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Air Force Blue Impressive in the National TDN

On a rain-compromised Irish Champions weekend which featured a couple of high-profile withdrawals from Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien’s decision to let Air Force Blue (War Front) take his chance in The Curragh’s G1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National S. paid handsome dividends as the imposing bay delivered another masterclass under Joseph O’Brien. There were shades of Hawk Wing in his success in the G1 Phoenix S. over six furlongs here Aug. 9 and he looked in that exalted class again despite enjoying no cover throughout. Always traveling with potency two lengths off his pace-setting stable companion Painted Cliffs (Ire) (Canford Cliffs {Ire}), the 10-11 pick drew alongside Herald the Dawn (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) passing the quarter pole with barely any encouragement from his rider. Sent on with a shake of the reins soon after, he imposed his authority on affairs without recourse to the whip to best that rival by three lengths. “I don’t want to say too much, but Joseph was very impressed with him and he’s a very exciting horse. He’s very unusual, but I have to be careful as you can say too much when you get excited.”

Of the previous nine Aidan O’Brien-trained winners of this prize, Air Force Blue would at this stage stand comparison with several and by completing the Phoenix-National double was joining the stable’s One Cool Cat, George Washington (Ire) and Mastercraftsman (Ire)–the latter being by another who managed the feat in the Neville Callaghan-trained Danehill Dancer (Ire). Giving instant justification for his trainer’s decision to crack on early when winning a competitive six-furlong maiden from more precociously bred rivals on debut at this track May 24, he did little wrong in the G2 Coventry S. other than encounter a faster finisher on the day in Buratino (Ire) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) but beat everything else convincingly in that June 16 Royal Ascot contest. After a short break, he handled the rain-eased ground better than Buratino when impressive in the Phoenix, but it may be that he had improved at a faster rate than his British rival who ended up third with Air Force Blue’s stable companion Washington DC (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) splitting the pair. Forced to race alone here with Joseph O’Brien not keen on over-restraint, he went through the race without being in a race situation and it was a case of natural ability carrying him to the post. “He’s a huge engine, traveled very good throughout the race and down to the furlong-and-a-half mark I was still cantering,” his rider explained. “I haven’t ridden many as good as him. He’s very straightforward, travels, relaxes, has a lot of speed and he showed today that he gets seven furlongs well.” O’Brien senior was trying hard to keep his feelings under wraps and added, “We took a chance running him on ground that he would have hated, as he wants real fast ground. With a War Front you’d be afraid of that bad ground, but in February he was powering up through all the two-year-olds at home and that’s the reason we ran him. We had to know what we would do with him if the ground came up awful next year. Joseph said he was running away the whole way and he couldn’t even get him back in behind horses. He has real pace, too. Gleneagles has that pace–natural pace. He’ll have one more run if he’s going to go again and I’d imagine that would be in the G1 Dewhurst S. [at Newmarket Oct. 10], as now he’s gone up to seven you don’t want to go back to six. It wouldn’t be essential if he doesn’t run again this year.”

Sunday, Curragh, Ireland
GOFFS VINCENT O’BRIEN NATIONAL S.-G1, €300,000, CUR, 9-13, 2yo, 7fT, 1:29.89, gd.
1–AIR FORCE BLUE, 129, c, 2, by War Front
1st Dam: Chatham (MSP-US, $156,431), by Maria’s Mon
2nd Dam: Circle of Gold, by Seeking the Gold
3rd Dam: Starlet Storm, by Storm Bird
($490,000 Ylg ‘14 KEESEP). O-Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith; B-Stone Farm (KY); T-Aidan O’Brien; J-Joseph O’Brien. €174,000. Lifetime Record: GSP-Eng, 4-3-1-0, $410,237. Werk Nick Rating: D. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.

2–Herald The Dawn (Ire), 129, c, 2, New Approach (Ire)–Hymn of the Dawn, by Phone Trick. O-Godolphin; B/T-Jim Bolger (IRE). €60,000.
3–Birchwood (Ire), 129, c, 2, Dark Angel (Ire)–Layla Jamil (Ire), by Exceed and Excel (Aus). (77,000gns Ylg ‘14 TAOCT). O-Godolphin; B-Marathon Bloodstock (IRE); T-Richard Fahey. €27,000.
Margins: 3, 1 3/4, HF. Odds: 0.90, 2.50, 6.50.
Also Ran: Final Frontier (Ire), Painted Cliffs (Ire). Scratched: Air Vice Marshal, My Brother (Ire). Click for the Racing Post result, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. Video, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.