A small piece of racing and breeding history was created when the Korean-bred and –trained gelding Main Stay won a six-furlong handicap on dirt at Meydan in January. Main Stay was the first Korean horse to win in Dubai just a year after the emerging racing nation had its first couple of runners at the Carnival.
In 2015, the US-bred Cheongu (by Unbridled’s Song’s now Korean-based son Old Fashioned) and Success Story, a home-grown son of triple US Grade 1 winner Peace Rules, became Korea’s first runners in Dubai. The latter finished third in California Chrome’s prep race for the Dubai World Cup.
Success Story’s dam Power Pack, a winner of four races in the States and placed in minor stakes company, was sold for $15,000 as a four-year-old in foal to Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo. Exported to Korea, the foal Power Pack was carrying later won there, and in due course Success Story became her third winner from as many foals.
Four-year-old Main Stay was also foaled in Korea after being conceived in the USA where his dam No Bull Baby was covered by King’s Bishop Stakes winner Tale of The Cat before being sold for $32,000 and then exported. No Bull Baby competed exclusively in stakes company after a winning debut at two at Del Mar. Trained by Bob Baffert, she went on to win the listed Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood before finishing fourth in the Hollywood Starlet, while at three she ran second to Sharp Lisa (Grade 1 winner in the Las Virgenes Stakes next time) in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita and ended her career with another listed win in the Santa Paula Stakes at the same track from the future Test Stakes winner Leave Me Alone.
No Bull Baby (by Santa Anita Derby winner Indian Charlie) was ten at the time of her export to Korea after something of a patchy record at stud during which time she had produced minor winners by Candy Ride and Vindication, while she left behind a third winner, by El Corredor, after her departure to the Far East.
Besides No Bull Baby’s own stakes record, her dam Slumgullion was a minor stakes winner, while her full brother Indian Country had placed in a Grade 1 sprint, finishing third in the Ancient Title Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Santa Anita.
No Bull Baby, incidentally, is a descendant of the remarkably prolific broodmare Bold Bikini who is her fourth dam. She bred no fewer than twenty foals (the first nineteen in consecutive years!), chief among them a colt by Alleged who fetched $2.7m as a yearling and, named Law Society, went on to win the Irish Derby.
Main Stay has won nine of his 16 races in Korea, all of them at Busan (one win at a mile, the rest at six or seven furlongs), and ended 2016 winning four of his last five starts.
His trainer Kim Young Kwan is responsible for four of the five Korean horses sent to run at this year’s Dubai Carnival, including Seoul Bullet (another son of Peace Rules) who finished fourth in Main Stay’s race. He actually began his racing career with four starts in maiden claimers at Gulfstream before being shipped to Korea.
Pick of his stable’s quartet, though is Triple Nine, who finished second in a mile and a quarter handicap on the same day as Main Stay’s win. Triple Nine’s handicap mark in Dubai for that race was 105, 10 lb higher than Main Stay’s, reflecting his status as Korea’s reigning Horse of the Year.
Triple Nine is a son of the Super Derby winner Ecton Park who has been at stud in Korea since 2009, while his dam A Little Poke is a twice-raced half-sister to Lemon Drop Mom who was Grade 1 placed in the Personal Ensign and Beldame Stakes. Triple Nine has a career record in Korea of 11 wins from 20 starts and late in the year won the President’s Cup at Seoul for the second year running from stable-companion Power Blade (2016 Triple Crown winner, by Kentucky Derby runner-up Menifee) with Success Story third.
The Dubai Carnival wasn’t Triple Nine’s first encounter with international opposition as he had already met overseas rivals back home in the first running of the Korea Cup at Seoul in September 2016. Triple Nine and Power Blade fared best of the home team in the nine-furlong contest in third and fourth behind the Japanese pair Chrysolite and Kurino Star O, while French-trained Famous Mark completed the first five.
As is probably evident by now, American imported stallions dominate Korea’s leading sires tables. Menifee topped the standings again in 2016, with Triple Nine’s sire Ecton Park third and Peace Rules fifth. Besides being represented by Power Blade, Menifee was helped by having more runners than any other sire and was one of only three sires with more than a hundred runners. Another was runner-up Forest Camp (a son of Deputy Minister) who won the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity.
Menifee has been champion sire in Korea every year since 2012 after standing his first season at stud there in 2007. Besides finishing second in the Kentucky Derby (and Preakness Stakes, beaten both times by Charismatic), Menifee gained Grade 1 wins in the Blue Grass Stakes and Haskell Invitational, while on his final start he finished second in the Super Derby won by fellow import to Korea Ecton Park.