Twice a Group One winner this season, Air Force Blue is all set for a fascinating clash with the unbeaten Emotionless, but O’Brien would like to see conditions on the Rowley Mile, where the sun shone yesterday, continue to dry out.
The Ballydoyle trainer said: “The worry with the horse is the ground and getting the trip on that ground as he is a very fast horse.”
Emotionless was outright favourite at the beginning of the week, but William Hill have seen plenty of late support for Air Force Blue, the mount of Ryan Moore and winner of the National Stakes at the Curragh last time out.
Spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: “The drying conditions have swung the balance of bets in favour of Air Force Blue, who is now very popular. Emotionless is still solid, but the momentum in the market has notably shifted.”
Charlie Appleby, meanwhile, feels excitement rather than pressure as Emotionless puts his record on the line.
While having an army of horses at his disposal, it is the first time the Newmarket handler has found himself in the position of having a serious Classic contender in his care since taking control at Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks yard almost two and a half years ago.
An impressive winner on his debut on the July Course in August, the two-year-old showed he is a colt of considerable potential when easing to an effortless success in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, a victory which saw his odds dramatically cut for next year’s 2000 Guineas.
Appleby said: “I am very fortunate to be surrounded by, and have the support of, Sheikh Mohammed and John Ferguson (racing and bloodstock advisor).
“We are doing our best at the yard and they support us in whatever will benefit the horses. It is not so much pressure that we feel going into this, but excitement.
“If we win the Dewhurst then we can look at the Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes, as our aim is to produce Classic and Group One winners.
“The most important thing is that unbeaten tag, as I don’t want to lose that. It is different to having a horse that is beaten first time out and then progresses.
“As he is unbeaten it puts a different spin on it. It is exciting to have a horse like that on our hands and it would be great if we could win it with a horse of his pedigree.
“There are seven runners in the race and all the right ones have stood their ground.
“We are not running away from anybody at this level, but I feel that I have the best horse that I’ve trained on my hands and I am looking forward to it.”
In order to get Emotionless acquainted with the Rowley Mile, and ready for his step up to the top table, Appleby sent him to the track to participate in a racecourse gallop last week, which he passed with flying colours.
He said: “We have been very pleased with him since the Champagne Stakes. I took him up there (Rowley Mile) to gain more experience, both on the track and in the paddock.
“He worked six furlongs with two lead horses and travelled into and out of the dip well, as that can sometimes catch them out.
“He ticked all the right boxes.”
Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum is double-handed, with retained rider Paul Hanagan interestingly siding with the Barry Hills-trained Leicester maiden winner Massaat over the more proven Tashweeq, trained by John Gosden.
Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold said: “Massaat is a horse who has shown great promise so far.
“When he ran first time out I remember coming away from Sandown thinking he could be our best two-year-old this season.
“He was slowly away and ran green and then flew home to finish a close second behind the horse that was touched off in the Lagardere (Cymric) at Longchamp last week.
“He coughed a bit after that, so we missed an intended race and just had to back off him and give him time. He came back and won his maiden very nicely and we’re very much looking forward to running him again.
“I’m not saying he’s going to beat the first two in the betting and whether he’s up to this level, we’ll find out on Saturday. I’m not building him up to be something he’s not, but he could be a high-class horse and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was a Guineas horse next year.”