Merchant Navy all set for Ascot following striking Curragh bow

Australian import thrills O’Brien

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Merchant Navy staked his claim for top sprinting honours when asserting close home in the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh.

Having his first race since joining Aidan O’Brien’s stable from Australia, the three-year-old son of Fastnet Rock was off the pace set mainly by two of his new stablemates, Intelligence Cross and Spirit Of Valor.

But once Ryan Moore got stuck into him, Merchant Navy (9-2) found plenty and did his best work at the finish, as he won by a length from Spirit Of Valor, with Tasleet a length and a quarter away in third and Brando fourth.

O’Brien said: “You’d be delighted with him, obviously. We felt he was just ready to come and the whole reason for running him was to see before we went to Ascot.

“We felt that he was at a racecourse gallop stage. The lads in Australia said he was a very good horse, so we just took it totally on trust. He did five little canters, that’s all he did.

“Ryan was very happy with him. The plan is to go to Ascot for the six-furlong race (Diamond Jubilee Stakes) and I think he has to go after that.

“I think he’s only here for Ascot and then gone after that, whatever (stallion) commitments he has.”

He added: “I thought there would be a lot of improvement in him. I was just hoping for a nice run today, that’s all, so it’s all a plus.

“He wasn’t stopping, but he’s obviously not short of speed, either.

“He made a good bit of ground up from halfway and Ryan was riding him that way because we were afraid he would get tired.”

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