Special Stone won the KRW 600 Million, KOR Grade 2 Korean Oaks (1800m) at Busan Racecourse, registering a first Classic success for Seoul Jockey/Trainer pair Kim Jeong-jun and Kang Hwan-min.
In a race that always looked difficult to predict, Thomas Gillespie’s Yeonghui Sidae was ultimately sent off as a very slight favourite ahead of the Kim Young-kwan trained pair of Blue Flag and Gyohaksangjang, while Yeongcheon Derby, fifth in the KRA Cup Mile, was also well backed.
None of them would get close though with Blue Flag the best of the fancied ones finishing fourth. By the time the she crossed the line up ahead jockey Kim Jeong-jun was already celebrating the biggest win of his career.
Special Stone began steadily as an overly keen Star Cat set the early pace. Jockey Kim kept his mount to the rail and the pair steadily gained ground in the back straight, improving to second on the turn for home. Once they hit the straight and others swung wide, Special Stone found the front and then found another gear, leaving the rest trailing far down the track.
Seoul trained fillies completed the first three home with Firewind second and Seouri Byeol beating out Blue Flag in a photo-finish for third.
Trainer Kang Hwan-min only took out his license a year ago but has quickly established himself among the leading trainers at Seoul with a win-rate in excess of 20% in 2018 and he has now won a Classic having had only slightly over 100 starters. Jockey Kim Jeong-jun has partnered Special Stone in all her outings to date and is rewarded with his first big race win.
Special Stone is by Limitless Bid, a Korea-based Japanese-bred stallion by Sunday Silence. He is out of Grey Stone, Korean-bred mare who did her racing at Seoul, winning 2 of 28 starts between 2010 and 2013. Special Stone was her first foal.
Meanwhile at Kranji in Singapore a rejuvenated Jupiter Gold defied all the skepticism whether he was a genuine 1800m horse with a scintillating win in the S$1.15m SGroup 1 Emirates Singapore Derby at Kranji for trainer Hideyuki Takaoka and French jockey Olivier Placais.
The win was the third Singapore Derby for Takaoka after Jolie’s Shinju in 2009 and Better Life in 2013.
After jumping on terms, Jupiter Gold found himself in fifth on the rails with acres of galloping space around after speedy customers Lim’s Regard (Ryan Curatolo) and Yulong Honor (Wong Chin Chuen) went hand over fist in the first 300m, so much so they had quickly put a big space on Jupiter Gold.
There was still one runner ahead, the $14 favourite Elite Invincible (Vlad Duric), who would be the one to beat. That he did once they were in the home straight with Jupiter Gold going to the lead over Elite Invincible with Lim’s Magic (Glen Boss) also challenging.
Lim’s Magic died on his run, Elite Invincible fought his way back and Jupiter Gold went to the line first in advance of Elite Invincible by 1 ¼ lengths with Lim’s Magic a gallant third another short head away.
Jupiter Gold clocked the smart time of 1min 46.34secs for the mile on the Long Course, equalling the class record set by War Affair in 2014, only 0.03 second outside the eight-year-old course record established by Superb.
Takaoka is a man of few words, but though understated, his joy after such a big day at the track was palpable.
“This is the best day of my life,” said the 62-year-old trainer who has been in Singapore since 2002.
“Four winners, and a third Derby. I couldn’t have hoped for a better day than this.”
“I’m very happy Jupiter Gold won the Derby. He’s finally shown he was still the good horse we always believed he was.”
“Olivier is a hard-working and honest rider. We’ve had a lot of success together, we work hard together, and he gave the horse a great ride.
“He was very confident before the race, probably more than me, and he’s delivered on it.”
For Placais, 33, this was his first Group 1 winner, both career-wise and in Singapore, and he also went on to complete a personal best at Kranji with five winners as he had also won with Turf Princess and Fame Star earlier.
“Actually, I was having quite a difficult season earlier, but the last two months have just been fantastic,” said Placais who has also been plagued by injuries from race falls earlier in the year.
“This horse (Jupiter Gold) was just perfect today. I know he was not in the best form, but running him in a sprint has woken him up.”
“This is my first Group 1 win. It feels like I’m just dreaming, it’s amazing. I’m very happy.”
With the memorable win in the Singapore Derby Jupiter Gold has now seen his total prizemoney more than double to around S$1.2 million for owner Mr Hosaka.