War Commander salutes first-up, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

War Commander salutes first-up

The son of US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah prevails in three-way finish

With a sire like his, it was not a surprise that newcomer War Commander was backed as the $12 favourite at Kranji on Saturday.

The three-year-old chestnut gelding is the first progeny by US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to race in Singapore.

For good measure, he won – but had to fight hard for victory in the $20,000 Open Maiden event over 1,200m on turf.

Trained by Ricardo Le Grange and ridden by leading jockey Manoel Nunes, War Commander just beat two fellow newcomers in an exciting three-way finish.

The Jason Ong-trained Blazing Kid (Oscar Chavez) also threw in his lot on War Commander’s inside to finish second by the narrowest of margins – a nose. 

He was just a short head in front of the Stephen Gray-trained Dancing Tycoon (Wong Chin Chuen).

The winner clocked 1min 11.35sec. 

He earned $10,710 for his Philippine owner, Paolo De Villa Mendoza.

The Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah (a typo of “Pharaoh” that was left unrectified) ended an American Triple Crown drought of 37 years in 2015.

He became the 12th horse in US racing history to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

Affirmed was the last Triple Crown winner in 1978.

Before he retired to stud that same year, American Pharoah thrashed his rivals and broke the 2,000m record in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to become the first to complete that particular US Grand Slam.

With only three crops of foals having hit the tracks around the world, it was not surprising Kranji racing fans had not seen any American Pharoah brood reaching these shores, especially as we do not import as many Northern Hemisphere-bred horses.

But, when Coolmore sent him as a shuttle stallion to Australia, which is Singapore’s main source of thoroughbreds, in 2017, it was a matter of time before his first crop came up here.

War Commander, an Australian-bred out of the Snitzel mare, Snitzel’s Jewel, received positive reviews off his trackwork. Everything pointed to a promising career – and he delivered.

Le Grange always knew there was an engine there. But he had remained guarded about any fireworks right off the bat.

“I have to say Manoel was very confident after his trials and gallops. But I was of the opinion there was still a bit of improvement left,” said the South African.

“I normally give my young horses two trials. But this guy had only one. But it was a good trial where he showed good form (second to Grand Koonta).

“Manoel’s done a lot of work on him and also brought a couple of things to his gear. He was more bullish than me that he was ready to go. I didn’t tie him down to any instructions. But, as he showed a lot of speed in his trackwork, we knew he’d be quite forward.

“It’s the first American Pharoah to come here – and it’s great he’s won, too, on debut. He’s looking for 1,400m-1,600m, and hopefully, he carries on an upward curve.”

War Commander is Le Grange’s third winner for the new season, after Leatherhead and Gold Reward. He had four seconds from his four other races on Saturday – Malibu Beach, Rocketship, Yes One Ball and Sand Box.