By Racinguk.com staff
U S Navy Flag put up a gutsy performance to lead home a one-two for Aidan O'Brien in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.
The 10-1 shot, ridden by Seamie Heffernan, was always prominent in the centre of the course and saw of the challenge of his Donnacha O'Brien-ridden stablemate Fleet Review (25-1). Mark Johnston's Cardsharp (14-1) was third.
It was O'Brien's 20th Group One success of the year after Clemmie in the Cheveley Park Stakes, but there was disappointment as the stable first string Sioux Nation was never able to challenge after being held up in the early stages by Ryan Moore.
U S Navy Flag was slashed to 20-1 from 66-1 for the 2000 Guineas by Paddy Power. It was his tenth start of the season.
Heffernan said: "It was no surprise he ran well. I thought Ryan was the danger, but his horse is big and might be a little bit weak. This lad is out of a Galileo mare and that's what kicked in.
"He's a horse that's a bit gawky and looks around, so the blinkers help him focus and make the jockey's job easier.
"Aidan will take him home and have a look at him and see what shape he's in."
O'Brien said: "This horse won very easily the last day. He is a very solid horse and he is a brother to Roly Poly. He is out of a Galileo mare and they just don't give up. He takes his racing well and is progressing with every run.
"He is long and he is powerful. I think he will go down the sprinting route, but there is nothing to say he won't get seven.
"He is a hardy horse that is progressing and when horses are like that, you can keep going with them if they want to go and I wouldn't rule out the Dewhurst with him.
"Seamie said he really wanted it and when he asked him, his head went out and down.
"It is great for everyone and there's a lot of hard work by a great team of people."
O'Brien added about the runner-up: "Fleet Review ran a stormer. Donnacha really wanted to run him as he's won on him twice and he wanted to run him. He's plenty of speed, he travelled well."US Navy Flag was winning the Middle Park on his tenth start (PA)
Most of the talk following the Cheveley Park was about the Breeders' Cup and Cardsharp could well be on the plane, also.
Cardsharp is not the easiest customer, however, and Johnston has a lot to consider before agreeing to travel.
“It was a great run, but he is very frustrating horse," the trainer said. "I didn’t think 14-1 was justified as he has never run a bad race and has been there in the best company, and been up there every time. He is extremely badly-behaved pre-race and that is the worst he has been today.
“He has actually run his best races when he has behaved worse. So, we don’t really know what that means. When he came back in to be unsaddled, he was none too keen on that either. One suspects that he isn’t taking too much out of himself in his races. He is just frustrating as he looks like he has a little up his sleeve. He very much has his own ideas about the game, but he is fine at home.”
As for the possibility of a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup, Johnston added: “We will keep an open mind. He is in the Dewhurst and the Breeders’ Cup was suggested for him a while back. We will just go and have another look at that… because the valets have to saddle them over there – that’s the big attraction!”
“He has thrown himself on the ground and all sorts out the back. He comes up punching at you when you try to saddle him.
“He seems genuine enough in the race, but he is quite difficult beforehand.”
Cardsharp's jockey, James Doyle, added: “He ran a cracker. He travelled into it quite smoothly and while he found the ground riding a little bit dead into The Dip, but once he met the rising ground, he picked up well. The quicker the ground, the better for him, really.”