The first leg of the 2019 Korean Triple Crown is less than a month away with the KRA Cup Mile going to post at Busan on Sunday April 7th and with trials having been run at both Busan and Seoul this past weekend, potential contenders for that race and, further down the line, May’s Korean Derby, are starting to come into focus.
Last year’s champion juvenile King Socks is yet to make an appearance as a three-year-old and remains spelled at Jangsu Stud Farm, where he has been since winning the Breeders’ Cup at the beginning of December. In his absence, several others have been building up their credentials, including Dae Wan Ma, the filly who ran 2nd in that Breeders’ Cup race and who toughed out a gutsy victory in the Listed Sports Seoul Cup in the Capital on Sunday.
Winner of the Gwacheon Mayor’s Cup in October, Dae Wan Ma began her year struggling over 1700M but back down to seven-furlongs she proved too strong, getting the best of a tight three-way finish that also involved Wonderful Fly and Gaon Force. While the Oaks looks the most winnable target for Dae Wan Ma, she looks in good shape for a serious Cup Mile tilt. Wonderful Fly was just a head back in 2nd place, his first defeat on his third start, while Gaon Force is already a winner at 1700M and has plenty of promise.
Finding the distance a touch too short perhaps was Myeongpum Chukje in 4th place. He was 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup and is already a class 4 winner over 1700M, making him perhaps the furthest along of all Seoul’s contenders but never looked a true threat on Sunday. Meanwhile the fastest finisher in the field was the 5th placed Wonderful Evil, a stablemate of Dae Wan Ma in Seo In Seok’s barn. He is yet to truly convince though.
Last year, the winner of Busan’s Listed Gyeongnam Shinmun Cup, Divide Wind, went on to claim the Cup Mile too. This year it was always set to be an open affair with seven of the eleven runners starting at single digit odds on the local tote. Ultimately, on a soaking wet track, few clues were offered although the manner of Yeonggwangui Secret’s victory puts him right in the Classic frame. A 7/1 chance, he came home late and wide under big-race jockey Lim Sung-sil to win by a length-and-a-half from Mighty Power. It was Yeonggwangui Secret’s fourth win in six starts.
The Bart Rice-trained Good Dancer came home in 3rd place and while a previous attempt at a mile didn’t go well, that run has put him back into the conversation. Success Party, who began the race as slight favourite, came home in 4th while the well-backed Gabo Day could only manage 7th, his three-race winning streak coming to an end. There was no joy at all for top trainer Kim Young-kwan. With King Socks away on the farm, his pair of Power Touch and Deep Mind could only manage to finish 9th and 10th respectively. However, Kim also trains Glitter, a colt who has won over a mile already and last and who one race earlier on Sunday ran 3rd over 1800M at class 3.