Air Force Blue is a tick over 16 hands and was a $US490,0000 Keeneland yearling. He will stand at $16,500 and was by some way Timeform’s best two year-old with a rating of 128p, ahead of the filly Songbird (125p) and Shalaa (123p) in 2015, making him the highest rated juvenile in Europe for nearly 20 years (with the exception of Frankel on 133p). He drew high praise indeed from the experts of that publication who rated his 3.25 length win in the Dewhurst-Gr.1 “as good as any in the race this century”.
They were not alone in this assessment as Aidan O’Brien rated the War Front colt the best two year-old he has ever trained. He won the Dewhurst, National Stakes and Phoenix Stakes, all Gr.1, the first time since 2001 a juvenile had achieved this feat.
Air Force Blue (War Chant-Chatham by Maria’s Mon) won at 6f on debut in what is a traditionally strong maiden on 1000 Guineas day at the Curragh on May 24 and then went down to more experienced Buratino in the Coventry Stakes-Gr.2 at Royal Ascot on June 16, his trainer describing him as “a baby early on, but still head and shoulders above everything else at home”.
Two months later it was a different story and Joseph O’Brien and a much more mature Air Force Blue romped home by two lengths from stable mate Washington DC and Buratino in the Phoenix Stakes-Gr.1 (6f) at the Curragh on August 9 and then on September 13 scored by three lengths from Herald the Dawn in the National Stakes-Gr.1 (7f) at the same venue. In the Dewhurst-Gr.1 (7f) at Newmarket on October 10 the grandson of Danzig took the lead more than a furlong from home and under hands and heels riding from Ryan Moore won with something in hand from Massaat and Sanus Per Aquam.
Timeform’s experts wrote, “Air Force Blue put up a display as good as any seen in the race since Xaar’s exceptional seven-length victory in 1997”. For good Timeform then said, “Air Force Blue’s superiority was overwhelming and assured him of champion two year-old status”.
Made early favourite for the 2000 Guineas in 2016, Air Force Blue did not train on, being unplaced in four starts at three. He retired with four wins and a second in nine starts and earnings of £548,655 and the title of Champion Two Year-Old in Europe and Ireland in 2015.
Air Force Blue’s sire War Front (Danzig-Starry Dreamer by Rubiano) won four races from 6f-8.5f and was twice Gr.1 second at 6f-7f. He started his stud career in the US on $12,500, had three US Gr.1 winners in his first crop and has never looked back, being one of the best sires in the US with 275 winners (56SW) and commanding a fee of $US250,000 at Claiborne Farm, Kentucky. His sons are in demand at stud farms worldwide and he has become a valuable new branch of the Danzig male line.
His Gr.1 winners include Lines of Battle (Arch), former shuttler Declaration of War (Rahy), Giovanni Boldini (Old Trieste), Due Diligence (Pulpit), shuttler The Factor (Miswaki), Jack Milton (Forty Niner), Data Link (Known Fact), Avenge (Woodman) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-Gr.1 winner Hit it Bomb (Sadler’s Wells, one of two Gr.1 winners bred on this cross) and Dewhurst Stakes winner War Command (Red Ransom). Coolmore has been a great supporter of the stallion and stands Declaration of War and War Command (second dam by His Majesty, dam sire of Danehill), as well as Air Force Blue (2017 fee $US25,000 at Coolmore’s Ashford, Kentucky base).
Air Force Blue’s stakes placed dam Chatham is by very good US sire Maria’s Mon (Wavering Monarch), sire of Kentucky Derby winners Monarchos and Super Saver, and from the Seeking the Gold mare Circle of Gold, an unraced sister to Champion US 2YO Filly and triple Gr.1 winner Flanders (dam of Champion US 3YO Filly Surfside by Seattle Slew). Circle of Gold is also second dam of stakes winner Miss Double d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro). Third dam, Starlet Storm, a dual winner at 6f, is by champion sire Storm Bird and is a sister to Cherry Hinton Stakes-Gr.3 winner Storm Star. They are from the Secretariat mare Cinegita, a Gr.3 winner bred by Nelson Bunker Hunt. Her Mr. Prospector son Mr Henrysee (USA), a $500,000 yearling, left the Gr.1 winners Mr Innocent and Victory Vein and stakes winner and producer Verdict Declared in 14 Australian seasons, the last in 2006, the year of his death.
Cinegita’s dam Wanika (Sadair) is a daughter of the Delaware Oaks/Betsy Ross Handicap winner Juanita (Decathlon-Pavonia by Pavot), family 25. Pavonia’s stakes winning dam Adile is a daughter of Mahmoud and Furlough by Man o’War. Air Force Blue is 3m, 6mx5m to Northern Dancer and 5mx4m to Mr. Prospector and with further lines of that horse’s sire Raise a Native and grandsire Native Dancer. His dam Chatham carries a 4fx4f cross of Buckpasser, sire of Danehill’s second dam, while War Front has Hyperion 5fx5m, his second dam being by that horse’s grandson Forli.
“I am a strong believer in the best racehorses making the best sires and Air Force Blue was an incredible two year-old,” Coolmore Australia sales and nominations manager Colm Santry said. “We have received an overwhelming response to American Pharoah, with great breeders like John Camilleri, Gerry Harvey, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, Gooree, George Altomonte and many more booking quality mares within hours of his announcement. He is now fully booked with plenty of others on a waiting list.
“There is a real appetite amongst breeders for these elite racehorses and Air Force Blue sits comfortably in that category. I was very excited to see Air Force Blue in Ireland and couldn’t have been more impressed with him. He’s got a great hind part with a massive hip, plenty of strength and real quality. He is a lovely walker and given how important action is at yearling sales, I think commercial breeders here will be very taken with him when they see him in the spring.”