Day: August 3, 2016

The Korean Horse That Gets Everywhere: Sgt. Reckless Awarded UK’s Dickin Medal

Late last Wednesday afternoon I arrived into London’s Liverpool Street Station and noticing that the Evening Standard is now free, picked up a copy as I headed off into the bustle for an exciting evening in the Greatest City on Earth (ok, to eat Marks & Spencer sandwiches and drink cheap wine in an overpriced hotel room in the Greatest City on Earth).


London Evening Standard – July 27th, 2016

On the second bottle glass of Prosecco and having established there is still nothing on British TV, I opened the Standard and was mildly surprised to see on page 8 the familiar black and white picture of the Korean warhorse Sgt. Reckless coming under fire in battle. It turned out that that very morning at the Korean War Memorial in London’s Victoria Embankment Gardens, Sgt. Reckless had been posthumously (she died more than 50 years ago) awarded the Dickin Medal, which is Britain’s highest honour for an animal who has served in conflict – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Her story has been told many times before, including on this site but over the past few years, it’s been told most prominently by American writer Robin Hutton, who set up the website and in 2014 published a book about the horse, which reached the New York Times Bestsellers list for its category. The Dickin Medal sounded like it would have the hand of Hutton behind it so I messaged to inquire: “Yes! I was there” came the answer “HRH Princess Alexandra presented the Dickin to the Marine Corps. attache and then a smaller one for me. It was awesome!”

Awesome is one way to describe Hutton’s dedication to this horse. A few years ago I corresponded with her during the preparation of her book and met her briefly in Seoul earlier this year. Hutton was in Korea with sculptor Jocelyn Russell, with whom she had worked to create a monument to Sgt. Reckless at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. in Quantico, Virginia. A similar monument is to be installed in the Korean county of Yeoncheon – site of the Battle for Outpost Vegas and close to the present day DMZ – and the pair had traveled to view the site and participate in a number of other Marine Corps. veterans’ functions across the peninsula and on Jeju Island. They also visited the current Seoul Racecourse – complete with its own Sgt. Reckless tribute – and also the site of the former Sinseol-dong track in downtown Seoul.

The story of Sgt. Reckless is a very American one and as such was barely known in Korea until recently. Hutton’s passion and energy for her cause has begun to change that and “Achimhai” as she was supposedly called in Korean, is gradually seeping into the public consciousness here. While that’s especially true in the small towns near the battlefields where her exploits took place – and where savvy entrepreneurs have naturally been quick to try to cash in – she’s also making more general headway. A children’s book was published (albeit one that bears little relation to the actual story) and the Korea Racing Authority runs an annual “Achimhai Memorial” race on the weekend closest to the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. A number of mainstream Korean language news outlets also covered the Quantico memorial unveiling.

The Korean media has picked up on the Dickin Medal award too (Korean) and the Sgt. Reckless story will be sure to get more coverage here when the Yeoncheon memorial is dedicated. The story would, of course, make for a good film and given the current success of domestic Korean War movie “Operation Chromite”, perhaps that is not too far away either.

At the ceremony in London for Sgt. Reckless, the medal itself was worn by Somme, a horse from the King’s Troop mounted artillery. In addition to the London Evening Standard, numerous media covered the award, including the BBCABC News and Horse & Hound.


Catching Up: Supreme Magic & Yonekura Satoshi Won The KNN Cup

I’ve been away. There are several things to catch up on, most notably developments with regard to the Korea Cup and Sprint, however, the day before I left, the big action was the second leg of the Queens Tour, the KNN Cup at Busan.


Yonekura Satoshi and Supreme Magic win the KNN Cup (Pic: KRA)

Billed as a battle between Bichui Jeongsang and New York Blue, the race was instead won by a 70/1 outsider as Supreme Magic flew home late on under a perfectly timed ride by Japanese jockey Yonekura Satoshi, to take the honours.

A full-field of sixteen contested the KNN Cup, which was run over a mile. Unusually for a big Stakes race – and a welcome change – Seoul sent a strong contingent to the race including Bichui Jeongsang, who had won the first leg of the tour, the Ttukseom Cup, in the capital in June. She would be sent off as second favourite, behind New York Blue, 3rd in the Ttukseom Cup and who fell in this race last year when expected to win.

Last year’s Korean Oaks winner Jangpung Parang would set the early pace with New York Blue handy while Bichui Jeongsang, coming out of a wide gate, went right to the back. Supreme Magic settled just a couple of spots off the back of the field. Not that many were paying too much attention to where she was.

In the home straight, Jangpung Parang was quickly done and New York Blue took things up.  It looked like this may be her year but that was to reckon without the closers. Once she found a  run, Bichui Jeongsang finished the quickest of them all, but it was too late and she only managed 5th. Instead, out of nowhere emerged Supreme Magic on the stands side to sweep past and run on for a surprisingly comprehensive two-length win.

Supreme Magic [Lookin At Lucky – Thru N’Thru (Stormy Atlantic)] was a $27,000 purchase from the June 2014 Ocala sale in Florida. A four-year-old, she finished 8th in the Ttukseom Cup but had just been promoted to class 1 following a pair of victories and a 2nd place at class 2. The win was her 5th in 14 career starts.

It was a huge win for jockey Yonekura Satoshi. The Japanese rider has had plenty of rides since starting in Korea in April but had been afforded little in the way of quality. Nevertheless, he’s managed to get 27% of his mounts home in the first three. Supreme Magic was his 9th winner at Busan and of course, his biggest so far. The 40-year-old Satoshi’s license has been extended for six months to run until the end of next January. Hopefully there are plenty more winners to come.

The KNN Cup (KOR G3) – Busan Racecourse – 1600M – July 24, 2016

1. Supreme Magic (USA) [Lookin At Lucky – Thru N’Thru (Stormy Atlantic)] – Yonekura Satoshi – 73.4, 8.5
2. New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The moon (Deputy Minister)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.2
3. Silver Wolf (AUS) [Orotorio – Ready For More (More Than Ready)] – Yoo Seung Wan – 2.6
Distances: 2 lengths / 1.75 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Who’s Perfect (USA) 5. Bichui Jeongsang (USA) 6. Ms. Margaux (USA) 7. Areumdaundonghaeng (USA) 8. Jangpung Parang (KOR) 9. Winner’s Marine (KOR) 10. Hwanggeumbitjijung (KOR) 10. Model Line (USA) 12. Bear Queen Trophy (USA) 13. Rush Running (KOR) 14. Yuseong Tiger (KOR) DNF: Balios Queen (USA)