Speedy Air Force Red Takes Grade II, $250,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes
__SPEEDY AIR FORCE RED TAKES GRADE II, $250,000 JOE HERNANDEZ STAKES BY 1 ¾ LENGTHS AS HERNANDEZ & POWELL TEAM FOR HILLSIDE WIN IN 1:11.53 __
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2022)—A big gate to wire one mile turf winner in his most recent start, trainer Leonard Powell’s Air Force Red employed identical tactics on Saturday at Santa Anita, as he shortened up to about 6 ½ furlongs over the hillside turf course, taking the Grade II, $250,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths. Ridden for the second time in a row by Juan Hernandez, Air Force Red got the trip in 1:11.53.
Breaking on top from his number five post in a field of 10 three-year-olds and up, Air Force Red had a 1 ½ length advantage on eventual runner-up Lane Way at the dirt crossing and despite the fact he stayed on his left lead to deep stretch, was never threatened through the stretch run.
A 1 ¾ length winner of the restricted Lure Stakes here on Oct. 29, Air Force Red, a 4-year-old bay ridgling by the War Front stallion Air Force Blue, was off at 7-1 and paid $16.40, $8.20 and $5.40.
Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Holly Golightly, Air Force Red, who is out of the Mizzen Mast mare Mesana, notched his first graded stakes win and got his fifth win from 10 overall starts. With the winner’s share of $150,000, he increased his earnings to $354,140.
Attentive to the pace from his rail post, Lane Way was second, a length off the winner while into the bridle a half mile from home and proved second-best on the day as finished 1 ½ lengths in front of Gregorian Chant.
Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Richard Mandella, Lane Way was off at 5-1 and paid $5.40 and $3.80.
Phil D’Amato’s Gregorian Chant, who was ridden by Flavien Prat, saved ground to the top of the lane and made a nice move from off the pace to finish third, three quarters of a length better than Smooth Like Strait.
Off at 7-1, Gregorian Chant paid $4.80 to win.
The Hernandez fractions, all set by Air Force Red, were 22.19, 43.65 and 1:05.66.