There have certainly been prettier victories but they all count and so it was that first-time starter Mr. Afleet ran keenly, greenly but ultimately successfully to get his own career off to the best possible start in race 1 at Busan on Friday and to give his trainer Peter Wolsley, his 500th winner in Korea.
Peter Wolsley, picture Korea Racing Authority
Mr. Afleet was Wolsley’s 2721st Korean starter and his 50th winner of 2018 at a strike rate second to only the mighty training machine of Kim Young-kwan. However, the bare numbers belie the scale of the achievement, one few would have seen coming when the trainer arrived at the track for the first time.
That was back in 2007 when after stints in Dubai and China, Wolsley arrived at Busan as the first foreigner to be granted a license to train in Korea. He found himself in charge of a small string of horses, most of which were off-casts the other trainers didn’t want. It can hardly have been a very rewarding start. Slowly though, those horses began, if not actually winning, then performing above expectations. Even more slowly, yet surely all the same, owners began to take notice.
The winners would come with an initial trickle developing into a constant stream. Wolsley saddled his 100th winner in May of 2011 and then in September of the same year, recorded his first Korean Stakes win, albeit in unconventional style as his Khaosan was promoted to victory in the Group 3 Owners’ Cup after the first horse over the line was disqualified.
Never Seen Before gave Wolsley his first Three-Year-Old Classic winner when victorious in the 2014 Minister’s Cup but the highlight arrived in the 2015 Grand Prix Stakes when his three-year-old unbeaten colt Bold Kings held off the likes of subsequent winner Clean Up Joy and Triple Nine to record a memorable victory.
Bold Kings was ridden by Jo Sung Gon, who also partnered Mr. Afleet in Friday’s milestone win and has been Wolsley’s most regular jockey over the years. While Wolsley has never quite managed to beat big rival Kim Young-kwan to the Trainers’ Championship, he has only rarely been outside the top three.
Peter Wolsley himself missed his own 500th victory as he is currently in Dubai preparing stable star Ace Korea for his tilt at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The Kookje News Cup winner, who ran 5th in the Korea Sprint in September, is a possible runner on opening night of the 2019 Carnival at Meydan on January 3rd.