Air Force Red on the Ascent After Hernandez Win

January 2, 2023

Air Force Red in the winner’s circle after his G2 Joe Hernandez triumph (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Santa Anita Barn Notes

ARCADIA, Calif.— Air Force Red added to a strong start to the meet for trainer Leonard Powell when scoring a front-running victory in Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 Joe Hernandez on the downhill turf course.

It was a second-straight stakes win for Air Force Red and first at the graded level. On Monday, Powell reported the 4-year-old Air Force Blue ridgling was doing “extremely well.” Next up will likely be a tilt in the Grade I, $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 4.

“I thought he ran really well and that finished up a nice 2022 for him,” Powell said. “I’m hoping for even bigger things in 2023.”

Air Force Red is owned in partnership by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Holly Golightly. Two races after Air Force Red’s 7-1 upset in the Hernandez, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners added a second graded-stakes win on the day when Queen Goddess took down the Grade II Robert J. Frankel.

Air Force Red, winner of the restricted Lure Stakes going a mile at Santa Anita in his previous start Oct. 29, upped his record to 10-5-0-0 with $354,100 in earnings. Furthermore, the win in the Hernandez over Grade I winners Smooth Like Strait and Hit the Road among others ran his record to 3-for-4 on the hillside turf course. Notably, this year’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in the fall will also be contested on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Is that a realistic goal for Air Force Red?

“I think so,” Powell said. “In the spring, we are going to stretch him out again because the big races here are at a mile. I think that’s what we’ll do through the spring and re-assess after that. But everything is in play.”

Air Force Red’s win in the Hernandez, which came under leading jockey Juan Hernandez, put a bow on what’s been a career-best season for Powell. The 46-year-old Frenchman finished 2022 with $2.1 million in earnings and five graded-stakes wins, which includes Dicey Mo Chara’s tally in the Grade II San Gabriel on opening day.

As for Dicey Mo Chara, his win in the San Gabriel provided a free berth in the Grade I, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. That race is under consideration for the Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal color bearer, Powell reiterated Monday.

“I haven’t talked to the ownership yet, but everything is still possible,” he noted.

@Tracking_Trips nice call Jon

Howard Eder @bbopjz View testimonials