O’Brien edges closer to record
AIDAN O’Brien moved to within one winner of matching Bobby Frankel’s top-flight world record haul as US Navy Flag landed the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. And just for good measure, the peerless Ballydoyle handler saddled the next three horses home in the Group One over seven furlongs.
O’Brien is now on 24 winners for the calendar year after US Navy Flag added to his gains in the Middle Park Stakes with an impressive two-and-ahalf-length victory under Ryan Moore.
Stablemates Mendelssohn, Seahenge and Three and four pence finished second, third and fourth respectively.
The previously unbeaten Expert Eye was always in US Navy Flag’s slipstream, but was notably keen in the hands of Andrea Atzeni. Whereas Moore’s eager companion powered clear, the 4-7 favourite 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 is 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.”
When asked about the record, O’Brien said: “It would be massive, 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. There are hundreds of people in the team and it’s a big team effort. We’d be very honoured to do it, but we’ll take one day at a time.”
Trainer Michael Stoute was understandably deflated with Expert Eye. He said: “It was just very disappointing. He was a little keen early on, but even so it was disappointing. That was not him.”
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, was also at a loss to explain Expert Eye’s performance. He said: “We are all a bit mystified. He was a bit keen. He settled but he was the first horse beaten. Obviously he will be checked out. I don’t think there is an obvious explanation for this. He was very straightforward, had a good prep and good work. We were as excited as anyone but for some reason it was not going to be. There is usually some sort of reason but there is nothing immediately obvious.”
Teruntum Star claimed top honours in the Coral Sprint Trophy at York. Kevin Ryan’s inmate was too quick for Spring Loaded, who finished a length and three-quarters away in the valuable five-furlong dash. Flying Pursuit and Eastern Impact were third and fourth respectively.
Rebel Assault showed plenty of grit to cause a 25-1 upset in the coral.co.uk Rockingham Stakes. Mark Johnston’s juvenile was always prominent under Franny Norton and did particularly well to fend off It Dont Come Easy by a length and a quarter. Staxton finished third, with even-money favourite Shabaaby rather one-paced in fourth.
US Navy Flag ridden by Ryan Moore wins the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket