Trainer Bruce Marsh said connections were all happy with War Affair’s (O’Reilly x Kristique) first run after almost a year when seventh on a soft track in the Gr.22 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (1200m) in New Zealand on Saturday.
Now eight, the 2014 Singapore Horse of the Year left for New Zealand shortly after his last unplaced run in the Singapore Gr.3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) last September. The son of O’Reilly spelled for six months at his place of birth, the Trelawney Stud in Cambridge before being aimed at his comeback race under the care of Marsh’s son Stephen.
Ridden by Danielle Johnson and carrying 58.5kgs in the Weight-for-Age event at Te Rapa, War Affair settled three wide with cover in the first half of the race before a check saw him drop back to a little worse than midfield at the 1000m.
He was then urged along from the 700m to take closer order, cornering out wide for his run to the line. Though he stayed one-paced, he stuck on rather well to finish just over five lengths off the winner Melody Belle, who incidentally had former two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey Shafiq Rizuan (known as Rusof in New Zealand) aboard.
“We’re all very pleased with that run, the jockey and trainer were also very happy. The track was right against him, but he still finished seventh not too far away from the winner,” said Marsh Snr.
“He was checked at the five furlong, and dropped back to midfield. He made up ground, even if he was not sprinting like he usually does.
“The track was too soft and there was a lot of kickback. He wouldn’t have run on such a track in Singapore, he wasn’t at home on the wet conditions.”
Marsh said the 16-time winner and multiple- Singapore Group One winner has pulled up a treat and should be good to go for his next race soon, but which one is at this stage a question mark.
“He’s pulled up enormous after the run. His feet and his wind are good, he ate good and he looked bright and fit the next day,” said the Kiwi handler who was the Ong family’s warrior’s third and last trainer in Singapore (after Mark Walker and Alwin Tan), saddling him to his last two wins, including a dead-heat with Storm Troops in the Gr.3 Saas Fee Stakes (1400m) last year in May.
“We haven’t yet discussed about his next race. We were looking at the Tarzino Trophy but he had to run in the first three in the Foxbridge to get in.
“He’s 22nd on the list. We’ll need to speak to the trainer and look for another race if he doesn’t get in.”
The Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) is the first Leg of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown at Hastings and will be run on September 1.
Another person who watched War Affair’s comeback race with great interest was one of his former jockeys in Singapore, Danny Beasley. Now assistant-trainer to Daniel Meagher, the former Sydney rider steered War Affair to six of his 12 Group successes, including three at Group One level (Singapore Guineas, Panasonic Kranji Mile and Raffles Cup).
“War Affair was the best horse I ever rode in Singapore. I won three Group One races with him,” said Beasley.
“Obviously, I’ve been trying to keep up with what was happening with him in New Zealand. It’s good to know his wind problems are over.
“He was a bit one-paced in the race and couldn’t quite make up ground in the end but he didn’t finish far behind the winner.
“It’s great that he’s pulled up well and I look forward to hearing about his future plans.” -STC