Trainer Bruce Marsh could not have been happier with War Affair’s (O'Reilly x Kristique) barrier trial five days ahead of his next major assignment, the S$300,000 Gr.2 Chairman’s Trophy (1800m) on Sunday.
The former Singapore Horse of the Year, who was purchased by David Ellis for $70,000 from Trelawney's 2012 NZB draft, has run out of the placings since making a smashing comeback in the Gr.3 Saas Fee Stakes in May.
A wind op was pointed at as the main conviction for the two below-par runs. Trainer Bruce Marsh has since freshened War Affair up and from the way the Ong family’s warrior bounced back with a run that was more reminiscent of his old self in the trial, hopes of a turnaround could be entertained.
Ridden by Craig Grylls, who will partner him for the first time in the Chairman’s Trophy, the O’Reilly seven-year-old was homing in well at the 300m, but with no clear run in front, he took the shortest route home and shot clear to score by just under three lengths from Affleck.
Marsh said the respiratory issue did rear its ugly head after his last run, but seems to be under control. In a way, Tuesday’s resounding barrier trial win was a testimony to that.
“We had him scoped and he seems to be okay. But from the way he’s been running he doesn’t seem to be going to the line all that well,” said the Kiwi handler.
“I wanted to give him a last blowout before Sunday’s race just to top him off, and I was really pleased with one thing – the way he came through.
“At his recent runs, he never had the experience to do that. He did not really do it the way he did it today.”
Marsh said War Affair should stand a good chance of restoring some gloss to his name if he brings the same form on Sunday, but remained cautious, nonetheless.
“It was one of his best trials since I’ve had him, but with the problems he’s had, we have to be careful,” he said.
“On looks, it is true he again looked very well in his coat and he was bouncing around and all that. He is up against the usual horses, and fingers crossed, he runs a better race.”
War Affair will be partnered on Sunday by Grylls, a recent arrival in Singapore.
“Craig rode him in trackwork last week and today in the trials. He was quite happy with the horse,” said Marsh, who was himself a jockey with one Melbourne Cup win as his biggest claim to fame (Silver Knight in 1971).
“I don’t know Craig as I left New Zealand a long time ago, but I knew his dad Gary, who was a top jockey in New Zealand. I actually knew his grandfather Johnny Grylls better as we rode against each other.”
The Matamata rider was delighted he had been given the leg-up on such a high-profile horse so early into his three-month stint in Singapore.
“The horse worked good last week and trialled very well this morning. Mr Marsh approached me for the ride and I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” said Grylls.
“I haven’t won a race yet, but it’s been a great experience so far. I’m getting good support from a good mix of trainers, and all I need now is to get that first winner.” -STC