Korea's Choegang Schiller captures Challenge Cup at Seoul; Japan's Kogyo Douglas finishes fifth
On Sunday, Aug. 30, Seoul Racecourse hosted the second Asia Challenge Cup, an international invitational with participants from Korea, Japan’s municipal racing authority the NAR and Singapore. Two runners from Ohi Racecourse in Tokyo and three from Singapore joined six Korea-based horses for the sprint (reduced by a furlong this year to 1,200 meters) over the Seoul sand track.
Last year saw the first-place prize money go to Singapore’s El Padrino, but this year the lion’s share stayed at home as Choegang Schiller, a 4-year-old gelding based at Seoul ruled supreme in topping the field by 2 lengths.
The 23-year-old Lee Chan Ho took Choegang Schiller neatly in to the rail from the No. 5 gate and held him in third position. Reaching the top of the field from 300 meters out, he widened his lead steadily until the finish line for an easy win that had Lee standing in the stirrups with his arm raised in triumph when he was still three strides out.
The American-bred son of Artie Schiller, trained by Ji Young Hun, improved his already stellar record to seven wins in 13 starts. Choegang Schiller has finished out of the top three spots in only three of his races to date. He carried 57 kg and covered the 1,200 meters of sand in a time of 1 minute 11.0 seconds. The victory was worth 220 million Korean won (approx. 22 million yen) and upped Choegang Schiller’s earnings to nearly 540 million won.
The New Zealand-bred El Padrino returned to Korea defend his title and went to the gate the favorite with odds of 1.2 to 1 despite his recent form. He fell just short of fans’ expectations with an albeit impressive second-place finish, his best result in four starts. Also carrying 57 kg, the 7-year-old gelding broke from the No. 2 gate and was taken wide around the final turn in midfield by rider Oscar Chavez, then rallied with a clear run and closed steadily with huge strides on the front-running Choegang Schiller. El Padrino needed just a bit more ground, however, and finished 2 lengths behind the winner.
Over the line in third place and helped by a 2-kg weight allowance was the 3-year-old colt Cheon Gu, ridden by Yoo Seung-Wan. Sired by Old Fashioned, Cheon Gu has yet to finish out of the money in his seven runs to date. The Challenge Cup was his second third, in addition to his four wins and a second.
Korea’s Gabo Myeon Gun, a 3-year-old colt foaled in the U.S. finished in fourth place 3 lengths behind Cheon Gu.
The better performance from Japan’s two runners was given by Kogyo Douglas, who broke from the No. 7 gate. Takehiro Kashiwagi moved the Hiroyuki Matsuura-trained 8-year-old in toward the rail and rounded into the straight just behind Taisei Legend, whom Ohi’s Fumio Matoba was struggling to urge on. Kogyo Douglas slipped up the inside on the rail about 10 lengths off the front and spurted forward at the 300-meter mark. He gained on the front runners as the pace heightened and managed to reach the line in fifth place about 7 lengths off the winner. The 8-year-old Taisei Legend, who had gone to the gate with win odds of 14.2 to 1 as opposed to Kogyo Douglas’s 17.7 to 1, crossed the line a full 3.4 seconds after the winner in ninth place among the field of 11.
Singapore’s other two runners, Valevole and the race third choice Happy Home disappointed, finishing in eighth and 10th place, respectively.
Seoul Racecourse was converted in 1989 from Korea’s Equestrian Park built for the 1988 Summer Olympics. The left-handed track has two sand tracks, both 25 meters wide. The outer track has a circumference of 1,800 meters, the inner track 1,600 meters. The homestretch measures 450 meters in length and 30 meters across.Japan’s local runners will compete again against Korean invitees later this year, when Ohi Racecourse stages the bilateral Interaction Cup on Tuesday, Oct. 13. In last year’s Cup, which saw the participation of three runners from Korea on Nov. 11, NAR horses from Funabashi, Urawa and Ohi racecourses swept the top eight places.
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