Smarty Jones

Smarty Moonhak Retired After Injury Relapse

Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones), one of the most talented and talked about horses to race in Korea in recent times, has been retired after suffering a recurrence of the tendonitis that had previously kept him off the track for over a year.

Smarty Moonhak (KRA)

Smarty Moonhak (KRA)

The 5-year-old had been spelled for a month after taking part in the Grand Prix Stakes in December but returned to Seoul Racecourse seemingly in good shape in mid-January. However, after several days of light work, swelling was noticed on January 31 and five days the return of the tendonitis was diagnosed.

Having had stem-cell treatment once already, the decision was taken to officially retire him and the horse has returned to Taepyeong Farm.

A $14,000 purchase from the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Smarty Moonhak, out of the Black Tie Affair mare Madeira M’Dear, arrived in Korea in February 2011 and after acclimatizing at Taepyeong, was sent into the care of trainer Ko Ok Bong at Seoul Racecourse.

He made his racing debut in May of that year, finishing 2nd to New Zealand import Mister Captain – a horse who would have his own very promising career cut short through injury after just three starts. Smarty Moonhak was sent off at odds of 24/1 in that race but he was the odds-on favourite by the time of his next start where he broke his maiden with a comfortable win over 6 furlongs.

Phenom: Smarty Moonhak wins the TJK Trophy as a 2-year-old (KRA)

Phenom: Smarty Moonhak wins the TJK Trophy as a 2-year-old (KRA)

He would stroll his next 3 races too, culminating in a eleven-length win in the Listed TJK Trophy at the beginning of November. Despite only being 2-years-old, he came back from that race, which was run over 1800 metres, looking as though he could have quite easily have gone round again.

It was because of this that his name was added to the ballot for the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes – a race similar to Japan’s Arima Kinen in that racing fans get to vote on which horses they want to see run in the season-ending showpiece.

Smarty Moonhak was voted in by a landslide becoming the first ever Juvenile to take part. On the day, He ran a game and valiant 3rd behind Horse of the Year Tough Win and the defending champion Mister Park. Despite not being eligible for the Triple Crown, Smarty Moonhak’s 3-year-old campaign was the most highly anticipated in years.

That campaign started as expected. Four consecutive routine wins meant that he arrived on the South coast for the Busan Mayor’s Trophy – informally known as the “Summer Grand Prix” as the overwhelming favourite.

He ran well that evening but while he was always towards the front of the field, he never looked like catching the winner, Dangdae Bulpae, who he finished two lengths adrift of in 2nd.

When he returned to Seoul, however, detailed veterinary examinations revealed that Smarty Moonhak was suffering from tendonitis in his left-foreleg. It was a very similar injury to the one that ended the career of that year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another on the eve of his bid to sweep the US Triple Crown.

The stem cell treatment process was a long one and if truth be told, few expected Smarty Moonhak to ever race again. Nevertheless, in July 2013, a year after his diagnosis, he was quietly returned to the racecourse.

It was with a different trainer – he’d been away for so long that Mr. Ko had retired in the meantime. A month later he breezed through his race-trial before making his comeback in a low-key class 1 race in early October. He finished 6th but more importantly, came through unscathed and looking sharp.

A month later, he was back in the winner’s circle, making a dashing late run to win a class 1 sprint over 6 furlongs. That was enough for him to once more be voted into the Grand Prix Stakes. In what would ultimately be his last race, he showed at the front early before fading into a mid-field finish.

Of course, with hindsight, he shouldn’t have come back at all. But almost all racing fans here will have to admit to have being delighted when he did. Now that delight is replaced with relief that he didn’t suffer an even worse injury.

Smarty Moonhak's final win (KRA)

Smarty Moonhak’s final win (KRA)

A half-brother has just been born. Smarty’s dam, Maderira M’Dear, was imported to Korea in 2012 and recently delivered a colt by Ecton Park. We will be looking out for him on the Korean Triple Crown trail in 2017. As for Smarty Moonhak himelf, he is recuperating at Taepyeong Farm before most likely becoming the resident stallion in the small breeding operation there.

Overall, he ran 14 times, winning 9 of them and won about $600,000. He also gained an overseas following by virtue of being a son of the wildly popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones. Although he may never have come close to reaching his true potential, in terms of impact, few have matched Smarty Moonhak.

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Smarty Moonhak Back Where He Belongs At Last

The fears of those of us who suspected that Smarty Moonhak would never again be competitive in the top-tier of Korean racing were allayed in fine fashion as the 4-year-old colt produced a burst of late speed to win the feature race at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

Moon Se Young is delighted with Smarty Moonhak in this screengrab from Seoul Racecourse today

Moon Se Young is delighted with Smarty Moonhak in this screengrab from Seoul Racecourse today

Making his second start since being away from the track for over a year with tendonitis, Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) was made a warm favourite for the 6-furlong event that saw up-and-comer Samjeong Bulpae make his first class 1 appearance.

The latter made the early running but the final furlong was all about Smarty Moonhak as, under Moon Se Young, the former phenom, who finished 3rd in the Grand Prix Stakes aged just 2, swept by to win by half a length from Dongbanjaui Gijeok.

It’s still early days in his return. This was by no means an especially strong class 1 event and it remains to be seen how he will take to the longer distances he will need to cover if he is to start competing for big Stakes prizes again. For now though, Smarty Moonhak is back.

Class 1 (Open) – Seoul Race Park – 1200M – November 17, 2013

1. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones – Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] – Moon Se Young – 2.9, 1.3
2. Dongbanjaui Gijeok (USA) [Half Ours – Feisty Cherokee (Cherokee Run)] – Choi Bum Hyun – 1.4
3. Dangdae Jeonseung (CAN) [Put It Back – Diamond Heirloom (Pembroke)] – Lee Sang Hyeok – 2.3

Distances: 0.5 lengths/0.5 lengths – 11 ran

Smarty Moonhak Successfully Completes Race Trial At Seoul

Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) has re-qualified for racing following 14 months on the sidelines.

The 4-year-old became the youngest ever horse to run in the Grand Prix Stakes when finishing 3rd behind Tough Win in 2011 before succombing to tendinitis, which was discovered after a disappointing run in the Busan Metropolitan Stakes last June. He subsequently underwent stem-cell treatment.

Smarty Moonhak comfortably won the very pedestrian 5-furlong trial at Seoul Race Park this morning under champion jockey Moon Se Young.

Smarty Moonhak Career In Balance After Tendonitis Diagnosis

Smarty Moonhak has been diagnosed with tendinitis. Detailed veterinary examinations after the colt was unexpectedly beaten in the Busan Metropolitan City Stakes last month revealed the three-year old to be suffering from the same debilitating injury that earlier this year brought a premature end to the US Triple Crown bid of I’ll Have Another prior to the Belmont Stakes.

Tendonitis: Smarty Moonhak with owner Ha Jun Hwan (Pic: Sports Hankook)

The tendonitis is in Smarty Moonhak’s left-foreleg and he is to undergo stem-cell treatment in order to try to heal the injury.

It’s a procedure that has been used successfully on racehorses in Korea before, most notably on Classic winner Baekgwang, who returned to racing after a lay-off of over a year after receiving the treatment on a slightly different injury. He went on to race for a further two seasons.

The treatment course is likely to take six months and trainer Ko Ok Bong told the media that he hasn’t given up hope that Smarty Moonhak can race again. However, Korea Racing Authority Animal Hospital vets who made the original diagnosis cautioned that even if the treatment is successful, the likely of a reoccurrence is high.

Three-year old Smarty Moonhak [Smarty Jones – Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] burst on the scene last year, winning the Turkey Jockey Club Cup by 10 lengths and becoming the first two-year old to ever qualify for the season-ending Grand Prix Stakes. He finished third in the 2300 metre Grand Prix and was unbeaten this year before his surprise defeat at the hands of Dangdae Bulpae in Busan last month.

He has eight wins from eleven starts and career earnings of just over half a million dollars.

The most exciting horse on the Korean peninsula, Smarty Moonhak had also earned an overseas following by virtue of being a son of the wildly popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones.

Smarty Moonhak’s career-threatening injury comes as a major blow to Korean racing which earlier this year lost 2011 Horse Of The Year Mister Park (Ecton Park) after he broke down during a race. Smarty Moonhak’s owners have assured concerned racing fans that while no effort will be spared to get their horse to race again, his post-racing future is secure.

Smarty Moonhak Strolls In The Sunshine

Smarty Moonhak went for a jog in the Spring sunshine at Seoul Race Park this afternoon and returned with his third class 1 win of 2012.

The three-year old colt was sent off the long-odds on favourite for the 2000 metre feature race and, despite carrying more than 4 kilos more than any of his rivals, led from gate to wire to score victory by five lengths.

As in his last outing race last month, Smarty Moonhak [Smarty Jones-Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] barely needed to raise a canter and jockey Moon Jung Kyun was able to remain motionless throughout what was in the end was little more than a timed workout.

Behind him, Jisanggunju (Eddington) held off KJ Khan (Squirtle Squirt) for second in what might as well have been a different race.

Since getting beaten in his first start, Smarty Moonhak has won seven races with the Grand Prix being his only defeat. He hasn’t been pushed in any of these – even in the Grand Prix, given his tender age and the distance he was running, his jockey was careful not to push him too hard.

Only Tough Win, the horse who beat Smarty Moonhak in the Grand Prix Stakes last December, is now ranked higher than him at Seoul. At Busan Mister Park, who finished second in that Grand Prix, could perhaps still give him a race. Until these three meet again though, likely to happen in the Busan Metropolitan Stakes in the summer, there is little to keep him amused in the capital.

And until they meet again, we won’t have any clue as to how good Smarty Moonhak really is. The $14,000 purchase from the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling sale has now amassed nearly 400 Million Won of prize money. If he stays sound, he could go on to break all sorts of records.

At Busan tomorrow it is the big one. The KRA Cup Mile – the “Korean 2000 Guineas” – is the first leg of the 2012 Korean Triple Crown (which is only open to Korean bred horses) and comes under orders at 3:50pm.

Immediately after the Cup Mile is the Macau Jockey Club Trophy which brings together two highly rated unbeaten imports Pure Future (Simon Pure) and Smoking Gun (Hat Trick). Could one of those two go on to challenge Smarty Moonhak later in the year? We’ll know a little more tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday April 8

Seoul Race Park: 10 races from 11:00 to 17:50
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:15 to 16:50 including the KRA Cup Mile at 15:50 and the MJC Trophy at 16:50

Too Simple For Smarty Moonhak

It was oh so simple for Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) at Seoul Racecourse this afternoon as the three-year old romped to his second easy win of 2012.

He was yawning in the paddock beforehand and, with nothing prepared to take him on as they came out of the gate for the 2000 metre feature handicap, his new jockey Moon Jung Kyun took Smarty Moonhak straight to the front.

Smarty Moonhak in the Winner's Circle at Seoul today

There they set a very pedestrian pace, slowing to almost a halt in the back straight as Moon invited the rest of the field to have a go.

No-one accepted and the favourite ultimately accelerated away in the final two furlongs to win by seven lengths without ever being challenged or allowed to extend himself, Moon not using his stick the whole way around.

It wasn’t much of a race, the others clearly hoping that if allowed to lead, an over-eager Smarty Moonhak would tire himself out early. That was never likely to happen and Jewang Tansaeng (Petionville) was left to win the race for the minor placings ahead of Ppoppai (Rockport Harbor).

It was one of the slowest ten furlongs run at Seoul for a very long time and therefore nothing more than a workout for Smarty Moonhak. Moon Jung Kyun did his job and protected his horse. He carried 59Kg and will, inevitably, go up in the handicap again. Tough Win and Dongbanui Gangja both won up to 63Kg and it seems as though this colt will do the same.

The real test is not going to come in handicaps though. Among the crowd at Seoul today was Kwak Jong Soo, owner of Mister Park. Kwak was up from Busan in order to visit the exhibition for his record-breaking horse that is currently being held at Seoul Racecourse. That exhibition has a picture of Mister Park alongside Tough Win and Smarty Moonhak, between whom he finished in the Grand Prix Stakes in December, ending his unprecedented winning streak.

Kwak and everybody else involved knows that these three must clash again although with Tough Win yet to reappear since winning the Grand Prix, it seems some way off until the right Stakes race brings them together.

It will happen though. Until then, Smarty Moonhak, possibly the most exciting talent we’ve had in Korea for years, can only beat what races against him. Hopefully next time they won’t all decide to simply race for second place.

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – Sunday March 4, 2012

1. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones-Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] – Moon Jung Kyun – 1.0, 1.0
2. Jewang Tansaeng (USA) [Petionville-Awesome Joy (Awesome Again)] – Park Tae Jong – 1.6
3. Ppoppai (USA) [Rockport Harbor-Fair And Lively (Lively One)] – Lee Gang Seo – 2.9

Distances: 7 lengths/2 lengths, 11 ran

Earlier, Jigeum I Sungan (Ingrandire) continued to burnish his classic credentials. The colt beat a competitive class 3 field over 1700 metres in race 7 by a full four lengths in a decent time. It’s only his third win from nine starts, however, unlike some of his rivals, he is showing great development each time out. Whether he ventures to Busan for the KRA Cup Mile in a month’s time or is saved for Derby remains to be seen.

At Busan there were co-feature races. US import Viva Ace (Macho Uno) upset hot favourite Jewang Tansaeng (Stromberg Carlson) in the first of these while lightly raced five-year old Quantum (Ecton Park) took victory in the second. Quantum, who missed over year with injury, now has a record of six wins from nine starts.

Too Smart By Far

Smarty Moonhak Beats Dongbanui Gangja By Ten Lengths

He announced his arrival by winning the Turkey Jockey Club Trophy before going on to stun Korean racing fans by not only becoming the first two-year old to run in the Grand Prix Stakes but managing to finish third. Today, just six weeks later, Smarty Moonhak [Smarty Jones-Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] was back in the Seoul Race Park winner’s circle.

Smarty Moonhak, with Dongbanui Gangja in the background - this was about as close as the double Grand Prix winner got to him

Despite there being thirteen horses lining up for the 2000M handicap, it was billed as a match-race. Dongbanui Gangja, the two-time Grand Prix Stakes winner and former Horse Of The Year and at seven-years-old, still a formidable contender, against the now three-year old Smarty Moonhak. In the end, it was a mismatch.

After a slow start, Dongbanui Gangja (Broken Vow-Maremaid) came around the field in the back straight to take the lead. At one point he had three lengths on the field but, rounding the home-turn, Smarty Moonhak, shrugging off some bumping like an old pro, was asked to quicken slightly and the gap closed almost immediately.

Another reminder as they entered the home straight and the young colt was away. The distance n the line was ten lengths but it could have been more had jockey Shim Seung Tae decided it was absolutely necessary.

Dongbanui Gangja held on for a comfortable second place while long-shot Wind King (Montjeu) was third.

Smarty Moonhak now moves onto five wins from seven starts and a quarter of a million dollars in the bank. His two losses came in his racecourse debut and in the Grand Prix. Where he goes from here though is open to question. If he stays sound, his handicap mark is likely to quickly rise – he carried 57Kg today – and, just like Dongbanui Gangja and Bally Brae before him, he could find himself essentially eliminated from the handicap division.

While his next couple of appearances will almost certainly be in handicaps, the main focus is going to have to be on the few Stakes and Conditions races that are open to foreign-bred horses. The Busan Metropolitan, the KRA Cup Classic and ultimately of course, the Grand Prix are the most likely targets for this year. In the course of this campaign, he will almost certainly run into Mister Park and Tough Win.

It says something about the impact he has had that just one race into his three-year old season, those two are the only rivals on the peninsula that Smarty Moonhak has unfinished business with. He is, of course, yet to meet two-time President’s Cup winner Dangdae Bulpae but this too is likely to happen. On today’s evidence, they are all likely to suffer the same fate as Dongbanui Gangja

Class 1 Handicap – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – January 28, 2012

1. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones-Madeira M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] – Shim Seung Tae – 1.3, 1.0
2. Dongbanui Gangja (USA) [Broken Vow-Maremaid (Storm Bird)] – Moon Se Young – 1.4
3. Wind King (NZ) [Montjeu-Blessing (Sir Tristram)0] – Jo In Kwen – 15.9

Distances: 10 lengths/1.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Larrycat (USA) 5. Necromancer (JPN) 6. Celebrate Tonight (USA) 7. Baekjeonmupae (NZ 8. Indian Secret (USA) 9. Out And About (USA) 10. Royal Missile (USA) 11. Mr. Loving Life (USA) 12. Yaho Cat (USA) 13. Adam One (USA)