Azure Blue Wins Duke Of York, Race Marred By Creative Force's Death

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Michael Dods trainee Azure Blue (Ire) (El Kabeir–Sea Of Dreams {Ire}, by Oasis Dream {GB}), successful in four of her five latest starts, stepped up from listed level to claim a career high in Wednesday's G2 1895 Duke of York Clipper S. at York.

She had previously closed her sophomore campaign last term with a stakes breakthrough in October's Listed Boadicea Fillies' S. at Newmarket and doubled up in the May 6 Kilvington Fillies' S. back at HQ coming back off a 210-day break last time.

Azure Blue bided her time and settled back in the field through the solid early fractions of this six-furlong dash. Making smooth headway into contention after halfway, the 12-1 chance locked horns with last year's winner Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) entering the final furlong and was ridden out to subdue that multiple Group 1-winning rival by a half-length nearing the line. The winner's stablemate Commanche Falls (GB) (Lethal Force {Ire}) ran on well in the latter stages to finish 1 1/4 lengths adrift in third.

Sadly, the contest was tainted by the demise of Godolphin's 2021 G1 British Champions Sprint winner and last term's GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint third Creative Force (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), who sustained an unrecoverable leg injury during the race.

Dods is somewhat familiar with the day-to-day intricacies of housing speedy fillies, having nurtured the career of dual G1 Nunthorpe heroine Mecca's Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). “She's done nothing but improve since the end of last season,” he insisted after notching a first win in this contest. “We didn't feel we had her ready at Newmarket [last time] as she'd had a few issues. It was nothing serious, but we just didn't feel we'd got the work in. She went there and did it well and I knew there was improvement to come. It was a big step up to go from a Listed mares' race to today, but looking at the calendar there wasn't a lot else coming up in the short-term, which is why we came here. I think today she's shown she's a proper Group 1 horse.”

Looking ahead, or possibly not, to a Royal engagement, the trainer continued, “She's not entered at Ascot and I'm not sure what the supplementary price is. We wouldn't want to run on ground any faster than today and we'll make a decision nearer the time. Today was the start of her career in these races, we hadn't made any plans and didn't have her in some of the early-closing races. I wouldn't be frightened by coming back to five furlongs with her on slow ground, so there's plenty of targets for her and a lot to look forward to. You would have to look at the [G1 Prix de l'] Abbaye and that would be on my radar. We'll have to see what we do in between times.”

Fellow conditioner John Quinn was far from downbeat in the aftermath of Highfield Princess's defeat, the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest, G1 Nunthorpe and G1 Flying Five heroine having been burdened with a five-pound impost coming back off a gallant fourth in Keeneland's GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. “Nobody knows from year to year if a horse is going to maintain its ability, especially going from the age of five to six for a mare, so we're delighted,” he said. “She showed all her old enthusiasm and she always comes on for her first run of the year. We're as pleased as we can be without winning as she carried a Group 1 penalty there. It will be Group 1 sprints all the way now, so she won't be giving that weight away. I think, looking at that today, it will be the [G1] King's Stand at [Royal] Ascot over five as she's got speed to burn. If we're lucky, she'll go down the Group 1 five-furlong route, so the King's Stand, Nunthorpe, Flying Five and the Abbaye.”

Pedigree Notes
Azure Blue, one of her sire's five stakes winners, is the second of five foals produced by Sea Of Dreams (Ire) (Oasis Dream {GB}), herself an unraced half-sister to G3 Desmond S. victor Pincheck (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) and G3 Brownstown S. winner Valeria Messalina (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}). Sea Of Dreams is also a full-sister to the dam of Listed Eternal S. victrix Meu Amor (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}). The March-foaled grey's second dam Arty Crafty (Arch) is a full-sister to GI Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup H.-winning sire Prince Arch and to the dam of G3 Pride S. winner Ville De Grace (GB) (Le Havre {Ire}). Arty Crafty is also a half-sister to G1 Vincent O'Brien National S.-winning sire Kingsfort (War Chant). Azure Blue is kin to the unraced 2-year-old gelding Keen Interest (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), who is in training with William Haggas, and a yearling colt by Dandy Man (Ire).

Wednesday, York, Britain
1895 DUKE OF YORK CLIPPER S.-G2, £145,000, York, 5-17, 3yo/up, 6fT, 1:09.11, gd.
1–AZURE BLUE (IRE), 133, f, 4, by El Kabeir
1st Dam: Sea Of Dreams (Ire), by Oasis Dream (GB)
2nd Dam: Arty Crafty, by Arch
3rd Dam: Princess Kris (GB), by Kris (GB)
1ST GROUP WIN. (€19,000 Wlg '19 GOFNOV; 47,000gns Ylg '20 TAOCT). O-Peter Appleton & Mrs Anne Elliott; B-Debbie Kitchin & Mary Davison (IRE); T-Michael Dods; J-Paul Mulrennan. £82,230. Lifetime Record: 14-7-3-1, $252,410. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree, or the free catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Highfield Princess (Fr), 138, m, 6, Night Of Thunder (Ire)–Pure Illusion (Ire), by Danehill. (29,000gns RNA Ylg '18 TATDEY). O/B-Trainers House Enterprises Ltd (FR); T-John Quinn. £31,175.
3–Commanche Falls (GB), 136, g, 6, Lethal Force (Ire)–Joyeaux (GB), by Mark of Esteem (Ire). (11,000gns Ylg '18 TAOCT). O-Doug Graham, Ian Davison, Alan Drysdale; B-Redgate Bloodstock & Peter Bottowley Bloodstock (GB); T-Michael Dods. £15,602.
Margins: HF, 1 1/4, 1. Odds: 12.00, 5.00, 12.00.
Also Ran: Annaf (Ire), Marshman (GB), Diligent Harry (GB), The Astrologist (Aus), Art Power (Ire), Emaraaty Ana (GB). DNF: Creative Force (Ire). Scratched: Khaadem (Ire).

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