El Padrino showed his class with a dominant victory for Singapore in the inaugural Asia Challenge Cup at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday.
Sent off as the pre-race favourite by Korean punters, El Padrino made a steady start, settling into the middle of the pack under jockey David Flores as local contenders Fly Top Queen, Watts Village and Cowboy Son made the early pace.
Flores started to make up ground as they began the long-turn for home, improving around the outside – just like he had done on one earlier mount in a previous race. Tracking him was Lee Chan Ho on Wonder Bolt, the 3rd favourite.
It would be these two who would dominate the remainder of the race, El Padrino hitting the front just after the two-furlong pole, Flores shifting inside and then letting loose. Wonder Bolt chased gallantly on the outside but never came close to catching him
Ultimately, El Padrino would win by two lengths in a track record time of 1:23.8. Wonder Bolt also finished inside the old record, a full eight lengths ahead of 3rd placed New York Blue. The Japanese pair of Toshi Gang Star and Pierre Tiger came home in 4th and 5th.
There was disappointment for the other two Singaporean raiders; Speedy Cat and Trudeau never getting into a rhythm and coming home 9th and 10th respectively. Meanwhile, those early pace-setters and frequent rivals, Fly Top Queen and Watts Village were the last two home.
The race capped an important weekend for Korean horse racing. Unprecedented work had gone into securing a quarantine protocol which would allow the Singaporean runners to visit – a similar one was completed with Japan last year and involved the creating of an expanded quarantine zone at the racecourse.
At a welcome dinner the previous evening, the Chairman of Toko City Keiba, representing Japan – where there will be a return leg for three Korean horses in November, a race won by Watts Village last year – spoke as did the Chairman of the Singapore Turf Club. The race was broadcast live to Singapore where it made up part of the Sunday card at Kranji. Regular simulcast broadcasts to Singapore – 14 races were broadcast on Saturday – also began earlier this summer and is generating a steady turnover.
At the track, the usually stuffy 6th floor was livened up by the presence of some boisterous visiting connections, especially those representing Trudeau. Even the parade ring actually looked like a big race was about to take place.
A year ago, simulcasting and an international race of this standard – even after the successful running Japan/Korea Goodwill Cup, looked an incredibly long way off. But it has happened. Even some imitators of this blog have started up. After years of nothing, progress has suddenly gathered pace.
On Sunday, the pace everyone was talking about, belonged to El Padrino.
Asia Challenge Cup 2014 – Seoul Racecourse – 1400M – Aug 31, 2014
1. El Padrino (NZ) [Mr. Nancho – Crownie (Luskin Star)] – David Flores – 2.8, 1.3
2. Wonder Bolt (USA) [Desert Warrior – Little Champ (Great Gladiator)] – Lee Chan Ho – 2.0
3. New York Blue (USA) [Candy Ride – Aim For The Moon (Deputy Minister)] – Masakazu Tanaka - 4.9
Distances: 2 lengths / 8 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Toshi Gang Star (JPN) 5. Pierre Tiger (JPN) 6. Indian Blue (KOR) 7. Chocolat Verrine (JPN) 8. Cowboy Son (USA) 9. Speedy Cat (NZ) 10. Trudeau (AUS) 11. Persia Wangja (CAN) 12. Changiparang (USA) 13. Watts Village 14. Fly Top Queen