Air Force Blue strikes to give Aidan O’Brien another Phoenix Stakes
Trainer has 1-2 in Group One sprint at the Curragh
Air Force Blue (USA) ridden by Joseph O’Brien comes home to win The Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Air Force Blue reversed Royal Ascot form with Buratino to give Aidan O’Brien another win in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.
Having won seven of the previous 10 runnings of the six-furlong contest, O’Brien fielded three of the seven runners and Washington DC, a winner at Royal Ascot, chased home his stablemate to claim second with Buratino well beaten in third.
Two lengths behind Buratino in the Coventry, Air Force Blue was a 9-4 chance behind the 11-10 favourite but he showed a sparkling turn of foot to swoop around the outside of the field in the hands of Joseph O’Brien, back riding Group One winners for Coolmore in Ryan Moore’s absence.
Buratino had no excuses under William Buick and could not hold off Windsor Castle winner Washington DC for second.
The winner was made the new 8-1 favourite for the Qipco 2000 Guineas by Coral, halving in price.
O’Brien said: “He came forward well from Ascot. He won his maiden here and didn’t learn a lot, and was a baby going to Ascot.
“He settled, travelled and quickened up well today, and he was very professional.
“He put it to bed very quickly and he galloped out well. He has a few options now, including the Prix Morny.
“It’s good to see the form standing up. The second and third were both Ascot winners, and Washington DC has run a good race again. I’m very happy with him.”
North Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby made a successful raid on the Curragh when Mattmu just pipped Toscanini in the Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club Phoenix Sprint Stakes.
A Group Two winner in France as a juvenile, when he was kept especially busy, the only time he has been out of the first three in his 13-race career was when he finished fifth in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.
Mick Halford’s Toscanini set out to make it a real test and it was all too much for the red-hot favourite Anthem Alexander, who was never travelling.
Entering the final furlong there was only Mattmu in striking distance and David Allan managed to force his mount in front just a couple of strides before the line.
Sent off a 3-1 chance, Mattmu prevailed in a tight photo finish.
Allan said: “He’s only been out of the first three once and that was down to the ground, as it was very loose.
“He’s as hard as nails and that’s my first winner in Ireland.”
Restive showed the benefit of experience when making every yard of the running to win the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital European Breeders Fund Maiden.
The only one in the 12-runner field to have had two previous runs, the Rip Van Winkle colt was not unbacked as the 4-1 second-favourite.
Colin Keane took no chances on the Ger Lyons-trained Derby entry, and bounced into an early advantage.
It was clear with two furlongs to run that his pursuers were in trouble and despite late headway by Jim Bolger’s newcomer Stellar Mass and more eyecatchingly, Kevin Prendergast’s Mutadaffeq, Restive still had a length to spare at the line.
Shane Lyons, Ger’s brother and assistant, said: “You can’t beat a run. Colin said he was still a bit green, and he’ll be a lovely horse for next year. He bounced off the ground.”
O’Brien unleashed a promising type in How High The Moon, who was given a 14-1 quote for next year’s Oaks after winning the Loder European Breeders Fund Fillies Race.
A sister to Pretty Polly winner Diamondsandrubies in the same colours, she came with a powerful run down the outside under Seamie Heffernan.
Midnight Crossing attempted to go with How High The Moon (5-1), but was beaten a length and three-quarters.
“She’s a nice filly, and you would have to be happy with that. She will have learned a lot,” said O’Brien.
“She’s a full-sister to Diamondsandrubies, who was a bit disappointing as a two-year-old.
“She can come back here for the Debutante Stakes or she has a number of other options.”
Captain Cullen was a convincing winner of the Gabriel Curren Memorial Handicap.
Sent off a well-backed 5-1 joint-favourite, the six-year-old had gone nearly a full 12 months since his last success.