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.
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.
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.