With three impressive wins, gelding War Affair has looked unbeatable this year and is in perfect shape in the run-up to Sunday's Emirates Singapore Derby.
However, two things could count against the New Zealand-bred horse in the $1.15 million showpiece event at the Kranji racecourse.
For not only will he be coming up against a familiar rival in Quechua, but he will also have to navigate a challenging race, after drawing wide at gate 14 during yesterday's post position draw at the Singapore Turf Club.
Still, his jockey Alan Munro, who won the Derby in 2013 aboard Better Life, remained upbeat.
He said: "We've drawn near our main rival (Quechua) and he will go forward and we can mark him."
Gelding Quechua, who will have Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Corey Brown in the irons, will start from barrier 12 for the 2,000m race which has 15 contenders.
Said his South African trainer Patrick Shaw: "It's a little hard for any horse (to start in 12). Right now, it depends on the pace of the race.
"Corey will have a very important role to play in terms of guiding in the first 200m, whether it is to go fast enough or sit (back)."
Both horses were also leading contenders in last November's $1.35 million Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup race, and War Affair lost to the Argentinian-bred Quechua in the 2,200m race.
War Affair was then gunning for the prestigious Triple Crown, having won the Kranji Mile (1,600m) and Raffles Cup (1,800m).
Their renewed rivalry in the Derby also has an additional twist, as War Affair is gunning to sweep all three legs of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge.
The galloper had won the first two instalments - the Stewards' Cup (1,400m) in May and last month's Patron's Bowl (1,600m).
The last horse to achieve this feat was the Hideyuki Takaoka-trained Jolie's Shinju in 2009, although the format differed, with the Patrons' Bowl run over 1,400m followed by the Singapore Derby Trial over 1,600m.
Despite War Affair's haul of 11 group wins, handler Alwin Tan is under no illusions about the latest assignment, especially since this is only the second time his galloper has ventured over this distance.
He said: "I'm a bit upset and disappointed because it's a bad barrier draw, much like how it was at the Gold Cup (barrier 12)."
"For War Affair, it's a step up in distance, and Quechua looks better in longer races. I think we will have a tough fight."
Shaw has three horses - the most of any trainer - in the 15-strong field. His other runners Cooptado and In Fact will jump from stalls two and 11 respectively.
Fastnet Dragon, trained by Singaporean Leslie Khoo, will start from gate one.
The Australian-bred gelding has been in fine form of late with four straight victories, though against lesser company.
This article was first published on July 9, 2015.
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