Tuesday 24 April 2018

Air Force Blue ready to land coveted prize for O'Brien

O’Brien knows the kind it takes to win this race and Air Force Blue looks the real deal having won a good quality Phoenix Stakes by a couple of lengths in August
O’Brien knows the kind it takes to win this race and Air Force Blue looks the real deal having won a good quality Phoenix Stakes by a couple of lengths in August

Wayne Bailey

the Irish have a good record in the Group One Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (3.10 Newmarket) - regarded as the most prestigious race for juveniles in Britain - with Jim Bolger winning five times and Aidan O'Brien three.

This year, Bolger's charge Sanus Per Aquam isn't really fancied and was trading at 20/1 in the early markets yesterday evening, but that's understandable considering the Teofilo colt has never raced in anything higher than a Group Three.

These late-season juvenile races can be tricky enough. Do you go for a lightly raced horse which is showing potential, or do you rely on one which has had a heavier campaign and therefore more experience?

Priced around even money, Emotionless has only raced twice, winning both, and Charlie Appleby's colt is highly respected for easily disposing of his rivals including Ibn Malik in the Group Two Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last time.


He's almost certainly going to win some big races but bookmakers are taking no chances as it stands and his price is a little short for my liking - although I suspect his odds will drift a little, with most punters unlikely to take the bait unless he's odds against.

Instead, a chance is taken on the more experienced Air Force Blue for O'Brien, which was chalked up at 11/8 in the early markets.

O'Brien (right) knows the kind it takes to win this race and Air Force Blue looks the real deal having won a good quality Phoenix Stakes by a couple of lengths in August.

He improved on that win to land the National Stakes last month and that success ensured he was promoted to favouritism in the ante-post markets for next year's 2,000 Guineas.

Massaat and Tashweeq deserve a mention too but I suspect this will be a match between the top two in the market and it looks like we are in for a cracking race.

Earlier on the same card, Gifted Master can see off the aforementioned Ibn Malik in the Group Three Vision Autumn Stakes (2.35) at a generous price of 4/1 or thereabouts.

Hugo Palmer's gelding looked very smart in a sales race at Newmarket last week, dominating from start to finish, and that came on the back of a novice victory at Newcastle. He looks ready for a challenge and should be up to winning at this level.

Beacon Rock will probably go off as favourite around 2/1. O'Brien's Galileo colt was third in the Group Two Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last time but it wasn't the strongest renewal and I suspect he'll be seen to best effect over a longer trip.

At York, the Listed Coral.co.uk Rockingham Stakes (2.50) looks interesting and I'm surprised to see Donjuan Triumphant priced as high as 11/4.

Richard Fahey's Dream Ahead colt has never finished outside the top three in all five races to date and he stormed clear to win an 18-runner nursery at Ayr last time which was no mean feat. He can be a bit of a quirky customer and has often carried his head awkwardly but so far it hasn't held him back and he deserves to take a chance at this level.

Gracious John also has claims and has some course form having won a maiden here back in September. He also won a nursery last time although not as convincingly as the selection.

Dhahmaan is likely to prove popular in the betting and should go off around 5/1. He's unbeaten in two races, although this is a much sterner test and I've a feeling he'll struggle when the going gets tough.

Finally, O'Brien's Landofhopeandglory, which was narrowly beaten in a nursery at Naas last time, can get back to winning ways in the Listed Dubai Zetland Stakes (4.25 Newmarket).

A half-brother to several winners, his breeding suggests he'll have no problem with the 1m2f distance and although beaten last time at 8/11 by Mint Chai, he looked the best horse in the race.

Previously, he won a Galway maiden with plenty in hand and his early odds of 2/1 seem a little high. Move Up and Cartago can fight it out for the places.


A decent sort on the flat, Cousin Khee clocked up two handicap hurdle wins in quick succession last month but the handicapper hasn't gone to town and a mark of 130 seems quite fair.

The Hughie Morrison-trained gelding likes a bit of cut in the ground and should be suited to the conditions today in the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle (4.30 Chepstow).

On all known form, Tea For Two looks the one to beat but the selection is progressing nicely in this sphere and I'll be quite surprised if he doesn't land a place at the very least, priced around 8/1.


Today's selections

2.35 Newmarket: Gifted Master

2.50 York: Donjuan Triumphant

3.10 Newmarket: Air Force Blue

4.25 Newmarket: Landofhopeandglory

4.30 Chepstow: Cousin Khee (e/w)

5.35 Newmarket: Mutakayyef

Irish Independent

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