Air Force Red Gets an Education in G3 Thunder Road

February 5, 2023

Air Force Red (outside red silks) gave a game challenge to Earls Rock (rail) and Du Jour (center) to take third in the Thunder Road. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

• American Oaks Winner Rhea Moon Back On Work Tab
• Santa Anita Adds Race Card For Friday, Feb. 24

Stable Notes By Victor Ryan

ARCADIA, Calif.—Air Force Red ’s bid to become the first two-time stakes winner at the meet came up just short in Saturday’s Grade III Thunder Road going one mile on turf.

Sent off the 9-5 favorite, Air Force Red bobbled slightly at the start before hustling up to secure a stalking position under Santa Anita’s leading rider Juan Hernandez. The 5-year-old Air Force Blue ridgling then ranged up to briefly put a nose in front in deep stretch, but then was nailed on the wire by fast-closing winner Earls Rock and runner-up Du Jour. Air Force Red was beaten just a nose and a neck for top money.

Trainer Leonard Powell on Sunday reported Air Force Red exited the race in good order.

“He ran a good race. He got caught by surprise by two horses flying down the lane,” Powell said. “But he dug in and ran a good race.”
Air Force Red was back around two turns in the Thunder Road after winning the Grade II Joe Hernandez on the hillside turf course on Dec. 31. Powell noted Air Force Red, whose last three wins have all come in front-running fashion, received plenty of education in the Thunder Road.

“He did bobble a little bit at the start and that left us about a length further back then we wanted early,” Powell said. “But on the other hand, it was a good schooling race because it taught him to wait. Hopefully we lost the battle but not the war.”

Rhea Moon besting School Dance by a head in the American Oaks. (Benoit Photo)

Grade I American Oaks Winner Rhea Moon Back On Work Tab

Rhea Moon, who earned her second-straight stakes win in the Grade I American Oaks on opening day Dec. 26, returned to the work tab Sunday when drilling an easy three furlongs in 37.20 seconds on the training track.

On what was a wet morning at Santa Anita, nearly 200 horses had timed workouts either on the main track or training track. Country Grammar and Taiba each continued their preparations for the rich Saudi Cup when each worked seven furlongs in 1:25.60. Additionally, multiple graded-stakes winning sprinter Brickyard Ride continued to gear up for his comeback with a six-furlong move in 1:13.6 under Santa Anita leading rider Juan Hernandez. Brickyard Ride, who has won 12 of 23 starts and banked $744,977 for trainer Craig Lewis and owner-breeder Alfred Pais, has not started since last May when fifth in the Grade II Triple Bend.

As for Rhea Moon, her victory in the 1 1/4 -mile American Oaks for trainer Phil D’Amato followed a win in the Grade III Autumn Miss going a mile here on Oct. 29. D’Amato last week said Rhea Moon was “getting a little working vacation” but would likely return in a stakes sometime in March. Local turf stakes options would include the Grade III Buena Vista at a mile on March 4; Grade III Santa Ana at 1 ¼ miles on March 12; or possibly wait for the Grade II Royal Heroine at a mile on April 1.


Santa Anita will conduct live racing on Friday, Feb. 24, which was originally scheduled to be a dark day. First post time will be at 12:30 p.m. The card has been added as a makeup for weather-related cancellations earlier in the Classic Meet… Nominations for this year’s Triple Crown will be released to the public on Monday…Every Friday during the Classic Meet on-track patrons will receive free admission, free parking and drink specials that include $3 beers and $5 margaritas… Entering Saturday’s action, favorites have won at 28.39 percent clip at the Classic meet.

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