Korean runners have travelled to Kranji every year since 2015 for the feature.
This year's renewal saw a Korean runner achieve their best placing in the race when Today, trained by Busan’s multiple champion trainer Kim Young Kwan, gave the Korean entries an excellent result when he ran third behind the Singapore trained duo of Sky Walk and Rafaello.
With a record of 10 wins and two placings from 13 starts, the Korean homebred four-year-old gelding by US stallion Drosselmeyer was touted as clearly the best of the Busan based trio, which also comprised his stablemate Gakbyeolhan and Approach, trained by Kim Nam Jung.
After jumping smartly from a middle draw, Today found himself in an ideal spot in the box-seat for Busan-based Brazilian-born Irish jockey Franco Da Silva, but, unable to find a gap in the straight, he had to switch out wide for clear run.
Though Today lost some precious lengths in the process, he still came on solidly for third place, holding off the fast-finishing Viviano by a short head to deny the home team a trifecta.
On a Singapore rating of 94 points, the Mark Walker-trained Viviano shared the billing of the second-highest rated horse with Rafaello, which definitely puts Today’s placing in an encouraging light for the visiting squad, especially in terms of outlook for future Korean runners.
Though not as well-fancied, the other two Busan horses also ran well, a clear sign the gap is closing between the two nations’ alternative track runners.
Despite orbiting out the widest around the bend, Approach (Lee Hyo Sik)) ran a meritorious fifth, three-quarter length off Viviano while Gakbyeolhan (Fergus Sweeney), a last-start winner over 2000m, was clearly not a 1200m horse, being always at the rear even though he jumped from the inside alley, but did well to make some late ground to be beaten less than nine lengths astern.
All honours, however, to the James Peters trained winner Skywalk under Vlad Duric. Resuming after his lacklustre run in the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) on May 26, the Battle Paint four-year-old overcame a wide alley to settle in the slipstream of stablemate and leader Grand Cross (Craig Grylls) before easily putting paid to his rivals inside the last 300m.
Winning trainer James Peters said he had targeted the KRA Trophy from a long way out and was delighted his long-range plan had hit paydirt.
“I put a ring around this race right after the Lion City Cup. It was the perfect race for him given the conditions of the race,” said the English handler.
“Barrier 11 was the only concern, but Vlad couldn’t have given him a better ride.
“He seems to love the Polytrack, I’ll see how he pulls up. The New Year Cup is some time away, but I guess I will be looking for such mini feature races on Polytrack for him.”
“It was a fantastic run. He proved he was very competitive at this level,” said Da Silva of Today’s run.
“He’s still a baby and can only improve further. We got into some trouble at the top of the straight, but we could still fight for a place when I came to the outside.
“He gave a good fight and I’m sure Koreans back home will be proud of him.”
Assistant-trainer Kim Uk was happy overall with Today’s performance.
“I was expecting a little bit more from Today at the finish. He got a bit crowded in the straight, but no excuse,” said Kim.
With Korea's Keeneland Korea Cup meeting at Seoul not far off on September 9th there was also news out of Kranji that trainer Michael Clements is hoping to race the back-in-form Song To The Moon in the 1800m feature race.
The Keeneland Korea Cup meeting is in its third edition alongside the sister sprint race, the Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m), formerly known as the Asia Challenge Cup and won by Singapore’s El Padrino in 2014.
Meanwhile in Korea on Sunday Lead Money ran out the winner of the listed Ilgan Sports Cup (1800m) at Seoul Racecourse providing a first big race winner in Korea for jockey Antonio Da Silva.
Lead Money, a four-year-old Exploit filly, won by two-and-a-half lengths over Nasca Prince and last year’s Oaks winner Jejui Haneul, who came home 2nd and 3rd.
The victory continued an excellent early summer for Antonio Da Silva, who rode three winners across the weekend, taking his total since the start of June to twenty-one.
Meanwhile, fellow Brazilian rider Manoel Nunes bagged four including Woman Volt for Australian trainer Simon Foster in the final race on Saturday.
Japan’s Masa Tanaka was also in the winner’s circle for the first time in what is his second Korean stint, partnering Macha Bucha to victory on Sunday.