While a great amount of hard work had gone into WAR AFFAIR to bring him back to race-fitness, trainer Mark Walker actually put the resounding success of the former champion juvenile in Sunday's inaugural $100,000 Premier Racing Partnerships Stakes over 1,200m down to an extra week of holiday.
Unsighted since his last win in the Group 3 Magic Millions Juvenile Championship over 1,200m on July 28, the son of O'Reilly was resuming and tackling his first start as a three-year-old, aptly in the first leg of the new More Magic 3YO Championship Series.
The striking dark brown gelding owned by Warplan Racing Stable, who also claimed the other 2YO feature, the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe over 1,200m, among his two other wins, was given some time out at the resting stables, but Walker decided to leave him there for another week after he ran his eyes over him.
After War Affair (Joao Moreira) drew clear to score by 1½ lengths from a surprisingly tenacious Rappor (Jose Verenzuela), it was evident the time on the sidelines had improved the gelding out of sight, considering he had to dig deep in the Juvenile Championship to scrape home by a head from Desert Fox, who was soundly beaten by 2½ lengths this time.
One of the best away, War Affair landed in front with his natural speed, but was eased off the speed by Moreira to settle for fourth in the small six-horse field, allowing Rappor to dictate terms at the head of affairs, while the one dubbed as his potential nemesis, Desert Fox (Corey Brown) dropped back to last, but about five lengths first to last.
The pace hotted up markedly at the 700m mark when Virgin Galactic (Danny Beasley) and Easy Money (Sam Subian), circling the field four wide, swooped down early in a bid to steal a march on War Affair, who had not budged on the inside.
Showing plenty of composure in the saddle, Moreira waited for the home straight before easing his mount out to the centre, and once he did, the $7 favourite let down powerfully to settle down for a good go with Rappor.
Though the pair jostled around for a while, War Affair eventually emerged from the bumping duel with a superior turn of foot as he gathered in Rappor for a grandstand finish.
"He was always vulnerable at his last start when he nearly got beaten. In hindsight, I think he was a little underdone on that day," said Walker.
"I sent him up to the resting stables and, when I had a look at him, I thought he just needed that extra week up there. "I think that has given him the chance to furnish up even further and probably made the difference on Monday. His turn of foot on Monday was a lot better and I think he still has more scope for improvement. "He's a typical New Zealand-bred who will keep improving and will be even better over 1,400m and 1,600m, and probably even 2,000m next year."
Walker said he was not really concerned by the way War Affair seemed to be laying in under pressure, saying jockeys always ride tight when they are all out to win.
"He was just a bit green in the last bit, but it was also Jose's horse coming out at us. It's just very competitive riding from both Jose and Joao," said the Kiwi handler.
Moreira, who has been War Affair's partner from Day 1, tasting defeat only once at debut (fourth to Peace No War in one of the six Singapore Golden Horseshoe series races), was simply awed by the way his horse put his rivals to the sword.
"Credit must go to Mark. I think this horse has improved by three lengths from his last start," said the Brazilian ace. Best 2YO
"I've always considered him as the best 2YO before he turned three, that is, but even though he scored at his last start, he was probably not at his best, but on Monday, he's shown his true potential.
"He put himself in the right spot from the start, and I just wanted to give him a clear run to stay out of trouble. "I just kept pushing him in the home straight. I did not have to use the stick and he was very strong to the line."
War Affair has now scored four wins from five starts with his stakes earnings having now swollen to $390,000 for the Warplan Racing Stable.
The Premier Racing Partnerships Stakes is the first Leg of the new More Magic 3YO Championship Series launched by Premier Racing Partnerships, Newgate Farm and Magic Millions.
The two other legs are the $100,000 Newgate Farm Stakes over 1,400m to be run on Sept 22 and the $150,000 Group 3 More Magic Ready to Run Sales 2013 Championship over 1,600m on Oct 13.
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