Tough Win

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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Weekend Preview: Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup, Tough Win at Seoul, Gyeongbudaero at Busan

A busy weekend of racing gets underway on the peninsula today and there will be plenty of big names in action over the next couple of days, as well as the year’s second Graded race in the shape of the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup at Seoul.

Should be a spring-like weekend

Should be a spring-like weekend

Sunday afternoon’s Cup, which this year has been shifted from its usual position at the end of October, is for Korean bred fillies & mares and has attracted 15 entrants, one short of the maximum permitted field size for Graded races in Korea.

Among them is last year’s Donga Ilbo and Nonghyup Chairman’s Trophy winner Ua Deungseon and two time Donga Ilbo winner – including this year’s race just over a month ago –  and likely favourite for this, Cheonnyeon Dongan.

As usual on a Graded race day, there will be 10 races at Seoul on Sunday, however, Saturday sees a bumper 14-race program with one of the cancelled races from last week being added. In the feature Class 1 handicap, Tough Win will carry top weight as he seeks to make it three out of three for 2015.

Busan runs its usual cards on Friday and Sunday and there is a heavyweight clash in Sunday’s feature and finale as Gyeongbudaero takes on a host of dangerous types in the shape of Gamdonguibada, Donggeupcheogang, Mujinjang, Heba and Damyangui Jilju as the Grand Prix winner too seeks to maintain his 100% record for this year.

The weather is set to be fine and full racecards can be found here. Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday March 27
Busan Racecourse: 10 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 13:25 to 17:20

Saturday March 28
Seoul Raecourse: 14 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Racecourse: 9 races from 12:20 to 17:20

Sunday March 29
Seoul Racecourse: 10 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Racecourse: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:30

Peter Wolsley, Gyeongbudaero and Tough Win Stories of 2015 So Far

We say goodbye to the Year of the horse and enter the Year of the Sheep…or goat or ram or whichever hooved and horned animal it actually is; there is some disagreement in these parts. There is no racing this weekend on account of the holiday, so it’s a good opportunity to take stock of what has happened during the first six weeks of racing:

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Never Seen Before and Lee Hee Cheon win the Minister's Cup. Lee and Peter Wolsley are in great from this year

* Peter Wolsley is on fire: With five winners across last weekend, trainer Peter Wolsley has shot to the top of the Busan Trainers’ Championship, leading the Kim Young Kwan machine by 14 winners to 12 and 49% of all runners placing first or second. Wolsley has some solid talent in his stable at the moment and also a pair of in-form stable jockeys in the shape of champion rider Jo Sung Gon but also with Lee Hee Cheon, who has been an absolute revelation under the Australian’s tutelage over the past few months. Such is the firepower that is always available to him, Kim Young Kwan will amost certainly take the ultimate prize but it looks set fair for another very good season for Wolsley.

This Korean language blog, which I’ve just seen for the first time has some really good pictures of Wolsley and Lee Hee Cheon winning the Minister’s Cup with Never Seen Before last October.

* Tough Win is back: The 2011 Grand Prix Champion’s best days looked to be behind him but he returned to the winner’s circle for the first time for 18 months in January and then followed it up last week with another victory; his 24th from 37 career starts and took him to over $2Million in prize-money. He’s done it in style too, closing from dead-last in the home straight. As long-time racing observer Thomas Song pointed out on this site, closing to defeat tired frontrunners is the only way Tough Win can run these days, but it is thrilling to watch and hopefully there is plenty more to come.

* We have some good three-year-olds: The likes of Cosmos King at Seoul and Rafale and Doraon Hyeonpyo at Busan have all won around two-turns already and they, along with a number of others, should make for a fascinating Triple Crown series which this year, will be concluded by July.

* The new rating system is here to stay: Every horse in Korea now has a rating and aside for some Grade and Listed races, there are no longer races restricted to Korean bred horses at Class 1 and Class 2. It is hoped that the stronger competition will make for a better quality of Korean racehorse and more competitive racing for punters. The early evidence, especially at Busan, is positive. With horses able to move back down in class for the first time, we’ve seen some compelling contests already. Now that connections at Seoul have belatedly signed up to the changes too, racing in the capital – in need of a new lease of life for some seasons – will hopefully be on an upward spiral soon too.

* Gyeongbudaero : If the KRA’s race-planners had scripted the first class 1 to be run under the new system, they would have come up with something like this. Six Korean bred horses faced off against six imported horses and after a tough battle, the locally bred Gyeongbudaero, carrying top weight of 60kg, prevailed. Winner of the 2014 President’s Cup and Grand Prix Stakes, Gyeongbudaero’s image was on the front of the KRA’s 2015 Race Plan booklet announcing the changes and he is undoubtedly the poster-horse of Korean racing right now.

Racing returns next weekend.

Tough Win Trousers Two Billion

Tough Win reached another milestone in his remarkable career at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday as the 8-year-old broke the 2 Billion Won mark in career prize money.

After spending much of 2014 on the sidelines, Tough Win roared back to form last month with an against the odds win in a big handicap. It was his first visit to the winner’s circle since his second triumph in the Busan Mayor’s Trophy in the summer of 2013. He didn’t have to wait long for a repeat.

Despite carrying top weight of 59kg and despite being up against rising-star Haemaru, who came into the race off the back of six consecutive victories, punters made Tough Win the favourite for Saturday’s feature class 1 event over 1800M.

And it was vintage Tough Win. With Cho Kyoung Ho having retired, it was yet another new jockey on board him for the first time. Lee Sang Hyeok had the honours and he took the 2011 Grand Prix Stakes winner right to the back as the exited the gate, giving the rest of the field a full ten lengths head start.

Tough Win likes it that way. Although they closed the gap a little, Tough Win remained last as they entered the home straight, going wide around the field to find his run. Once they did, the race was over. He hit the front a furlong out and eased home comfortably for a three-length victory ahead of outsider Double Shining. Haemaru was 3rd.

It was a 24th career victory for Tough Win (Yonaguska) on his 37th start. While cynics will, with some justification, point to a lack of strong competition at class 1 at Seoul right now giving him this window to return to the top (and it is undoubtedly weaker than it was when he was battling it out with the likes of Dongbanui Gangja four years ago) – his achievement is still  noteworthy.

It is very hard for an imported colt (or gelding as Tough Win is) to amass such an amount of prize money. Korean bred horses have the Triple Crown races and the President’s Cup while the best imported fillies such as Gamdonguibada can harvest the lucrative Queens’ Tour events. Tough Win has always had to do it the tough way.

Now we know that win in January wasn’t a fluke, the question is whether he can maintain it in the long season ahead. Principally, can he keep it up long enough to go to Busan to take on the current set of big boys in the summer for a tilt at a 3rd Mayor’s Cup?

Tough Win Rolls Back The Years At Seoul

Tough Win returned to the racecourse for the first time since last September and more importantly he returned to the Winner’s Circle for the first time since July 2013 with a vintage come from behind performance under the lights at Seoul Racecourse today.

Tough Win in the paddock prior to his racing return this afternoon

Tough Win in the paddock prior to his racing return this afternoon

Wrapping up the bumper 15-race card, Tough Win (Yonaguska) was sent off as top weight and fourth in the betting for his first race as an 8-year-old and with a new jockey in the shape of Lee Chan Ho in the saddle.

Lee took Tough Win right to the back of the field as the exited the gates for the 1900M class 1 handicap, settling a full ten lengths behind the rest as they went into the first corner.

The well-fancied Bichui Wangja was showing the way for most of the race and Lee gently brought Tough Win back in touch as they went through the back-straight and began the turn for home.

Going wide, Lee and Tough Win still had ten horses to pass in the home straight but they picked them off but by the furlong pole, the race was as good as over, Tough Win cruising home by 2-lengths ahead of the rather unfortunately named favourite Unbeatable.

One of the stars of the past decade, Tough Win won the Busan Metropolitan and KRA Cup Classic in 2010 before beating Mister Park and Smarty Moonhak in a memorable 2011 edition of the Grand Prix. He would repeat his Metropolitan win in 2013 and today’s victory was his 23rd from 36 career stars.

The handicapper may punish him for this but it was worth it.

Motion Blur: Tough Win gets ahead in the final furlong

Motion Blur: Tough Win gets ahead in the final furlong

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Two-Time Grand Prix Winning Jockey Cho Kyoung Ho Retires

Cho Kyoung Ho, one of the top Korean jockeys of the past decade, has retired. The 38-year-old’s current license expired on December 7 and he opted not to apply for renewal.

Tough Win and Cho Kyoung Ho win the Grand Prix Stakes in 2011 (KRA)

Tough Win and Cho Kyoung Ho win the Grand Prix Stakes in 2011 (KRA)

Debuting in 2001 at the rather advanced age of 25, as was common for Korean jockeys at that time, Cho quickly became one of the top riders on the peninsula. His first Stakes win came in the 2003 JRA Trophy on Tempest West and he would partner the same horse to victory in the Grand Prix Stakes later in the year.

He would win the President’s Cup, Korea’s richest race, on four occasions with back-to-back wins on Myeongmun Gamun in 2007 and 2008 a highlight but it is for his partnership with Tough Win that Cho Kyoung Ho will perhaps be best remembered for. Together they won the Busan Metropolitan City Stakes twice – three years apart – as well as the KRA Cup Classic and the Grand Prix Stakes.

Although in recent times, he had dramatically cut back on his riding commitments, Cho was still in the Stakes winner’s circle as recently as June this year when he guided Geumseongi to victory in the Sports Chosun Cup.

Cho Kyoung Ho retires with career figures of 827 wins from 4964 rides including 29 Stakes race wins, six of which were in Korean Group 1 races.

Weekend Race Times

It’s been a mild week in Korea and the fine weather should continue on a busy weekend of racing.

Season debut: Tough Win

Season debut: Tough Win

Tough Win makes his season-debut on Sunday. Now 7-years-old, he is 3 races without a win and possibly on the wane and faces KRA Cup Classic winner Mari Daemul and up and comer Samjeong Bulpae over 1900 metres.

Busan’s feature race is also on Sunday when Magic Dancer will be looking to get back to winning ways in a class 1 handicap.

Here’s what’s happening when and where:

Friday March 21
Busan Race Park: 11 races from 11:40 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 13:20 to 17:20

Saturday March 22
Seoul Race Park: 12 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Jeju Race Park: 9 races from 12:30 to 17:30

Sunday March 23
Seoul Race Park: 11 races from 10:50 to 18:00
Busan Race Park: 6 races from 12:45 to 17:00