By Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club
Former Kranji kingpin War Affair has had two extra barrier trials to sharpen up his condition following his postponed racing comeback three weeks ago.
The rising nine was meant to run first-up from a 19-month break in the Japan Racing Association Trophy, a Class 1 race over 1200m, on April 7, but trainer Bruce Marsh eventually pulled him out after he left his feed on the day before final declaration.
All seemed to be going well for the son of O’Reilly. The Ong family’s 16-time winner and multiple-Group 1 winner had not raced at Kranji since he ran sixth to Countofmontecristo in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) in September 2017.
But during his stay in his native New Zealand to fix his well-documented wind problems, he did contest two Group races there at the end of last year, once he was given a clean bill of health for his respiratory issues.
He wasn’t placed, but shades of that old spark were still there, especially at the second run in the Group 3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) at Hawke’s Bay on October 6, giving connections the confidence to have one last crack at the Singapore riches.
Marsh would have preferred the JRA Trophy as the kick-off point, just so he has one run under the belt, but he had to make do with the two surrogate barrier trials en route towards the shifted goal posts, the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) on May 5.
Ridden by John Powell in both barrier trials, War Affair won narrowly at the first but finished sixth around 3 ½ lengths off the winner Black Jade (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) in the second one.
“I just told JP to ride him quiet today. He found the line under his own steam,” said the Kiwi handler.
“I didn’t time the trial, but they ran fast sectionals. If he pulls up good, he will be running in the Rocket Man Sprint.
“Then that’ll give him 20 days to the Kranji Mile. But let’s see how he runs in the Rocket Man first.
“It’ll be a hard race, but I’m happy with him, I’m happy with where he is at now.”
War Affair is one of 17 local entries to the $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) on May 25. From his haul of five Group 1 wins, the 2014 Panasonic Kranji Mile is one of them, when it was then slated as the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series.
Powell said he was expecting more from the $3 million earner at Thursday’s hit-out, but he was mindful of the fact that the Polytrack was a surface he had only stepped over in barrier trials, not at any of his 29 Kranji starts.
“When he won his first trial, he was a little tired towards the end, and I thought he’d run better in the second one,” said the experienced Australian jockey.
“He ran okay. I think he will improve in the Rocket Man Sprint when he goes over turf.”