Touch Star Man

Seoul & Busan Saturday: Race-By-Race Preview (December 5)

The virus situation continues to worsen in Korea with country experiencing community transmission almost nationwide for the first time since the pandemic began. Although the numbers remain very small by global standards, regular readers will be aware that racing has been shut down for much less already this year and could well be again. It looks set to continue to cling on by a thread for at least this weekend, however, as Jeju Island, Daegu and Daejeon remain under “level 1.5” instead of “level 2” distancing measures. That means wagering facilities in those places can open at 20% capacity so at least some punters can play. Reservations must be made on the MyCard app the day before race day.

There have been some changes. If – and it is a big if the current schedule holds, on Jeju will race on Fridays while Seoul and Busan race on Saturdays and Sundays, one after the other. Races are contested behind closed doors and for reduced Stake money and horses are not penalised in the handicap for victories. On Saturday, Seoul will go first with 9 races from 10:45 to 15:00 followed by Busan with 6 races from 15:50 to 18:00. The races will be on overseas simulcast. Here are the previews:

Touch Star Man, KRA Cup Mile and Minister’s Cup winner, will be in action at Busan on Saturday (Pic: KRA)

Seoul Race 1: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

A maiden to begin with and all but one of the fourteen are juveniles with five racing for the very first time. We will side with experience though and (2) ALL HEART is the pick. He debuted promisingly enough in July before following up with a runner-up finish the next month. He is up to 1200M for the first time and from a good draw can lead early and should have too much. None of the other tried ones make for much appeal so we’ll turn to the first-timers to round out our tickets. (10) ZELOS was the fastest of those in trials and looks set to be second-favourite while (3) JAY EAGLE and (8) VIVA LADY also looked well in their heats and can go well first up. One that was less impressive in her trial but may be better suited by today’s 1200M is (14) NONSTOP CAT. The wide draw shouldn’t be a problem.

Selections(2) All Heart (14) Nonstop Cat (10) Zelos (8) Viva Lady
Next Best3, 7
Fast Start2, 10

Seoul Race 2: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Having won a trial, (11) DONG E BEONJJEOK ran a solid 2nd on debut over this distance on October 23rd. He was on the early speed in both of those appearances so while he will need to overcome a wide draw, he looks nicely in to win here. (6) GOLD SPIKE ran 2nd to Dong E Beonjjeok in the trial before finishing 4th on debut and she looks set to build on that here. (2) FASHIONED PASSION came from off the pace to run a strong 4th on her first start in October and she also looks to have the scope for further improvement today. The most experienced horses in the race are (4) GREEN POKJU and (13) THUNDER HORSE who have made three starts apiece. Both have places already and can contest the minor money again today.

Selections(11) Dong E Beonjjeok (6) Gold Spike (2) Fashioned Passion (13) Thunder Horse
Next Best4, 3
Fast Start3, 4, 10, 11

Seoul Race 3: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

(3) GEUMA FLAWLESS has mixed his form across five starts so far but put in a promising run for 5th on his latest outing on October 23rd. From a good draw, Antonio Da Silva can sit behind the early pace and finish strongly. (7) JILPUNG BAEKGWANG has been a touch one-paced in both starts so far. She finally gets a draw that isn’t in the car park today tough so should be handier early and can improve. (9) RAON SPECIAL has the fastest time of any of these at the distance so far and looks likely to play a significant role. She is another who will be looking to finish off strongly. (1) COMLETE SHINE and (11) GOLDEN BADGE are others who should be in the hunt in this modest affair.

Selections(3) Geuma Flawless (9) Raon Special (7) Jilpung Baekgwang (11) Golden Badge
Next Best1, 12
Fast Start2, 6, 8, 13

Seoul Race 4: Class 6 (1200M) Allowance / KRW 22 Million

Pretty useful class 6 race with three winners getting another crack in the level due to the current Covid-relief rules around racing. We’ll come to those in a moment though because we are putting a maiden on top in the shape of (14) K N MAGIC. The Kantharos filly was a good 2nd on debut beaten only by a good winner and while she has drawn the car park here, she has an extra furlong to play with and that could be key. (1) MOST SPEED was an all the way winner at this distance on October 16th and from the inside gate will be well placed to go forward and get close again. (4) ALCHAN NURI similarly significantly improved to win at this trip in October and can go well once more. (9) SPOTLIGHT was a somewhat anonymous 4th on debut after a dreadful start and can improve today. (7) MACH JIJON, a likely pacesetter, and (8) SOARA BABA, another last start winner, are others in the hunt.

Selections(14) K N Magic (1) Most Speed (9) Spotlight (4) Alchan Nuri
Next Best8, 7
Fast Start1, 7, 11

Seoul Race 5: Class 5 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 25 Million

A competitive race but the consistent (7) UNOECHANGCHEON may have enough about her to win. She has finished no worse than 4th across four starts so far and her win at 1200M was emphatic. She has already posted two competitive times at this distance and could have too much today. (11) WINNER TEMPLAR has also been consistent even though she remains winless. She has acquitted herself well over this trip and can go close. (1) TOP SEED has already won over 1400M. He’s been a little slow to jump in his latest couple but has run on well and can be involved again. (3) POTENTIAL ENERGY is up in class following a good win over 1300M back in August and should be on pace from the start today.

Selections(7) Uneochangcheon (11) Winner Templar (1) Top Seed (3) Potential Energy
Next Best9, 2
Fast Start2, 3, 11

Seoul Race 6: Class 4 (1400M) Allowance / KRW 28 Million

(12) THE DREAM comes in here looking to complete a hat-trick of wins and it would be a surprise if he didn’t get it. He gets no penalty for his very good victory at class and distance on October 23rd when he had four of these back down the track behind him and he can repeat today. (9) NUNBUSIN HANSEN and (8) SUPER ECTON came home 3rd and 5th in that race respectively and both can aim to match or improve that today but a stiffer challenge may come from (11) MANSEOK JIGI. The Paynter colt recorded the fastest time of any of these for the distance when winning on November 1st and if he can get to the early pace, can go close once more.

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Touch Star Man Too Good In Minister’s Cup as Korean Racing Shuts Down for a Second time

Two and a half months of behind closed doors action was brought to an end of Sunday when Touch Star Man confirmed his status as Champion Three-Year-Old by adding to his KRA Cup Mile win with victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Minister’s Cup at Seoul Racecourse. Following the conclusion of the meeting, Korean racing entered its most uncertain period since the Korean War with the sport going on indefinite hiatus from September after a rise in Coronavirus cases ended any prospect of any spectators – and therefore betting – being permitted for the foreseeable future.

A strong winner of the KRA Cup Mile in early July, Touch Star Man was never a factor in the Derby earlier in August though did rally late on to make it into 5th place. He was dominant in the 2000M Minister’s Cup, however, always racing prominently before leaving his rivals trailing in the home straight to record a four-length win.

It was an extremely turbulent race. After long-shot Miracle Icheon refused to leave the gates, Touch Star Man was involved in an incident himself when he crossed sharply causing a chain reaction that disadvantaged A To Z, Complete Kingdom and Top Day to all be impeded. Jockey Seo Seung-un picked up a five-day ban and was perhaps a touch fortunate that the incident was so early in the race and that his ultimate winning margin was so great.

More was to come on the second corner when at the back of the field, Derby runner-up Raon Tough Man took it upon himself to suddenly try to hurdle the inside rail. He achieved it and continued running on the empty inner-track but left jockey Choi Bum-hyun requiring hospital treatment for three fractured ribs after a heavy fall.

Thankfully the rest of the race passed off without incident and Touch Star Man [Testa Matta – Useung Touch (Menifee)] proved his superiority in the home straight. He moves on to five wins from nine starts. For jockey Seo Seung-un, it was a third win in a Classic race, having taken the KRA Cup Mile on Cheongnyeong Bisang in 2014 and the Korean Oaks on Deep Mind in 2019.

As for trainer Kim Young-kwan, Touch Star Man was his fifth Minister’s Cup winner. His previous ones were Namdo Jeap in 2009, Dongseo Jeongbeol in 2011, Rock Band in 2015 and Power Blade in 2016.

One of very few positives to come out of this wretched year is that the three-year-olds got to have their Triple Crown races (although the fillies have missed out on the Gyeonggi Governor’s Cup, the final leg of the “Tiara” which was scheduled for this coming Sunday).

This year’s juveniles look set to miss out on most, if not all the rest of the season but at Seoul, they gave us a glimpse of what to look out for in next year’s Triple Crown in the inaugural running of the “Rookie Stakes”.

Thirteen juveniles went around in the 1200M test and it was Heungbaragi [Old Fashioned – Grand Marketing (After Market)] who led from gate to wire, just as he had done on debut a month ago. Will he get further? Which of the ones he beat will emerge as threats as the distances get longer? And what about Busan which was due to run its first big juvenile race later? Those are questions about which we can only speculate on the answers.

So what now? The new shutdown will encompass at least all of September and will likely include the Chuseok holiday in the first week of October. After that things will be dependent upon whether there has been an improvement in the Coronavirus situation to the extent that there is a real prospect of spectators being allowed on course or if the legislation to legalise online wagering is making progress.

The majority of KRA staff have been placed on furlough three-days a week, however, trackwork is for now continuing as normal so that if things do go well, the horses are ready to race right away with just a week’s notice to be given for resumption.

Touch Star Man Lands Triple Crown Opener At Busan

Touch Star Man struck the front in the final furlong and held off all-comers to win the KRA Cup Mile, the first leg of the 2020 Korean Triple Crown, at Busan this afternoon.

One major contender had already fallen by the wayside earlier in the week when it emerged that Breeders’ Cup winner Roller Blade didn’t have the correct paperwork in order to enter. Another had to drop out ten minutes before the race when Determination reared up when parading and dislodging Alan Munro who was taken to hospital for x-rays on a suspected broken wrist (unfortunately this was subsequently confirmed).

That left Save The World as the leading contender but just as he had done in the Breeders’ Cup last December, the Menifee colt was slow out of the gates and was playing catch-up from the start.

That left outsider Golden Winner showing the way early with Thunder King and K N Road for company while Touch Star Man settled at the front of midfield. The former two would quickly capitulate in the home straight, but K N Road stuck gamely to his task as Touch Star Man and Gyeongnam Do Min Ilbo Cup winner Doctor Carson emerged as the main challengers.

Ultimately jockey Jung Do-yun would find a little bit more from Touch Star Man who went on to win by a length from K N Road with Doctor Carson a further three-lengths in arrears. Despite his dreadful start, Save The World ran a big race coming home in 4th.

Touch Star Man is by Testa Matta and out of Useung Touch (by Menifee). Useung Touch herself runner-up in the Korean Derby in 2011.

For jockey Jung Do-yun, the victory was his first in a Group race. For trainer Kim Young-kwan it was his fourth in this race alone following successes with Sangseung Ilro in 2009, Power Blade in 2016 and Divide Wind in 2018. Power Blade would, of course, go on to sweep all three legs of the Triple Crown.

The next leg of the Triple Crown is the Korean Derby which is currently scheduled for Sunday August 2nd over 1800M at Seoul.