Peters takes a chance with Grand Koonta

Earmuffs come onto Grand Koonta in the Class 2 race over 1200m on Sunday.
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Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

China Horse Club’s grey sensation Grand Koonta will have no weight on his back in Sunday’s $85,000 Class 2 race over 1200m, but trainer James Peters is still staying prudent about his chances for a third win at Kranji.

The Englishman’s first choice for the English-bred four-year-old by Dark Angel was actually a Class 3 race over 1200m last week, but after the event was scrapped, he was left with this week’s Class 2 race as Hobson’s choice.

Grand Koonta is back from a freshen-up and has one barrier trial (sixth) on July 16 under the belt. He was tipped out after his last-start shorthead second to Safeer in a Class 3 race over 1200m on June 15.

The duelling duo will again cross swords with Grand Koonta one pound better off at the weights. Safeer is on 50.5kgs and Grand Koonta on 50kgs, but despite the luxury weight, Peters thought long and hard whether to run or not the two-time Class 4 winner (both over six furlongs).

“The original plan was to run him in a Class 3 over 1200m, but it was cancelled,” said Peters.

“I then saw that Class 2 race, but I had to look at the field before making a final decision. After declaration, he had a light weight, it was a small field (eight) and he drew a nice barrier (four).

“I thought it was then worth taking a chance.”

With Grand Koonta on a rating of 75 points, he gets in at the minimum weight of 50kgs as he significantly steps up in class, albeit only “one kilo over”. Topweight Elite Power (57kgs) being rated at 91 points, Grand Koonta should have been on 49kgs at the scales.

Either way, regular partner Daniel Moor, despite being a lightweight jockey, could not take the ride, and will ironically jump on Safeer. It’s comeback kid Alysha Collett who will ride Grand Koonta.

“I can’t make the weight. If I rode him one kilo over, he would have been penalised off the carried weight – not the declared weight,” said Moor who steered him to his maiden win on March 1 (Michael Rodd was aboard at the second win.

“I told James it’s only 50kgs and to take a chance and run him.”

Weights and measures aside, Peters was happy with where Grand Koonta was at.

“He’s in good shape. I wanted him to take time out after his last run,” he said.

“I will put in a slight change of gear. He will have earmuffs on for the first time – he had them at his barrier trial three weeks ago (July 16).

“At his last race, he overraced in the early stages. Hopefully, those earmuffs can help him conserve a bit of energy in the early part of the race.”