Wednesday 28 September 2016

Air Force Blue lands Curragh feature as O'Brien doubles up

Thomas Kelly

Published 10/08/2015 | 02:30

Air Force Blue, under Joseph O’Brien, sprints clear of the field at the Curragh
Air Force Blue, under Joseph O’Brien, sprints clear of the field at the Curragh

Air Force Blue was promoted to head of the betting for next year's English 2,000 Guineas after a stylish performance in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

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Aidan O'Brien's colt was sent off the 9/4 second-favourite having finished behind Buratino in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. That rival was in opposition again and there was enough confidence behind Mark Johnston's juvenile to see him start as the 11/10 market leader to confirm the form.

Buratino was in the perfect position to strike two furlongs from home, but he had no answer to Air Force Blue, which took off under Joseph O'Brien to win going away by two lengths.

Forward

Stablemate Washington DC, a Royal Ascot winner himself, beat Buratino for second. O'Brien has now won eight of the last 11 runnings of the six-furlong Group One contest.

"He came forward well from Ascot. He won his maiden here and didn't learn a lot, and was a baby going to Ascot," said O'Brien. "He settled, travelled and quickened up well today, and he was very professional. He has a few options now, including the Prix Morny."

The winner is the 8/1 favourite for the Guineas, halving in price.

O'Brien had earlier unleashed a promising type in How High The Moon, which was given a 14/1 quote by Paddy Power for next year's Oaks after winning the juvenile fillies maiden. A sister to Pretty Polly winner Diamondsandrubies in the same colours, she came with a powerful run under Seamie Heffernan.

It was an eventful race as favourite Camellia Japonica clipped heels and unseated Shane Foley but the winner was away from the danger. Midnight Crossing attempted to go with How High The Moon (7/2), but was beaten a length and three-quarters.

Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby made a successful raid when Mattmu just pipped Toscanini in the Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club Phoenix Sprint Stakes.

Mick Halford's Toscanini set out to make it a real test and it was all too much for the red-hot favourite Anthem Alexander, which was never travelling.

Entering the final furlong there was only Mattmu in striking distance and David Allan managed to force his mount in front just a couple of strides before the line. Sent off a 3/1 chance, Mattmu prevailed in a tight photo finish.

Restive showed the benefit of experience when making every yard to win the opening juvenile maiden over a mile.

Colin Keane took no chances on the Ger Lyons-trained Derby entry, and bounced the 4/1 second favourite into an early advantage. Despite late headway by Jim Bolger's newcomer Stellar Mass Kevin Prendergast's Mutadaffeq, Restive still had a length to spare at the line.

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