By Steve Sherack
In this continuing series, TDN's Senior Racing Editor Steve Sherack catches up with the connections of promising maidens to keep on your radar.
After working in company with his elder graded stakes-placed stablemate Slip Mahoney (Arrogate) in an Aug. 19 move for trainer Brad Cox over the Oklahoma training track, there was plenty of chatter behind Air of Defiance (c, 2, Quality Road–Faypien, by Ghostzapper) heading into his Saratoga debut.
Despite proving no match for the jaw-dropping 'TDN Rising Star' Fierceness (City of Light) across Union Ave. six days later, Air of Defiance lost little in defeat while gaining some valuable racing experience in the process.
Drawn on the fence over a muddy and sealed track, the 5-1 second choice lunged at the start and rushed up beneath Ricardo Santana, Jr. to race in third in the early stages.
The Gold Square LLC colorbearer began to drop back sharply following an opening quarter in a swift :22.02 and was heading the wrong way while under a ride rounding the far turn in the six-furlong affair.
Left with a ton to do as they straightened for home, Air of Defiance began to figure it out in the stretch. He was guided off the fence down the lane, split rivals shortly thereafter and finished with interest to complete the exacta, albeit 11 1/4 lengths adrift the aforementioned Todd Pletcher-trained first-time starter. Air of Defiance earned a 70 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
The son of Quality Road brought $400,000 from Al Gold's advisor Joe Hardoon out of the Eaton Sales consignment at last year's Keeneland September sale.
Air of Defiance's dam Faypien, a graded winner around two turns and also the runner-up as the favorite in the 2017 GI Test S. at the Spa, realized $875,000 from breeder Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings at the 2018 FTKNOV sale.
“We are hoping to run Air of Defiance Oct. 1 at Churchill,” Gold said. “He lost to a monster of Pletcher's. I'm hopeful he breaks a little better next time and the experience of his first race will enable a better outcome. We remain very high on the horse.”