Grand Koonta all heart
James Peters' grey makes triumphant return, now set for Lion City Cup
Fresh from an eight-month spell, prolific sprinter Grand Koonta picked up from where he left off with a fighting victory in the $100,000 Class 1 event over 1,200m on turf at Kranji on Saturday.
Ridden by jockey A'Isisuhairi "Harry" Kasim, the James Peters-trained and China Horse Club-owned grey extricated himself from an awkward position in the straight to unleash a powerful burst to score in a thriller.
Long shot Karisto flew home second by a short head.
Zac Kasa, the 2018 Lion City Cup runner-up, was a gallant third, half a length behind. It was his best showing in a while.
Grand Koonta, who clocked a swift 1min 09.15sec for the 1,200m on the Short Course B, is now earmarked for the $400,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup over 1,200m on Oct 25.
"The Lion City Cup will be Grand Koonta's next race. He was up 16kg and today's race has tightened him up," said Peters after the race.
"He will take improvement from the race as well. A big 'thank you' to the China Horse Club which 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 (seventh)."
Before Saturday, Grand Koonta proved super consistent, with four wins and four seconds from eight starts.
At his last run on Jan 26, he ran a close second to Bold Thruster in the Group 3 Fortune Bowl over 1,400m.
Peters admitted to having his heart in his mouth as he watched his five-year-old Irish-bred getting hamstrung in traffic at a crucial stage of Saturday's 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."
Strongly fancied, he paid $17 for a win.
Grand Koonta has now amassed about $330,000 in prize money.