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Air Force Blue, trained by Aidan O’Brien, has today been unveiled as the champion European two-year-old following his impressive win in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes.
It was the first time since Johannesburg in 2001 that any two-year-old has won three European Group 1 races, which marks Air Force Blue as a distinguished champion.
His rating of 124 is the joint highest of the last five years with Dawn Approach who went on to land the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes as a three-year-old.
The only two-year-olds to have rated higher in the last dozen years are New Approach, Frankel and Dream Ahead (each at 126) and each of them went on to win three or more Group 1 races the following season.
Second top in the 2015 Classification is Shalaa (121) who won four Group races culminating in his Juddmonte Middle Park success. Buratino and Emotionless come next on 117.
Matthew Tester, the BHA Senior Handicapper responsible for two-year-olds in 2015 said:
“They are very different sorts of horses. Shalaa’s great gift was his amazing cruising speed whilst Air Force Blue has much more the profile of a Guineas horse. In remembering Johannesburg’s three Group 1 wins one must bear in mind that he never won as a three-year-old, but there is every reason to think that Air Force Blue will measure up in the coming year.”
Tester also highlighted the tremendous strength in depth of the juvenile fillies last year:
“Minding is our champion filly at 120. She is the first to be rated above 119 since Six Perfections in 2002 was given a figure of 121. Minding put up the best performance in the Dubai Fillies Mile in the last 25 years.”
Lumiere is next best in the ratings at 116 for her win in the Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes over Illuminate (115) and Besharah (114), with the USA-trained Acapulco also rating 115 for her tremendous run in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
Matthew Tester added:
“Minding is a very worthy favourite for the 1,000 Guineas. Lumiere and Acapulco might have too much speed for a mile to be perfect for them, but Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup is again shaping up as an exciting contest with Shalaa looking likely to take them on”.
This is the twentieth juvenile Classification on which Matthew Tester has worked, and his last. He has now switched to other responsibilities within the BHA’s team of Handicappers.
It is traditional for Matthew Tester to nominate a ‘dark horse’ to follow in the coming year. This year he has nominated a Doncaster maiden winner trained by John Gosden:
“Royal Artillery made a big impression. Frankie rode him with tremendous confidence and defeat never looked likely. He should be in everybody’s notebook as it was a run of real potential.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The full European two-year-old Classification can be found here