Although one of several US 2-year-old colts will win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and likely be named champion of his division, there is no great uncertainty among the juvenile colts overseas. Air Force Blue (by War Front) is the top of the tree in England and Ireland after three consecutive G1 victories, the most recent being the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes on Oct. 10 at Newmarket.
The dark bay colt was a dominating force at Newmarket, and his trainer Aidan O'Brien noted that Air Force Blue has “pace, size and scope,” and the colt's athleticism and love of racing “make him exceptional and very exciting. He has sprinting speed, but also size and range, and is very genuine.”
Air Force Blue will get some rest and be kept ticking over through the winter. His primary goals for 2016 are the Guineas and other mile events at the top level, but there is reason to hope that he might be able to stretch out as he matures through the season and perhaps challenge at 10 furlongs later in the year.
The primary reasons for those hopes are the colt's grandsires, Danzig and Maria's Mon. The great son of Northern Dancer sired racers with a vast range of distance aptitudes, from sprinters to 12-furlong classic winners, including Belmont Stakes winner Danzig Connection.
Maria's Mon, a champion juvenile, also is one of the few sires to get more than one Kentucky Derby winner, with Super Saver and Monarchos to his lasting credit.
Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, Air Force Blue is by neighboring Claiborne Farm's super sire War Front (Danzig) out of the Maria's Mon mare Chatham. The dam was bred by W.T. Young's Overbrook Farm and sold in that famous farm's dispersal at the 2009 Keeneland November sale. Arthur Hancock picked the mare up for $190,000, in foal to Arch, and almost immediately began making money with her.
Hancock said, “I bought her because she is a pretty mare. Nice, refined, feminine mare. She has some speed, but we almost didn't get her. I was going to quit at $150,000 but for some reason, I just kept on trying. I suppose you should follow your intuition, your gut feeling, but that was my last bid. I guess Bill Young was looking out for me.”
The foal Chatham was carrying went through the Stone Farm consignment at Keeneland September in 2011 for $475,000. The Arch colt was an outstanding young prospect, and he sold to John McCormack Bloodstock on behalf of Yasushi Kubota. Named Schon Meer, the colt is a winner in Japan.
Including that colt, Stone Farm has sold four yearlings out of Chatham over the last five years for $1.9 million. Mr. Young would be proud.
Not the least of the reasons for that would be that this family is one that Young nurtured at Overbrook for generations and that brought him considerable reward and enjoyment.
Young got into this family with the stakes-winning Secretariat mare Cinegita at about the same time that he acquired another stakes-winning Secretariat mare by the name of Terlingua. The latter produced Storm Cat and propelled Overbrook into the stratosphere among international owners and breeders.
Cinegita produced stakes winner Storm Star by the Northern Dancer stallion Storm Bird, who is also the sire of Storm Cat. Storm Star produced two stakes winners, and her unbeaten full sister Starlet Storm produced champion Flanders (Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies).
Starlet Storm is the third dam of Air Force Blue and his siblings. The second dam is Circle of Gold (Seeking the Gold), an unraced full sister to Flanders, and Chatham is her dam's best racer.
Now Chatham has produced a heavyweight racer, although the mare also has a pair of six-figure earners (Schon Meer and Bugle). The latter is a 3-year-old full sister to Air Force Blue that Barry Berkelhammer bought from the Stone Farm consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September sale for $400,000 for the racing stable of Joe Sutton.
Bugle has two victories and four seconds from eight starts and is currently recuperating at Stone Farm, where her prospects for returning to racing are considered bright, Hancock said.
The 2015 yearling out of Chatham was by Lemon Drop Kid and sold for $535,000 to Shadai. Hancock said, “You have to breed 'em right, raise 'em right, break 'em right, and get 'em into the right hands. And I'm glad my friend Terry Yoshida got him. I think that colt is going to be a good one.”
Shadai has done well with its purchases from Hancock, most notably the purchase of Horse of the Year Sunday Silence, who became the greatest sire in Japanese breeding history.
In looking back at the family of Air Force Blue, Hancock recalled his friend Bill Young and that “he was one of the handful of breeders who agreed to take a share in Sunday Silence when I was trying to syndicate him, and I really tried to get him syndicated.”
Instead, Sunday Silence went to Shadai, and 30 years later, Overbrook's Chatham went to Stone. The great karmic cycle of racing luck and breeding wisdom sent another one to Shadai last month, with all the potential to start a new legacy in racing and breeding.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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