Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Airoforce, 'Oscar' Face Off at Kentucky Downs

Graded stakes-winning pair should be top betting choices Sept. 11.

Back on their preferred surface after stints on the Triple Crown trail, Airoforce  and Oscar Nominated have run well in multiple starts on turf, but have yet to find the winner's circle despite close calls.

That could change Sept. 11, however, as the graded stakes-winning runners will are expected to be the top two betting choices in the $350,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.

John Oxley's Airoforce, who broke his maiden in his debut at Kentucky Downs in September of 2015, will stretch out to the longest distance of his career in the 1 5/16-mile test following a nose second to Camelot Kitten last time out Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course.

Before that, the son of Colonel John ran 10th (although only three lengths behind winner Deauville) in the Belmont Derby (gr. IT) July 9, and came in second to Mark Casse stablemate Catch a Glimpse in the Penn Mile (gr. IIIT) June 4.

"He's been running against the best 3-year-olds in North America for the most part and he's run well," Casse said. "A couple times I thought he's had some excuses, but at Saratoga I was proud of him. He ran great.

"We've just figured out he's a good turf horse," Casse added of Airoforce, who flourished as a 2-year-old with wins in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II), along with a second-place run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT), but is still looking for his first win as a sophomore. "I don't know if there are any secrets. He also likes Churchill Downs fine. If I was ever going to run him on dirt again, it'll be there."

For Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Oscar Nominated, his tight second-place finish came July 9 in the American Derby (gr. IIIT) at Arlington International Racecourse, where he was just a half-length behind One Mean Man at the wire.

The Kitten's Joy colt came in fifth last time out in the Secretariat (gr. IT) Aug. 13 at Arlington, and finished fifth in the Penn Mile following a 17th-place run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby with a win in the Spiral (gr. III) at Turfway Park in April, a race in which Airoforce came in eighth.

The only other stakes winners in the 12-horse field are Path of David, who won the Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita Park in December and ships in from Southern California for trainer Kristin Mulhall, and Yo Charm, the winner of the Bruce D. Memorial last time out at Arlington Aug. 13 for trainer Chris Block.

Entries: Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby

Kentucky Downs, Sunday, September 11, 2016, Race 9

  • STK
  • One And Five Sixteenthm
  • Turf
  • $350,000
  • 3 yo
  • 5:39 PM (local)
11Cordon (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCarlos H. Marquez, Jr.118Pavel Vashchenko15/1
22Crescent Drive (KY)Joe Bravo118Thomas M. Amoss15/1
33Call the Colonel (KY)Francisco C. Torres118Jon M. Cowan30/1
44Madtap (KY)Shaun Bridgmohan118Steven M. Asmussen15/1
55Manitoulin (KY)Corey J. Lanerie118James J. Toner6/1
66Path of David (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDrayden Van Dyke124Kristin Mulhall10/1
77Trinitas Soldier (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDeclan Cannon118Joseph Deegan30/1
88Yo Carm (IL)Robby Albarado118Chris M. Block30/1
99Little Scotty (KY)Flavien Prat118Neil D. Drysdale5/1
1010Airoforce (KY)Julien R. Leparoux124Mark E. Casse9/5
1111Oscar Nominated (KY)Florent Geroux122Michael J. Maker9/2
1212Nessy (KY)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.118Jimmy Corrigan20/1