Royal Ascot - At The Races

Aidan O'Brien's U S Navy Flag crowned champion juvenile

    U S Navy Flag has been crowned the leading juvenile of 2017 following the publication of the European Thoroughbred Rankings.
  • Tuesday 23 January 2018
  • News

U S Navy Flag has been crowned the leading juvenile of 2017 following the publication of the European Thoroughbred Rankings.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt won both the Middle Park and Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in the autumn and earned a rating of 122, despite finishing down the field in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on his final start of the year.

His mark puts him on a par with O'Brien's Churchill, who was the leading two-year-old of 2016 and went on to win both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas.

U S Navy Flag is also the 10th champion juvenile O'Brien has been responsible for and he dominates the two-year-old standings, with 15 horses featuring in the top 45.

He also has the next-best performer in Racing Post Trophy victor Saxon Warrior, the current favourite for this year's Guineas and Derby who is on 119, 1lb ahead of the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion, who was beaten just a neck at Doncaster.

Sir Michael Stoute's Dewhurst disappointment Expert Eye and Jim Bolger's Verbal Dexterity share fourth place with a rating of 117.

O'Brien - who broke the world record for Group/Grade One winners in a calendar year in 2017 - has the leading juvenile filly as Clemmie was allotted a mark of 115 following a season that concluded with Cheveley Park Stakes glory at Newmarket.

Graeme Smith, the British Horseracing Authority's two-year-old handicapper, feels U S Navy Flag deserves to be hailed a champion.

He told Racing UK: "That was a tremendous Group One double, the first since Diesis in 1982 to win the Middle Park and the Dewhurst.

"He took his time to get there - he had five or six runs before he really began to shine, but all of a sudden he got gunned from the front in a Group Three in Ireland and that was the first time he really showed his hand when he won by six lengths.

"He was 10-1 when he won the Middle Park so it wasn't hugely expected and Ryan Moore rode something else, but that was a good performance setting a good pace and then he improved even further up to seven furlongs.

"That was a tremendous performance - the flagship performance for a two-year-old this year and fully deserving of his 122 rating and champion status."

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