Koonta fresh and ready at third LCC, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Koonta fresh and ready at third LCC

Despite a bad draw, jockey change, Peters hopes grey can score overdue Group 1 win

When the Grand Koonta-Manoel Nunes pairing blew away a Kranji Stakes A field in a 1,200m race in May, many thought they had just seen the only formidable foe who could thwart Singapore champion Lim’s Lightning’s bid for back-to-back Lion City Cups this year.

Granted, the Dark Angel grey is not the newest kid on the block. Two failed attempts in the country’s premier sprint in 2020 and 2021 are not the kind of statistics that inspire confidence for a third shot at the ripe old age of seven.

But trainer James Peters may have found the secret recipe to a horse he felt was always deserving of a Group 1 win. 

Treat him like wine: Space his runs, and he gets better with age.

Then came Nunes’ shocking fall in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1,200m) on June 18.

Despite the encouraging prognosis on his fractured neck, the Brazilian ace lost the race against time to recover for Grand Koonta’s appointment in the $300,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup (1,200m) this Sunday. Doctors said the earliest he could ride again was September.

Peters does not book the three-time Singapore champion jockey all that often, but he was gutted with the twist of fate.

Knowing how hard it is to secure top hoops, especially for a smaller yard like his, the Englishman thought he had found a match made in heaven for Grand Koonta.

“He’s the top jockey around here for a reason,” he then said in his post-win interview.

In picking Daniel Moor as the substitute rider, Peters has, however, booked the next cab off the rank.

“Manoel was booked for the ride. He was trying to get fit in time, but unfortunately, it hasn’t happened,” said Peters.

“He’s given us plenty of notice. Around that time, Daniel’s been coming up for the Derby and the Stewards’ Cup.

“Daniel has always had a good relationship with the China Horse Club. We put his name forward, and they were happy to have him.

“Daniel actually rode Grand Koonta at his debut (Feb 1, 2019) and won at his next start (March 1, 2019). So he knows the horse well, it made sense to put him on, not to mention he’s also a multiple Group 1-winning jockey.”

While the Group 1 floodgates have been flung open for the Warrnambool boy after he cut his Kranji stint short in 2020 to return to Australia due to Covid-19, he has yet to tick that box in Singapore.

Hero was not his saviour in the Singapore Derby a month ago, but Grand Koonta is a much better conveyance – except that he has to clear one major hurdle.

“He’s drawn a horrible barrier (14 of 16). It just makes it more difficult,” said Peters ruefully.

“He tends to get outside gates in big races. Last year, he drew in and ran very well. 

“There’ll be a lot of pace with Fame Star and Celavi. I’ll have a chat with the owner and Daniel and come up with a plan.”

Peters is on the other hand less preoccupied with the depth of this year’s renewal of a race he won as assistant trainer to Michael Freedman with Super Easy in 2013.

“He’s a high-quality horse. He’ll be very competitive,” he said. 

“The formline of this year’s Lion City Cup is quite mixed, some are stepping back in distance, some are stepping up in class.

“I was happy with this gallop this morning. Vlad Duric rode him as, obviously, Daniel isn’t here yet.

“He seems to be in really good form. Everything’s gone smoothly.

“He will come in fresh and well, and that’s how I like to space his runs.

“I was looking at a race four weeks before the Lion City Cup for him, but I thought it was a little too close.

“It was the Class 1 race over 1,200m that King Arthur won on Derby day (July 17).

“He’s older now and he’s racing better fresh.”

Yesterday’s gallops by Sunday’s runners:

Alexander H 37.1
Mr Big Brother H (T. Rehaizat) 37.7
Fountain Of Fame (J. Bayliss) 40.3
Auspicious Day H canter/35.8

Charger 40.9
Jungle King (I. Saifudin) 37.7

Magnificent Gold H 40.4
Legacy Reign H canter/35.7

Sabah Star H 36.7
Vgor canter/43.7
From The Navy (M. Kellady) 37.1
Crystal Warrior H (B. Pinheiro) 35.1
Wealth Elite H (W.H. Kok) 38.6

Graviton (Kok) 37.8
Major King H (C.C. Wong) 38.5
Absolute Radiance (M. Ibrahim) 41.2

See Yah H (T.H. Koh) 36.7
Golden Tiger H (Saifudin) 38.5
Easylights 38.1
Happy Heart 40

Green Star 39.2
Be You H (Kellady) 37.3
Boomba H (V. Duric) 39.9
Top Field (Wong) 36.8

So Hi Class H (N. Zyrul) 38.5
Spirit Of Big Bang H 41.2

RACE 11 
Grand Koonta H (Duric) 37.6
Mr Malek (Pinheiro) 38.8
Gold Star H 39.5
Fame Star (P.H. Seow) 40.9
Nepean (Kellady) 45.2

My Man 38.2
Proof Perfect (Seow) 39.4
Happy Moment H
(B. Woodworth) 39.5