Dewhurst: U S Navy Flag flies Ballydoyle standard at Newmarket as Aidan O'Brien dominates

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 14 Oct 2017

Watch the closing stages of U S Navy Flag's victory in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday and Lydia Hislop's interviews with Ryan Moore and Aidan O'Brien.

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By staff

U S Navy Flag led home his three stablemates in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday as Aidan O'Brien's domination of the Flat season continued.

The son of American sire War Front led his rivals a merry dance in the Darley-sponsored contest and became the first horse since Diesis in 1982 to land the Middle Park - Dewhurst double.

The Ballydoyle colt was a 5-1 shot to secure a second Group One on the bounce following his triumph on the Rowley Mile a fortnight ago and did so in record time of 1 minute 22.37 seconds.

Ryan Moore controlled the pace from the front before kicking for home and U S Navy Flag readily brushed aside his opponents to claim an impressive two-and-a-half-length victory.

Stablemates Mendelssohn, Seahenge and Threeandfourpence finished second, third and fourth respectively.

U S Navy Flag provided O'Brien with a 24th top-flight success of 2017, leaving him just one short of the record set by American trainer Bobby Frankel in 2003.

Moore saluted O'Brien's feat.

"Credit to Aidan - he has trained the first four home and they have all taken a big jump forward from what they have done," he told Racing UK.

"It is a remarkable achievement."

U S Navy Flag is a full-sister to Roly Poly, who secured her third successive top-level win in last weekend's Sun Chariot Stakes.

"They're amazingly similar," Moore added.

"Neither of them are the biggest, but they'll both give you absolutely everything. This lad would have a little more substance about him.

"They both seem to keep getting better every time they come to the track."

It was a third victory in the Group One contest for Moore, having struck previously on Beethoven, Air Force Blue and Churchill.

"It is very hard to compare horses," Moore said. "Churchill was a seriously good two-year-old. This lad has just got better so let’s see where he will end up."

U S Navy Flag always appeared to have matters in hand in the Dewhurst and travelled strongly against the rail under Moore.

Dubai Future Champions Festival - Day Two - Newmarket Racecourse U S Navy Flag could be in line for a trip to the Breeders' Cup (PA)

The previously unbeaten 4-7 favourite Expert Eye was always in his slipstream, but was notably keen in the hands of Andrea Atzeni.

While U S Navy Flag powered clear, pursued by three stablemates, Expert Eye dropped back through the field and finished last of nine runners.

O'Brien said of the winner: "He is a very good Middle Park winner and I think he was overlooked a bit.

"It unusual and rare (for a horse to win the Middle Park and the Dewhurst).

"I suppose we're lucky to have a colt who has pace enough for six (furlongs) and it looks as though he's a good chance of getting a mile."

Regarding future plans, the trainer added: "He would have America (Breeders' Cup), but I don't know.

"We will see how he is. He is certainly very happy with what he is doing. It's exciting."

Asked about the record, O'Brien said: "It would be massive everyone, but we don't think about it as a long-term thing.

"We take every horse and each race at a time but it would be a massive achievement for everybody."

Expert Eye was bitterly disappointing and trainer Sir Michael Stoute revealed to Racing UK:

"I don’t have an explanation at the moment," he said. "We scoped him when he got back to the yard and he was as clear as water. We’ll have to keep investigating and observing him as it was a pretty disappointing performance.

"He was keen, and he hadn’t been that in either of his races and not in his work at home. It was uncharacteristic."

Expert Eye was later found to have been lame in his right hind following a post-race examination.

Bookmakers could not decide on the merits of U S Navy Flag in the context of next season's QIPCO 2000 Guineas. The winner is as short as 5-1 for the opening Classic of 2018, but Ladbrokes go a standout 10-1. Expert Eye is out to 8-1 with the same firm.

"We had really high hopes for Expert Eye today," Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said. "After his extremely disappointing performance, he has lost his position as favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas."

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