War Affair just awesome in Raffles Cup win

Barely a few hours after Spalato recorded a breathtaking win in the Luzerne Cup, Kranji racegoers were treated to another mind-blowing performance from another champion galloper when War Affair stepped up to the plate with a win that was as emphatic as you would ever see in the $500,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1800m) on Sunday.

The blitzing victory handed the O’Reilly four-year-old the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series after he landed the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile three weeks earlier, and will be a raging favourite to become the first horse to make the clean sweep in the third Leg (Smart Bet won all three, but not in the same year), the Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) on November 16.

If there were any niggling doubts when the previous 10-time winner was trapped deep facing the breeze in midfield, they were soon allayed when jockey Danny Beasley cuddled him along to be in a striking position at the point of turn.

Danny Beasley is all smiles as star galloper War Affair takes out the Raffles Cup on Sunday.

Goodman (Corey Brown), who got away to some cheap early sectionals in the lead, did put up a gallant fight, but he could not muster much of a response when War Affair ($7) let down with his trademark gigantic strides.

Hanging in ever so slightly, War Affair just cruised on by as he shook Goodman off with ease before pulling away to score by a widening margin, which was only kept to a “conservative” 4 ¾ lengths after Beasley turned off the ignition key to pose for the camera. Even then, they still came within 0.03 second of the 2010 course record held by Superb, which would have then made for three new records established for the day after Spalato and Quechua (El Dorado Classic earlier).

Stepitup (James McDonald), who was running for the first time under Laurie Laxon’s care, ran a meritorious third another 1 ¾ lengths away considering he had to roll forward midrace to settle in a handier spot outside Goodman after being caught five wide early.

Like most of the gobsmacked spectators in the stand, winning trainer Alwin Tan was in sheer awe at the way his precious charge just obliterated the opposition.

“I’m just so very excited now. I didn’t think he would win by such a big margin, but that only tells us what we know already, he’s a very good horse,” said Tan who is now at his fifth Group success with the Warplan Racing Stable-owned gelding, including three at Group 1 level.

“The horse was 100% fit today, but he seems to improve every time we race him. I wasn’t too worried when he was three wide in the backstraight as he did the same in the Kranji Mile and I know he will run on in the home straight.

“I knew he would hit the front at the 300m and then up the straight he always does his best. What a fantastic horse.”

Winning connections posing for the camera at the prize presentation ceremony for the Raffles Cup 2014.

Tan is all resolute in his determination to annex the Gold Cup next, confident War Affair will stay the 2200m journey, though he does harbour some misgivings about the impost he will shoulder.

“The weight will be a concern. I’m worried even if he gets 58kgs but we’ll see how much the handicapper gives him,” said the Singaporean handler.

“But I have no doubt he can stay and it’s now or never to test him, more so when it’s the Gold Cup.”

Another person who was just as confident as Tan about War Affair’s staying credentials was of course his pilot, Beasley, who joined Team War Affair at the same time as Tan was appointed as his new trainer after the owners left trainer Mark Walker.

“He’s the best horse I’ve ridden here in Singapore and it would be amazing if he can win the Gold Cup. Hopefully he doesn’t get too much weight from the handicapper,” said the Australian jockey who has never won the Gold Cup and was at his second Raffles Cup triumph after Cheyenne Dancer in 2009.

“It was another outstanding run from him today. I would have preferred to get one off the fence, but that was how the race panned out.

“The thing is I don’t like to ride him too pretty and I ride him safe all the time. I know he’s got big long strides and I just let him stride along where he wants to be.

“I remember Alan Munro once said you can be three deep, you might lose ground but you never lose time.

“He went into the straight full of running and he was again explosive to score one of his most impressive wins up to now for sure, if not the best.”

With two Legs in the bag, War Affair has also added a bonus of $30,000 to his owners’ kitty and should he complete the Triple Crown in three weeks’ time, a place in the history books awaits and a whopping $300,000 bonus would help swell his bank account further from the current $1.8 million mark.

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