Minding Magnificent but Air Force Leaves Backers Blue
The build up to the two opening classics of the British flat racing season was remarkably similar. In each case all the talk in the preliminaries of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas was centred around a dominant market leader from the all-powerful yard of Irish maestro Aidan O’Brien.
Blistering performances in their debut seasons had seen Air Force Blue and Minding finish their juvenile campaigns as champion two year old and champion two year old filly respectively. Each of the pair had rounded off last year with a victory at Newmarket and were widely expected to land a classic victory back at the same track on their seasonal debuts. The build up to the races is however where the similarities ended, as the performance of the duo in their respective races could hardly have contrasted more starkly.
Air Force Blue Falters
First up came Air Force Blue in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas. Hyped as the best two year old Aidan O’Brien has ever trained, and on the back of a hugely eye-catching win in last year’s Dewhurst Stakes at this track, Air Force Blue was sent off as the shortest priced favourite for this race since Frankel. He beat only one home.
Rarely has a bubble been burst in such spectacular fashion as this. Was it the step up in trip? Did the first time tongue tie unsettle the colt? Was he perhaps over-trained as suggested by O’Brien in the aftermath of the race? Whatever the case, the horse many believed would sweep all before him this year now has some serious questions to answer. The suspicion is something must have been amiss for the son of War Front to finish so far adrift of a number of horses he thrashed at two.
If the O’Brien operation was in need of a boost following the major disappointment of Saturday, it wasn’t long in coming. By Derby winner Galileo, out of the Group 1 winning mare Lillie Langtry, Minding is bred to be a star. A rarely glimpsed level of acceleration displayed in the Fillies’ Mile at this track last year suggested great things may lie ahead and on Sunday she was nothing short of sensational.
Ryan Moore exuded confidence from the moments the gates opened, clearly aware of what he was sitting on, and in truth the winner could be called here a long way from home. It’s tough to see anything getting near her in this sort of form and she’s now no bigger than 11/10 for The Oaks. Aidan O’Brien must take particular satisfaction having also trained the mother and father of what is comfortably the most exciting horse to have been seen at the track so far this season. In what really was the perfect race for O’Brien, his other two runners Ballydoyle and Alice Springs filled the places, giving the trainer a Group 1 1-2-3.
This week sees the three day May Festival take place at Chester as thoughts begin to turn towards the Epsom Classics. U.S. Army Ranger currently heads the betting for the Derby and takes in Thursdays Chester Vase as the next step in his preparation. His trainer? You guessed it, that man again Aidan O’Brien, who will certainly be hoping this one’s performance is more Minding than Air Force Blue. There is also the Chester Cup to look forward to, whilst Saturday’s card at Lingfield plays host to both an Oaks and Derby trial with runners from all the powerful yards expected to be in attendance.