O’Brien edges closer to record

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING - GRA­HAM CLARK

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

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