Triple Nine and Cheongdam Dokki set for Seoul Grand Prix showdown

Triple Nine will bid to make it fourth-time lucky when he lines up for the 37th Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. Among a strong field of sixteen runners, he faces Cheongdam Dokki, who has bested him twice already this year, as well as Korea Cup runner-up Dolkong in the season-finale at the rarely used distance of 2300M.

Three-time President’s Cup winner Triple Nine has finished 4th, 2nd and 3rd in the last three editions yet Korea’s biggest domestic prize has eluded him up until now. The feeling is that this is his best – and possibly final chance. Cheongdam Dokki came out on top when the pair met in Busan in July’s Mayor’s Cup and then at Seoul in the KRA Cup Classic on October. However, a year ago the younger horse was odds-on favourite for this race which he led at a furious pace before weakening slightly late on as Triple Nine and two others ultimately came past.

Triple Nine, picture Korea Racing Authority

Triple Nine was the big winner from the barrier draw. Emerging from gate 2, he will be able to run his own race. The front-running Cheongdam Dokki will have to get across from gate 14 to get to his desired position on the lead and will have to get past Triple Nine’s sprinting stablemate Today to do so. He certainly has the early speed to successfully accomplish it, but at what potential cost late on? 

It would be wrong to describe this as a two-horse race though. It isn’t. Since 1997, only two betting favourites have prevailed and while real long-shot winners are rare it is a race which punters find tricky. 

Dolkong is no longshot. Possibly the most talented of the lot, an injury-plagued career has seen him restricted to ten starts of which he has won six. He’s met Cheongdam Dokki three times and has beaten him twice including when running 2nd in September’s Korea Cup. Both distance and draw are a slight concern for him, but few come in to the Grand Prix with everything in their favour. If he can run to his best – and trainer Simon Foster has shown nothing but confidence in him – he is more than capable of downing both Triple Nine and Cheongdam Dokki. 

Buhwarui Banseok ran a huge race in 5th last year and he returns once more with a likely strong late run. Up and comers Road Winner and Moonhak Chief will also have plenty of eyes on them. Most eyes though will be on Triple Nine as he seeks to cement his legacy by finally winning the biggest one of all.

Grand Prix Facts:

- Since 1997 only two betting favourites have won the race: Bally Brae in 2007 and Dongbanui Gangja in 2009 (the latter winning his second Grand Prix). Cheongdam Dokki was favourite last year and Triple Nine in 2016 – both of course were beaten. Last year’s winner Power Blade paid 13.1 in the local Korean win pool.

- Of the 16 jockeys, only three have won the race before. Oh Kyung Hwan twice in 2004 and 2017. Moon Se Young in 2007 and Lim Sung Sil in 2013. Ultra Rocket’s trainer An Byung Ki won as a jockey in 1997.

- All four current foreign trainers in Korea are represented with 6 of the 16 being trained by expats. Peter Wolsley is the only foreign trainer to win the race, with Bold Kings in 2015. Four foreign jockeys ride this year. A foreign jockey has only won once – Joe Fujii on Gamdonguibada in 2012.

- This is the first time there will be two female jockeys in the race with Kim Hye Sun riding Great King and Choi Eun Gyeong on Saengil Gippeum. It is not such good news for female horses though as this is the first year since 2010 that there are no fillies or mares taking their chance. 

- Six of the past eight runnings have been won by horses trained at Busan