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Duric expecting cheeky run from War Affair

Champion jockey Vlad Duric said he would not be surprised if former Singapore champion War Affair (O'Reilly x Kristique) shows “some cheek” in the S$175,000 Gr.3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) on Sunday.

It’s the first time Duric will partner Trelawney Stud graduate War Affair, but the two-time Singapore champion jockey has been seen working him of late.

While it’s not the same 2014 Singapore Horse of the Year who left his rivals in his dust then, Duric felt there was still a spark in the engine.

“I galloped him yesterday. I actually haven’t ridden him for six to seven weeks, but I can tell he’s improved a lot,” he said.

“He’s a lot better than what he was before the Kranji Mile. He’s in really good form after three runs under the belt, he’s actually come on from his last run.

“We all know what a great horse he was even if I was not around during his dominant years. But I saw him when he won his last feature race, dead-heating with Storm Troops (in the Gr.3 Saas Fee Stakes on May 14, 2017).

“I think he can run a cheeky race in the Jumbo Jet. Cliff’s horse (Elite Excalibur) is the horse to beat at the weights, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he can run in the money.

“War Affair’s not giving weight all round. On ratings, he should be, but we’ll see how he goes.”

War Affair has been hovering around the 115-point mark for a while even if he missed an entire season (2018) and is not quite the same horse.

In his heyday, War Affair won 16 of his 34 starts, including five at Group One level and more than S$3 million in stakes for the Ong family. Plagued by wind issues widely seen as the conviction for his tapering form at his fifth season in 2017, he was spelled in New Zealand at Trelawney Stud shortly after in a bid to resurrect his career at Kranji a few months later.

Trainer Bruce Marsh had asked Duric to partner the rising nine-year-old by O’Reilly whenever he was available this time in. The Australian rider could, however, not be aboard at War Affair’s three runs this prep, either through injury or other commitments, but he will be in the saddle this Sunday.

At War Affair’s first-up run (10th) in the Gr.3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) on May 5, Duric was sidelined through a leg surgery, and at his next two starts, he rode King Louis in the Gr.1 Kranji Mile (War Affair ran seventh three-quarter length ahead of King Louis) and rode Aramco to victory at War Affair’s last run (sixth) in a Class 1 race over 1200m on July 7.

Marsh said the old boy was showing no signs he was ready for retirement. If anything, he was still in a racing mood.

“He’s not done too badly if you ask me,” said the Kiwi handler, who just like Duric, has yet to win a Jumbo Jet Trophy.

“He needed the run in the Rocket Man, he actually loomed up in the 1600m race (Kranji Mile). Forget the last run as he was coming back sharply from 1600m to 1200m.

“He was supposed to run in a Class 1 race over 1400m at the end of June, which would have been perfect, but it was scrapped because there weren’t enough runners.

“I thought if there was a race for him to win, that would have been the race, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s hard to find a race for him, a race where the handicap won’t kill him.

“He’s doing very well for his age. He galloped yesterday and Vlad was very happy with the hit-out.” -STC