Grand Koonta can lift the Lion City Cup
Peters-trained top-rated runner's biggest threat is the other grey, Zac Kasa
It could well be a battle of the greys in tomorrow's $300,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup, the first feature race to be staged at Kranji this year.
Both Grand Koonta, the highest-rated of the 13 runners, and Zac Kasa, who will be making his fourth try in the 1,200m classic, have the right credentials to claim the top prize.
As the top-rated candidate, Grand Koonta has the edge over his rivals. He does not have to concede weight under the weight-for-age conditions.
Except for the only mare in the line-up Celavi, who will carry 56kg, the rest of the field will shoulder 57.5kg.
The Donna Logan-trained speedster Makkem Lad has been scratched.
A sparingly raced type trained by Englishman James Peters, Grand Koonta goes into the race in winning form. The six-year-old Irish-bred won his last start on Jan 23 in grand fashion.
Ridden by hotshot Brazilian Ruan Maia, who is now plying his trade in ultra-competitive Hong Kong, he moved up from the box-seat third to beat fellow Cup runner Churchill by a neat length in a smart 1min 09.21sec for the 1,200m trip.
Three other Cup candidates - Fame Star, Nowyousee and Surpass Natural - finished third, fourth and sixth respectively.
Grand Koonta won despite giving his rivals weight but will instead be receiving it from them tomorrow. That is certainly a big advantage. He is also drawn well in Gate 3.
Champion jockey Vlad Duric surely has the pick from a handful of Cup aspirants, but his decision to opt for the China Horse Club-owned grey speaks volumes of the six-time winner's chances.
Duric, who is just a winner shy of his 600th at Kranji, will be bidding to become the first jockey to win four Lion City Cups since its inception in 1974.
This will be Grand Koonta's second attempt at the Lion City Cup, having finished sixth behind Inferno last year.
Zac Kasa, on the other hand, will be lining up for the fourth consecutive year and the first for his new trainer, Mark Walker.
Under Cliff Brown, who has returned to Australia, the six-year-old Australian-bred was second to Lim's Cruiser in 2018, third to Aramco in 2019 and fourth to stablemate Inferno last October (postponed from May because of Covid-19).
Zac Kasa looks spot-on after his two creditable runs (a fourth and a not-too-distant eighth) this year from a short break.
Walker tried using the visor, a gear which has slits on the side of the blinkers to prevent a horse from panicking if it cannot see other runners and to focus in front, and it brought good results.
It perked Zac Kasa up to win his trial beautifully with race-jockey Marc Lerner astride.
Drawn fabulously in Gate 1, the Zac Stable-owned gelding richly deserves a win at his fourth try.