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Air Force Blue Flies to Keeneland Phoenix Win

Myra Lewyn, Blood Horse

Trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Air Force Blue, a Kentucky-bred son of Claiborne Farm sire War Front, turned the tables on familiar rival and favorite Buratino and won the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Ire-I) for 2-year-olds Aug. 9 at the Curragh.

Buratino, campaigned by Godolphin, defeated his Ballydoyle rival in the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) in June at Royal Ascot and was the 11-10 favorite in the Phoenix. He had to settle for third Sunday, however, as Air Force Blue won by two lengths from stablemate Washington Dc.

Sixth Sense made the early running in the six-furlong contest, but gave way with a quarter-mile to run, as Rockaway Valley gained a narrow lead but was soon strongly pressed on all sides.

Buratino dueled with Washington Dc on the far side of the course, more than furlong out, but Air Force Blue came running down near side with Joseph O’Brien and powered clear in the closing stages. Buratino was third, a half-length behind Washington Dc, who also won at Royal Ascot in the Windsor Castle Stakes.

Air Force Blue, at 9-4 odds, was timed in 1:11.88 for the distance on good turf, providing O’Brien a 14th win in the race in 18 years. The colt has three wins and a second from four career starts for Coolmore and partners.

Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm bred Air Force Blue, from the winning Maria’s Mon mare Chatham. He is from the same family as U.S. champion fillies Flanders and Surfside.

Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier spent $490,000 for Air Force Blue at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, where Stone Farm consigned.