Coolmore’s Everest Flag Flying High At Canterbury

By Ray Hickson

If jet lag affects horses then Irish sprinter U S Navy Flag, the first internationally trained runner in The TAB Everest, is showing no signs of it after the 28 hour journey to Sydney.

Less than a day after touching down U S Navy Flag, and his travelling companion Somerset Maugham, had a saddle on his back for some light work out on the Canterbury polytrack to aid his acclimatisation.

Coolmore’s Somerset Maugham (front) and U S Navy Flag at Canterbury on Monday.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien’s travelling foreman Andrew Murphy described the last start July Cup winner as a seasoned traveller who takes everything in his stride.

“U S Navy Flag has done a lot of travelling before he started his journey here and he travelled great,’’ Murphy said.

“He’s a very laid back, docile horse with a great attitude and that’s why he travels so well.

“As you saw when they were out walking around they are very bright and alert and that’s what you love to see.’’

While U S Navy Flag’s ability is well known, his companion Somerset Maugham is very lightly raced with only four starts, for one win, under his belt and it hasn’t been confirmed what race, if any, he will contest during the Everest Carnival.

O’Brien might be on the other side of the globe but he’s a very hands on trainer and will follow U S Navy Flag’s every move closely, relaying instructions on what work the horses do each day.

“We’ll give Aidan a daily report and he decides all these things, even though he is in Ireland,’’ Murphy said.

“Each day we will do a little bit more with them. It’s a long way to come so you’re not going to bring a horse you don’t think is going to run well.’’

U S Navy Flag was a high class two-year-old winning successive Group 1 races at 1207m and 1408m in Ireland around this time last year.

He was tried beyond a mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in America and managed a placing in the Irish 2000 Guineas (1600m) before it was decided sprinting was his forte.

Coolmore Australia’s Tom Magnier said O’Brien’s decision to target the July Cup was a masterstroke and while winning The Everest will be a challenge the team believes they have a suitable contender.

“When we dropped him back in trip that’s the day the light came on and he did what Aidan thought he would do,’’ Magnier said.

“The way he won the July Cup we were delighted.

“We tried to run Caravaggio in the Everest last year but that didn’t go according to plan.

“Hopefully we have the right horse but there’s a lot of great sprinters in Australia so we know we have our work cut out.’’

U S Navy Flag is a $17 chance in TAB’s market for the $13 million feature at Royal Randwick on October 13.

Magnier said The Everest has people all over the world talking about Sydney and Australian racing and hopes once word returns to Ireland about the facilities for international horses more will come in the future.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,’’ he said.

“This is a whole different league, The Everest is a fantastic concept and has put racing on the front page. The whole world is watching this, I think it is great for racing.’’