Monday 20 August 2018

US Navy Flag can fly highest for Ballydoyle

Aidan O’Brien’s US Navy Flag is not quite favourite around 3/1. Photo by Barry Cregg/Sportsfile
Aidan O’Brien’s US Navy Flag is not quite favourite around 3/1. Photo by Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Wayne Bailey

A German poet and philosopher by the name of Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) once said that "the historian is a prophet looking backwards".

That applies not just to the world's big issues, but also to sport - and, as they say, if hindsight were foresight, we'd all be millionaires. That latter phrase would be especially true in the game of racing and betting.

But still, there are times when looking at the history of a race can give strong clues to how it might go in the future.

I'll sound like an advertisement for a bank or investment firm if I give the caveat that past performance is not always indicative of future results, but if you take a race like the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh (4.10), history often repeats itself and it clearly makes sense to back horses near the top of the market, with all winners in the last 11 years returned at 5/1 or less.

Surprises

Out of all the Irish courses that host Group racing regularly, I feel the Curragh is the most fair track where surprises are rare, and that's borne out in the stats for winning favourites in the bigger races, with Irish HQ coming out near the top.

At the time of writing, Aidan O'Brien's US Navy Flag is not quite favourite around 3/1, a couple of points bigger than Mark Johnston's 7/4 raider Elarqam, but with a record 11 wins in this race since 1997, O'Brien's horses are very hard to oppose and we all know how he prepares his animals with specific targets in mind.

That said, the challenge from Elarqam is not underestimated. The son of Frankel was fourth in the English Guineas, but with no Saxon Warrior here today, connections are very confident.

Indeed, Hamdan Al Maktoum's assistant racing manager Richard Hills stated that "Newmarket was only the third run of his life and he lost his way a bit into the Dip. The Curragh will suit him. I think he should win."

He's certainly open to improvement but personally, I felt he still looked quite green at Newmarket, and it may take another race or two before he truly shines.

US Navy Flag has 13 races and four wins under his belt including two Group Ones as a juvenile, and while his last place of four in the Leopardstown Guineas trial in April won by stablemate Gustav Klimt looks poor on paper, the heavy ground was totally unsuitable and market support was weak beforehand.

Again, his subsequent fifth place in the French Guineas looks poor but it was a messy race in which he had an unfortunate draw for a start.

When he finally got into the swing of it, he stumbled, which no doubt had an effect. So all considered, I'm willing to overlook that run and give him another chance to show his true form, especially at a track like the Curragh which should bring out his best.

Gustav Klimt (7/2) opposes once again and I was quite fearful that horse would scupper my bet on Saxon Warrior in the Newmarket Guineas, but he just raced a little flat for some reason, and I'd like to see more solid evidence of improvement before I'd consider backing him.

It would be nice to see Fozzy Stack do well with Zihba and he's not without a chance at 7/1, but this will be a very tough assignment for the Leopardstown Group Three winner, and he'll need a couple of horses at the top of the market to fluff their lines.

While the top racing takes place in Ireland, the nap of the day has to be Battaash in the Group Two Temple Stakes at Haydock (4.0), albeit at the rather restrictive price of 8/11.

The King's Stand at Royal Ascot is the target for Charlie Hills' brilliant sprinter, which powered home to win October's Group One Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp at Chantilly.

Although Battaash will have to carry a 5lb penalty for his previous success, he's rated a full 10lbs clear of the field on official ratings at 123. A wind operation since he was last seen may help him even more, and while Tom Dascombe's Kachy may make a race of it, I'll be amazed if the selection doesn't win this with a bit to spare.

At the Curragh tomorrow, Clemmie can make it a great weekend for Aidan O'Brien by winning the Irish 1,000 guineas, priced around 5/1.

EACH-WAY

Although he was a little disappointing when finishing mid-division on his turf debut at Chester last time, odds of 20/1 early doors look far too big for Vale Of Kent in the Netbet Sport Handicap (2.30 Goodwood), and he's well capable of landing a place at the very least.

Chester is not a course that suits all horses and he never seemed to settle.

So I'm going to forgive that race and give him another chance based on his previous five career starts, of which he won three including a handicap successes at Wolverhampton off 3lbs lower than today's rating of 89.

Jockey Andrew Breslin claims 7lbs and this race is far more open than the market, which currently has four horses priced in single figures, would suggest.

* Last week's each-way selection, Communique, won at 7/1

WEEKEND SELECTIONS

2.30 Goodwood: Vale Of Kent (e/w)

3.05 York: Isabel De Urbina

3.25 Haydock: Unfortunately

4.0 Haydock: Battaash

4.10 Curragh: US Navy Flag

4.10 Curragh (Sun): Clemmie

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