Dual Group 1 winner U S Navy Flag has been confirmed as European champion two‐year‐old for 2017 with a rating of 122 at the unveiling of the European two-year-old Thoroughbred Classifications in London today.
He is the tenth European juvenile champion to be trained by the Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien, in a list that stretches back to Fasliyev, in 1999.
In a magical 15‐day window U S Navy Flag became the first horse since Diesis in 1982 to win both the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes and the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. He becomes just the second Middle Park winner since 2002 to be crowned the continent’s leading juvenile but he’s the ninth in that time to gain the title after winning the Dewhurst, and the fourth in a row following on from Belardo (119), Air Force Blue (124) and Churchill (122).
Mark Bird, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Handicapper and delegate at the European two‐year-old meeting, said:
“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.
“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 1, the Dewhurst, in record time.”
Aidan O’Brien’s conveyor belt continued to churn out the talent and he also sent out the season’s champion juvenile filly in the shape of Clemmie (115) – a ‘double’ he previously achieved in 2005, 2011 and 2015. Indeed, were it not for Lady Aurelia last year, this would have been the third year in a row that O’Brien would have topped both categories outright. He is also responsible for the second highest rated two-year-old in Saxon Warrior (119), who landed what appeared to be a high‐class renewal of the Racing Post Trophy.
Graeme Smith, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Handicapper responsible for two‐year‐olds said:
“Clemmie rather broke the mould in becoming Galileo’s first Group 1 winner at 6f from his thirteen crops of racing age. 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”.
Great 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.
With attention turning to the year ahead Graeme Smith provides his views on a dark horse or two worth following:
“John Gosden showed with Enable that he’s happy to introduce a superstar on Newcastle’s tapeta following the close of the turf season and he could well have repeated the trick with Without Parole this time around.
“The bay son of Frankel is a half‐brother to a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner and he looked every inch a star as he drew clear of a couple of experienced rivals rated in the 80s, coming away for nothing more than hands‐and‐heels riding and eventually eased down to score by six lenghts. With the third‐placed Windsor Cross winning a handicap soon after, the decision of Without Parole’s owner to buy him back for 650,000gns at the Book 1 sale in 2016 currently looks a very smart move.
“Other dark horses worth looking out for in Britain include William Haggas’s Willie John, John Gosden’s Highgarden and Charlie Appleby’s Key Victory.”
Mark Bird adds his views on the Irish and other overseas ones to watch:
“Enable provided her owner Prince Khalid Abdullah with some of the most special moments of the 2017 season during her illustrious three-year-old career and while it is asking a lot for connections to have such a star three-year-old filly for the second year in a row, it could just happen based on the promise shown by the owner’s Contingent on her sole outing at two.
“Trained by Dermot Weld, the daughter of Frankel is out of the Prix Marcel Boussac winner Proportional and put up a very taking performance in winning what is traditionally a strong back‐end maiden over a mile at Leopardstown in October, overcoming a wide draw and showing an impressive turn of foot.
“Another that may be worth following in Ireland is Galway maiden winner Amedeo Modigliani, who is by Galileo out of a half‐sister to Aussie Rules, while in France, it was hard not to be impressed by the unbeaten Wootton, who is by the same sire as Almanzor.”
Notes to editors:
1. The full European two-year-old Classification 2016 can be found here.
2. The European Handicappers meet annually at the direction of the European Pattern Committee to discuss and agree the European two-year-old rankings. Two-year-olds are included in the Classification if they put up a performance in Europe rated at 110 or more or if they perform to this level outside of the Continent whilst trained in Europe. The Classification does not form part of the LONGINES WORLD’S BEST RACEHORSE RANKINGS and is published for informational purposes. The two-year-old Classification was first published in 1978.