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Airoforce May be Back on Derby Trail


Airoforce | Coady Photography

By Bill Finley

After Airoforce (Colonel John) was trounced by 39 ½ lengths in the GII Risen Star S. as the 17-10 favorite, Mark Casse said he was no longer considering the GI Kentucky Derby, but the trainer said the 3-year-old may yet make it to the first leg of the Triple Crown. Casse, who has never found an explanation for why Airoforce ran so poorly in the Risen Star, is inclined to “just put a line through” the race and move on.

The colt has remained in training ever since and if he continues to do well, Casse said he will look at starting him in the GIII Spiral S. at Turfway Park on Apr. 2.

When asked if that means a good performance in the Spiral would lead to a start in the Kentucky Derby, Casse replied: “Let’s put it this way, he has a better chance today than he did three weeks ago.”

“I don’t know if they even publish it, but he had a big work Thursday at Winding Oaks [Training Center],” Casse said. “He worked five-eighths on the grass in 1:00 and galloped out three quarters in :12 3/5 and the seven-eighths in something like 1:26. We’ve run some tests on him, but he’s continued to train all along. Next week he will work at OBS on the synthetic and if he were to work really well and we are happy with him you may see him in the Spiral.”

The knock on Airoforce is that his three career wins have come on either the grass or a sloppy surface, which he skipped over last fall to win the GII Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. In his lone effort on a fast track, he ran dismally in the Risen Star.

“We already know he likes Churchill Downs,” Casse said. “We haven’t figured out why he ran so bad in the Risen Star. I know you could say he didn’t like the dirt but my feeling is if he didn’t like the dirt he would have gotten beat five, six, seven lengths. The race was so bad I think you just have to throw it out.”


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