War affair flexes his muscles

Eight-year-old champ is being primed to face the starter in a New Zealand race next Saturday

They're asking: "What's with War Affair?" A simple question which, until recently, produced just one answer.

He's being spelled or rested in New Zealand.

A bland answer. And hardly enough to satisfy those die-hard kopi-tiam uncles talking about the good ol' days and the horse whose exploits paid for so many of their coffees and kaya toasts.

Well, now there's a better answer. The champ, now an eight-year-old, still hears bugles and is going to reinvent his racing career - not here, but in New Zealand, the country of his birth.

The news came from Bruce Marsh, who was his trainer for the better part of two years from January 2016 to today.

He took charge from Alwin Tan, who had him when the son of O'Reilly moved over from Mark Walker's barn in early 2014.

War Affair was sent to New Zealand last November to "fix" some well-documented "wind" issues which plagued the champ in his later years.

More good news. Because War Affair did so well and seemed to overcome the problem, his connections decided to send him to the racing stables of Marsh's son, Stephen.

And War Affair being War Affair, the rest simply fell into place. And, a week from now on Aug 18, Kranji's $3 million earner will line up in the New Zealand Group 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate. It's a 1,200m event at Te Rapa.

The senior Marsh made it clear that nothing is yet certain but the Te Rapa gig does look like it's good to go.

"The old boy is very well," said Marsh. "His wind problems seem behind him. My son said he's like a new horse. But we have to see how he gallops before we know for sure if he will or will not run next Saturday."

He added: "So far we're happy with the way he has come through his spell. It's the first time he has had a proper break from racing.

"It's 15 acres of paddock at Trelawney and he's in wonderful company."

While his connections will press on towards the Foxbridge, Marsh insisted they will take it one race at a time.

"If he doesn't come up at that race or any other race later, we will then retire him," said Marsh, who saddled War Affair to two of his 16 wins, with the remaining 14 split between Mark Walker (six) and Alwin Tan (eight).

"But, if things go well, we may then bring him back to Singapore. We'll just see how things go in the next few weeks."

Besides the Foxbridge, the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy over 1,400m in September, has also been pencilled in as a possible target.

For now though, the uncles at the kopi-tiam must surely be satisfied. Their hero's doing well - and that's another story for the grandkids.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'War affair flexes his muscles'. Print Edition | Subscribe