European Review – Part One – Two-Year-Olds

In a season when Aidan O’Brien surpassed Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group / Grade One winners in a calendar year, it was perhaps not the greatest surprise that the Irish champion trainer proved the dominant force on the European two-year-old scene.

O’Brien saddled the winner in four of the five British Group One races for two-year-olds, won all bar one of the Irish top-flight juvenile races and enjoyed success at the elite level in France at Chantilly.

U S Navy Flag leads O’Brien charge

O’Brien’s flag-bearer in the juvenile ranks this season was the likeable U S Navy Flag (War Front), who showed relentless progression throughout the 2017 Flat season and ended the campaign as a dual Group One winner.

The colt is out of the Group One winner Misty For Me (Galileo), making him a brother to his triple Group One-winning stablemate Roly Poly, and broke his maiden at the fifth attempt at the Curragh in July.

He ran second in the July Stakes (Gr 2, 6f) at Newmarket later that month before running fourth behind stable companion Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy) in the Phoenix Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) and opening his stakes account in the Round Tower Stakes (Gr 3, 6f).

His sights were raised thereafter, and he showed marked improvement to secure both the Middle Park Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) and the Dewhurst Stakes (Gr 1, 7f), the two most prestigious races for two-year-old colts in Europe, under positive tactics.

“It is unusual and rare [to win the Middle Park and Dewhurst]. We are lucky to have a good colt like him who has pace enough for six and has a good chance of getting a mile,” O’Brien, who saddled the first four home in the Dewhurst, told the Racing Post after U S Navy Flag’s win.

His superb end to the season saw him crowned Cartier Two-Year-Old Colt of the year at an awards ceremony in London on Tuesday evening.

O’Brien also saddled the beautifully-bred Clemmie (Galileo), a sister to multiple Group One winner Churchill, to win at the highest level at Newmarket.

The high-class filly improved throughout the season and was victorious in the Cheveley Park Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) in September, providing her trainer with back-to-back victories in the lucrative sprint.

Happily (Galileo), another filly from a prolific Coolmore family, was successful twice at the highest level during 2017.

She is out of the hugely successful broodmare You’resothrilling (Storm Cat), and she became the third individual Group One winner from five named foals out of her dam when taking out the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 7f) in September.

Her victory gave O’Brien his eighth win in the race, and she went on to secure another brilliant success in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Gr 1, 1600m) at Chantilly last month, defeating the colts in determined fashion.

The final Group One of the British season, the Racing Post Trophy (Gr 1, 1m), also went the way of the Ballydoyle-based trainer, as Saxon Warrior (Deep Impact) turned away the smart Roaring Lion (Kitten’s Joy) to give O’Brien his record-breaking 26th victory at the highest level.

Burke plays role of giant killer

Yorkshire-based trainer Karl Burke twice played the role of giant killer during the 2017 Flat season as he saddled the winner of both the Prix Morny (Gr 1, 1200m) at Deauville and the Fillies Mile (Gr 1, 1m) at Newmarket.

Burke, who enjoyed considerable success last season with top-class sprinter Quiet Reflection (Showcasing), shrewdly campaigned Unfortunately (Society Rock) in France and was rewarded with big-race successes in both the Prix Robert Papin (Gr 2, 1100m) and Prix Morny, one of the key two-year-old races during the French season.

He saddled the second home in the Morny for good measure with the admirable Group Three winner Havana Grey (Havana Gold) chasing home his stablemate in the €350,000 feature. Havana Grey was first or second in seven of his eight starts this year.

Burke landed further Group One spoils in the autumn, with the exciting Laurens (Siyouni) completing a memorable late-season double in the May Hill Stakes (Gr 2, 1m) at Doncaster and the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, where she held off the strong late finish of the Aidan O’Brien-trained September (Deep Impact).

Royal Ascot success for son of Choisir

Triple Group One winner Choisir (Danehill Dancer) produced two of his finest performances at Royal Ascot in 2003 when completing a quickfire double in the King’s Stand Stakes (Gr 2, 5f) and Golden Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 6f), and his son Rajasinghe also enjoyed success at the royal meeting this season.

The colt, trained by Newmarket-based Richard Spencer, showed a smart change of gear and a good attitude to take out the Coventry Stakes (Gr 2, 6f) for Phil Cunningham’s Rebel Racing, whose colours were carried to Classic glory in the 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) by Cockney Rebel ten years ago.

Elsewhere at Royal Ascot, Aidan O’Brien sent out Sioux Nation to win the Norfolk Stakes (Gr 2, 5f) under jockey Ryan Moore, the trainer’s third winner in the Group Two sprint, while O’Brien also sent out September (Deep Impact) to win the Chesham Stakes (Listed, 7f) at the five-day fixture.

US trainer Wesley Ward saddled Lady Aurelia (Scat Daddy) to a brilliant success in the Queen Mary Stakes (Gr 2, 5f) in 2016, but his well-fancied Happy Like A Fool (Distorted Humor) could not cope with the impressive finishing effort of the Clive Cox-trained Heartache (Kyllachy). That filly also went on to land the Flying Childers Stakes (Gr 2, 5f) at Doncaster in September.

The French also enjoyed success with their juveniles at Ascot in June, with Different League providing French champion first season sire Dabirsim (Hat Trick) with a Royal Ascot winner from his first crop.

The filly raced with the pace throughout and showed a determined attitude to land the Albany Stakes (Gr 3, 6f) for trainer Matthieu Palussiere, and she returned to Britain in September to run an excellent second to Clemmie in the Middle Park Stakes (Gr 1, 6f).