Can anything beat Air Force Blue in 2,000 Guineas?

Air Force Blue (Ryan Moore)

Air Force Blue: romped to Dewhurst success at Newmarket last season

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)  

AIR FORCE BLUE’S superb rise to stardom last season was rounded off in scintillating style in the Dewhurst Stakes in October and last year’s champion two-year-old is a red-hot favourite to claim Qipco 2,000 Guineas glory on Saturday.

The son of War Front looks set to go off the first odds-on favourite since Frankel and the hype surrounding Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old is similar to that of the 2011 winner, who went on to become one of the greatest of all time.

Frankel, who went off at 1-2 for his 2,000 Guineas win, was an exceptional talent with very few weaknesses but are there any chinks in Air Force Blue’s armour and if so who might exploit them?

Has the ground gone against him?

Air Force Blue won the National Stakes on yielding ground at the Curragh last season but the rest of his winning form is on good ground and O’Brien admitted that he would prefer it to dry out.

The Ballydoyle trainer said: “Air Force Blue handled easy ground when winning the National Stakes at the Curragh in September but going a mile at Newmarket will be new territory for him and we’d like to see the ground dry out.

“Everything has gone well with him over the winter and spring. He worked very well last Friday when he showed a lot of pace in his work.”

Aidan O'Brien: has won the race four out of the last five runnings

Aidan O’Brien: wants the ground to dry out for Air Force Blue

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

This week’s plunge horse in the betting, Galileo Gold, has good form on good to soft as a juvenile and his trainer Hugo Palmer is delighted the rain has come.

“I’ve said all along all we were looking to avoid was the ground getting fast,” said Palmer. “I think the temperature and the eight millimetres of rain have ensured it won’t be and I suspect it will be good ground. There won’t be excuses for anyone on good ground and I would anticipate the best horse to win.”

Will he stay?

Air Force Blue goes into the race untried at a mile, having never raced beyond seven furlongs. However, none of the past three winners of the race had ran over a mile before taking Guineas glory.

Air Force Blue is also proven at the track – winning the Dewhurst Stakes last season – and handling the Rowley Mile is historically is more of a factor than stepping up from seven furlongs to a mile.

The way he travelled and put the race to bed so swiftly in the Dewhurst last season suggests there is no reason why he wouldn’t see out the mile, but if there are any stamina concerns last season’s Racing Post Trophy winner Marcel could be the one to exploit them.

Marcel (Andrea Atzeni) wins the Racing Post Trophy

Marcel: last year’s Racing Post Trophy winner has proven stamina

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Will the extra equipment help?

Air Force Blue will wear a tongue tie and a noseband for the first time on a racecourse in a bid to help relax the mount of Ryan Moore.

Although he wasn’t overly keen during his races last season – it certainly didn’t affect his results – the extra equipment can only help Air Force Blue’s chances of seeing out the trip.

O’Brien said: “He’s wearing a tongue-tie and a cross noseband to help him relax. We’ve tried them on him at home this week and he appeared to be more relaxed.”

 

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