Will Air Force Blue Hit the Heights in 2000 Guineas?

Although there is an odds-on ante-post favourite for the Group 1 QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on April 30, the first classic of the 2016 British Flat racing season is a “breath of fresh air” at present with the first eight in the betting representing eight different trainers [1].

It’s a far cry from the dominance in the jumps world of Irish trainer Willie Mullins this winter, who invariably had the favourite and two or three other fancied runners in major events.

Air Force Blue (4/5) Odds

Air Force Blue Horse

Air Force Blue

That said, it should come as no surprise to learn that it is Ballydoyle maestro, Aidan O’Brien´s contender who is responsible for the odds-on Air Force Blue (4/5) [2].

Even though last season’s leading two-year-old hasn’t raced since slamming the talented Massaat by three-and-a-half lengths, in the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket in October.

There is no doubt that O’Brien holds the son of US sire War Chant in the highest of regard, and rates him right up there in the pantheon of greats he has handled over the last two decades.

“Air Force Blue is something that we haven´t had before,” the legendary trainer said in the aftermath of the juvenile’s October romp. “I´d say there´s no doubt he´s the best two-year-old we´ve had. The size of him, the scope, the way he travels – and when you let him go he delivers.”

A Late Foal

The colt’s achievements in not only winning the Dewhurst but also the Group 1 National Stakes and the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, are all the more impressive when you realize he was a late foal, born in May 2013, meaning he overcame relative physical immaturity to beat the best of his generation with some ease.

If he has ‘trained on’, (as reports indicate), he would take some beating at Newmarket, although should the ground come up very soft he would be entering unknown territory having only ever run thus far on yielding or better going.

Burantino 16/1 Odds, Only Horse to Have Beaten Air Force Blue

The only horse to have ever beaten Air Force Blue is Mark Johnston’s Buratino (16/1) for the 2000 Guineas, who was already battle-hardened and running his sixth race when getting the better of O’Brien’s star at Royal Ascot last year in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes.

Air Force Blue gained his revenge next time out in the National Stakes in which Buratino finished third, while the Johnston colt ended the campaign with a fine effort in failing by just half-a-length to beat the classy Shalaa in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in September 2015.

The concern for Buratino’s supporters is that he has not yet raced beyond six furlongs, and the extra quarter mile of the Guineas could expose flaws in his stamina.

Stormy Antarctic 12/1 Odds, Could Surprise with his Stamina

Stormy Antartic Horse

Stormy Antartic

There are no stamina or soft ground concerns though for Ed Walker’s progressive Stormy Antarctic (12/1) who has already shown his wellbeing in winning the Group 3 Craven Stakes over the 2000 Guineas course and distance on April 14.

That was the biggest success to date for its connections, and having ended last season losing out by just a head to Johannes Vermeer in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint Cloud in France on very soft ground, the Stormy Atlantic colt could be the one to bustle up the favourite if conditions are in his favour.

TIP: If you want to make a late bet on a value bet (longshot), take Stormy Antartic only if the weather conditions favors him with soft ground. So keep an eye on the clouds the night before race day.

Massaat 14/1 Odss, to Finish in the Top 4

Owen Burrows took over the reins from the now-retired Barry Hills this spring and has only had a handful of runners, but he has a genuine contender for honours at Newmarket in the shape of Massaat, who ran so well to chase home Air Force Blue over seven furlongs in the autumn. He was running in Group 1 company having previously won only a Leicester maiden, so it says a great deal about the regard in which he is held that Hills was prepared to raise him so drastically in class.

Reports suggest that Massaat (14/1) has done well physically this winter and there could yet be further improvement this term from a colt with significant potential.

But can he win against the top of the cream? Chances are not high, but keep Massaat as trifecta or other exotic bet selections.

Marcel 16/1 Odds, Lacking Speed Despite Great Distance Stats

Last season’s Group 1 Racing Post trophy winner Marcel is already proven at a mile. The question for Peter Chapple-Hyam’s stable star is if he has the speed this season over the distance, or will he be a better horse over 10 furlongs and more?

A 16/1 for Marcel shot for the 2000 Guineas, Chapple-Hyam knows what is required to win this classic having done so 24 years ago with the Lester Piggott-ridden Rodrigo de Triano.

Blue Vega 20/1 and Galileo Gold 40/1, Not Top 5 Candidates

At bigger prices, Michael O’Callghan’s Blue de Vega (20/1), an Irish Group 3 winner last term, has reportedly been working well and could run a good race, while Hugo Palmer’s Galileo Gold (40/1) would not be without a chance of a place if improving a little on his close third in Group 1 company at Longchamp at the end of last season.

References

[1] racingtips.com, 2016 2000 Guineas latest odds – Air Force Blue odds-on for Newmarket Classic, 2016

[2] skysports.com, Air Force Blue Horse Stats and Form, 2016