Victoria Derby Contender for Justify
Winner of the Group III SAJC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) last season at two, Air Assault (3g Justify x Elegant Eagle,by Zabeel) burst back to top form at Morphettville on Saturday with a resounding win in the Listed SAJC Hill Smith Stakes (1800m).
A work in progress trained now trained by Andrew Gluyas following the retirement of his training partner Leon Macdonald, Air Assault was having his third run back from a spell and relished the step up in distance to bolt clear and win by more than three lengths.
Air Assault missed a recent start when a fluke incident occurred involving a needle that broke in his neck during a pre-race blood test. He has the overall record two wins from eight starts earning over $175,000 and the Group I VRC Victoria Derby is on the radar.
“I’m quite proud of the horse actually, to prepare for today over 1800m after a hiccup along the way and a couple of six furlong (1200m) races under his belt and a little bit of uncertainty about his two-year-old form,” Gluyas said.
“That (incident) just prevented him from having that mile run really, I would’ve preferred to have had that, but it looks like he’s got some stamina.
“We needed to see him stand up and I think he did today, it was a very honest effort.
“We’ll have a real good look at what we do with him now but I think he’s put his hand up (to head to Melbourne).”
Passed in as a yearling and retained to race, Air Assault was bred by Harry Perks and partners and was raised at Mill Park in South Australia.
He is a half-brother to Group I ATC Champagne Stakes winner Go Indy Go (who also won the G3 SA Sires Produces Stakes), Group III winner Essay Raider and Group III placed Battle Brewing being the third stakes-winner among seven winners from outstanding producer Elegant Eagle.
A winning daughter of champion sire Zabeel, Elegant Eagle is a full sister to the dam of Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed from the family of Golden Slipper winner Ha Ha, so it’s a genuinely versatile family at the elite level.
Air Assault is the first Australian stakes-winner this season for Justify, who has been running hot in the Northern Hemisphere with a spate of recent Group winners including Group I winning juveniles Opera Singer and Just FYI.