Esmeraldina takes top honours in Ttukseom Cup
It was an intriguing big race double across the card in two different countries for owner Kazumi Yoshida on Sunday (June 7), as not only did improving 4-year-old colt Maurice justify favouritism by just getting the better of Vincennes in the 65th running of the Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo, but not a million miles away at the Seoul Racecourse in Korea, 4-year-old filly, Esmeraldina, stormed home for a comfortable win in the 27th running of the Ttukseom Cup, and in so doing wrote herself into the history books by becoming the first ever runner from the JRA to win an international Open Stakes race in Korea. She was sent off the overwhelming favourite in the field of twelve at slightly worse than 1/2, and there were perhaps one or two anxious moments after Fly Top Queen got to the front early, and seemed determined to try and leave the rest of the field trailing in her slipstream.
All had gone well with Esmeraldina’s preparation, and despite only having the one career run over 1400 meters -and that was on turf- her gutsy win in the 2014 Kanto Oaks, over 2100 meters on a sloppy dirt track at Kawasaki, proved that she is made of stern stuff. Back at 1400 meters in the Ttukseom Cup was no hindrance to her, as she displayed the kind of speed that was to dazzle the opposition. The Harlan’s Holiday filly was having her seventh run on dirt, and it will be one to remember for some time to come.
Esmeraldina, in her customary green headgear and noseband, broke well from the gates and got a nice sit on the rails, having drawn gate two which was certainly no disadvantage. Fly Top Queen flew to the front and Golden Lass, Joy Lucky and Esmeraldina sat in behind her and could only watch her go off at breakneck speed and hope this head of steam would eventually fizzle out, which come the home straight it did. Early in the race, these four were joined by Busan runner, New York Blue, who had won on her last visit to Seoul and was third in the Asia Challenge Cup. These five started to make those further back struggle for position, but things changed considerably once the early pace setters could find no more.
Having been settled in fourth for a while, turning for home, Esmeraldina’s jockey, Kanichiro Fujii, was able to angle his horse out and start what was to be a blockbuster of a run down the home straight. It took a few seconds for the filly to find top gear, but once she responded to the jockey’s urging, she kept a true course all the way to the line, and ran out an easy three length winner, stopping the clock in 1 minute 23.9 seconds, just 0.1 of a second outside the track record set by El Padrino. Golden Lass and Joy Lucky, two of the prominent runners early on, faded to finish 11th and 12th respectively, while New York Blue stayed on for second, and in a photo for third, Bichui Jeongsang, just got there a further five lengths behind New York Blue. Busan’s Heba, fourth in the race last year, finished fifth, and Seoul’s Cheonnyeon Dongan could only manage eighth. The first three home were all American breds.Of his ride on the winner, an elated Kanichiro Fujii commented: “It was incredible to win on Esmeraldina today. The speed of the race was so quick and she got sand kicked up into her face. Trainer Makoto Saito’s instructions were to get her to run smoothly, which I was able to do, and we could get out on the final corner. She was very strong from there. It was a totally different feeling riding a Japanese horse and to win a big race here in Korea. I have to thank Mr. and Mrs. Yoshida for the opportunity and all the stable staff as well.”
Review article (Korea Racing Blog)
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