Classic Winner One Of Many Big Names Settled Into Life In Korea
Whatever happens on the track at Churchill Downs next week, there’s a high chance that one or more of the horses taking part in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup may one day end up plying their trade as a stallion in Korea. If they do, they’ll find themselves alongside the horse who holds the record for the biggest margin of victory in the biggest race of them all; 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner Volponi.
He was an unlikely champion. As a two-year old, Volponi [Cryptoclearance-Prom Knight (Sir Harry Lewis)] had won the Pilgrim Stakes at New York’s Belmont Park and at three claimed victory in Monmouth Park’s Pegasus Stakes. Back at Belmont in June 2002 he won the Poker Stakes.
With those three Stakes wins under his belt, the now four-year old Volponi was undoubtedly a good horse but there was little to suggest he would pose much of a threat to a Classic field that included the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem as well as the punters’ favourite Medaglia d’Oro. Accordingly, Volponi was sent off at 43/1 – the longest shot on the board.
What happened next on that day at Arlington Park is well-known. War Emblem had left his racing form in the early part of the season and while showing at the front early was never a threat. Meanwhile Volponi, under Jose Santos, hit the front as they turned for home and sprinted away in the stretch to record a six and a half-length victory from Medaglia d’Oro in second and Milwaukee Brew in third. It was a stunning performance, one that set a record winning margin that is yet to be beaten, exposed a betting scam and also set the wheels in motion for Volponi’s future life.
Volponi wins the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Arlington Park
The horse would appear eight times as a five-year old in 2003, regularly placing but he couldn’t add to his win total and he was retired to Stud at the end of the year. His initial performance as a stallion was not encouraging and in 2005, an offer from the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) was accepted and Volponi was on his way to the Korean Peninsula.
Volponi is perhaps not the kind of stallion the KRA would be buying today. However, in 2005 the market was very different to the one in recent years which has allowed Korea to purchase more established producers such as Menifee, Vicar, Ecton Park and Officer. In 2005, the leading sire in Korea was by far and away Concept Win (Manila), ahead of Ft. Stockton (Cure The Blues) and Fiercely (Danzig). These had been around for quite some time along with the likes of Revere (Dancing Brave), Lost Mountain (Cox’s Ridge), Psychobabble (Caerleon) and Didyme (Dixieland Band).
With the opening of the Busan Racecourse and subsequent substantial increase in the number of thoroughbred races run in the country, new blood – literally – was needed in the Stallion ranks and a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner was hard to turn down.
Volponi’s appearance video at stud on Jeju Island
Fast forward to 2011 and Volponi has now been in Korea for six years with three crops hitting the track. In 2009, he was leading first-crop sire ahead of fellow debutants Yankee Victor (now sadly deceased) and the Japanese Biwa Shinseiki. With his first three-year olds in 2010 he finished ninth in the Leading General Sire list. Currently he is in seventh place for 2011 (there’s little to choose between Vicar, Menifee and Exploit at the top).
While Medaglia d”Oro, the horse he beat in 2002, is most famous for siring the great Rachel Alexandra, so Volponi’s greatest successes have also come with fillies. Dongbang Rose was third in the 2010 Korean Oaks and went on to win the NACF Chairman’s Stakes later that year. Meanwhile, the otherwise undistinguished Crown Flag somehow managed to score a win in the Busan Ilbo Stakes earlier this year. The cheekily named filly Special Volpony has also reached class 1 racing level.
Dongbang Rose, Volponi’s first Korean Stakes winner, wins the NACF Chairman’s Stakes
This year, the new guard of stallions have been siring the Classic winners. While little known Japanese import Meisei Opera was responsible for KRA Cup Mile (Korean Guineas) winner Soseuldeamun, the other two legs of the Triple Crown were won by Gwangyajeil (Korean Derby) and Dongseo Jeongbeol (Minister’s Cup), both by Vicar. Meanwhile Oaks winner Useung Touch is by Menifee. Exploit has the most runners of all sires in Korea right now and accordingly generates a lot of earnings.
Soon to come on stream will be runners by Ecton Park who is standing privately for Isidore Farm on Jeju Island and the KRA’s Forest Camp. Still further in the future, there is Officer and Whywhywhy to look forward to.
However, although efforts are underway to strongly promote domestic sires, we are still some way from having a successful Korean born sire. Long-term, the authorities hope the progeny of one of these new imports will be the one to make the breakthrough.
Leading General Sires in Korea 2011 (as of October 25)
Earnings in 1000 Korean Won
1. Vicar (USA) [Wild Again-Escrow Agent (El Gran Senor)] – 2,728,049
2. Menifee (USA) [Harlan-Anne Campbell (Never Bend)] – 2,716,497
3. Exploit (USA) [Storm Cat-My Turbulent Miss (My Dad George)] – 2,611,637
4. Creek Cat (USA) [Storm Cat-Vivano (Island Whirl)] – 2,588,963
5. Concept Win (USA) [Manila-Conveniently (In Reality)] – 2,180,299
6. War Zone (USA) [Danzig-Proflare (Mr. Prospector)] – 1,989,455
7. Volponi (USA) [Cryptoclearance-Prom Knight (Sir Harry Lewis)] – 1,795,548
8. Didyme (USA) [Dixieland Band-Soundings (Mr. Prospector)] – 1,604,113
9. Ft. Stockton (USA) [Cure The Blues-Tai The Devil (Tai)] – 1,458,881
10. Biwa Shinseiki (JPN) [Forty Niner-Oceana (Northern Dancer)] – 1,124,394
Volponi continues to be well visited, covering 77 mares in 2011. Although he was based at the KRA Stud Farm on Jeju Island for most of his first five years in Korea, he was moved earlier this year to the KRA’s Jangsu Farm in North Jeolla Province after his ownership transferred to the Korean Mainland Horse Breeders’ Association. He leaves behind on Jeju a horse he had met before; Hawk Wing (Woodman) was among those trailing him home at Arlington and arrived in Korea in 2008. The racing world is a small one.
Volponi’s Korean Studbook Entry – Contrary to popular belief on some internet forums, Stallions are not routinely slaughtered here – the English langauge Studbook enables anyone anywhere to track the progress of any horse in Korea.
Volponi’s Pedigree and race records at Thoroughbred Times (PDF)
Breeders’ Cup Classic 2002 Full result
* This post is part of a series of posts building up to the 2011 Breeders’ Cup by members of TURF – an International Gathering of Horse Racing Bloggers of which Horse Racing in Korea is a member.