Juvenile honours were handed out at both Busan and Seoul on Sunday afternoon before one of the grand old gallopers of the track took to Seoul Racecourse to produce a timely reminder that he may not be done just yet.
The inaugural Areumdaun Jilju Stakes at Busan resulted in a procession for Yeonggwanguilegend [Concord Point – Perfect Scip (Scipion)], the only runner in the race who had participated in the track’s Rookie Stakes a month earlier. Exciting from the widest gate. Djordje Perovic guided the Concord Point colt to an early lead and from then on it was a one-act affair with much of the field behind him racing greenly and immaturely, including pre-race favourite Clifton King.
On the line the winning margin was five-lengths, jockey Perovic – notching his third winner on the card – able to spend the last 20 metres posing for the still Covid-enforced sparse crowd. Besides Yeonggwanguilegend, the only two to emerge with much credit were Hwarang Best and Daeji Choice, who both closed strongly to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively.
That’s to take nothing away from Yeonggwanguilegend, as he booked his place in the Korea Breeders’ Cup on December 5th with a fine performance in a fast time. Moreover, he ran as thugh he will be able to take on far more lengthier assignments than today’s 1200M and even beyond the 1400M of the Breeders’ Cup.
At Seoul thirty minutes later, Complete Value [Girolamo – Ft. Sduction (Ft. Stockton)] made it a perfect four from four to start his career as added to his success last month in the capital’s division of the Rookie Stakes by taking out the Munhwa Ilbo Cup. While he had begun the Rookie Stakes awkwardly and then almost got caught up in traffic in the Rookie, this time jockey Lim Gi-won made sure luck – or lack of it – would not be an issue as he took Complete Value straight to the shoulder of early leader Wonpyeong Gasok.
While Wonpyeong Gasok battled on gamely, Complete Value got his nose in front at the furlong pole and ran away to a three-length win on the line. Bencal Princess, 2nd in the Rookie Stakes, came home in 3rd place. The time for the 1200M was slower than that of Yeonggwanguilegend at Busan, but faster than that of the preceding 1200M race in the capital.
If all goes to plan, they will meet at 1400M in Busan on December 5, a distance that looks like it will suit both and they will be joined most likely by plenty who skipped today’s races. For now, Yeonggwanguilegend and Complete Value lead the race to become Korea’s overall Champion Juvenile.
It wasn’t just horses at the beginning of their careers who starred on Sunday. Now seven-years-old, Cheongdam Dokki began the latest chapter of his storied career as he made his first start for his new trainer, Tony Castenheira, in Seoul’s class 1 finale over 1800M.
Cheongdam Dokki has never been straightforward. A brilliant talent but with an equally brilliant temper, even back in his juvenile days dueling with the likes of Dolkong, he was not the easiest to handle or to ride. Lining up today for the first time since June, when he finished 4th behind Jjang Kong, much of the local racing media didn’t fancy his chances, while local win-pool punters stayed loyal.
The chestnut sweated profusely on his way to the gate but once the race was underway and jockey Antonio Da Silva had taken him straight to the front, Cheongdam Dokki was strictly business as the pair controlled the race down the back and into the home straight. Looming up though was Jjang Kong and while he was only getting 5kg from Cheongdam Dokki this time compared with the 8kg when he beat him four months ago, it was clear he posed a serious threat.
Under Alan Munro, Jjang Kong chipped away at Cheongdam Dokki’s advantage through out the final two furlongs. At one point it looked inevitable that he would go past but Cheongdam Dokki and Da Silva dug deep and found enough to repel him, crossing the line a neck to the good. It was his by no means the finest of his eighteen wins, but the time was good and the manner of it encouraging.
The Grand Prix Stakes still eludes Cheongdam Dokki with him having recorded a 4th, a 2nd and a 3rd in his three attempts so far. It still remains unlikely given the amount of talent he will have to contend with, but for Castenheira and Cheongdam Dokki, a Boxing Day miracle no longer looks completely impossible.