Already crowned the top 2YO last season, the Laurie Laxon-trained son of Battle Paint was widely and rightly regarded as the leading candidate to make another clean sweep in the 3YO equivalent series, but high expectations turned to disappointment when he ran second in both the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) on April 3, beaten by Kiwi Karma and the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) two weeks later, with Spanish Bay lowering his colours this time.
Ring-rustiness was seen as a possible conviction in the first Leg defeat, but jockey Michael Rodd who was aboard in the Classic (he sat out the first Leg on suspension) cautioned Affleck should not be written off as he felt he was looking for the mile of the Guineas.
Rodd, who only began plying his trade at Kranji in January, was finally notching his first Singapore Group 1 success, but the top Melbourne rider did not fail to graciously pay some of the credit to Affleck’s former partner, Danny Beasley.
“Shane Ellis (assistant-trainer) suggested I rang Danny just to ask him how to best ride Affleck. I didn’t know Danny that well as I was an apprentice when he left Australia, but he was like “hey Michael how are ya?” when I rang him,” said Rodd.
“He told me straight away: ‘Go early on him, let him roll, don’t slow down. Make the others run and chase you’ and he was very confident it would work and he was spot-on.
“At my last ride on him, I didn’t sit up and backed off the pace a bit and Spanish Bay got away from us.
“This time, I tracked Spanish Bay right through and I went before the home turn. I just clicked up for another gear. The time was around 1min 34secs, but the sting was out of the ground tonight.
“This is my first Group 1 win here, but to be honest it is more a relief to get over the line first. It’s like when I was riding for Mark Kavanagh, the likes of Atlantic Jewel, you just go that one’s done, now for the next.
“It’s only later on when you take stock of the wins that you really appreciate what you’ve achieved.”
It may not have sunk in yet, but Rodd certainly felt privileged he had been afforded such special rides at only his first season in Singapore. He is also the new partner of Singapore champion sprinter Zac Spirit who will, however, be ridden by Brazilian superstar Joao Moreira in the $1 million Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m) on Sunday.
“I didn’t think I would end up on a horse like Affleck or Zac Spirit. I have to thank Laurie and Cliff (Brown) for that,” he said.
“You get on a good one, but you know the politics here, you still have to work hard and show up for trackwork and keep chipping away to get the best rides.”
Laxon, who was at his second Singapore Guineas (Better Than Ever in 2010), though he did win the third Leg of the 3YO series when it was known otherwise, with Royal Captain (2004) and Big Easy (2005), said he never lost faith in Affleck bouncing back to his imperious best in the final Leg.
“He was not fit enough in the first two Legs. As we had moved stables, I had to use someone else’s walking machine to get the fitness back in him,” said the nine-time Singapore champion trainer.
“He has really improved since and that winning barrier trial last week was a good sign he was ready.
“It didn’t matter how the race was run, it's the result which matters. He will definitely get better over more ground.”
With his imposing record of seven wins, three seconds from 10 starts, Affleck has now brought his earnings close to the $820,000 mark for the Oscar Racing Stable of Mr Phua Chian Kin.