During the Kentucky Derby prep season the horse racing media and fans have a strange desire to fixate on the top two or three horses. Never mind the fact that there are twenty horses in the Kentucky Derby field or that the favorite has a horrible track record over the years (though admittedly better over the past decade). The horse racing press quickly wants to settle on the top horses and dismiss the rest.
This is a bad idea from a handicapping standpoint and lazy from a journalistic standpoint. And while there are currently three top prospects in the three year old class it’s careful not to forget the rest. One such three year old that could soon be on the contender lists of even the most frontrunner loving journalists is Airoforce. Airoforce is trained by Mark Casse, one of the most successful trainers in Canada but often forgotten about South of the border. Casse is a 7 time Sovereign Award-winning trainer in Canada and a finalist again for 2015. That’s Canada’s version of the Eclipse Awards which would put him ahead of Bob Baffert and tied with Todd Pletcher as a seven-time winner. Casse has started to break into the US racing scene in recent years and had two winners at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. Earlier this week, his stable picked up Riker–likely the best two year old in Canada.
But back to Airoforce–he might be Casse’s best Kentucky Derby prospect ever and will make his three year old debut in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Park in Louisiana. There were signs that Airoforce could be a Kentucky Derby contender last Fall when he came from off the pace to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. As Casse puts it: “He ran them down, and little did we know who we were running down.” Among others, Airoforce ran down Mor Spirit–the Bob Baffert trained horse that went on to win the Los Alamitos Futurity and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and is the third horse in the current ‘Derby front runner’ mix along with Nyquist and Mohaymen. After Saturday, there could be another name in the ‘front runner’ pack.