Trainer Bruce Marsh is taking no chances with War Affair (O'Reilly x Kristique) even after a barrier trial he described as “perfect” on Tuesday morning.
The 2014 Singapore Horse of the Year and multiple-Group winner stepped out for his first such hit-out since being put away by the Kiwi handler over concerns about his race fitness back in February.
Reunited with arguably his most successful partner to-date, Danny Beasley, the O’Reilly six-year-old was held in the gun run behind Huka Falls (Glen Boss) and just coasted to the line unextended to run second.
Marsh quickly went seeking Beasley’s feedback the moment the Australian jockey jumped off, with stable supervisor Jason Ong in close attendance, and the trio certainly had every reason to be happy.
“It’s only been five minutes since he’s been unsaddled, but he seems to have pulled up well,” said Marsh.
“This trial was perfect for him. It was a beautiful trial.”
Marsh was, however, loath to make any hasty decision in the wake of that trial, especially regarding his much-anticipated racing comeback since last year’s Singapore Derby (13 months away).
“Everything is up in the air. We don’t want to make any plans in concrete until we progress from this trial,” he said.
“We would ideally like to run him in the Jumbo Jet Trophy next Sunday week, but nothing is 100% sure at this stage.”
War Affair, a 14-time winner of more than $2.7 million in stakes money, was at the pinnacle of his career when he brought up his last win in last year’s Derby for trainer Alwin Tan, but things went awry shortly after.
He was being aimed for a second shot at the Singapore Triple Crown series when the preparation was cut short by injury. He was then moved to Marsh later in the year and was getting all geared up for his comeback, which has, however, been put off until now.
To Beasley and Marsh, the time away has been a blessing in disguise.
“He has come back 100 kg better” laughed Beasley. “I’m joking but what I meant is he a lot more mature and bigger and stronger.
“Last time, he was still big, but more gangly and I’m talking about two years ago when he was still growing into himself.
“Today, I just let him amble around and Michael Rodd (Titanium) even came beside him. I just let him do it all by himself.
“Everything Bruce asked me to do with him, he’s worked really well and has done exactly what he wanted him to do. It was perfect, he is very above in himself, which is an indication in his trial he is up there.
“He ran second but he travelled all the way to the line. I didn’t ask him to do anything and he’s done all very naturally in his competitive way.
“The Jumbo Jet Trophy would be the ideal race to step off towards the Kranji Mile, but if he is not ready, we’ll see. In any case, we’ll leave it all to Bruce, but hopefully, he can go to the Jumbo Jet Trophy.”
The Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) will be run on September 4, one month ahead of the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m) on October 9. -STC