From Bunbury to the bright lights of Meydan

5 min read
Simon Foster backed himself when he left Bunbury to train in South Korea and now finds himself with a G1 runner at Dubai's Super Saturday meeting.

From Bunbury to Seoul to Dubai and the bright lights of Meydan's Super Saturday meeting in the space of 18 months; it has been an incredible ride for Aussie trainer Simon Foster and it might not be over yet.

When Dolkong (USA) (Afleet Alex {USA}) raced away with a 2000m handicap at Meydan last Thursday it booked Foster's 5-year-old a place in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3.

Less than one year after saddling up his first winner in Seoul, Foster's name will sit alongside Godolphin's Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor, as the affable horseman chases South Korea's – and his own – maiden international Group 1.

"They are big names and they can fire a bit of ammunition there," Foster said while hot walking Dolkong four days out from the race. "Those trainers are hard enough to beat anywhere in the world, but here, where they have so many numbers, it is even harder."

"Those trainers are hard enough to beat anywhere in the world, but here, where they have so many numbers, it is even harder." - Simon Foster

Foster calls his life in racing a typical one, "I have been battling around the stables since I was a kid," he says, and it is clear by the way he carries himself that hard work and passion is what has taken him halfway around the world.

"I just did the basic background a lot of trainers do," he said. "I was an apprentice jockey, before becoming travelling foreman for Cliffy Brown, before he went to Singapore."

Once out on his own as a trainer, Foster won the 2011 Listed Lightning Stakes with Trusted Partner (Untouchable) before moving to Western Australia. It was in the west where he scored his biggest career win to date with Prentice (Blackfriars) in the 2014 G3 WA Sires' Produce Stakes.

Simon Foster

The Big Move

It was a conversation with longtime friend Peter Wolsley, who has been based in the southern city of Busan for more than a decade, that prompted Foster to try his luck in South Korea. When it was announced Australian Brian Dean would return to Singapore from Korea, it created an opening at Seoul and Foster jumped at it.

Racing in Korea is full of promise, with massive betting pools contributing to solid prizemoney, but the sand tracks and staffing issues also make it a challenge for foreigners, not to mention language barriers and freezing temperatures in winter.

"Peter Wolsley gave me a big push to come here." - Simon Foster

Foster has developed a reputation as a top horseman and his stable has been increased to 22 horses, but the success at Meydan can only increase his chances of attracting top quality stock.

"Peter Wolsley gave me a big push to come here, and while we are up against it here with the challenges, it has given me an opportunity to be here in Dubai," said Foster.

Peter Wolsley

Dolkong and Doleuze

Dolkong had ran twice in Dubai, for a sixth at G2 level and then a third back in a ratings band race, before last week's breakthrough victory.

Foster said French jockey Olivier Doleuze – who was aboard for the third attempt and rode a beautiful race last start to win – had been a huge influence both on and off the track. Doleuze rode 571 winners – good enough for a spot in the top ten most impressive wins list in Hong Kong – spread over 17 seasons, including many of the jurisdiction's biggest races on star horses like Good Ba Ba (USA) (Lear Fan {USA}) and Eagle Regiment (El Moxie {USA}).

The flamboyant rider was perhaps best known for teaming with freak dirt specialist Rich Tapestry (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), who ran away with the 2014 G3 Mahab Al Shimaal and was twice placed in the G1 Golden Shaheen.

Olivier Doleuze

"I went through the riders that are available and you see a bloke like that sitting on the sidelines you jump on it," Foster said. "We were lucky. He has been a real bonus, and it isn't just on race day, he comes down and rides him every time he gallops. He puts that time in behind the scenes and for a bloke that has won as many races as he has and experienced all he has, it's amazing the way he carries himself. He is a ripper bloke and like a breath of fresh air, he has that spring in his step."

"I went through the riders that are available and you see a bloke like that sitting on the sidelines you jump on it." - Simon Foster

"Even the way he was with the owners, he had never met them before race night and the enthusiasm with his interactions with them. It was a long way from being one of the biggest achievements in his career, but he treated it like it was. It means a lot to the owners when they see somebody like that get excited."

Dubai World Cup dream

Foster may already be pinching himself, but if Dolkong can again produce on Saturday, a dream start in the US$12million G1 Dubai World Cup beckons – now that is a long way from Bunbury. But first Dolkong needs to take on a field including last year's winner Thunder Snow (Ire) (Helmet), nine days after peaking for a career-best performance.

"He was a bit dour as you would expect, after the last run, but he has really brightened up in the last few days," Foster said. "I expect by Saturday he will be where we want him. He will need to improve again off his last run. We are here, and we'd be crazy not to have another crack at it. We will get a fair idea of where we sit in the pecking order and find out whether it is worth sticking around for Dubai World Cup night."