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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Air force can fly high

O'Brien colt looks a shoo-in for Guineas but go with Stormy as each-way alternative

Air Force Blue (p) and Alice Springs could make the Guineas weekend into a great one for Aidan O’Brien. Photo: www.racingpost.com
Air Force Blue (p) and Alice Springs could make the Guineas weekend into a great one for Aidan O’Brien. Photo: www.racingpost.com

As the jump season comes to a climax at Punchestown tomorrow, the Flat season gets into top gear with the first Classics of the season at Newmarket this weekend.

Unsurprisingly, Aidan O'Brien has an enviable team of horses to go to war with for the season ahead and in truth, while it is a massive ask, it would still be no surprise if O'Brien came close to completing a clean sweep of the British Classics this season.

In the 2000 Guineas tomorrow, Air Force Blue is the horse that the race appears to be revolving around and rightly so.

Air Force Blue has been beaten just once in his career and that was at Royal Ascot when another of tomorrow's runners, Buratino, came out on top in the Coventry Stakes. There looks to be little to stand in his way on this occasion, though.

Royal Ascot was just Air Force Blue's second start and he has done nothing but improve since then and he is undoubtedly the classiest horse in the race.

His price reflects that, however, and unless you are a regular at backing odds-on shots the 8/13 on offer is probably not going to make much appeal.

For those looking for an each-way alternative maybe Stormy Antartic would be the obvious choice but unlike the surprises at Punchestown, there should be no surprise in the main one at Newmarket tomorrow.

On Sunday, attention turns to the fillies and Aidan O'Brien's Minding looks to be the stand-out performer from her two-year-old days but this is not a race that O'Brien has enjoyed the greatest success in. O'Brien has won the race with Homecoming Queen in 2012 and Virginia Waters in 2005 and both were somewhat unheralded going into the race, so maybe Alice Springs would look a better option this year too.

Virginia Waters was a 12/1 winner and Homecoming Queen was over twice that at 25/1 and while O'Brien's Alice Springs doesn't immediately jump off the page, she has the benefit of being a tough, battle-hardened filly who lost little in defeat when second at the Breeders' Cup last November in Keeneland.

Elsewhere, tomorrow at Newmarket there is a fascinating Group Two in store when last season's Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs takes on the English St Leger winner Simple Verse.

The Champion Stakes third, Jack Hobbs, is odds-on favourite. With Simple Verse having to give away 2lbs, the market probably has it right.

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