PAT KEANE: Bookmakers the only ones feeling blue after Air show

Ballydoyle has its share of big hitters when it comes to betting and they certainly weren’t found wanting with Air Force Blue in last Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.

My information was that the son of Galileo was regarded as a bit special - that’s understating it - and said here a week ago Saturday night would be somewhat restless if he failed to deliver.

Well, there was no cause for worry, because the display of Air Force Blue was quite spectacular.

Those who laid him, bookmakers on and off course, but more especially the brave souls on the exchanges, where much of the real action took place, must have felt a bit like the guy who bought a return train ticket when he wasn’t coming back!

Air Force Blue eventually went off extraordinarily short, at 4-6, and it took some ammunition to drive his odds down to that extent.

Basically what punters, who were on Air Force Blue’s side, were saying was that defeat was out of the question.

The manner in which the horse travelled through the contest was a joy to behold and the turn of foot produced in the closing stages was deeply impressive.

Afterwards, Aidan O’Brien was gushing in his admiration for his charge and has been criticised in the past for over-egging one of his in similar circumstances.

That wasn’t the case on this occasion. Maybe he did get a trifle carried away, but I

think it was perfectly understandable.

Air Force Blue now goes into winter quarters as the hot favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas.

This week he was generally on offer at 5-4, although two of the off-course layers had him odds-on yesterday.

Good and all as he was at Newmarket, asking anyone to come out to play at 4-5 and 10-11 is laughable.

After all, we are talking here about a contest that doesn’t take place until Saturday, April 30.

In the not too distant past we had Frankel and Sea The Stars and then Golden Horn came along this year.

It’s why many of us just love the flat game and now we have yet another potential superstar to which we can look forward.

That £1m offer for any horse that can win the so-called Triple Crown of National Hunt racing, the Betfair Chase (Haydock), King George (Kempton) and Gold Cup (Cheltenham), is rather interesting.

It was done in 2006-2007 by Kauto Star, so it is far from impossible, although largely improbable.

Mind you, the way the million is broken up doesn’t half give everyone involved an incentive to have a go.

Say, for instance, Vautour managed the feat then that would mean £650,000 for his owner, the appropriately named Rich Ricci.

Willie Mullins would cop £150,000 and Ruby Walsh, assuming he was in the plate for all three victories, would get £100,000. And the final £100,000 would be divided among the Mullins staff.

Now they are telephone numbers and obviously not to be sniffed at.

But would a trainer like Mullins allow himself to be influenced by buckets of cash and, as a result, send a horse like Vautour on a different course to the one he originally had in mind? I don’t think it requires a genius to work out the answer to that.

Speaking about Vautour, now that we are starting into the real National Hunt season, what road will Mullins take him down? Will he be geared towards the Gold Cup, or the two-mile Champion Chase?

Mullins has hit the bar a number of times in the Gold Cup, but has never won the race.

Maybe he never will, but that just wouldn’t be right.

Surely, Vautour will be afforded the opportunity to set the record straight.

Essentially, he is the Air Force Blue of jump racing.

We know he stays two and a half miles standing on his head, as he proved when landing the JLT Novice Chase at the Cheltenham festival by an amazing 15 lengths.

Three and a quarter miles in the Gold Cup, taking on a relentless galloper like last year’s winner, Coneygree, is altogether a different test, but better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

The puzzling and enigmatic Renneti is a name with which to conjure over the coming weeks and months.

At Sligo in early August, I chanced him in a hurdle race, even though fully aware of the possibility he would refuse to start.

But, with Ruby Walsh doing the driving, it was reasonable to assume there would only be one boss - and it wasn’t going to be the horse!

But Renneti almost codded him and it took all of Walsh’s persuasive powers to get the rogue to race.

Renneti eventually won easily enough and then I backed him to win a handicap on the flat at Leopardstown, on the basis there was a good chance he was far better than his mark.

But he behaved like a mule heading to the start and was an even bigger mule through the race, finishing 14th of 16.

The six-year-old reappeared in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last Saturday and proceeded to pull Jamie Spencer’s arms out for a lot of the journey.

That he was able to take fourth in the end was a minor miracle.

Renneti has a serious engine, but also the capacity, you suspect, to clean out a parish!


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