By Ray Hickson
July Cup winner U S Navy Flag is set to be The Everest’s first international runner as he flies the flag for Coolmore in Australia’s richest race.
Coolmore Australia boss Tom Magnier said U S Navy Flag fits the bill perfectly to take up the challenge of beating Australia’s best sprinters on their home turf.
He’s the eighth horse confirmed for the $13 million The Everest (1200m) run at Royal Randwick on October 13.
“We believe that we have an ideal candidate for the race this year in U S Navy Flag,’’ Magnier said.
“As he showed in the July Cup, he is a world-class weight for age sprinter. He has tremendous tactical speed and is a tough, competitive horse that should relish the challenge of Australian sprinting.
“Fingers crossed all goes to plan for him and he can present ready to give his best at Randwick in mid-October.
“It’s going to be an incredible race and he will add another fascinating dimension to it.”
The northern hemisphere three-year-old had been tried as a miler during this campaign without success but in a masterstroke by trainer Aidan O’Brien has been reinvented as a sprinter.
The colt was a dual Group 1 winner at two up to seven furlongs but his best effort when stepped up to a mile was a second in the Irish 2000 Guineas in May.
O’Brien paid tribute to U S Navy Flag after his gutsy win at Newmarket – the July course is arguably the toughest straight 1200m in the world.
“He’s had a tough time of it recently so to do what he did today – coming back down to a sprint from a mile – proves what a special horse he is,’’ O’Brien told reporters after the win.
“After today he needed a break because he’s had a very tough spring.
“If he went well the thought was to give him a rest and go down and train him for the Everest in Australia.’’
U S Navy Flag’s presence in The Everest not only adds international interest to the race but a wild card to the possible speed picture.
Coolmore’s jockey Ryan Moore had no hesitation in taking U S Navy Flag to the lead in the July Cup and he charged up the undulating straight course showing no signs of stopping.
“He’s just a very fast horse, a very straightforward horse, loves a fight,’’ Moore told Racing UK.
“We’ve always thought he was a good horse.’’
Coolmore’s home bred filly Tulip ran fifth in the inaugural Everest in 2017.
TAB has U S Navy Flag rated an $11 chance in The Everest with Trapeze Artist ($4.50) holding favouritism.
Magnier said Coolmore is excited to be a part of The Everest, which is generating unprecedented publicity for racing across the world.
“It is an excellent initiative to promote our great sport to a broader audience, as evidenced by the inaugural running in 2017,’’ he said.
“Peter V’Landys, Laurie Macri and their respective teams at Racing NSW and the ATC deserve enormous credit for their work in developing the idea and the fact that it is already established as a focal point of the Australian racing calendar is evidence of its success.”
With only four slots remaining attention turns to whether the Australian Turf Club will hand its slot to American sprinter Bound For Nowhere, who ran third in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Wesley Ward-trained sprinter is in quarantine and booked to fly to Australia later in the week with his arrival likely to force the closure of Canterbury racecourse for two weeks to allow him to complete quarantine requirements.
Ward is a huge fan of The Everest concept and has been keen to target the race since its announcement last year.
It’s planned for Bound For Nowhere to be stabled with Gai Waterhouse in the lead up to The Everest.