By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Smart sprinter Grand Koonta showed absolutely no signs of ring-rustiness at his comeback race on Saturday when he unleashed a powerful burst inside the last 200m to get up in a thriller.
James Peters’ Irish-bred five-year-old grey by Dark Angel had not been sighted since January 26 when he ran a close second to Bold Thruster in the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m).
The barrier trials leading up to his return had been sound, but if a race remains the acid test, he certainly passed it with flying colours.
Following such an impressive performance where, after frustratingly running into dead ends for A’Isisuhairi Kasim at the 400m, he still flew home once he found space to go and post a short head win from longshot Karisto (Iskandar Rosman), the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) on October 25 looks right on target.
The Cliff Brown-trained Zac Kasa (Ruan Maia), the other grey, gave a glimpse of his old dash when he came with a threatening run at the 300m, but had to eventually settle for third place another half-length away.
Group 2 EW Barker Trophy winner Fame Star (Marc Lerner) may have finished outside of the placings, but did restore some gloss to his credentials following his disappointing run at his comeback race on July 11.
Using a bit of petrol to come across from his wide barrier, the US-bred frontrunner was able to make play, did give some sight when he kicked clear at the top of the straight, but was swamped late, doing a good job to hold on for fifth place around one length off Grand Koonta.
The winning time was 1min 9.15secs for the Revolte 2009 Stakes over 1200m on the Short Course.
Peters admitted to having his heart in his mouth as he watched Grand Koonta getting hamstrung in traffic at a crucial stage of the race.
“There were a few anxious moments between the 400m and the 200m mark. He was pocketed in but Harry was able to get him out,” said the English trainer.
“He’s got such a good turn of foot, he can really sprint. Once he saw daylight, he really flew home.”
Boasting a cracking record of five wins and four seconds in nine starts, Grand Koonta has now amassed around $330,000 in prizemoney for the China Horse Club.
Peters confirmed that the Lion City Cup has been locked in for Grand Koonta as well as the other China Horse Club stalwart Skywalk, who ran seventh, but only around two lengths behind his stablemate.
More of a Polytrack specialist, the Battle Paint seven-year-old box-seated behind Fame Star for Vlad Duric, and did throw down the gauntlet in the straight, only to fade late.
“The Lion City Cup will be Grand Koonta’s next race. He was up 16 kilos and today’s race has tightened him up,” said Peters.
“He will take improvement from the race as well. A big thank you to the China Horse Club who has been very patient as we have not had many opportunities.
“I will also run Skywalk in the Lion City Cup. I was very happy with his run today, he tried his guts out, and was beaten only around 2 ½ lengths.”
Peters was busy in the very next race as he was saddling his bonny mare Meryl in the highlight of the day, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m), but unfortunately, the race didn’t pan out as he wanted.
“It didn’t work out for her. She couldn’t slot in, and Jimmy (Wong Chin Chuen) didn’t want to be caught three wide, and decided to push on,” he said.
“A midrace move is not ideal in such a race. She was outclassed in the end.
“We will go back to handicap races with her.”