War Affair may be the best horse Alwin Tan has ever trained in his five-year career, but the Singaporean does not think he is home and hosed in Sunday's $1.35 million Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup over 2,200m.
Back from a three-day business trip to Hong Kong and Macau, Tan was treading carefully when reflecting about his star galloper's chances of landing the time-honoured classic, that would make him the first horse to make a clean sweep of the Singapore Triple Crown series since its inception in 2000.
Two bugbears have been keeping him up at night since War Affair blew away his rivals in the second leg, the Group 1 Raffles Cup over 1,800m three weeks ago - weight and distance.
One more bugbear was added after the Post Position Draw, during which he was overseas: Wide barrier.
To Tan, the equation is simple.
If the 11-time winner can overcome those three hurdles, the dozen, the Triple Crown and a $300,000 bonus are his for the taking.
"On pure ability, he's the best horse in the race, no doubt, but I'm still worried about three things: Top weight, more distance and wide barrier," said Tan.
"People forget he's still young, only just turned four. I'm not sure if he can handle the rise in distance, and then he gets barrier No. 14, which can make him cover even more ground.
"There are so many horses who can handle the long distance, like Quechua and City Lad, and they have only 50kg on their backs.
"Some people also say 58kg is not that bad, but I never expected more than half the field would be on 50kg. This is not a level weight race like the Kranji Mile and the Raffles Cup, but I guess that's why it's so hard to win the Triple Crown."
Even though he was not on hand to see War Affair work during the week, he has been all ears whenever right-hand man Jason Ong and jockey Danny Beasley send their reports.
"Danny told me he worked fantastic at his gallops on Saturday and Wednesday. I would say he has kept improving even after his last win," said Tan.
"I haven't really given him any more endurance work compared to what he did for the 1,800m race. I don't want to stretch him too much.
"Everything has been good until he got the wide draw on Wednesday. I felt down when they rang me to give me the news.
"Now I hope it doesn't rain too much on Sunday. They told me it's been raining a lot when I was away. He can handle a bit of wet track like in the Raffles Cup, but not a heavy track as he carries the topweight.
"There is a bit of pressure, but it's okay. Danny is coming to the stables this afternoon and we will discuss how best to ride him on Sunday, and fingers crossed, he wins on Sunday."
This article was first published on Nov 14, 2014.
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