It’s Wednesday before the first classic of the season on Saturday, the 2000 Guineas. It might be three days away but already the forgotten horse in this field is surely US Navy Flag.
On official ratings he’s 9 lbs clear of his stablemate and current 5/2 race favourite Gustav Klimt and 2 lbs clear of his other stable companion and 5/1 second favourite Saxon Warrior yet the market puts him in as a 20/1 shot.
Granted he was beaten 15L by Gustav Klimt on his seasonal debut in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial three weeks ago but that was on heavy ground and his form of last year would suggest he has a strong chance of bridging that gap on ground that could ride good come Saturday afternoon.
He’s obviously a hardy soul having raced eleven times last year improving throughout the season. He was on the go from early May when he made his debut at Naas through to November at Del Mar where he contested the Juvenile Dirt at the Breeders Cup. He didn’t handle the surface and was well beaten there hence the change in the Ballydoyle plans where Mendelssohn became the choice for the Kentucky Derby.
Go back one run and you’ll find he was a good winner of the Dewhurst over 7f where he got the better of Mendelssohn, now joint favourite for the Kentucky Derby and prior to that he’d shown a serious turn of foot to win the Middle Park over six furlongs, the first G1 he captured.
The question is, is he a sprinter or a miler?
His debut at Naas was over 5f which proved too sharp however up to the Middle Park his runs were all then at 6f.
He’s by War Front out of Misty For Me. She got a mile and then some so you’d say he’s likely to find this mile within his compass and when asked he’d no problem in stepping up to 7f in the Dewhurst.
He has something else going for him, besides being a double G1 winner. His stable companions, who lead the betting here, have not yet encountered Newmarket’s famous dip before. It can unbalance a horse who lacks experience. Gustav Klimt did win the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket but that was over the July course and Saxon Warrior will encounter the course for the first time.
US Navy Flag on the other hand bossed both the Middle Park and Dewhurst grabbing the ground and powering out of the dip on both occasions. With the ground drying out and that crucial course experience it’s likely the 20/1 won’t last, come post time he could be a lot shorter.
A few hours later Mendelssohn will take his chance in the Run For The Roses in Kentucky. His prep run in Dubai on dirt was nothing short of stunning winning by a going away 18L and Aidan O”Brien reports him in rude health now. If he reproduces what he did in Dubai and what what he did in chasing home US Navy Flag last year in the Dewhurst he’ll be very hard to stop.
Recommendations: US Navy Flag 20/1 e/w
Mendelssohn 9/2 e/w
US Navy Flag, Mendelssohn e/w double