Backed as if defeat was utterly out of the question, Ballydoyle’s young gun turned in a spectacular performance to record a third Group One triumph on the bounce.
Ryan Moore’s smile upon returning to the winner’s enclosure told its own story, with the jockey rarely called upon to do anything too dramatic en route to a three-and-a-quarter-length defeat of Massaat.
Bookmaker reaction was evasively swift, with Air Force Blue as low as even-money in some places for the 2000 Guineas back at Newmarket next spring, making him the shortest-priced winter favourite for the colts’ Classic since Frankel.
O’Brien said: “In February he was a totally unfurnished baby, but was still head and shoulders above everything else.
“When they’re doing that at that time of year, you could see he was going to be exceptional.
“I would say no doubt he’s the best two-year-old I’ve had – just the size and the scope and the way he travelled and delivered it.
“It’s a joy when these horses come along. Every year you’re looking for good horses and he is a special one.”
Emotionless was seen by many as Godolphin’s big blue hope in the race but he finished last – though X-rays subsequently revealed he had suffered a knee injury.
Adam Beschizza put the gloss on a memorable few weeks after the jockey completed the ‘autumn double’ in the Betfred Cesarewitch.
Suitably inspired by his Cambridgeshire triumph aboard Third Time Lucky towards the end of September, Beschizza emphatically added to his gains with a 50-1 triumph in one of the toughest races of the season.
Top weight Oriental Fox enjoyed a welter of support before the off and very nearly looked like landing a monster gamble. But it was big outsider Grumeti who triumphed by the most slender of margins after a lengthy photo-finish, with Quick Jack back in third.
Beshcizza said of Alan King’s charge: “He’s not ran in two-and-a-half months and I think if he was in a Flat yard you’d think he’d need it [the run], but he came here as fit as a flea.”
Shared Equity landed a gamble in spectacular style to give Jedd O’Keeffe his biggest training triumph in the Coral Sprint Trophy at York. Available at 20-1 earlier in the day, there was a wave of money just before the off that sent his odds hurtling down to a starting price of 7-1.
And those wily punters barely had an anxious moment as PJ McDonald took Shared Equity into the lead from stall one on the far side and continued to pour it on.
Just when it looked like the field were beginning to close in, Shared Equity found even more to pull three lengths clear.
“This is my biggest success by a long way,” said Leyburn-based O’Keeffe. “I know all trainers say the gamble has nothing to do with us. I know the owner didn’t have a penny on himself. With the prize money he didn’t need to.
“I haven’t got any big plans, but he likes this ground. There are a couple of handicaps but now that he is more straightforward, we could look at Pattern company.”
Today at Salisbury, Rostova looks a solid betting proposition in the Bathwick Tyres British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.
The well-related daughter of Arch caught the eye making good late headway to finish a close fourth on her debut at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago and, like the majority of Sir Michael Stoute’s newcomers, can be expected to improve greatly on her second start.
Her full-sister, Pavlosk, produced a Listed-race victory when the mud was flying, so it could be that Windsor’s rain-softened ground sees Rostova in her best light.
The National Hunt fare comes from Sedgefield, where Noel Kelly’s Irish raider Mia’s Anthem, already a winner at Cartmel and Hexham this year, can get the job done again in the Renew Holdings Handicap Chase.