Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Progressive sprinter Grand Koonta showed he could well be Group material after he came up trumps in a highly-competitive $85,000 Class 2 race over 1200m on Friday.
The fact he lowered the colours of gun sprinter Bold Thruster could not have been a better yardstick for connections to gain confidence in aiming higher at his future endeavours, even if some might argue that the runner-up was a certainty beaten.
After bombing the start from his awkward alley, the Michael Clements-trained triple-Group 3 winner was allowed by Clements’ apprentice jockey Shafrizal Saleh to stride around the field four to five deep, rolling forward to sit outside leader Nowyousee (Daniel Moor).
Homeward-bound, most would have thought Bold Thruster, who was second-up after his narrow second to Countofmontecristo in the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m) a month ago, would be a spent force, but he surprisingly kept on, and actually looked to be gathering momentum.
At the 200m, a valiant recovery from a bungled getaway to the winner’s circle was on the cards for the black gelding, but they had not reckoned with a super Grand Koonta (Alysha Collett), who contrary to Bold Thruster, enjoyed an economical run, smothered in midfield from the start, and obviously had a lot more left up his sleeve.
In his conspicuous red hood, the grey flash was descending thick and fast once Collett hooked the $18 chance to the outside. Collared inside the last 100m, Bold Thruster responded under Shafrizal’s persuader in a bid to thwart the China Horse Club-owned galloper, but the 6.5kgs pull in weights ultimately proved too much for an ultra-brave Bold Thruster (on 58kgs while Grand Koonta carried only 51.5kgs).
A neck split the duelling pair with Nowyousee clinging on for third place another three-quarter length away. The winning time was 1min 9.29secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
“It was a such a strong field when I saw the handicaps on Monday. Bold Thruster was the main concern,” said winning trainer James Peters.
“But it’s worked out perfectly. Alysha rode him a treat, she gave him a great run around.
“Bold Thruster was unlucky when he was trapped deep, but my horse showed a great turn of foot. Alysha did well to hold him up for another 50m and when he let down, he let down really well.
“I guess we could look at a feature race for him now, like the EW Barker Trophy in six weeks’ time. I think he’ll be better over 1400m, he will be more switched off.”
The Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) is a handicap race due on November 8.
Collett, who was aboard at Grand Koonta’s last-start win in a similar Class 2 race over 1200m, said she went into the race feeling no pressure.
“There was no pressure before the race,” said Collett who was at the double after saluting earlier aboard roughie Ping Pong (see earlier report).
“We had cover and he got to relax nicely for me. He’s a real chaser and at the corner, I was confident he would win.”
An Irish-bred four-year-old by Dark Angel, Grand Koonta has now taken his record to four wins and two seconds from six starts for prizemoney in excess of $165,000 for the China Horse Club Stable