It was billed as the Big New Year’s Match Race. In the absence of Stakes action this weekend, another showdown between Double Grand Prix Champion Dongbanui Gangja and Busan Metropolitan and KRA Cup Classic winner Tough Win was set up to send racing fans into the Lunar New Year holiday feeling satisfied. However, Baekjeonmupae didn’t accept that he was there to simply make up the numbers and soundly defeated the pair of them in the feature event at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.
There were clues that the two stars may not necessarily have it all their own way. Dongbanui Gangja had run wide in his last few outings and, despite being equipped with a set of pacifiers for the first time, it was a brave punter who expected him to give Choi Bum Hyun an easy ride. As for Tough Win, while he could be forgiven for not staying the distance in the Grand Prix last December, his laboured win in the Busan Metropolitan suggested that he wouldn’t have it all his own way over ten furlongs.
So it proved to be. Cho Kyoung Ho gunned Tough Win out of the stalls and into an early lead. He stretched away from the field to the tune of five lengths in the back straight and looked in fine shape as they turned for home.
On the contrary, Choi Bum Hyun on Dongbanui Gangja looked to have given himself far too much to do having not made his customary charge round the field as they exited the back straight. All the while, Park Tae Jong was sitting poised on Baekjeonmupae in second place.
As the sprint got going, Tough Win had the rail while Baekeonmupae came down the centre. For a long while it looked as though Tough Win was going to hold on but, thirty metres from the line Baekjeonmupae drew level and a tired Tough Win succumbed to the second defeat of his career. Dongbanui Gangja, labouring under 61 kilos of weight, rallied well to finish fourth – a good sign for those who feared that his talent, along with his discipline, had gone.
As for New Zealand bred Baekjeonmupae [Traditionally – Star Sixty Seven (Phone Trick)], he started as the 7/1 favourite and recorded his eleventh win from thirty-eight starts.
In other races, 2010’s champion two-year old Sun Hero made his second appearance of the season. And, having disappointed in his first outing earlier in the month, he made no mistake in race 8 over the Derby distance of nine furlongs. Just like Tough Win, however, he was struggling towards the end and will have to improve if he is to feature in the Classic hunt later this year.
Down at Busan, there was a six race card, the highlight of which saw young Aussie colt Wanggol (Jet Spur) look for his seventh win in ten starts. It wasn’t to be. Four year old Hudson River Line (Not For Love), who won four of his first five starts but had only one twice in ten subsequent starts, dominated proceedings as he took a two length win from old-stager Admiral Reigart.
So that’s it for two weeks as next weekend racing takes a break for the Lunar New Year holiday. Very welcome the break is too as we leave a January in which not a single day has recorded a temperature above 0C. Hopefully by the time we reconvene in a fortnight’s time, horses, jockeys and punters alike, will find a much more agreeable climate.
Today, however, we saw our champion – our reigning Horse of the Year – humbled. He’ll be back and all Tough Win’s defeat really does is open up the question of just who it is who is going to take that crown this year. In our wonderful sport, there is always something to look forward to.