Stephen Marsh admits he’s under a bit of pressure with his Singapore arrival War Affair (O'Reilly) in the Gr.2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
The Cambridge trainer knows he’s got one of the highest-rated horses in the country, but that won’t be enough to earn the eight-year-old son of O’Reilly a crack at the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on September 1.
War Affair, who was purchased by David Ellis for $70,000 from Trelawney's 2012 New Zealand Bloodstock draft, has earned more than $3 million in prizemoney and is the winner of 12 races, including the S$500,000 Patron’s Bowl (1600m) and the S$500,000 Raffles Cup (1800m).
Those performances have earned War Affair a New Zealand rating of 110 and only the multiple Group One winner Bonneval is above him, on 112.
But War Affair is sitting 27th in order to get a start in the Tarzino Trophy, with preference given to horses who have performed at Group level over the past 18 months, and that puts the pressure on him this weekend.
“He doesn’t get into the Tarzino unless he runs one, two or three in the Foxbridge,” Marsh said. “That’s the only hope he’s got.
“He’s a bit behind the eight-ball as he hasn’t trialled and the weather is against him. The problem is I don’t think he’ll handle a slow to heavy track. He can get away with it on a dead track.
“We’re relying on his class alone and I’ve been hoping rain stays away for the weekend.”
If War Affair doesn’t earn a start in the Tarzino Trophy, he is unlikely to be seen in action on the local front until the summer carnival swings into action.
“Because of his rating, handicaps are out of the way for him. He’d be asked to carry a ridiculous weight,” Marsh said.
“We’ve just got to look at weight-for-age races with him, but he’s got to be able to get into them.”
War Affair hasn’t raced for 11 months, since finishing sixth in last year’s S$200,000 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) at Kranji when trained by Marsh’s father, Bruce.
Having raced in Singapore, a jurisdiction where Group races are only afforded Listed status internationally, has made War Affair’s prospects of qualifying for feature races more challenging.
He has had a six-month spell at Trelawney Stud since arriving from Singapore and Marsh said he thrived with the break.
“He’s a cool horse and his work has been good. The riders say he feels great. We’ve just got to give him the chance to show it on raceday here.” - NZ Racing Desk