frame frame frame frame




Air Force Blue | Coolmore
Courtesy of the TDN

By Kelsey Riley VIDEO

With the kickoff of the American yearling sale season just around the corner, prospective buyers will soon be scrutinizing the progeny of the latest first-season sires.

This year’s field is an admittedly tough one; champion 2-year-old and GI Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo) led by weanling sale average last year ($208,333), and he was closely pursued by his Darley barnmate Frosted, the brilliant GI Met Mile winner by Tapit. Champion sprinter Runhappy (Super Saver) sat third, followed by global superstar California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) and GI Preakness S. winner Exaggerator (Curlin).

Following these is Air Force Blue (War Front), a name that will be particularly familiar to Europeans but whose racetrack accomplishments were such that they resonated on a global scale and earned him a spot at stud back in the state of his birth.

Bred by Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm, Air Force Blue is out of the listed-placed Chatham (Maria’s Mon), and his third dam, Starlet Storm, produced the American champion 2-year-old filly Flanders (Seeking the Gold), who in turn left the champion 3-year-old filly Surfside (Seattle Slew).

MV Magnier snapped up Air Force Blue for $490,000 at Keeneland September in 2014, where he was the fourth-most expensive of 16 sold by his sire. All four of those top-priced colts headed to Europe-three to Ballydoyle and one to France-and indeed War Front was still riding the high of Declaration of War’s wins in the G1 Juddmonte International and G1 Queen Anne S. the year prior, and War Command’s G1 Dewhurst S., G2 Coventry S. and G2 Futurity S. victories. At that time War Front, the dirt sprinter who never ran on the grass, had been boxed into a corner by some as a turf sire that excelled mostly in Europe, but it is interesting to note that the year Air Force Blue was sold as a yearling, all of War Front’s six graded winners came in the U.S., and were headed by dirt Grade I winner Peace and War. Today, War Front has fully justified his proprietors at Claiborne Farm who believed all along he was equally effective on both surfaces; his two Grade I winners thus far in 2019 are of course the American dirt 3-year-olds War of Will and Omaha Beach, and he has exciting 2- and 3-year-olds like Happen, Munitions and Etoile in Ireland and France. War Front has sired 12 Grade I winners in the U.S. and seven Group 1 winners in Europe in all.r

Air Force Blue is War Front’s third-highest earner and his most accomplished 2-year-old. A May 1 foal, Air Force Blue was a first-out winner at The Curragh on May 24, 2015, and was second to just the seasoned Buratino (Ire) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) in the G2 Coventry S. three weeks later. Air Force Blue wouldn’t be beaten again at two, taking the G1 Phoenix S., G1 National S. and G1 Dewhurst S. It was the first time since 2001 that that triple had been completed, and Air Force Blue wrapped up his juvenile campaign with a Timeform rating of 128p-better than the 126 achieved at two by both Frankel (GB) and Too Darn Hot (GB).

“From the very beginning, Aidan O’Brien was very, very, very high on the horse,” recalled Coolmore’s Adrian Wallace. “He was a three-time Group 1 winner at two and the highest-rated 2-year-old that Aidan O’Brien has ever trained, which puts him in pretty rarefied air when you consider how many good 2-year-olds Aidan O’Brien has trained.”

“He’s a horse that really ticks a lot of boxes and offers breeders a War Front with a lot of speed, a lot of precocity, and he’s a very, very good-looking horse.”

Wallace describes Air Force Blue as “a War Front with a lot of leg,” and he said he is passing his strong body and athleticism onto his progeny. Indeed, Air Force Blue’s first-crop foals, bred on a $25,000 stud fee, averaged over $85,000 at last year’s foal sales.

“It was very gratifying to see how well they were received as foals,” Wallace said. “The market took to them very well. Only 20 of them went through the sales as foals. Sixteen out of 20 sold for an average of just over $85,000. And six of them brought over $100,000, so I think the market judged them well. I think we’ll see a good sample again in September and in the next couple of months.”

Coolmore and Ballydoyle have been one of War Front’s biggest supporters at stud, and Wallace said that support has extended to Air Force Blue, and that the blue chip operation has supported the horse with its own mares.

“He’s a horse we’ve latched onto ourselves,” Wallace said. “We’ve supported him heavily from the very beginning. We will continue to support him, and we’ll be looking at all his stock in the coming sales.”