Subsidy, Grand Prix winner and Horse Of The Year in Korea in 2005 has been officially retired at the age of 10, his owners confirmed at the weekend. One of the final foals by the late Mr. Prospector, Subsidy [Mr. Prospector – Foreign Aid (Danzig)] was born on March 29, 2000, nine months after the death of his illustrious sire.
Subsidy was a late arrival to Korea, not being imported until the age of four. These days, the only horses older than two who arrive here are for breeding purposes and it is almost unheard of for a new arrival to have racing experience. Subsidy, however, was a veteran of 14 races in the US.
He made his debut as a two-year old on November 11, 2002 over 6 furlongs at a sloppy Delaware Park, finishing an encouraging second. He made one more appearance as a two-year old at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York but was a disappointing eighth. Reappearing at Pimlico the following spring, he ran second again. After a couple more outings back at Delaware Park, he was taken to Monmouth, where he scored his first – and only – victory on US soil in a 6 furlong allowance race on July 12, 2003.
At the end of his three-year old season he was sold to Korea. His US racing record was 14 runs with 1 win, 4 seconds and 1 third. In total he won $51,000. Four months after his last US appearance – a claiming race at Philadelphia Park between Christmas and New Year – he debuted in Korea on April 3, 2004 winning at seven furlongs with ease. He did enough throughout the remainder of his four-year old campaign to merit an invite to the season ending Grand Prix in December. It didn’t quite go to plan as he finished sixth. However, he was not done with this race.
2005 was Subsidy’s year. He won the Owner’s Trophy in April and, despite suffering a surprise defeat to Value Play in the KRA Chairman’s Cup the following month, harvested big handicaps throughout the summer and autumn and headed into the Grand Prix as favourite. He didn’t disappoint. Hitting the front as the field turned for home, Subsidy stretched away for a three length win, taking Korean racing’s biggest prize as well as the Horse of the Year award.
By 2006, Bally Brae was on the scene. A year younger than Subsidy, the pair would spend the next three years battling it out in big handicaps. Their connections could have avoided each other in all but the very biggest races but they would regularly meet. In the Grand Prix of that year, neither would win as Flying Cat took the honours with Bally Brae in second and an out-of-sorts Subsidy back in fourth. Only running five times in 2006, Subsidy still picked up three wins. It was Bally Brae though who picked up Horse of the Year.
In early 2007, Subsidy and Bally Brae had their most memorable battle as, despite giving the rest of the field an almost ten-kilo weight advantage, they engaged in a private duel over the last four furlongs, battling each other right up until the line. Subsidy came out on top that day in a race that, given the fondness for both of these horses, will always be special for Korean racing lovers.
However, later that year, Bally Brae would get his own back as he dominated the Grand Prix, beating Subsidy into second by place by four lengths. That Grand Prix goes down as one of the great “what might have beens” for Korean racing. 2007 was the year of J.S. Hold, but the three-year-old Triple Crown winner had already run his last race by the time the Grand Prix came around. Likewise the “white light”, Baekgwang, another star domestic-bred horse was also injured. No-one will ever know if either could have beaten Bally Brae and Subsidy, the two dominant horses of their generation.
By 2008, it was clear that Subsidy’s star was waning. He still managed three wins but, faced with a restrictive weight to carry in the big handicaps, things were getting more difficult. Subsidy’s last win came on September 7, 2008. Second in that race was Dongbanui Gangja. The margin was a nose. By the time of the Grand Prix later that year, Dongbanui Gangja was established as top horse on the peninsula.
Subsidy continued to run sporadically – and finish in the money until what has now been confirmed as his last race, the 2009 Owner’s Trophy. Dongbanui Gangja won that day with Subsidy finishing sixth. Old rival Bally Brae wasn’t there – they had said their goodbyes the previous month as Bally Brae comfortably beat him in a Saturday handicap.
He wasn’t officially retired then. Always sensibly campaigned, his owners had said that so long as he could be competitive and safe, he would run again. In July 2010, he took part in a Friday morning race trial and won easily, re-qualifying him for the real thing. The real return never happened though. Subsidy will be retired to a private farm. One of those few horses in Korea known by name rather than number, the gelding who went from being a mid-week claimer at Philadelphia Park to winning a Grand Prix in front of 80,000 passionate punters and amassing over $1Million in prize money, has earned his retirement.