in 2006. He won the G2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park before narrowly running second to the tragic Barbaro in a stretch duel in the Florida Derby at the same track.

However, upon finishing 19th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby, again behind Barbaro, he was found to have fractured a knee. He underwent surgery and managed to return to race one more time at Belmont Park, before being retired with career figures of 4 wins from 10 starts.  

Just as his potential was never truly reached on the track, regretfully neither will it be in the breeding shed. He sired plenty of winners in the USA and was sold to Korea in 2011 where he joined the rapidly improving breeding program. His two full crops have yet to make the track here with the first two-year-olds set to debut later this year.

There was very heavy rain on the island on the day of the accident. Jeju, with its rolling fields, agreeable climate and plenty of time out of the barn, is generally a pleasant posting for a stallion but a full inquiry into Sharp Humor’s death will review procedures with regard to the other valuable and high profile stallions, such as Menifee, Officer, Rock Hard Ten, Hansen and newcomer Tiz Wonderful, who stand there.

Pico Central, another expensive import, died in a paddock accident at the farm, which was previously known as the KRA Jeju Stud Farm, in February 2014.

Here’s that Florida Derby where Sharp Humor, the early front-runner, made Barbaro work all the way to the line:

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.