Airoforce takes flight in Bourbon
Trainer Mark Casse already had one Breeders' Cup Challenge winner assured of a spot in the Juvenile Turf (G1) -- Summer (G2) hero Conquest Daddyo. In Sunday's $250,000 Bourbon (G3), he added to his squadron as Airoforce landed the final "Win and You're In" for the Juvenile Turf, and stablemate Siding Spring finished third.
Owned by John C. Oxley, Airoforce was dispatched as the slight 5-1 favorite on the strength of his debut score at Kentucky Downs. Breaking from post 13 implied that he'd cover extra ground, and the son of Colonel John indeed had to take the overland route throughout with Julien Leparoux. Airoforce tracked just off the dueling leaders Argot and Hot Ore through fractions of :23.08 and :47.67 on the yielding course. When Argot gave way and Hot Ore inherited the lead, Airoforce smoothly moved up to second at the six-furlong mark in 1:13.40. The gray drove clear in the stretch and reported home a 2 1/2-length winner in a final time of 1:44.12 for 1 1/16 miles.
Camelot Kitten, a full brother to Bobby's Kitten, must go into the notebook for his eyecatching rally. Last after leaving the gate a beat slow, the Chad Brown pupil was still 13th of 14 rounding the far turn. But he made a prolonged charge to nab second by a half-length from Siding Spring. Even more notably, Camelot Kitten was involved in scrimmaging, and then was floated wide by the wayward Don't Be So Salty in midstretch. Those incidents didn't deter the once-raced colt, who was coming off a debut win at Belmont. He got quite an education here. Early indications are that he may have inherited Bobby's Kitten's talent without the quirks.
It's early days to get a grasp of the Juvenile Turf field. But the top two from the Bourbon both shape as nice prospects, now and down the road.
Airoforce, a $20,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, commanded $350,000 at OBS this April.
Quotes courtesy of Keeneland:
Jockey Julien Leparoux on Airoforce: “It was a good race. Big step up from the maiden he won at Kentucky Downs. He’s still a little green. When I got to the lead down the straight, he started looking around a bit. He’s a nice horse. I think he should get better. I rode the horse when he broke his maiden. But (today’s race) was such a big jump. We had a wide post – we got the 13. He broke sharp so I was pretty good in the first turn. He’s very professional even though he’s only raced twice.”
Trainer Mark Casse on Airoforce: "I was a little nervous going into the first turn. Actually both of our horses (including eventual third Siding Spring) had pretty wide trips. Going in (the race) we thought (Airoforce) was a good horse, and I think he proved today he is. (When asked if the winner's ready for the Juvenile Turf) I think so. Not every horse likes this turf course. He proved that’s not a problem. Hopefully he stays happy and healthy and we’ll give it a try.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on runner-up Camelot Kitten: “My horse didn’t break that sharp, so I was way back. I dropped in (on the rail) to save some ground. I was last, so I had to save ground and save my horse for the end. Turning for home, we got clear and he took off. He’s got a good kick. We’ll see him improve. He’s got two races now, so I think he’s gonna improve a lot from this one.”
Photo of Airoforce (but spot the bay head of Camelot Kitten upper right) courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography.