Sometimes it’s great to be wrong. Just two short weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that the great and venerable Bally Brae was spending his weekends carrying on obscene amount of weight and getting beaten by lesser horses. Yes, he’s healthy and loves to run but he deserves his retirement.
Today, still carrying top weight and against a field containing Jumong, one of Korea’s top imports and younger brother of Subsidy, the horse with whom Bally Brae shared many memorable battles some years ago, the nine-year old proved the doubters wrong by pulling off a remarkable victory.
Moon Se Young, jockey of Bally Brae in his biggest races, had opted for Jumong so it was left to Oh Kyoung Hoan to have the former Horse of the Year at the front of a pack chasing early leaders Sadae Gwangja and Summa Cum Laude. The field came together as they entered the straight and, just as his big brother did all those years ago, Jumong hooked up with Bally Brae. They weren’t alone though as they battled each other down the stretch as the whole field came together for a blanket finish in which Bally Brae just got the better of Emperor Cugat with Jumong back in third.
Bally Brae, Horse of the Year in 2006 and Grand Prix winner in 2007 scored his nineteenth victory on his forty-fourth career start. He’s been there for much of Korean racing’s recent history. His first jockey, Hong Dae You, has now been his trainer for the past three years while the late Lim Dae Gyu rode him to his first Stakes victory. Two years ago I wrote a similar article when he returned to the winners’ circle after a long drought. Few thought we’d have the privilege to see him repeat the feat in 2011.
It was a beautiful day in the Korean capital and aside from Bally Brae, there was much to get excited about. New Zealand bred gelding Daenggimeori (Handsome Ransom) finally broke his maiden at the seventh attempt as he scored a narrow victory in race 4, while there was defeat for highly rated Ruby Queen in race 8.
Ruby Queen (Badge Of Silver) came in with a record of three wins from her five starts to date and was sent off as the odds-on favourite, but she and jockey Jo In Kwen ran into an inspired ride by Kim Hae Sun of 10/1 shot Saeroungangja, who led from gate-to-wire for the victory. One horse who did live up to his billing though was Achimsarang. Suffering the same problem as fellow Broken Vow offspring Dongbanui Gangja, for the second race running, Achimsarang drifted wildly in the home straight but had enough in the tank to still win race 9 with ease.
It was an eventful afternoon and there were presentations to watch too. Last weekend, Tough Win gave trainer Shin Woo Chul his 1000th career winner. During the week he had a tree planted in his honour and today, Shin was presented with a trophy (actually several trophies) to mark his achievement – the first time a trainer has reached such a milestone in Korean racing history.
In addition to Seoul, Busan also held an eventful card and just like Seoul it was an old-timer who took the feature race. Crafty Louis (Louis Quatorze) made the first appearance of his eight-year old season and put the young pretenders firmly in their place with a convincing win in the seven furlong feature. Just like Bally Brae, it was his forty-fourth race and he is now just one win behind on eighteen.
* For obvious reasons thoughts at the track today were with the tragedy that has befallen our neighbours across the sea in Japan. Despite – and in many ways because of – the difficulties the two nations have had in their history, the links run deep. There are few in Korea who do not know someone who has been affected by this.
Racing in Japan has of course been suspended indefinitely. See this post for a report on the whereabouts and well-being of horses in Japan.