O’Brien’s Air Force can soar to Richmond glory

ANYONE who witnessed the John Gosden-trained Shalaa scoot away with the July Stakes at Newmarket last month will understand why Unibet have installed him as their 2/1 favourite for this afternoon’s Qatar Richmond Stakes (2.35pm).

The son of Invincible Spirit travelled effortlessly at the front end before quickening up in really taking fashion to land the Group Two prize. Admittedly, he hung left over towards the far side rail late on, but he was always holding the re-opposing Steady Pace and Elronaq at bay.

Connections of those two colts will both be hoping that Shalaa’s three pound penalty may swing things back in their favour for the rematch. But there was plenty to like about the winner’s performance and he just seems to be getting better with each run.

That said, even though I expect Shalaa to come out on top again in that little battle, he may have his work cut out to repel the Aidan O’Brien-trained AIR FORCE BLUE, who can be backed at 10/3 with Betway.

The son of War Front was having only his second career start when finishing runner-up to Buratino in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out. Before that he’d only won a Curragh maiden. Not only did he travel like a very good horse throughout that contest, he was also supported like one. He was available at 10/1 throughout the morning before being backed into 7/2 clear second favouritism just before the off. That weight of money suggests that he is held in high regard at Ballydoyle and it’s interesting to note that Ryan Moore was easy on him in the closing stages when it was obvious he was beaten.

He may not have to step up too much from that performance to land this prize and I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off having a speculative punt on him at 16/1 for next season’s 2000 Guineas.

Log Out Island was disappointing at Royal Ascot and even worse at the Curragh last time, while Mark Johnston’s Riflescope could easily hit the frame at a big price as he looks on the upgrade.

▀ Pointers…
AIR FORCE BLUE 2:35pm Goodwood