War Affair and Storm Troops inseparable
$200,000 Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes ends in sensational three-way finish
Yesterday's $200,000 Saas Fee Stakes ended in a sensational three-way finish, with two of the charging trio dead-heating for the top prize.
The photo-finish print showed 2104 Horse of the Year WAR AFFAIR and last-start Lion City Cup third place-getter STORM TROOPS deadlocked, just a short head in front of $765 outsider Hip Hip Hooray in the Group 3 feature over 1,400m on the Long Course A.
It was War Affair's first run following a wind operation, which was done after his third placing to Debt Collector in the Group 1 Raffles Cup over 1,800m on Oct 30 last year.
Trainer Bruce Marsh had been patient with the Warplan Racing Stable horse and tuned gelding back to perfection which resulted in the six-year-old starting as the favourite.
But there were some anxious moments for the connections and supporters when the horse dropped back third last, which was not the ideal spot as the earlier winners all came from the front or on the pace.
But jockey Danny Beasley reckoned War Affair was in his comfort zone and was really impressed with his mount's gutsy performance.
So, too, was Storm Trooper's rider, Nooresh Juglall.
The race started with Wonderful setting the pace, by a length from Hip Hip Hooray at the halfway back. Storm Troops was in midfield and a bit wide.
War Affair had only two horses behind, but was on the shortest route home.
Hip Hip Hooray overtook Wonderful shortly after straightening. Soon, a wall of horses loomed up to challenge, among them Storm Troops on the outside and War Affair, who had moved to the middle for a clearer run and was lucky the gap he took didn't close up.
In the final 150m, Storm Troops and War Affair charged up to Hip Hip Hooray, who proved a stubborn customer.
In one of the most exciting finishes seen, War Affair and Storm Troops dead-heated to share the prize, with Hip Hip Hooray just a breath away.
"It was a sensational finish because to come from that way back, with the way the track has been racing today, is incredible," said Marsh.
"You know, with this horse, you never give up. He just got that great heart.
"Well, everything he has been through, behind the scene, is absolutely unbelievable how he has come back."
Storm Troop's trainer, Ricardo Le Grange, felt it was an honour to share the prize with War Affair.
"You know, to share this spoils with a horse like War Affair is no disgrace. They're great horses, both with a lot of problems and have come back. This horse is a really, really special horse in our yard and it was a great ride by Nooresh," said Le Grange.
Juglall wasn't sure how he finished.
"To be honest, I didn't really see who got there. I just put my head down and pushed my horse to the line," said the Mauritian.
"After the line, I saw two horses and I thought I might just got caught, you know.
"But, thank God, it was a dead-heat. Today, he just put his heart out and I was just happy to be sitting on him."
Although War Affair jumped well but dropped back to third last, Beasley said he was happy where he was.
"He wanted to be there today, so that was where he was, like he was in his comfort zone," added the Australian.
"Quite amazing, you know. This horse has been through a lot since his last run, people close to him know the extent.
"So, when he hit the line - win, lose or draw - I thought what a gutsy run.
"Gee, that was as good as he has ever gone and I didn't sort of care whether he had won or run second, you know, because I was so proud of him."