Watts Village, who became the first Korea-trained horse to win a race overseas, died late last month.
The 5-year-old passed away of a neurological disease just days before the Asia Challenge Cup, a race in which he had been expected to run.
Watts Village [Forestry – Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)] was a $20,000 purchase from the 2012 Ocala Spring sale of two-year-olds in training and arrived in Korea in June of that year.
He debuted in August of that year with a victory and would also win his next three starts, including the TJK Trophy in November. He wouldn’t win again until July 2013 and then went on to finish 2nd behind Tosen Archer in the Korea-Japan Goodwill Trophy in September.
He then won a quick race over six-furlongs in October which encouraged connections to take their chance in the Interaction Cup at Ohi Racecourse in Tokyo on November 26. While most Korean hopes were pinned on Fly Top Queen, the most expensive horse ever imported to the country and at that time, still unbeaten, a Korean win seemed unlikely.
However, under jockey Seo Seung Un, Watts Village was gunned out of the gate and into an early lead. He would not give it up. Although the field came back to him, he just managed to hold on, sparking raucous celebrations among the visiting Korean contingent and securing his place in Korean racing folklore.
There was a feeling among some close to the horse that his exertions in Japan had taken a lot out of him and despite having been invited to race in Dubai the following spring, connections declined and kept him at home. Indeed, he only raced five times in 2014, with a solitary victory.
Given another lengthy spell, he came back for a tilt at this year’s Asia Challenge Cup, which would be run over his favoured six furlongs. After an encouraging 2nd place on his re-appearance after six months off, he easily won the Munhwa Ilbo Cup in July, Seoul’s official trial for the Challenge Cup. Sadly that turned out to be his final race.
Watts Village ran a total of 19 times with 8 wins, 5 seconds and 2 thirds.