War Affair gets half-year spell in New Zealand
Whether former Horse of the Year gets to come back and race again depends on his recovery
War Affair, the 2014 Singapore Horse of the Year, will not be seen at Kranji for at least six months, with the possibility of an eventual racing comeback hinging on his recovery process.
His connections have decided to send the classy galloper back to his country of birth, New Zealand, for a therapeutic holiday, a little like the case of champion sprinter Zac Spirit a few years ago when he was sent back to Australia to recover from a knee chip surgery and subsequently returned to win the Group 1 Lion City Cup in 2016.
Whether War Affair can soar back to such heights, let alone race again, will depend very much on the next six months in New Zealand, where Marsh and the owners, the Ong family, hope the greener space and fresher air can fix his well-documented wind issues.
The $3 million earner last raced in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy over 1,400m on Sept 10, in which he ran sixth to Countofmontecristo and has been taken off work shortly after.
The decision for the seachange came shortly afterwards.
Trainer Bruce Marsh revealed it could have been business as usual for the O'Reilly seven-year-old winner of 16 races, including 12 at Group level (five Group 1s), but the idea of a New Zealand stay was brought up more in a spirit of changing up the dreary racing routine he had been subjected at Kranji since he was a two-year-old.
"If we had to be very tough, we could have pushed on, but we felt it was time he gets a proper break from racing," said Marsh.
REST AND PLAY
"Obviously, we wouldn't have gone to such lengths with a Class 5 horse. War Affair owes us nothing but we are trying this and we'll see what comes out of it.
"He will be going to New Zealand at a place which is still undecided. He will rest and play there for five to six months.
"We will monitor his progress during that time, and the plan is to race him back here if he gets better.
If we had to be very tough, we could have pushed on, but we felt it was time he gets proper break from racing.Trainer Bruce Marsh, on War Affair
"As we all know, he had serious respiratory issues and had a wind op which was the first of its kind done here - it was pulled far back.
"He was never really 100 per cent over it even if he still won a Kranji Stakes A race and a Group 3 race (Saas Fee Stakes, dead-heating with Storm Troops) after the op as he then had complications with a bout of pneumonia.
"Even when he lost at his recent races, he still tried so hard, which goes to show what a great horse he is to overcome all these obstacles and still perform at the highest level."
Marsh is no expert in respiratory problem in horses, but he is hoping the bracing air of his native land might do the trick.
With the Ongs, headed by Jason Ong, Marsh's deputy, on the same page as him, he felt they stood nothing to lose.
"In New Zealand, he will enjoy the beautiful weather as it's going to be summer and he will be without a rug on. It's mentally very refreshing," he said.
"Don't forget he has been manhandled three times a day, whereas there, he will get to run around, sleep and pick some grass.
"It's totally different from here, where he was boxed up all the time, even when he went to the spelling stations (during his breaks here) where he was confined in a box or a day yard.
"He's been boxed since he was two and all he's ever done was race. It's like us going to the office seven days a week.
"Even in New Zealand, we have four seasons and racehorses who prefer dry track can rest in the winter, but there is only one season here.
"Zac Spirit did something similar two years ago and, from all accounts, he came back a better and stronger horse."
War Affair is expected to fly to New Zealand at the end of this month.