He may not be running in next week’s Korean Sprint but Gaon Champ continued his march up the one-turn ranks with an effortless win over six-furlongs (1200m) at class 2 level at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.
Gaon Champ missed the kick slightly but it scarcely mattered. Under jockey Manoel Nunes, the Ecton Park colt was quickly back on pace and comfortably left behind his flailing rivals in the home straight, the margin on the line three-lengths from runner-up Gamgyeogui Sungan although it could easily have been double.
It was only Gaon Champ’s fourth start of 2018 and only his seventh in total with injury setbacks having limited his appearances but after racking up his fifth win in such convincing fashion, class 1 is on the agenda next time. It will be more than a year until he potentially gets a crack at a Korea Sprint Crown, though.
Gaon Champ on Sunday, picture Korea Racing Authority
Saturday at Seoul saw an American import producing the stand-out performance. Pioneer Of The Nile colt Moonhak Chield was 6th of 12 behind Cheongdam Dokki in the YTN Cup in May, before finishing runner-up behind fellow up-and-comer OP Seven over 1400m in July. In Saturday’s 1800m feature, however, he landed his maiden class 1 win, coming nose-to-nose with seasoned top-level winner Gaeuli Jeonseol in the home straight before easily shaking him off to win by two-and-a-half lengths. Still with scope to improve, Moonhak Chief moved on to six wins from eleven career starts.
Or was it the standout performance of the day? In Saturday’s concluding race 12, another US import Spring Back made just his second career appearance. The 2-year-old Gemologist gelding had won his first start over 1000m in July and proceeded to romp home once more, this time at 1400m. The winning time – set in a class 3 event – was faster than all but one class 1 race at that distance this year. His next start will be watched closely.
At Busan, Sunday’s feature race was won by Captain Force. An also-ran in the final leg of the Triple Crown in Seoul in June, the Kim Young Kwan trainee returned to winning ways in style, making all over 1800m for his first class 1 victory.
Next weekend is the highlight of the Korean racing calendar, the Keeneland Korea Cup and Sprint, two big international invitational races. Ten challengers from overseas have travelled to Korea to take in the locals in this year’s events.