By Geoffrey Riddle
US Navy Flag has been crowned the leading juvenile of 2017 following the publication of the European Thoroughbred Rankings.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt won both the Middle Park and Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in the autumn and earned a rating of 122, despite finishing down the field in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on his final start of the year.
His mark puts him on a par with O'Brien's Churchill, who was the leading two-year-old 12 months ago and went on to win both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas.
US Navy Flag is also the 10th champion juvenile O'Brien has been responsible for and he dominates the two-year-old standings, with 15 horses featuring in the top 45.
It is a reflection of Aidan O'Brien's record-breaking season last year when he beat Bobby Frankel's record for winning worldwide Group One races.
“The motto of the US Navy is Semper Fortis (Always Courageous) and it would be difficult to think of a more apt description than that for U S Navy Flag," Mark Bird, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Handicapper and delegate at the European two‐year-old meeting, said.
“The redoubtable colt saw the most racecourse action (11 appearances) as a two-year-old of any of the 44 European juvenile champions and joint-champions, dating back to 1978.
Although he ranks toward the lower end of the scale in terms of previous champions, there was no shortage of quality in some of his efforts and he emerged to put in the season’s defining juvenile performance, in landing his second Group One, the Dewhurst, in record time.”
O'Brien also has the next-best performer in Racing Post Trophy victor Saxon Warrior, the current favourite for this year's Guineas and Derby and who is on 119, 1lb ahead of the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion, who was beaten just a neck at Doncaster.Saxon Warrior is the 4-1 favourite for the Derby (PA)
Sir Michael Stoute's Dewhurst disappointment Expert Eye and Jim Bolger's Verbal Dexterity share fourth place with a rating of 117.
O'Brien also has the leading juvenile filly as Clemmie was allotted a mark of 115 following a season that concluded with Cheveley Park Stakes victory at Newmarket.
It is the fourth time he has saddled the top juvenile in both categories after 2005, 2011 and 2015.
“Clemmie rather broke the mould in becoming Galileo’s first Group One winner at 6f from his thirteen crops of racing age," Graeme Smith, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Handicapper responsible for two‐year‐olds said.
"She headed a slightly substandard group of fillies with a figure of 115, but she’s a sister to the 2016 Champion two‐year‐old and 2017 QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner, Churchill, and both her pedigree and performances suggest she’ll improve further when given her chance at the Guineas trip”.
Britain provided the strongest draft of two‐year‐olds numerically with 20 of the 45 horses rated 110 or above, and both Roaring Lion (118) and Expert Eye (117) look particularly promising among them.
The leading French‐trained juvenile was Olmedo, who improved quickly to a rating of 113 despite being beaten on both his starts in pattern company.
Germany was represented for just the second time in the last six years after Erasmus (112) ran away with the Preis Des Winterfavoriten in Cologne.
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