Tag Archives: Air Force Blue

Sunday Blues & Keatley Monday

Leicester Racecourse

THE good: two winners @ 4/1 and 2/1 today. The bad: Air Force Blue is finished. The champion two year old of 2015 finished an eleven lengths beaten last in the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes….

There is obviously more amiss with him than team Ballydoyle may have wanted us to believe. It’s not a matter of not having trained on. Even if that might well be a factor, it can’t be the reason for one of the most dominant juveniles in recent history suddenly looking like a 30 rated claimer around Southwell on a dreary January afternoon.

I don’t understand it. That is for sure. I felt the drop in trip in the July Cup yielded in some promise, actually, given he travelled really well for a long time. But today? No explanation.

Another question remains unanswered, for the moment at least: retire him or give him a break and try to figure out what’s wrong in the hope he’ll save some of his badly damaged reputation later the year? Well, in my humble opinion the right decision is to send him off to stud. A tumble in the hay with some lovely mares – he may well thrive in the new job….

No surprise in the Phoenix Stakes. Aiden ‘Brien’s Coventry Stakes winner Caravaggio landed the odds without the slightest of problems. The son of Scat Daddy, now unbeaten in four starts, looks a proper racehorse (mind you, Air Force Blue did at this point in time 12 month ago too)!

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Monday Selections:

Riding the Adrian Keatley bandwagon at Ayr tomorrow – his runners, as so often, don’t make much appeal on paper, but his record at the Scottish track speaks for itself. Also his record with horses fitted with headgear, like a visor or tongue tie, or with apprentice Robin Dolan on board.

Also hoping Dragon Pulse can continue his early promise as a freshmen sire. There are some positives to find in a, admittedly, small sample size of his runners on the All-Weather. The majority of those, showing tremendous early speed.

2.45 Wolverhampton: Newport Place @ 14/1 Ladbrokes
2.30 Ayr: Buzz Boy @ 7/1 WH
4.00 Ayr: Jingle Jangle @ 8/1 Bet365
4.45 Wolverhampton: Coronation Day @ 11/2 WH
5.35 Ayr: Dea Dia @ 4/1 Ladbrokes
630 Ffos Las: Desdichado @ 10/1 Skybet
8.20 Windsor: Cosmic Sun @ 4/1 Ladbrokes

Morning Update: Cosmic Sun is N/R
Miday Update: Added Ffos Las selection

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AiR Force Blue Redemption Day

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Not often you see a horse cruising hard on the bridle entering the final furlong in a Grade 1 on the dirt, particularly if they flew around the track right from the start – yet Frosted did!

He posted one of the most impressive performances of the season, following on from an equally ultra impressive victory in Metropolitan Handicap back in June.

If you didn’t see the race, staged last night at beautiful Saratoga, here’s a chance to catch up:


Hayley Turner you beauty! The multiple Group 1 winning formerly leading female rider in the UK looked healthy and happy at yesterday’s Shergar Cup – which in itself was great to see; no doubt her ride in the Shergar Cup Mile was THE highlight of the day.

Super cool, with (virtual) balls of steel, did she rode Early Morning to victory – and given she hasn’t ridden much since her retirement, she looked still quite strong in the saddle. Well done!

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4.05 Phoenix Stakes: Air Force Blue @ 11/8 Skybet

Yes, you got to be a brave man to put any amount of faith in fallen Ballydoyle star Air Force Blue. BUT he wins this – hands down!

Why? Well, it’s obvious that everything he showed as a three year old is so far below anything he showed as a juvenile – therefore it might be fair to assume he simply didn’t train on. On the other hand to my eyes it seemed more like he had some issues bugging him him early on the year plus it becomes clear he doesn’t last the mile trip.

On the positive side of things: when dropped to 6 furlongs in the July Cup you could see a glimpse of last seasons class. “What???” Some will say now. Air Force Blue beaten by feckin’ seven lengths that day!

That’s right, though look closely, as he travelled like a dream for a very long time albeit didn’t get the breaks he needed when it really mattered….. I know I’m making excuses plenty will think… but….

…..Air Force Blue drops down to Group 3 level today right in to a field he simply HAS to dominate, particularly with good ground sure to suit. He’s by far the highest rated individual in this race. Combined with his weight for age allowance he is virtually unbeatable.

So, no excuses today. None! If he fades badly today then we get an answer the question whether there is an underlying problem… potentially breathing (*think loud*). Until then I give him the benefit of the doubt and say 11/8 is monster value!

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The Best from the Rest:

2.20 Chelmsford: Migan Lily @ 3/1 Skybet
2.30 Leicester: Zeinhom @ 10/3 Skybet
4.50 Chelmsford: Stamford Raffles @ 15/2 WH
5.20 Chelmsford: Not Your Call @ 2/1 VC

Preview: 2000 Guineas

The wintry weather of the last couple of weeks has hardly got me into the mood for flat racing. I went to Punchestown on Wednesday and was greeted with a mix of sleet and hail – but hey, here we are, the first classic of the new season right in front of us! Madness!!!

Ground wise it seems Newmarket has done pretty well. It’s good to soft with a dry day expected and given that the Rowley Mile dries up quickly, we can expect fair conditions.

That’s particularly important for red-hot Guineas favourite Air Force Blue. Sure, he’s won on yielding ground before, but he’s also a son of War Front so is probably best on decent ground. That says the conditions today won’t be an issue, I reckon.

What is slightly puzzling is the fact that he’s fitted with a tongue-tie for the first time. Aiden O’Brien has done similar with other good horses in the past, so it’s not necessarily a negative, however it may also imply there is some sort of issue with his breathing.

I personally am not a fan of tongue-ties; sure they don’t look nice on the eye, but – without knowing for a fact myself since I’m not a horse – horses generally don’t enjoy them is the saying from horsemen I trust.

Look, it’s probably all fine and well with him, the vibes are positive anyway and it’s just some assistance Aiden thinks Air Force Blue benefits from on the ground today. Given he’s the best horse in the race on all form we know, it is very hard, if not impossible to oppose him.

That says he is a short price. Rightly so, one can argue. Or not? You can never be quite sure if these beasts really train on until you see them race again. At 4/6 – or whatever he is right now, I’m prepared to take him on with something bigger.

SO: Who else can make a race of it? Racing Post Trophy winner Marcel must be in the discussion. He doesn’t mind cut in the ground and has improved nicely throughout his juvenile season. Truth told though, he was a bit lucky at Doncaster on the day. Whether the form flatters him or not, it leaves me with doubts.

Frankie and Hugo Palmer have been bullish about Galileo Gold. He was supposed to run in the French Guineas, but he’s been wintering and working so well, he’s been re-routed to Newmarket. I can see why. He looks bound to improve as a three year old and showed plenty of promise last season. He’s a son of my all-time favourite Paco Boy – he’ll run a fine if he handles the track.

Will Buratino get the mile? This precocious, speedy juvenile is not sure to have found much improvement over the winter. I find it hard to make a case for him, given he looks more like a sprinter without much scope and definite stamina doubts.

Much more of interest is recent Craven Stakes winner Stormy Antarctic. An excellent runner-up in the Group 1 Criterium International when last seen as a two year old, he looked mightily impressive landing the Craven a fortnight ago. He’s no mug but would clearly prefer the rain clouds to return. Drying ground is a slight concern.

Lightly raced Masaat finished second behind Air Force Blue in the Dewhurst. With a bit of improvement over the winter he should be right there when it matters, given he’s proven to handle this track – with the only question mark the trip. He’s to prove his stamina and I’m worried he’s not getting home.

Aiden O’Brien’s second string Air Vice Marshal is clearly an exciting prospect. Lightly raced, maybe not quite seen to best effect in the Superlative Stakes, he should develop into a nice three year old.The step up in trip is clearly in his favour, though whether the ground is fast enough for him to be seen to best effect is the big question mark.

Jim Bolger has proven in the past that he can get horses ready for the first classic. His Herald The Dawn, a full-brother to 2013 Guineas hero Dawn Approach, didn’t quite fulfill the early promise in the latter part of his juvenile season. But it’s fair to believe he could be a better three year old.

I like the fact that Ribchester has already a run under his belt this season, albeit I’m not sure what to make of it. Hanging badly in France earlier this month, he was subsequently demoted from second to fifth. The step up to a mile poses no problem for him, whether he is good enough is the question.

Verdict: It is probably not wise to oppose Air Force Blue, who looks the real deal on anything we know. He’s as short in the betting as he should be on all we know. However if you’re like me, trying to get these shorties beat, you can find some reasons to do so here. For me it’s the tongue-tie. I’m puzzled why this one would be applied if there isn’t a slight concern about his breathing.

From the bigger prices I’m intrigued by his stable mate Air Vice Marshal who cost a fortune as a yearling and could be much better than what we have seen from him as a two year old. This here might not be the race to see him to best effect, he may need the run and does probably need faster ground. At 40/1 he’s worth a shot nonetheless.

I’m stuck with Herrald The Dawn too. I punted him ante-post roughly eight months ago at 40/1. Doesn’t look all that smart today – it’s the same price you can get this morning. Shows this lad hasn’t improved in the expected way from the moment on I backed him. But as mentioned before there is good reason to believe he has scope to be better this year. The Guineas is his target and if he can find a couple of pounds – he will have to if he wants to feature – I can see him going close.

Saturday’s Flat Tipps

Newmarket Rowley Mile

3.10 Newmarket: Dewhurst Stakes (Group 1), 7f

Two super exciting colts go to post to fight it out here: Aiden O’Brien’s Air Force Blue and Godolphin’s Emotionless. Both created big impressions this season, both look special.

However I feel Air Force Blue should be a clear favourite here, given he already is a two times Group 1 winner – in fact he landed the two most important races for two year olds in Ireland, the Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes – and he seems to get better with each run.

The son of War Front has no issues with the ground today, after winning on yielding ground before. And he looked even more home over the 7f trip in the National Stakes than the sprints.

Air Force Blue @ 6/5 Racebets – 10pts Win

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5.35 Newmarket: Darley Stakes (Group 3), 9f

Mutakayyef is a very fair favourite to land this race but his odds offer no value so I go with lightly raced Ooty Hill who could easily be good enough to win at this level. He looked smart when getting off the mark last year at this venue but has had only two starts since.

A very promising runner-up effort behind subsequent Group 1 scorer Starof Seville was followed by a setback and a half year long lay-off. When he repapered at Newbury last month in an Arc Trial trainer Roger Charlton warned that Ooty Hill will most likely need the run.

The three year old colt dropped out tamely over 3f out which is a worry but he didn’t get a hard time either and one would hope the race has brought him along nicely for today.

Whether that is the case remains to be seen. Some horses never recover from their injuries. Ooty Hill deserves his chance today, though, and if he can find back to his form he’ll be a big runner with conditions very much to suit.

Ooty Hill @ 14/1 Coral – 5pts Win

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6.05 Chelmsford: Nursery (Class 5), 1m

Cogent makes his nursery debut and looks a very likeable sort. An opening mark off 70 looks stiff enough, but given the fact that he was far from disgraced in a super hot maiden when last time seen gives the indication that is a fair start. This son of Paco Boy is related to plenty of decent All-Weather winners and steps up to 1m which on pedigree will suit perfectly.

First time gelded today after a bit off a break, he makes plenty of appeal, given that sons of Paco Boy have often improved quite dramatically after a gelding op in the past. A good draw today is a help too – so in an open race, Cogent could easily outrun his odds.

Cogent @ 12/1 Coral – 5pts Win

Preview: Royal Ascot – Coventry Stakes

Round Two

Jim Bolger’s Round Two (photo) was utterly impressive when beating a smart Ballyoyle prospect at the Curragh recently. The step up to 6f can only be in his favour here, so he’s red hot favourite for all the right reasons. Which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a price to invest in. Slight question marks over the fast ground have to be put to bed before I’d be prepared to dig into 9/4 in a race where so many others make plenty of appeal too.

Wesley Ward has been successful with his printers at Royal Ascot in recent years – can he do it again? He brings over another speedball – Finnegan was only beaten on his debut run, though on Dirt, but didn’t make a mistake second time out, when switched to turf. He’s a really good looking individual with loads of speed. If he can stay the extra furlong he’ll be a big runner.

Aiden O’Brien enrolss only one runner in the Coventry: War Front son Air Force Blue. He got off the mark on debut at the Curragh, despite being green particularly at the start of the race. But he showed plenty of pace and travelled like a dream. He got a bit tired in the end but held on. Clearly a smart individual who should relish the fast ground, he’s a major contender, given that this form works out extremely well.

Buratino is unbeaten over six furlongs in two starts. He won a Listed contest on Derby day in tremendous style. He’ll absolutely love the fast ground ad must be taken very serious. War Department was a fine debut winner at Leicester and can improve. William Haggas’s charge ran to a Timeform rating of 100+ first time out, so is clearly a smart individual.

There are many more interesting colts in the line-up. First Selection is a bigger price to take into consideration. Richard Hannon’s pair of Eltezam and Age Of Empire can’t be underestimated either. Maccus for Brian Meehan looked good at Windsor on debut.

Verdict: There isn’t much form available and it is always difficult to accurately assess the potential each and every individual in this race has. That says, as mentioned before, I’m inclined to take on the favourite, for price and ground reasons. While the US runner might be found out for stamina over the stiff Ascot finish.

But I really like Aiden O’Brien’s Air Force Blue and it looks significant that there is seemingly confidence behind this horse as that is signalled by the fact that Ballydoyle has only this one runner in the field, while theoretically they’d have a whole armada of two year old colts good enough to run. This son of War Front was impressive on debut and looks a tick overpriced here I feel.

Air Force Blue @ 8/1 Coral – 5pts Win