Double delight for Aidan O'Brien at Newmarket
US 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 after Clemmie in the Cheveley Park Stakes, but there was disappointment as O'Brien's first string, Sioux Nation, was never able to challenge after being held up in the early stages by Ryan Moore.
US Navy Flag was slashed to 20-1 from 66-1 for the 2000 Guineas by Paddy Power.
Heffernan said: "It was no surprise he ran well. I thought Ryan (Moore, on Sioux Nation) 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. "
On runner-up Fleet Review, O'Brien said: "He ran a stormer. Donnacha wanted to ride him as he had won twice on him. He really came together. He has plenty of speed and he travelled well."
Mark Johnston said of third-placed Cardsharp: "It was another very good run. He was 14-1 which was a bit unfair as there was nothing in there that he hadn't mixed it with before.
"He has been placed in the Richmond, July Stakes, Gimcrack and now the Middle Park. He has been there in every outing.
"Recently he has been extremely difficult beforehand. We have had him twice to the racecourse for practice sessions. It started at the July meeting and he has actually got steadily worse. The two worst ones have been here and the July meeting and he won there and was third today.
"I can't say he is taking too much out of himself. It might be the opposite in fact that he is saving a bit for himself."