Air Force Blue running away with The National Stakes from Herald The Dawn. Picture courtesy of Alan Crowhurst and Getty Images.
Punters are being asked to take 8/11 about Air Force Blue as we speak, not great value when compared with Gleneagles return of 4/1 last year.
Both were the dominant two-year olds.
Air Force Blue was a triple G1 winner as a juvenile while Gleneagles had one in the bag. It would have been two had he not been disqualified by the stewards in France in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc day. They had different campaigns with the only common thread being the National Stakes where both won however Gleneagles time was 4 seconds quicker than Air Force Blue’s albeit on much quicker ground.
Air Force Blue enters the race rated 124 as opposed to Gleneagles mark of 116 last year. That goes some way to explaining the bookmakers stinginess but are either the rating or the price justified? In the last decade Frankel, Dream Ahead and New Approach all entered their three-year careers rated 126. Top miler, top sprinter and top middle distance athletes of their generations.
Is Air Force Blue up there with them?
He was visually impressive in quickening in the Phoenix Stakes and in the National Stakes and to a slightly lesser degree in the Dewhurst though it was never in doubt.
He did get beaten. In the Coventry 2nd time out by the Mark Johnston trained Buratino who caught him for toe when he didn’t settle. Can that happen again? Unlikely he’s settled in all after that though there is a risk that freshness could be a factor.
There’s a sense he hasn’t been tested at two (immaturity being the issue at Ascot) and a sense he could have put on the afterburners if required, which would have put his rating up there at the 126 mark.
It didn’t happen because he didn’t need to. The others couldn’t live with the ease of his acceleration. He glided by. As a three-year old the same might not be the case. The opposition is bigger, stronger and will also have matured.
His times weren’t fast last year, the G1’s won in slower than standard. In the first, the Phoenix he beat Washington DC who started favourite on Wednesday at Ascot in the Pavillion Stakes over 6f. He was well beaten.
Also of concern is the ability of his sire War Front’s progeny to carry their form from two to three. War Command was a very exciting two-year old who didn’t reproduce at three.
So can he get beat and if so by who.
Of course he can, sure it already happened and now he wears headgear, a tongue-tie and noseband to mitigate the worry about him getting the trip.
All that adds up to the price not being justified but the question of the rating can’t be answered until we seen the run. For racing let’s hope the figure stands up as it’s rare to see a champion miler in the making but speaking from the pocket the one’s that might catch him out are this weeks plunge horse Hugo Plamer’s Galileo Gold and Godolphin’s Buratino who after beating him at Ascot couldn’t live with him at the Curragh in the National. He then ran second to Shalaa in the Middle Park, not shabby form at all.
Then there’s the other Godolphin runner Jim Bolger’s Herald The Dawn, second in the National ahead of Buratino and 3 1/4 Ls behind Ultra when pulling too hard in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. He has 3L’s to make up on Air Force Blue. We might be in for a Kingman moment, beaten here in the Guineas the only blot on the copybook in an otherwise flawless career.
If we are to have a Night Of Thunder then we may well Herald The Dawn. Watch out for the white cap.
Recommendation: Herald The Dawn 33/1 e.w