All the key indicators point to continued success for The Oaks Stud’s young resident stallion U S Navy Flag, although experience has taught General Manager Rick Williams to never look too far ahead.
The son of War Front stood his first term at the Cambridge nursery last year and was subsequently purchased outright from Coolmore Stud.
U S Navy Flag will end 2022/23 as New Zealand’s Champion First Season Sire with seven individual winners, including the runaway Listed Castletown Stakes (1200m) winner Chantilly Lace.
To Catch A Thief placed third in both the Gr.1 Diamond Stakes (1200m) and the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) while Aprilia was runner-up in the Awapuni feature and Penvose Lad was second in the Listed Champagne Stakes (1200m).
“I couldn’t be happier where he sits and if he can keep on this upward trajectory we’re in for exciting times, but a couple of months is a long time in racing,” Williams said.
“We’ve got a lot of horses in work and I probably socialise a lot more with trainers than breeders and they don’t sugar coat anything with me.
“There’s a lot of positive talk out there so let’s hope it transmits into more results. I never get ahead of myself in this game though, but there are very good signs.”
While Williams is chuffed with first season honours for U S Navy Flag, he has taken more pride from another early achievement.
“He’s had more individual two-year-old winners than any other stallion in New Zealand,” he said.
“For a first season sire to finish second on the two-year-old sires’ list behind Satono Aladdin, who had the Karaka Million winner (Tokyo Tycoon) so you’re never going to beat him, is a better stat than just being the champion first season sire in my view.
“If you said 12 months ago he would he be doing that, I probably wouldn’t have thought so and he’s exceeded our expectations and we’re looking forward to the next few months.”
Williams has also been pleased to see the stallion’s colts, geldings and fillies performing equally well.
“He’s certainly got some spring-type rising three-year-olds I would expect to see running in stakes races for both sexes,” he said.
U S Navy Flag will have a final opportunity at Otaki on Saturday to add to his black-type record when Stephen Ralph’s last-start placegetter Ride Sally Ride starts in the Listed Phil’s Electrical & Gipsy Caravans Ryder Stakes (1200m).
“That filly has improved and I thought 1400m would suit her better by the way she has been racing, but I understand why they’re backing her up and he was a horse that took some racing himself as a two-year-old,” Williams said.
“Chrissy Bambry’s filly (Chantilly Lace) just got better as the season wore on to a very convincing stakes win as well.
“They really are sound horses and they love racing so if we can have a good spring we might be on to something.”
Williams is cautiously optimistic of the longer-term future and that the new season will also successfully unfold for U S Navy Flag.
“We’ve made a big investment for the farm and we’ve got confidence at this stage that we’ve done the right thing and this time next year we’ll know for certain,” he said.
“To be a good stallion you’ve got to have plenty of good three-year-olds running.
“He’s had some very impressive trial winners that haven’t run yet and a couple of those have been sold to Hong Kong, from what I understand.”
U S Navy Flag’s first crop have understandably generated further breeder interest.
“He’s filling up nicely, he’s not full but we are getting a much better response than he had last year so it’s all positive,” Williams said.
“He arrives in New Zealand on Sunday and then he’s got two weeks of quarantine in Auckland and then he’s here to stay at the farm.”
U S Navy Flag was a precocious talent who was victorious in the Gr.3 Round Tower Stakes (1200m) at the Curragh before going on to win the Gr.1 Middle Park Stakes (1200m) and Gr.1 Dewhurst Stakes (1400m) at Newmarket.
He was subsequently crowned Champion Two-Year-Old in Europe, Great Britain and Ireland in 2017 and returned at three to run second in the Gr.1 Irish 2000 Guineas (1600m) before taking out his third Group One victory in the July Cup (1200m).
He went on to claim Champion Three-Year-Old Sprinter honours in Europe, Great Britain and Ireland.
- Paul Vettise, Loveracing.nz News Desk