Former champion galloper War Affair (O’Reilly x Kristique) is back in Singapore and if all goes well, will be making his racing comeback at Kranji at the age of eight this year.
The 2014 Singapore Horse of the Year is returning after spending more than one year in New Zealand, spelling at Trelawney Stud where he was born before joining the Stephen Marsh stable.
The multiple-Group One winner last raced in Singapore on September 10, 2017, finishing a lacklustre sixth to Countofmontecristo in the Gr.3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m).
The Ong family then decided to send War Affair to New Zealand in the hope the bracing air will help fix his well-documented wind issues.
Not only the Bruce Marsh-trained son of O’Reilly seems to have put these respiratory problems behind him, but he also raced twice under Marsh’s son Stephen’s care, both in Group company.
There were to be no fairy-tale wins at his place of birth but his first-up seventh in the Gr.2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa on September 18 and his fourth in the Gr.3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) on October 6 were encouraging.
But win, draw or lose, New Zealand was never meant to be a one-way ticket. The Ong’s always wanted the 16-time winner and earner of more than S$3 million to have one last roll of the dice at Kranji - provided he is fit and healthy.
The owner’s son and Marsh’s assistant-trainer Jason Ong said War Affair has responded very well since a saddle has been put back on him.
“He came back to Singapore around three weeks ago and it’s been a week or so since he’s started working. So far, it’s been just trotting like today around the holding area, and he is obviously pretty fresh,” said Ong as he watched War Affair jig-jogging back to the stables under Marsh’s apprentice jockey Zy Nor Azman.
“He had two good runs in New Zealand. We wanted to be sure he would measure up before we bring him back.
“It was always the intention to bring him back to Singapore, but we thought he should race there or he would be too rusty doing nothing for such a long time.
“Stephen did a good job to get him back in great order and I’d also like to thank the Trelawney Stud for having given him free accommodation and looked after him during his two-month spell.
“He is breathing a lot better, hopefully he stays sound. To me, he is better than he was at his last prep.
“I haven’t really looked at the programme, but because of his high rating of 117 points, we would probably look at a Kranji Stakes A first-up when he would carry a bit of weight.
“Then we will look for set-weights races for him, and we’ll see how he goes.”
War Affair was previously trained by Mark Walker (mostly as a two-year-old) and Alwin Tan under whom he swept the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge in 2014, including the Gr.1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) as well as four other Group Ones, the Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m), Raffles Cup (1800m) the same year and the Lion City Cup (1200m) and Patron’s Bowl (1600m) in 2015. -STC