Smarty Moonhak

Multiple Stakes Winner Tough Win Retired Aged 9

After a career spanning more than six years and featuring 24 wins and over 2 Billion Won in prize money, Tough Win has been retired. His retirement ceremony took place at Seoul Racecourse last Saturday afternoon.

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Tough Win in the winner’s circle at his retirement ceremony at Seoul Racecourse

Tough Win [Yonaguska – Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] was purchased for $12,000 at the Ocala 2-year-old sale in June 2009. and arrived in Korea the following month.

He made his racecourse debut that November, being sent off as third-favourite for a class 4 event over 1200M. He won by 16 lengths. The victories quickly piled up and Tough Win was very soon established as the hottest 3-year-old in the country. So it was in July of 2010, unbeaten in 7 starts that he traveled down to Busan to take on his toughest assignment to date, the Busan Mayor’s Cup and a showdown with Dongbanui Gangja.

Dongbanui Gangja (Broken Vow) came in following 12 consecutive wins stretching back almost two years and which included two victories in the Grand Prix Stakes. He was sent off as favourite. Tough Win sat handy early under regular jockey Cho Kyoung Ho while Dongbanui Gangja, with Moon Se Young on board for the first and only time, was away patiently. The older horse improved up to 4th as they began to straighten up and it looked like we were in for quite the finale. We were, but not the one we expected. Dongbanui Gangja spooked and ran wide, ruining his chance leaving Tough Win to get the better of a furious battle with Yeonseung Daero and Vicar Love, winning by a neck on the line.

Dongbanui Gangja’s antics meant for unfinished business between the pair and accordingly, they met again in October in the KRA Cup Classic at Seoul. Dongbanui Gangja ran well that day but lacked his usual spark, lugging 63kg around, and he finished a well beaten 2nd as Tough Win prevailed by five lengths.

So Tough Win was a perfect 9 for 9 heading into the season finale, the Grand Prix Stakes in December of 2010. Tough Win was the even-money favourite, slightly ahead of Dongbanui Gangja, who was looking for an unprecedented third consecutive triumph in the race. It was not to be for either of them as another 3-year-old, Mister Park, up from Busan, upset the favourites to record his 11th straight win on his way to what would become a record-breaking 17 consecutive victories.

Tough Win Grand Prix

Tough Win beat Mister Park and Smarty Moonhak to win the Grand Prix Stakes in 2011 (KRA)

Revenge for Tough Win on Mister Park would come a year later. 2011 started off in mixed fashion, Carrying a very high weight in handicaps, Tough Win suffered a couple of defeats – including one at the hands of a 51kg carrying Dongbanui Gangja – as well as victories before heading south to defend his Mayor’s Cup at Busan in July. It all went wrong as he engaged in an early speed battle with Dangdae Bulpae that scuppered both of their chances leaving the previous year’s runner-up Yeonseung Daero to narrowly defeat Dongbanui Gangja.

The rest of the year would be flawless, however. Three runs and three wins culminated in the Grand Prix Stakes in December when he finally ended Mister Park’s unbeaten record. The precocious 2-year-old Smarty Moonhak was 3rd.  The three of them – quickly dubbed the “Troika” by the Korean racing media – should have been competing with each other in the big races for the foreseeable future. Little is foreseeable in racing, however, and within a few short months, Mister Park’s story would end in tragedy and Smarty Moonhak would be suffering from tendinitis that he would not recover from. The rigors of racing an unrelenting schedule on a hard track took their toll, making Tough Win’s longevity even more remarkable.

He wouldn’t be able to retain the Grand Prix in 2012. finishing 5th behind the emerging filly Gamdonguibada after a year in which none of his 4 wins arrived in Stakes company. He and Smarty Moonhak did face each other in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July but Tough Win had an off-day, finishing 4th, while Dangdae Bulpae defeated Smarty Moonhak for the win.

Tough Win began 2013 in fine style though, winning three races in the Spring before travelling to Busan once more to take on the Busan Mayor’s Cup for the fourth time. It would end in triumph, as he ran away from Beolmaui Kkum and Dangdae Bulpae in the closing stages to win by nearly three lengths on the line. He followed it up with a 4th place in the SBS Korea/Japan Goodwill Cup in September but the injuries started to mount up – indeed, Tough Win’s Studbook entry lists 621 veterinary visits during his career.

Tough Win Busan Met 2013

Tough Win claiming his 2nd Busan Mayor’s Cup in 2013 (KRA)

Tough Win only ran three times in 2014, each time without success and it looked like all those hard races had caught up with him. Remarkably though at the beginning of 2015 he came back and with a new running style – dropping all the way to the back from the gate, conserving energy and then picking off his rivals in the home straight -he returned to the winner’s circle that January. He promptly came out and repeated the feat in February. Those victories – wins number 23 and 24  – would prove to be the Indian summer of his career and following six subsequent unsuccessful starts, he was finally retired. His last race was in March this year.

Maggie May’s Sword herself was imported to Korea in late 2010 although she only produced one foal who made it to the races prior to her death in May 2012.

In Mister Park’s obituary, it was noted that the lot of a gelding can be to keep on running until the injuries and general wear and tear finally take over. Unfortunately this was true in Tough Win’s case with his retirement coming perhaps a year later than it should but he bows out in good health and is to be sent for re-training as a riding horse. We will be watching carefully. Subsidy, one of the most important racehorses of the past two decades here was to be retrained too but quickly disappeared without trace after retirement. There’s no reason to suggest that will happen to Tough Win. It had better not. With his, for want of a better word, toughness, those wins and his sheer longevity, he retires as one of the greats of Korean racing.

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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.

Grand Prix Voting Results: Jigeum I Sungan, Beolmaui Kkum Top Poll

The results of the public vote for invitations to the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul Race Park on December 15 were published today.

Popular: Jigeum I Sungan

Popular: Jigeum I Sungan

Like Japan’s “Arima Kinen” the public gets to choose which horses they want to see run in the season-ending showpiece. This year 42 horses – 21 each from Seoul and Busan – were on the ballot with the top 8 from each track getting the first invites to fill the maximum field size of 16.

Connections are still under no obligation to run but it is expected that most will. 2012 Korean Derby winner Jigeum I Sungan topped the Seoul vote with Smarty Moonhak, 3rd in the race as a 2-year-old in 2011, just behind him. That year’s Grand Prix winner Tough Win was the public’s 3rd choice.

At Busan, Gukje Sinmun winner Beolmaui Kkum headed the poll with recent President’s Cup winner Indie Band in 2nd place ahead of Gyeongbudaero. 2012 Grand Prix winner Gamdonguibada was 4th in the Busan vote.

Peter Wolsley’s Governor’s cup heroine Secret Whisper is sure of a run, having come in 5th but the Aussie trainer’s other hope, Cheongchun Bulpae is missing out at the moment.

Here’s a list of the top 10 vote-getters at each track with their 2013 Stakes race wins (if any) listed:

Seoul Top 10

1. Jigeum I Sungan (KOR) – Seoul Owners’ Cup, Jeju Governor’s Cup
2. Smarty Moonhak (USA)
3. Tough Win (USA) – Busan Metropolitan Stakes
4. Mari Daemul (USA) – KRA Cup Classic
5. Indian Blue (USA) – Segye Ilbo Cup
6. Gippeun Sesang (CAN)
7. Murangae (USA)
8=. Mr. Rocky (KOR)
9=. Berongi (USA)

Busan Top 10

1. Beolmaui Kkum (USA) – Gukje Sinmun Cup
2. Indie Band (KOR) – President’s Cup, Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo Cup
3. Gyeongbudaero (KOR) – Busan Owners’ Cup
4. Gamdonguibada (USA)
5. Secret Whisper (KOR) – Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup
6. Useung Touch (KOR) – Ttukseom Cup
7. Cheonji Bulpae (AUS)
8. Lion Santa (USA)
9. Cheongchun Bulpae (KOR)
10. Nuri Choegang (USA)

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

Weekend Preview: Queens’ Tour Finale Features / Smarty Moonhak Looks For Form At Seoul

While the undoubted highlight of the weekend is the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup – click here for full preview – there’s plenty of other action going on across the weekend.

Going again: Smarty Moonhak

Going again: Smarty Moonhak

At Seoul, the main interest is Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones) making the second appearance of his comeback from a long injury lay-off.

The 4-year old goes in Sunday’s finale.

The former phenom was 6th on his return last month and, while a win may be slightly too much to ask for, an improved showing is expected over the same 6-furlong distance.

Samjeong Bulpae (Hook And Ladder), who has won 5 of his 8 starts to date and will be makingh is class 1 debut, is the most interesting of his 10 rivals.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday November 15
Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:50 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:10 to 17:40

Saturday November 16
Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 11:00 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:10

Sunday November 17
Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 11:00 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:50 to 17:00 including the Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup at 16:10

Major King Crowned Minister’s Cup Champion

Major King led from gate-to-wire to land the Minister’s Cup as the 2013 Korean Triple Crown wrapped up at Seoul Race Park this afternoon.

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is now a Classic winner

He might have fluffy ears, but Major King is now a Classic winner

Korean Derby and Oaks winning filly Speedy First was sent off as the short-priced favourite but she was never in the race and faded in the home straight to finish a tailed-off last.

Third in the Derby on this track in May, the grey Major King was a 9/1 chance at the start and was immediately sent into the lead by jockey Jo Sung Gon. When the expected challenges from Speedy First and Derby-second Unhae failed to materialise, it was left to outsider High Five and Gyeongnam DoMin Ilbo winner Indie Band to apply the pressure.

They didn’t come close. Instead, Major King kicked on for victory, leading his fellow Busan visitors home by 2-lengths on the line.

Major King is by the late Brazilian sire Pico Central, who died earlier this year. The victory is his 6th from 10 career starts to date. For trainer Kim Sang Seok, it was a 3rd Classic winner, having won both the Korean Derby and Oaks in 2008 with Ebony Storm and Jeolho Chance respectively. For jockey Jo Sung Gon, Busan’s current champion, it was a 4th Classic and his 2nd in this race, having previously won it in on Sangseung Ilro in 2009.

As for the favourite, Speedy First returned with no obvious sign of injury, although fellow disappointment Unhae was found to be lame.

So, after Jigeum I Sungan upset the order of things by winning two Classics for Seoul last year, normal service has been resumed this with Busan horses winning all 4 Classics. When the two tracks collide again in the Gyeongnam Governor’s and President’s Cups over the next few weeks, it seems unlikely that this will change.

Minister’s Cup (KOR G2) – Seoul Race Park – 2000M – October 6, 2013

1. Major King (KOR) [Pico Central – Still Golden (Gold Fever)] – Jo Sung Gon – 9.1. 2.4
2. High Five (KOR) [Creek Cat – Nam’s Gulch (Gulch)] – Choi Si Dae – 5.5
3. Indie Band (KOR) [Ecton Park – Plie (Dixieland Band)] – Lim Sung Sil – 1.5

Distances: 2 lengths/0.5 lengths
Also Ran: 4. K Tap 5. Brig 6. Geumbin Mannam 7. Sting Ray 8. Last Mudae 9. Best Captain 10. Unhae 11. Rising Joy 12. Speedy First

* There was no fairy-tale return to the track today for Smarty Moonhak (Smarty Jones). The 4-year-old, returning to racing for the first time since successful treatment for tendinitis which had kept him sidelined for 15 months, could only manage 6th in the class 1 race 13.

The event was won by the improving Watts Village (Forestry), who was 2nd in the Korea vs Japan race last month and who will travel to Tokyo for the return leg next month. The old Smarty Moonhak would have made short work of the likes of Watts Village but, while he was 5-lengths behind the winner, he was just 2 lengths adrift of 2nd and the run showed some promise.

* Down at Busan, Darryll Holland was the star of the show for the 2nd time this week. The British jockey notched up 4 winners on Thursday and added another 2 during the short 4-race card this afternoon. His haul included the feature race, where he partnered Peter Wolsley’s Perfect Jilju (Paradise Creek) to a very comfortable victory.

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.