Leading trainer Lee Freedman said Affleck’s return to the winner’s enclosure on Sunday gave him one of the best satisfactions he has had since he moved to Singapore in September 2017.
It’s been a long time between drinks for the 2015 Singapore Guineas winner and 2015 champion three-year-old who has not greeted the judge since August 14, 2016.
The son of Battle Paint has since run only 11 times in more than two years but the worst seems to have been put behind now going with the unflinching way he stood up to Melting Point’s feisty challenge down the straight on Sunday.
Nursed patiently back to full race fitness by Freedman after he took over on the rehab work his former trainer Laurie Laxon had started, the now seven-year-old Affleck finally found his mojo again in the S$100,000 Kranji Stakes B race over 1400m.
While the romance of seeing an old favourite win again was the first feelgood factor, the hardy manner in which he crafted the win, burning the candle at both ends for young apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong probably gave Freedman more of a kick.
“I have to say this is one of my most satisfying wins since I’ve trained here,” said the Australian Hall of Fame trainer who with that one win on Sunday cements his position at the top on the Singapore ladder, two winners clear of Shane Baertschiger (60 versus 58).
“With the issues he’s had, the horse went for a spell in Malaysia for a while, but he’s come back in good shape. I told CK (owner Phua Chian Kin of Oscar Racing Stable) that he was 100% fit today and he just wants to do it.
“He was down in a class where he could win again and young Simon Kok gave him a great ride as well.”
Drawn off in the outermost alley, Affleck ($27) was not out in a flash, but working overtime for Kok, he was able to gradually come across to find the steel 300m into the journey.
With Melting Point (Benny Woodworth) having the advantage of a cosier ground-saving run on his inside, most thought Affleck would be at his mercy in the home straight.
But those champion qualities that saw him win eight races in his younger days don’t just vanish overnight.
Melting Point did loom large on his nearside, but the more he chipped away into the margin, the more extra Affleck seemed to find.
The last furlong saw the two horses lock horns in an epic struggle through the line. The photo print showed that Affleck had prevailed by the slenderest of margins – a nose. Awesome (Yusoff Fadzli) ran third another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 22.19secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
Favourite Paparazzi (John Powell) blew his chances when he blundered at the start. The five to six lengths the Snitzel five-year-old lost left him with too much to do – he eventually ran seventh, but beaten only around four lengths astern, to give a rough idea what he could have done if he had jumped on terms.
Kok, whose last winner came aboard another Freedman on Friday night, Augustano, said he never lost his faith in Affleck even when he came under siege.
“He is a very experienced horse. He jumped smartly and showed a good travelling speed for me,” said the Malaysian rider.
“Mr Freedman told me to put him in a forward position. Once in front, he gave me a good feeling.
“When I pushed the button, he was very strong to the line. When Benny’s horse came at us, he could feel him coming and that pushed him forward even more.
“I think the three-kilo claim also made a difference.”
It may have taken 826 days for that ninth win to materialise, but it has now made Affleck a well-deserved millionaire for the Oscar Racing Stable. -STC