Racing

O’Brien now one shy of 25 Group 1 wins in a year

Master Irish trainer saddles first four home in Dewhurst Stakes

Aidan O’Brien dominated Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes, the master Irish trainer saddling the first four home to move one shy of Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group 1 wins in a year.

Even by his own high standards, 2017 has been a year to remember for the unassuming 47-year-old and his charge US Navy Flag became the latest top-notch winner to roll off his Ballydoyle production line in Newmarket’s feature two-yearold contest.

As Expert Eye, the odds-on favourite trained by Michael Stoute, floundered to finish last of the nine runners, US Navy Flag led under jockey Ryan Moore.

The 5-1 winner’s stablemates Mendelssohn (50-1), Seahenge (ridden by O’Brien’s son, Donnacha) and Threeandfourpence took second, third and fourth respectively.

With this 24th Group 1 success of 2017, O’Brien now needs only one more to draw level with Frankel, a remarkable accomplishment that he may well achieve at British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.

O’Brien’s previous best Group 1 tally was 23 in 2001 and 2008.

The magic 25 mark was set by Frankel, the late Californian trainer, in 2003.

Commentating on his chance of rewriting racing’s record books, O’Brien told ITV: “It would be massive for everyone, but we don’t think about it as a long-term thing.

“We take every horse and each race at a time but it would be a massive achievement for everybody.”

US Navy Flag was completing a rare double, adding the Dewhurst to his previous win in the Middle Park Stakes, a feat last achieved by Diesis 35 years ago.

“It is rare and we are lucky to have a good colt like him who has the speed for six furlongs but looks like he has a good chance of getting a mile – it is exciting,” said O’Brien.

Backed by the mighty Coolmore breeding operation, O’Brien has sent out the winners of four of the five English classics this campaign with Churchill and Winter annexing the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, Wings Of Eagles winning the Epsom Derby and Capri, his Irish Derby hero, scraping home in the St Leger. — AFP

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