Former Champion battled back from likely career-ending injury
It didn’t seem possible but the “White Light” could be just days away from returning to racing. Champion three year old of 2006, Baekgwang, is amongst the early entries for the SBS Cup which will be run at Seoul Race Park on Sunday July 19.
It took Baekgwang [The Groom is Red – Grey Crest (Gold Crest)] three races to break his maiden and after showing promise in the early part of his three year old season, he was beaten into third place in the 2006 Korean Derby by 85/1 outsider Baengnokjeong . Following this, he embarked on a golden late summer and autumn, landing the Munhwa Ilbo and Donga Ilbo Cups in quick succession before going to claim the Minister’s Cup, the final leg of the Triple Crown, in October that year.
His form would continue into 2007 in which he won his first four outings. With his distinctive light grey coat and his come from behind running style, which made for some thrilling finishes, he was a firm favourite of the racing public – even if his tendency to lay-in in the home straight was maddening for some punters. With J.S. Hold dominating the three year old ranks that year a likely season ending showdown between the two in the 2007 Grand Prix, looked set to be Korean racing’s most hotly anticipated race in history.
Neither of them would make it there. An already less than fully fit J.S. Hold would suffer a career ending injury in the process of making history in the Minister’s Cup by winning Korea’s first Triple Crown. Meanwhile Baekgwang suffered an injury in September that would keep him off the track until April of 2008. His return came in the Ttukseom Cup. Coming through late as ever, he hit the front with 150 metres left to run only for Namchonuijijon, a contemporary of J.S. Hold, to come through even later to pip him him on the line. After the race, it emerged Baekgwang had suffered ligament damage to his right foreleg. Automatically stood down by the stewards for a minimum one year, it seemed his career was over.
Sent to Jeju Island for recuperation, Baekgwang underwent a series of reportedly pioneering operations and, to the surprise of many, returned to his box at Seoul Race Park earlier this year. He began working out in May and, on June 12, breezed through an official race trial over five furlongs and was given the all clear to race again. Baekgwang now finds himself entered in the SBS Cup, a race won by his little sister Baekpa last year.
If he makes it to the starting gate, he is once again likely to find himself once again alongside Namchonuijijon as well as Natural Nine and Sports Chosun winner Wangson. For race fans, whether he wins or loses, seeing a fit Baekgwang once again is going to raise smiles and bring back memories. All will hope he comes back to the barn safely this time. We’ll have a full preview of the SBS Cup – with or without Baekgwang – on Thursday next week. In the meantime, here is Baekgwang’s biggest victory, the 2006 Minister’s Cup: