Esmeraldina

Japan’s Esmeraldina Just Too Good In Ttukseom Cup

Esmeraldina was dominant in winning the 27th Ttukseom Cup for Japan at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon. Under jockey Joe Fujii, the 4-year-old swept to a 3-length in the first leg of the 2015 Queens’ Tour.

Esmeraldina and Joe Fujii return to scale

Esmeraldina and Joe Fujii return to scale

Korean punters sent the sole Japanese raider off as the odds-on favourite. She was the quickest out of the gate to such an extent that it drew admiring gasps from the huge crowd but it would be Fly Top Queen who would quickly come across to take things up.

In the end, this set things up perfectly for Esmeraldina who when Fly Top Queen inevitably faded in the home straight, was left with a clear run for home. A burst of acceleration gave her an unassailable lead by the time they hit the furlong pole and while New York Blue valiantly tried to chase her down, she won by three lengths on the line, pulling ever further clear.

The winning time was just one tenth of a second outside El Padrino’s track record in the Asia Challenge Cup. New York Blue was 3rd that day last August, today once more chasing a visitor, she showed her sprinting class by running 2nd. Bichui Jeongsang got the best of a tight finish for 3rd.

The 27th Ttukseom Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – June 7, 2014

1. Esmeraldina (USA) [Harlan’s Holiday – Tasha’s Star (Spanish Steps)] – Kanichiro Fujii – 1.4, 1.1
2. New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] – You Hyun Myung – 2.4
3. Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 2.0
Distances: 3 lengths/5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. My Day (KOR) 5. Heba (USA) 6. Ms. Margaux (USA) 7. Halla Chukje (USA) 8. Cheonnyeon Dongan (KOR) 9. Fly Top Queen (USA) 10. Ua Deungseon (KOR) 11. Golden Lass (KOR) 12. Joy Lucky (KOR)

Esmeraldina is owned by Ms. Kazumi Yoshida, who also owned Testa Matta, who now stands at Nokwon Farm on Jeju Island. She is trained by Makoto Saito out of the Miho Training Centre.

For jockey Joe Fujii, a man who has won the Grand Prix Stakes, the Korean Derby, the Korean Oaks and the Jeju Governor’s Cup this victory today – riding a horse for a Japanese owner and Japanese trainer in Seoul – may well be one of the most significant of his career to date. After the race, he played down his role, putting all the credit on the horse. He still had to do the job though.

Fujii will leave Korea at the end of June to return to Japan and hopefully this win today will go someway to burnishing his reputation in his home country – a place he has never ridden professionally before. Fujii will ride initially in the NAR and will take the JRA exam to try to enter Japan’s elite racing circuit. He has been a true ambassador and has bounced back from both injury and accidental controversy in fine style. Today was a fitting reward.

Esmeraldina and smartly dressed travelling head lad in the winner's circle

Esmeraldina and smartly dressed travelling head lad in the winner’s circle

It was an important day. The Ttukseom Cup race was an international open race, not an invitational meaning that Esmeraldina’s connections paid their way here. There were no gala dinners (although by all accounts, the bars and restaurants of Anyang have been on high alert the past few days) and they didn’t come for the fresh air. They came for business and they came for sport. Their courage paid off.

Where does this leave Korea? Our sprinters are supposed to be our strong point and although there were no stars in the line-up today, being outclassed by a talented but by no means superstar Japanese horse is less a wake-up call than a cacophony of alarm bells.

The next big international weekend in Korea is the final weekend of August. Seoul Racecourse will host the Asia Young Guns Apprentice Jockey Challenge, the Asia Challenge Cup, which will remain an invitational race, plus two more Open races, the KRA Cup Classic and the Singapore Turf Club Trophy. Before that, Korean horses are expected at Kranji in Singapore for the Korea Cup on July 26.

Ttukseom Cup D-5: Japan’s Esmeraldina Heads 13 Left In

There are thirteen left in this coming Sunday’s Ttukseom Cup at Seoul Racecourse, the track’s first International Open race. They are headed by Japan-based Esmeraldina, who arrived in Korea last week.

Esmeraldina

Esmeraldina

Esmeraldina’s connections have shrewdly opted to give the ride to Busan-based Japanese jockey Joe Fujii, a man who has won three big Stakes races in the Korean capital before; the Grand Prix Stakes, the Korean Derby and the Jeju Governor’s Cup. The four-year-old Esmeraldina has reportedly settled into Seoul Racecourse very well.

The other Japan-based filly initially entered to run, Robe De Soie, was unable to make the trip after suffering a bleeding attack.

Four are set to travel up from Busan with Heba and New York Blue among them with the rest coming from the home track.

We will have a full preview after final declarations later in the week but in the meantime, here is a run-down of those left in with pedigree (Starts/1st/2nd/3rd) and home track:

Ttukseom Cup (KOR G3) – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M (Fillies & Mares 5yo and down) – June 7, 2015

Cheonnyeon Dongan (KOR) [Ecton Park – Honeycakes (Hennessy)] (22/10/5/3) Seoul
Ua Deungseon (KOR) [Menifee – Singgeureoun (Mr. Adorable)] (13/6/0/1) Seoul
Geumbit Hwanhui (KOR) [Peace Rules – Sincheongchun (Silent Warrior)] (16/5/3/2) Seoul
Joy Lucky (KOR) [Vicar – Proper Gun (Prosper Fager)] (16/10/1/0) Seoul
Esmeraldina (USA) [Harlan’s Holiday – Tasha’s Star (Spanish Steps)] Japan
My Day (KOR) [Touch Gold – Smart Advice (Smart Strike)] (30/11/7/4) Seoul
Bichui Jeongsang (USA) [Wildcat Heir – Persimmon Honey (Colonial Affair)] (12/5/4/0) Seoul
Heba (USA) [Peace Rules – Sue’s Temper (Temperence Hill)] (30/7/5/1) Busan
Halla Chukje (USA) [Gottcha Gold – C D Player (Montbrook)] (19/3/4/1) Seoul
Golden Lass (KOR) [Ecton Park – Golden Eagle (Big Sur)] (12/4/2/3) Busan
Fly Top Queen (USA) [Henny Hughes – Cape Discovery (Cape Town)] (15/7/1/1) Seoul
New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] (17/5/7/1) Busan
Ms. Margaux (USA) [Midnight Lute – Sixtyone Margaux (Cozzene)] (17/1/7/7) Busan

The JRA is Coming! Ttukseom Cup Attracts Two Raiders From Japan’s Premier Racing Circuit

Primary nominations were made this Friday for June’s Ttukseom Cup and the stand-out names among the 22 early entries are two Japanese-trained horses. If they run, they will be the first horses from the Japan Racing Association to run in Korea and also become the first overseas-trained horses to run in a regular Korean Open Stakes race.

Esmeraldina

Esmeraldina

Four Korean Stakes races have this year been designated as open to overseas-trained runners this year and it’s the two from Japan who have stepped up to take on the challenge.

The Ttukseom Cup, which will take place on Sunday June 7, is a 1400M race open to fillies and mares and is the first leg of the “Queens’ Tour”. US-bred Esmeraldina and Japan-bred Robe de Soie are both experienced runners in the JRA.

Esmeraldina [Harlan’s Holiday – Tasha’s Star (Spanish Steps)] is a four-year-old who has won three of her eight races to date. She won her only start as a 2-year-old at Tokyo Racecourse in November of 2013 before starting 2014 successfully with a victory at Nakayama before finishing 3rd in the Group 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue, a Japanese 1000 Guineas Trial, at Hanshin last March.

Her biggest prize was earned through victory in an NAR/JRA Exchange race at Kawasaki, the Kanto Oaks, in June with Craig Williams in the saddle. Since then she’s raced just three times without success, most recently at Nakayama on April 19 this year. Her best (and only) time recorded over the Ttukseom Cup distance of 1400M is 1:22.5 – inside El Padrino’s Seoul Racecourse track record – and was recorded on turf.

Robe de Soie

Robe de Soie

Robe de Soie [Special Week – Velvet Robe (Gone West)] is also a four-year-old. She has four wins from nine career starts. A winner on her debut at Chukyo, she went on to win the Yamaboushi Sho at Hanshin in September 2013. As a three-year-old, she was an also-ran behind Esmeraldina in the Kanto Oaks but would finish the year with back-to-back wins at Hanshin and Kyoto.

She was 7th on her most recent start at Hanshin on April 4. Her best time over 1400M is 1:23.3 on dirt. A dedicated sprinter to the all-rounder Esmeraldina, Robe de Soie comes in here with the more imposing recent form while Esmeraldina has won far more prize-money over her career. It is likely we will see some familiar jockeys riding both of them.

And it’s prize-money that they come here looking for and that is what makes this race so significant. The Korea/Japan Goodwill Cup in 2013 and last year’s Asia Challenge Cup were both invitational races meaning that the hosts picked up the bill. Win or lose, they couldn’t actually lose. In an Open race that isn’t the case and connections will be paying a substantial proportion of the costs involved in bringing their horses to the race.

The Asia Challenge Cup, which will also feature horses from Singapore and possibly Dubai, remains an invitational and on that weekend in August there will be two further races open to overseas-trained runners; the Singapore Turf Club Trophy and the KRA Cup Classic, as the internationalization program for Korean racing continues to gather momentum.

Korean connections have decided to meet the challenge head-on. In Primary nominations for the Ttukseom Cup, there were a total of 20 domestic entries; 10 from Busan and 10 from Seoul and includes most of the best fillies and mares in the country. We’ll have much more on the race over the next few weeks.