Wimbledon looking to ace it in Korea

Singapore will again be present at South Korea’s international race meeting this Sunday, but with only one flagbearer – Wimbledon in the 700 million won ($830,000) Korean Group 1 Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m) at Seoul’s LetsRun Park racecourse.

Last year, three horses flew over to Seoul to take part in the inaugural running of the Korean Group 1 Keeneland Korea Cup (1800m) and the Keeneland Korea Sprint. None of the trio made up of the Alwin Tan-trained Infantry and Desmond Koh-owned Order Of The Sun (Cup) and Theo Kieser-trained Super Winner (Sprint) won or finished in the placings.

The Tan-trained El Padrino is the only one to have succeeded when he made history in 2014 by becoming the first Singapore-based horse to win in Korea in the Group 3 Asia Challenge Cup, then run over 1400m.

As many as nine Kranji horses were on the shortlist to head up to Seoul this year, but it was whittled down to only three a couple of weeks ago – Wimbledon, Laser Storm and Daniel.

When the last two dropped out, Wimbledon, who last ran second to Faaltless in the Group 3 Garden City Trophy (1200m) a month ago, was the last horse standing. English trainer James Peters was keen to have a crack given there was nothing else for the China Horse Club-owned Snitzel six-year-old entire.

“There is no other option for him here. He doesn’t stay 1400m at the top level and the sprint races are all finished by the start of the year,” said the second-year trainer who will be at his first overseas raid.

“He would be getting all the big weights at the handicap. So, we thought why not go to Korea, it’s got good prizemoney and it’s worth taking a chance.”

Peters said he would be lying if he had not factored in the daunting element about Korean racing, the sand, but he is confident the ambivalent (three-time Polytrack winner from seven Kranji wins) galloper can still take it in his stride as long as he takes up a forward berth.

“He has to be up on the pace. He’s always had good natural speed, but he’s drawn a bit awkwardly in 10,” he rued.

“Hopefully, he can still go forward because the key is not to be caught behind with all the kickback. That’s when the wheels come off.”

The task of steering clear of the dreaded flying clods of sand has been handed into someone who is not based at Kranji, Victorian jockey Daniel Moor.

“Daniel rides a lot for China Horse Club in Melbourne and is more than capable. He rode at the CHC’s Ordos event last month,” said Peters.

“I haven’t really looked at the opposition, but obviously you have to respect the Japanese horse (Graceful Leap) and the Hong Kong horse (Lucky Year).

“They are all good horses and they are more used to racing on the dirt.”

Peters may be at his maiden overseas trip as a racehorse trainer, but his previous experience as a travelling lad has come in handy.

“I went to Dubai with Better Be The One for Michael Freedman. It’s given me a bit of experience in that area and everything has gone on well,” said Freedman’s former assistant-trainer.

“I’ve also got my senior track rider Mick Lockett with him since he got there last Friday. Mick has also had a lot of experience going to Dubai when he was with Steven Burridge.

“The horse lost a bit of weight on the way there, but he has put it back on.

“He had already done all his fast work here and he just had a bit of a blowout yesterday. Mick said he seemed to handle the sand okay, but it’s different when the pressure is on in a race.”

Peters leaves for Korea on Friday. He has no runner on Friday night, saddles six on Sunday, but is without any runner in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m).

The Keeneland Korea Sprint will be simulcast ‘live’ as Race 5 on the Singapore racecard on Sunday. The other international race, the Group 1 Keeneland Korea Cup (1800m) will not be shown.