Writing horses off trained by Aidan O’Brien is a dangerous thing to do, as US Navy Flag demonstrated when burning off his rivals from the front in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
Having failed to establish himself as a miler this season following defeats in the French and Irish 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the son of War Front showed he is all about speed after adding a third Group One win to his name in the six-furlong prize.
Making a slick exit from stall 13, the 8-1 shot bounded into a lead he would not surrender under Ryan Moore, with the pair pulling out plenty to repel the late challenge of Brando by a length and three-quarters to give O’Brien his fourth victory in the race.
O’Brien, who also saddled third-placed Fleet Review, said: “What he did last year was unbelievable and probably what threw us was that he was able to win a Dewhurst, but he nearly won an Irish 2000 Guineas so he is an unbelievable little horse to be doing that really. He has plenty of everything really.
“We gave him the chance to be a miler, as he was such a determined horse to win a Dewhurst and he shouldn’t have been able to do that.
“To come back after running a mile, and he got a hard mile at Ascot, is incredible. He has got a lot of natural speed. He is pure speed and determined. Ryan gave him a brilliant ride, it was unbelievable.
“We knew he was out of a Galileo mare and one thing he wasn’t going to do was lay down and that is what he didn’t do and that last half-furlong he pulled away. When you have those speed horses with a bit of Galileo in, they do not stop.”
Regarding future plans, O’Brien has earmarked a trip to Australia for a tilt at the Everest as the long term target.
He said: “It is incredible really. We were hoping he would put in a performance today as we have our eye on that race in Australia, so I’d imagine he would have a little rest now as he has had a tough time, and be trained for that.”
Moore, who was winning his first July Cup, said: “He loves Newmarket and ran a mighty race in the Irish Guineas.
“He’s just a very fast horse and loves a fight – he found plenty when the second came to him.
“I was never worried about the trip, he just needs to have fast ground.”
Kevin Ryan intends to send runner-up Brando back to Deauville on his next start to defend his title in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, after going one better in the July Course feature than 12 months ago.
The Hambleton handler said: “He was in a group of four horses up the stands rail and we’d always prefer to be in the bigger group.
“We knew we had him in great shape and we avoided Ascot, not that we didn’t want to go, we just felt he was so good at Newmarket we trained him for this race and it nearly came off.
“It is a little bit gut wrenching it hasn’t, but I’m proud of him. He will go to the Maurice de Gheest now.”
Fourth home was the David Elsworth-trained Sir Dancealot.
Elsworth said: “He ran well. He is in the same street as them, he just came up a bit short today. He needs a good gallop. It was a bit tough, the opposition, but he ran well.
“There is the race at Goodwood, the Lennox, but he is not bad over six and you can play around. You have a flirtation with these sort of races, but you can always drop him down a cog and win with him.
“Maybe he is just short of the best, but he is not bad.”
Blue Point was sent off the 5-2 favourite, but could never get in a blow and had to settle for seventh.
His trainer Charlie Appleby said: “William (Buick) said he just over-raced a bit for the first two furlongs.
“He feels like he is a five-furlong horse, although he said at the five pole he would not be winning and the winner had got us all beat at halfway.
“The other thing he added is he is a horse that just seems to turn up at Ascot. I don’t disagree with him, as he does put up his best performances there.
“I will drop him back to five again and we will go for the Flying Five (at the Curragh), then look at finishing the season off at Ascot in the Champions Sprint.”