Tough Win reached another milestone in his remarkable career at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday as the 8-year-old broke the 2 Billion Won mark in career prize money.
After spending much of 2014 on the sidelines, Tough Win roared back to form last month with an against the odds win in a big handicap. It was his first visit to the winner’s circle since his second triumph in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy in the summer of 2013. He didn’t have to wait long for a repeat.
Despite carrying top weight of 59kg and despite being up against rising-star Haemaru, who came into the race off the back of six consecutive victories, punters made Tough Win the favourite for Saturday’s feature class 1 event over 1800M.
And it was vintage Tough Win. With Cho Kyoung Ho having retired, it was yet another new jockey on board him for the first time. Lee Sang Hyeok had the honours and he took the 2011 Grand Prix Stakes winner right to the back as the exited the gate, giving the rest of the field a full ten lengths head start.
Tough Win likes it that way. Although they closed the gap a little, Tough Win remained last as they entered the home straight, going wide around the field to find his run. Once they did, the race was over. He hit the front a furlong out and eased home comfortably for a three-length victory ahead of outsider Double Shining. Haemaru was 3rd.
It was a 24th career victory for Tough Win (Yonaguska) on his 37th start. While cynics will, with some justification, point to a lack of strong competition at class 1 at Seoul right now giving him this window to return to the top (and it is undoubtedly weaker than it was when he was battling it out with the likes of Dongbanui Gangja four years ago) – his achievement is still noteworthy.
It is very hard for an imported colt (or gelding as Tough Win is) to amass such an amount of prize money. Korean bred horses have the Triple Crown races and the President’s Cup while the best imported fillies such as Gamdonguibada can harvest the lucrative Queens’ Tour events. Tough Win has always had to do it the tough way.
Now we know that win in January wasn’t a fluke, the question is whether he can maintain it in the long season ahead. Principally, can he keep it up long enough to go to Busan to take on the current set of big boys in the summer for a tilt at a 3rd Mayor’s Cup?