Winner’s Man eased away from his rivals and casually wrote his name into Korean racing lore at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon as in winning the President’s Cup (2000M KOR-G1) in emphatic fashion, he became the first horse ever to win four different Group 1 races in the country. He also became the highest earning Korean racehorse in history.
Winner's Man and Seo Seung-un, picture Korea Racing Authority
The so-called Grand Slam is an almost impossible task. To begin with a horse must win a Korean Derby – and of course they only get one crack at that. They must also win a Korea Cup (or a Korea Sprint; nobody is requiring both) where they will most likely need to overcome strong overseas opposition, and they must also conquer the stamina-sapping Grand Prix Stakes with the grueling Seoul sand making the 2300M in sub-zero December equivalent to significantly further on less demanding surfaces.
The President’s Cup, restricted to Korean-bred horses (foreign bred horses can’t win a Grand Slam no matter what they do) and, unlike the Derby, with horses able to run in it for as long as they are racing, and in temperate mid-November is arguably the easiest of the four to win. Triple Nine did it four times. But he didn’t win a Derby or Korea Cup. Winner’s Man has won both, as well as a Grand Prix Stakes.
Last year he could only manage 3rd but this time around it was easy for Winner’s Man in the President’s Cup. While Minister’s Cup runner up Speed Young set the early pace along with Jeongmun Sai and Derby-winner Global Hit, jockey Seo Seung-un eased Winner’s Man into a position midfield and one off the fence, keeping out of trouble but always within striking distance. As the field rounded the final turn, Winner’s Man moved ever closer and once they straightened up, Seo pulled the trigger, and the result was a foregone conclusion.
The margin on the line was seven-lengths to Global Hit in 2nd and Speed Young in 3rd. 2022 winner Simjangui Godong was gallant as ever in 4th while the mare Eodigana pulled off a super run to come from well off the pace and finish 5th.
“I need to thank all the staff of our stable” winning trainer Choi Ki-hong told in house broadcaster KRBC. “They have worked so hard to prepare Winner’s Man for this and it is a great honour for him to win this title. At the start he settled back, which was no problem, as he had experienced a lot of sand in the KRA Cup Classic and then when he improved around the 3rd corner, I was very confident.”
“I was sorry to his fans that we couldn’t win this race last year, so I am relieved and thankful we did it today.” As for what is next for Winner’s Man: “We go back home, and we prepare for the Grand Prix.”
“I am finally able to relax a bit” quipped Seo Seung-un to KRBC after piloting Winner’s Man into history. “I felt pressure going into the race, but it was on behalf of the horse, not myself, because of what he deserves, but fortunately we did him justice.”
“He has won everything now, except for the Korea Sprint, and he has won more prize money than any other horse (in Korea). But he still has a lot of potential for more so I will work hard with him, and we will prepare for next month.”
Winner’s Man’s winning time was the quickest of any President’s Cup to date. He is only five years old but has now overtaken Triple Nine as the highest earning Korean racehorse of all time. By Musket Man and out of the Volponi mare Winner’s Marine, he has now won seventeen of twenty-seven starts.
A Grand Slam isn’t out of the question for Global Hit. No Derby winner has won the President’s Cup in the same year – the three-year-old winners of the race have all tended to be slightly later developers – but Global Hit, if he stays sound, looks to be the type that can have a big four-year-old campaign and beyond. For him the Korea Cup – with top line Japanese horses now targeting the race – will probably prove the toughest ask. Speed Young, a stablemate of Global Hit and another three-year-old, can’t win a Grand Slam, but he has every chance of returning to this race next year as well as targeting the Grand Prix and Korea Cup.
As suspected, the President’s Cup proved a race too far after a demanding campaign for the Triple Tiara winner Jeulgeounyeojeong. The filly is already a star and can be a multi-year talent with connections surely opting out of putting her through a Grand Prix next month. Defending champion Raon First faded after being close to the early pace but another mare, Eodigana, sent off in excess of 160/1, flew home almost as quick as Winner’s Man did in the final two furlongs, ending in 5th and may be an each-way chance in the Grand Prix.
Winner’s Man will be at the Grand Prix. And having overtaken him in terms of career prize money, he will be targeting Triple Nine’s record of five Group 1 wins (four President’s Cups and one Grand Prix in Triple Nine’s case). While the imports will be there, on today’s form and that of last month’s KRA Cup Classic, who is to stop him? The big race is at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday December 17th.