US Navy Flag to lead strong O’Brien bid in Manikato Stakes

Ballydoyle maestro looking for a 14th Group One success of year in Melbourne

Ryan Moore and Magical lead the field home to win The QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes  during QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot. Photograph: Julian Herbert/PA .

Ryan Moore and Magical lead the field home to win The QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes during QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot. Photograph: Julian Herbert/PA .

 

Aidan O’Brien will hope reaching 13 Group One winners for the year doesn’t prove an unlucky omen ahead of US Navy Flag lining up for another top-flight prize in Australia on Friday.

Magical provided Ireland’s champion trainer with his 13th Group One of 2018 in Saturday’s QIPCO Fillies & Mares on ‘British Champions Day’ at Royal Ascot.

The 33-1 shot I Can Fly came within a neck of making it 14 in the QEII behind Roaring Lion so O’Brien’s next shot at the top level will come ‘Down Under’ in Friday’s $1 million Manikato Stakes.

The Irishman could saddle up to four horses in one of Australia’s most prestigious sprint prizes although US Navy Flag appears to be the Ballydoyle No.1.

The July Cup winner failed to fire on soft ground in ‘The Everest’ event in Sydney earlier this month but has been sent to Melbourne to join his stable companions, Spirit Of Valor, Fleet Review and Intelligence Cross.

That trio all ran in the Schillachi Stakes at Caulfield on the same day as ‘The Everest.’ Spirit Of Valor did best in second place.

“The plan is to run all our sprinters,” O’Brien’s representative TJ Comerford told Australian media before adding of US Navy Flag: “He’s good. He came off the box and was on the track within half an hour of getting here.”

The Mankikato takes place at the Moonee Valley track the day before the Cox Plate, Australian racing’s weight for age championship contest.

Winx is a heavy odds-on favourite to secure a record fourth Cox Plate in a row on Saturday morning. Comerford however also reported the Ballydoyle team might consider running Rostropovich against her.

The Irish Derby runner-up arrived in Melbourne last weekend and reportedly clears quarantine in time to run if O’Brien chooses to. He won the race in 2014 with Adelaide. Highland Reel was third to Winx a year later.

Magical may be on course for the Breeders Cup in less than two weeks after breaking her Group One duck at the weekend.

The Ballydoyle filly bounced out of a promising run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and proved too strong for the John Gosden pair, Coronet and Lah Ti Dar.

On Sunday O’Brien indicated no decision on the final formation of a Breeders Cup squad for Churchill Downs has been made.

“We’ll see how they are next week and then we’ll have a chat and see what will go on to American,” he said.

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