Seoul trainer An Byung-ki will saddle up his star sprinter Gaon Champ in the Listed Segye Ilbo Cup at Seoul on Sunday.
The colt has been given four months away from the track after his impressive third behind Blue Chipper in last September’s Keeneland Korea Sprint. The now five-year-old lined up for just four race starts in 2019, winning the Busan Ilbo Cup and SBS Sports Sprint, both at Korean Group Three level.
His other runs included a fourth behind Silver Wolf in the SROA Chairman’s Cup as well as the placing in the international sprint feature. In total he’s made thirteen race starts yielding nine wins, with all victories between 1000M and 1400M and the son of Ecton Park has established himself as the best Korean-bred sprinter currently racing.
Sunday’s race will see the bay line up over 1200M in a field of fourteen Korean-bred gallopers. Gaon Champ will likely open up as favourite in the Segye Ilbo Cup, with the race being at set weights and limited to Korean-breds only.
Gaon Champ has drawn perfectly to assist his chances, with the five-year-old to jump from barrier three.
The sprinter led in all four of his races last year and from the inner draw he is likely to work forward for Lim Gi-won, who has established a good relationship with the horse.
Gaon Champ, picture Korea Racing Authority
Jockey Lim has been aboard Gain Champ at his past three starts for two wins and the placing in the Korea Sprint.
The biggest threat to Gaon Champ’s chances appears to be Dokdo Jigi, who has amassed eight wins from twelve career starts. Dokdo Jigi lined up in the President’s Cup last start, finishing an impressive second behind New Legend, going down by less than a length.
The five-year-old has had eleven weeks away from the track and will tackle the sprint feature with fresh legs. The adaptable galloper will line up over six furlongs for the first time since December 2018, with connections recently targeting middle and staying distance features.
Powerful chestnut Simjangui Godong will also line up in the feature, coming off a well-beaten performance in the Trainers’ Cup on December 22nd. He is another that has been targeted at staying features, including a third in the President’s Cup at set weights.
The Ji Yong-Cheol trained galloper has performed best when sitting on speed which appears crucial to his chances with the four-year-old yet to post a win over a distance shorter than 1300M.
Whilst the Segye Ilbo Cup is the highlight on the card, there will be plenty of interest in the performance of Shark Daejanggeun in race ten. The Bae Hou-Jun trained galloper has not started in restricted company since May and will line up over 2000M at class 2.
At his most recent effort the five-year-old hit the line strong to finish fifth in the Grand Prix Stakes behind winner Moonhak Chief. The chestnut will be partnered by Park Tae-Jong once again and he is likely to sit midfield or worse and power to the line.
The 18th running of the Segye Ilbo Cup will take place at 4.40pm Korean local time (6.40pm AEST on Sky Racing2) with Shark Daejanggeun to race at 5.30pm.