Triple Nine will be seeking to enter the history books at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday as the three-time President’s Cup (KOR G1) winner, bids to add an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory in the top Group 1 race for Korean-bred horses.
Last year, Triple Nine equaled the great Dangdae Bulpae’s record of the consecutive President’s Cup victories which were achieved between 2010 and 2012. Unlike Dangdae Bulpae, who was retired after an unsuccessful tilt at the 2013 edition, the Kim Young-kwan-trained six-year-old will be a firm favourite to write his name into Korean racing folklore.
As a three-year-old in 2015, Triple Nine missed out in the Triple Crown races, running 2nd to Yeongcheon Ace in the Derby and to Rock Band in the Minister’s Cup. He put that right in the President’s Cup, however, stalking the early leaders before running on to score by an easy three-lengths.
A year later, in 2016, he downed stablemate and Triple Crown winner Power Blade by the same three-length margin before both he and the younger colt embarked on a successful trip to the Dubai World Cup Carnival where they both placed in Group company.
By the time of the 2017 edition, Power Blade had started to get the upper hand on Triple Nine but that meant little when they faced off once more at Seoul in November as Triple Nine came alongside his rival a furlong out and breezed past him to complete his hat-trick.
There’s no Power Blade this time, the five-year-old having been retired in the summer after a track-work injury. Instead, Triple Nine faces a full field of fifteen rivals featuring plenty of danger. He’s drawn well in gate 2 and he should beat them.
Cheonji Storm has actually beaten Triple Nine, finishing 2nd to his 3rd as they both chased home Cheongdam Dokki in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July. Triple Nine didn’t look 100% that day but still finished off very well and with him looking back to his best when 2nd to Cheongdam Dokki (who is ineligible here) in last month’s KRA Cup Classic, he can see him off this time.
As ever, trainer Kim enters double-handed and he brings a Derby winner. That’s Ecton Blade who won the big three-year-old Classic in May before running 3rd in the Minister’s Cup at this distance a month later. He’ll be competitive but the ashen look on jockey Franco Da Silva’s face when he pulled out gate number 14 told its own story. Minister’s Cup winner, World Sun takes his chance as well. He’s proven at the distance and should be a factor too.
There is also a hint of the unknown with the presence of Gangtoma, a winner of nine from six so far and who enters the elite level for the first time. Surely Triple Nine is too much too soon. Not even his own brother is likely to stop him. Lion Rock is a four-year-old “full” brother to Triple Nine and has five wins from eleven. He was beaten by Gangtoma last time out though and probably won’t reverse that form here.
The race is likely to see early pace set by Master Win and Gasokbulpae while Ecton Blade will be looking to be prominent if possible from that wide draw. Meanwhile World Sun and Stealth will most likely go to the rear and look to close. That should leave Triple Nine and Cheonji Storm just behind the early speed. If Triple Nine, under jockey Lim Sung-sil, who has ridden him in two of his three prior victories, is close heading into the straight, we should be looking at one of the great moments in Korean racing history.
Triple Nine, picture Korea Racing Authority