Park Tae Jong Trebles to Claim Jockey Title / Sangseung Ilro beaten
At the start of this year, it would have been a brave punter who suggested that it would be Baekgwang, champion three-year old of 2006 but since lost to perpetual injury, who would be bringing the curtain down on the 2009 season by running down the field in the home straight to claim a last gasp victory like he did so many times three years ago.
Yet that is what happened in the snow at Seoul Race Park this afternoon as the brilliant grey turned for home last out of eleven in the nine and a half furlong handicap. Roared on by 40,000 punters and under Park Tae Jong, another former champion about to have his crown restored, Baekgwang picked off one after another. Natural Guy, Best Fusion and Free Woody were the last to resist, but Baekgwang swept by with plenty to spare with Blue Pin, one of the year’s better three-year olds, coming through for second.
We shouldn’t even have been here today. However, a pair of cancellations – first for a Presidential funeral and then because of an iced-up track, meant that this additional weekend was necessary to complete all the races allocated for 2009. Any regrets racegoers may have had over leaving their yuletide firesides for the snowy wilds of Gwacheon were forgotten though as Baekgwang since secured his second win since his unlikely comeback and a twelfth win in total for the six-year old. Now only Nice Choice is ahead of him in the domestic ranks at Seoul. A seven-year old season is now very much on the cards.
For jockey Park Tae Jong, the jockey with the most rides and the most wins in Korean racing history, Baekgwang was just the start of a glorious late treble that saw him wrap-up the jockeys’ championship by a surprisingly comfortable margin.
2008 Champion Moon Se Young had done his best to upstage the veteran Park early on. Moon, making up for lost time after a frustrating three month lay-off went about business with a vengeance, landing five of the first seven races. In doing so, he made Park’s lead over Cho Kyoung Ho – three going into today – almost unassailable (although Cho had taken race 2 to narrow the gap).
From race 9 onwards, it was all about Park. This is a jockey who already has an exhibit in the KRA’s racing museum dedicated to him as well as a plaque commemorating his becoming the first jockey to ride 1000 winners in Korea. That was five years ago and he’s well over 1500 now.
After Baekgwang, Park took Obaek Yechan to a commanding five length victory in race 10 and then closed out the season with an easy win on two year old Money Car – the colt breezing away from a hopelessly outclassed field to win by fifteen lengths. It’s four out of five for Money Car [Newsprint – Pinocchio (Big Sur)] and he may have a big part to play in 2010.
As 2009 wrapped up at Seoul, however, it was all about Baekgwang.
Class 1 Handicap (Domestic) – Seoul Race Park – 1900M – Dec 27, 2009
1. Baekgwang (KOR) [The Groom Is Red – Grey Crest (Gold Crest)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.4, 1.0
2. Blue Pin (KOR) [Lion Heart – Telegraph Road (Royal Academy)] – Cho Kyoung Ho – 1.4
3. Free Woody (KOR) [Social Charter – Choiseonbong (Imperial Prince)] – Lee Joon Chel – 1.8
Distances: 1.75 lengths/0.75 lengths – 11 ran
Busan Race Park also had a catch-up meeting and the eagerly awaited return to the track of Derby winner Sangseung Ilro was the main attraction. Off the track since her third place in the Minister’s Cup at Seoul in October, the filly was sent off the odds-on favourite but failed to fire in the home straight, eventually finishing fourth behind outsider Segye Jepae. 2008 Derby winner Ebony Storm was never involved, trailing home last but one.