War Pride restored to battle fitness
Trainer Ong is rewarded for patience shown in spacing lightly framed galloper’s runs
As trainer Jason Ong sat in the New Zealand-bound flight on Friday, War Pride’s comeback race the next day was not weighing on his mind.
He had left the ride of the resuming galloper on auto-pilot mode.
The Singaporean does use jockey Manoel Nunes, but does not have his phone number on speed dial.
But, whenever he puts him on, he sleeps well.
In 2022, from 352 runners, Ong booked the four-time Singapore champion only 10 times.
Five of them hit the bull’s eye.
When Ong managed to secure the Brazilian ace for a first pairing on his once-promising three-year-old, he knew he could be economical with his parting words.
“I flew to New Zealand for the Karaka sale on Friday. I just told Nunes to ride his own race,” he said.
“It’s true he’s never sat on the horse, but we had nothing to worry about. He knows what to do.
“He had a good opinion of the horse from his work and trials.
“We were also confident, and credit to Nunes for another perfect ride.”
The Tavistock six-year-old was returning after a six-month layoff.
With Deception, Strong N Smart and Lim’s Stable’s much-hyped newcomer Invincible Tycoon in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1,200m, the task of scoring a first-up victory for a fourth overall win looked daunting.
But, making full use of the carte blanche Ong handed him, Nunes brushed aside all these concerns with a zipping move on the outskirts of the field.
From barrier No. 9, War Pride ($27) whipped around to easily find the paint.
From that point onwards, Nunes just controlled the pace to a nicety, paving the way to a one-act affair in the straight.
Three lengths away, a cluster of four horses battled for the minors.
Strong N Smart (Amirul Ismadi) won the fight by a short head from Be You (Matthew Kellady).
War Pride clocked 1min 09.49sec for the 1,200m on the long course.
“He was first-up after six months. All the credit to Jason and his team,” said Nunes.
“We drew a tricky barrier, but he’s a straightforward horse. He jumped well and put himself there.
“I expected Be You to lead, but we decided to go forward when nobody else was keen. We controlled the pace from there.
“He scored a very impressive win. He’s a lovely horse who can get to Class 3, no problem.
“I was just telling Jason’s father how famous those silks are with War Affair and how I wished they can get another good horse.”
With a name and silks that brought shades of the Ong family’s pride and joy, War Pride has not quite lived up to the early promise shown in his Kranji racing career.
He even earned a Group 2 berth in the second leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, off the back of two wins in a row.
But he was soundly beaten by Inferno in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1,400m) in 2020.
A win in Class 4 company rekindled hope, but overall, he thereafter showed chequered form, interspersed with a lot of downtime.
To Ong, the issue was not a lack of ability, but more maturity.
“The horse has no issues, but I was just not happy with his condition. He was too immature,” said the Australian-trained handler.
“He’s the sort of horse who’s not able to take too much work. He loses weight, he’s too light.
“That’s why I put him off work for six months to build some mass. He needs time to mature.
“He put on 14kg for Saturday’s race and was in a good condition. I think he’ll run well from now on.”
If Ong was confident he had found the missing puzzle piece to War Pride, he hopes he will soon find the same inspiration at the New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2023 National Yearling Sale.
“The sale is quite strong and there are some nice horses going around.,” he said.
“I have a few horses on my shortlist, but I’ve been outbidded a few times already.
“I’m still looking around. But we’re only at Day 2. So, we’ve got three more days to get a horse.”
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