If asked, in mid-August, to name the colt likely to end up champion two-year-old, many shortlists would have included Expert Eye, Unfortunately, or Sioux Nation. We're almost at that point now, but the one who may top the rankings would surely not have been on anyone's list.
By that time, U S Navy Flag had run seven times, beaten in his first four starts, then a Curragh maiden winner in first-time blinkers before chasing home Cardsharp in the Group 2 Arqana July Stakes at Newmarket and then taking fourth to Sioux Nation, Beckford, and Actress in the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.
Since then, however, the Aidan O'Brien-trained son of War Front (by Danzig) has run three times and won all three, and he is due to round off his year with a try on dirt in tomorrow's Grade 1 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile over a eight and a half furlongs at Del Mar.
Just a fortnight after his Phoenix Stakes run, he put up a surprisingly good performance to win the Group 3 Plusvital Round Tower Stakes by six lengths from Landshark, on ground described as yielding. It is fair to say that it was not a particularly strong race for the grade, but he could hardly have been more impressive.
Even so, he was not the stable's first string in the following month's Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes. But Sioux Nation disappointed in sixth there, just ahead of another Ballydoyle runner, Declarationofpeace, while U S Navy Flag stayed on well to beat the other Aidan O'Brien-trained runner Fleet Review by half a length.
It gave the trainer and the sire a one-two in England's top juvenile six-furlong contest, and the pair finished two and a quarter lengths clear of the third, Cardsharp.
This was still not enough to put the colt at the top of the rankings, but then he beat his stable companions Mendelssohn, Seahenge and Threeandfourpence – by two and a half lengths, two and a half lengths, and a head – in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, with old rival Cardsharp another length and a half back in fifth.
Timeform raised his rating to 123, the highest figure awarded to any juvenile this year. The runner-up advertised the form with victory in tonight's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf over a mile at Del Mar, and both colts look like leading classic contenders for 2018.
With 10 races already behind him – and his 11th start of the year due tomorrow – there may not be much improvement still to come from U S Navy Flag, but that does not mean that he cannot win a Guineas.
If, however, you look at the amount of improvement he has made since mid-August, factor in that his best performance came when stepping up to seven furlongs and that, on pedigree, he's bred to be a miler who could stay 10 furlongs, then there is a chance that we have not yet seen the best that he can do.
Regardless of how he fares as a three-year-old, however, U S Navy Flag will likely be a popular addition to the Coolmore stallion team whenever his racing days come to an end and not just because he's a multiple top-level juvenile winner by Claiborne Farm's excellent sire War Front (by Danzig).
For starters, he is the third foal of Coolmore's top-class runner Misty For Me (by Galileo), the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac and Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas heroine who trounced Midday by six lengths in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes over 10 furlongs at the Curragh, and he was bred by the syndicate that bears her name.
That makes him a half-brother to the US mile Grade 3 winner Cover Song (by Fastnet Rock) and a full-brother to his Timeform 120-rated fellow Ballydoyle resident Roly Poly, whose most recent of three Group 1 wins came in last month's Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes, in which she beat subsequent Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes heroine Persuasive by a length and a quarter.
She ran eight times at two – winning the Group 3 Grangecon Stakes and Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes and being short-headed by Brave Anna in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes – and when she lines up for tomorrow night's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile at Del Mar, it will be for her ninth start of the year.
In addition to the aforementioned Newmarket feature, her Group 1 wins have come in the Falmouth Stakes on the July Course at Newmarket, in which she beat Wuheida by one and a quarter lengths, and in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville, where she beat the sadly ill-fated Via Ravenna by a short-neck.
She has been unplaced three times this year, but chased home Timeform 124-rated grey Winter – another Aidan O'Brien trainee – in both the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Coronation Stakes.
Just these credentials would be more than enough to make the case that U S Navy Flag could be a high-class miler or 10-furlong horse in the making, but these star relations are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Misty For Me is a full-sister to the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Ballydoyle, who chased home Minding in both the Group 1 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas last year, and she is out of Butterfly Cove (by Storm Cat), who is an unraced half-sister to the unbeaten juvenile Group 1 sprint star Fasliyev (by Nureyev).
He compiled a respectable record at stud, getting stakes and pattern winners among a long list of successful runners, and the same can be said of his dam's half-brothers Desert Wine (by Damascus) and Menifee (by Harlan).
How U S Navy Flag performs in tomorrow's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile may give us a hint as to the future direction of his racing career. If he handles the dirt and can make the frame then perhaps a Grade 1 Kentucky Derby bid might be on the cards, rather than the Group 1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Claiborne Farm's Danzig (by Northern Dancer) was one of the world's greatest sires, a horse who gave us a long list of Group/Grade 1 winners, whose daughters included many notable broodmares, and whose sons featured many that got at least one top-level winner of their own.
Two of those sons – the classic-placed Group 1 sprint stars Danehill and Green Desert – went on to forge their own dynasties, and until quite recently it was beginning to look as though that pair and their descendants would remain the enduring source of his lineage.
When the triple US champion sire was 24 years old, and still commanding a fee far in excess of what most stallions today cost, his book included the Grade 1-placed multiple stakes winner Starry Dreamer (by Rubiano). The resulting colt did not succeed at the highest level on the track, but he is among his sire's 198 stakes winning offspring, and there is a chance that he could join Danehill and Green Desert as one of Danzig's most important sons.
Right now it is just a chance, and it is far too early to do more than speculate as to how history might judge him, but we could have an answer within the next 10 to 15 years. And he is not the only young Danzig stallion with such potential, because Darley's 12-year-old Hard Spun, who was a classic-placed Grade 1 winner, is already the sire of nine Group/Grade 1 winners, and counting.
A half-brother to the graded winners Ecclesiastic (by Pulpit) and Teammate (by A.P. Indy), War Front holds court at Claiborne and his $200,000 fee, still short of his sire's price at the end of his career, makes him one of the most expensive stallions in the world.
He was a Grade 2 winner over six furlongs, Grade 1-placed over six and seven, and that excellent form was all as a four-year-old. He was unplaced in his only start as a juvenile, had an eight and a half furlong listed contest among three wins from five starts at three, and despite this racing profile he has become an outstanding source of two-year-olds, in addition to those who are top-class at three and four years of age.
From seven crops of racing age, he has been represented by 47 stakes winners and the 10 of those who have won at the highest level include the European-trained colts Air Force Blue, Hit It A Bomb, Declaration Of War, and War Command. The latter pair are young Coolmore stallions, his US Grade 1 winners Data Link and The Factor are also in early stages of their stud careers, and it will be how the grandsons of all these horses fare on the track, and at stud, that will give us the best clues as whether War Front will forge a dynasty or be remembered merely as another of the good Danzig stallions.
War Front's seventh-crop progeny are only two years old but already they include the Group 2 winners Roly Poly and War Decree, Group 3 scorer Brave Anna, and dual Group 2-placed Intelligence Cross, each of whom is trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien. Two of those are fillies and the better of the colts is a horse whose pedigree would make him a very interesting addition to the stallion ranks whenever his racing career comes to an end.
War Decree, who was bred by Ar Enterprises Llc, made a winning debut over seven furlongs at Leopardstown in early June, chased home Boynton in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket a month later, and then impressed with a one and three-quarter length defeat of Thunder Snow in the Group 2 Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last week. Timeform have him on a rating of 113p.
He is the second foal out of Royal Decree (by Street Cry). She failed to trouble the judge in two starts, was covered as a three-year-old, and then sold for $385,000 in Keeneland that November, in foal to US champion sire Elusive Quality (by Gone West). The resultant colt was sold for $260,000 at the same venue 12 months later, made just $210,000 as a yearling, and is now known as Noble Quality, a dual stakes-placed miler from his first seven starts.
Ticker Tape (by Royal Applause), the grandam of War Decree, began her career with the Jamie Osborne stable in England, winning at Warwick and Doncaster and earning her first piece of blacktype when finishing third in the Listed Radley Stakes. She then crossed the Atlantic, was runner-up in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes and continued racing in the USA to the age of five, retiring to stud as a millionaire and dual Grade 1 star.
In addition to the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland and the Grade 1 American Oaks Invitational at Hollywood Park, she won a Grade 3 contest at Arlington and several listed races, and her string of notable placings included second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and third in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes.
Royal Decree is her first foal, eight and a half furlong listed scorer Empress Maker (by Empire Maker) is her third, and her fourth, a daughter of Giant's Causeway (by Storm Cat) was born in Japan after the mare's sale for $950,000 at Keeneland the previous November.
Ticker Tape is one of seven winners out of Argent Du Bois (by Silver Hawk) and her siblings include Sant Elena (by Efisio), the stakes-placed dam of Reckless Abandon (by Exchange Rate). That grandson of Danzig was one of the best juveniles in Europe in 2012, when he won the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes, Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, Group 1 Prix Morny and Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, but unfortunately he proved infertile, was withdrawn from stud and gelded.
The best of Argent Du Bois's siblings was the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy winner Crowded House (by Rainbow Quest), and although neither she nor her dam, Wiener Wald (by Woodman), managed to win, her grandam was the Grade 1-placed dual Grade 2 scorer Chapel Of Dreams (by Northern Dancer). That mare's descendants include the Grade 2 winners Juniper Pass (by Lemon Drop Kid), Tale Of A Champion (by Tale Of The Cat), and Postponed (by Summer Squall), the latter a New Zealand-based stallion whose blacktype progeny include the mile Group 1 scorer Pasta Post.
Of course, as many know, Chapel Of Dreams was out of the multiple Grade 2 winner Terlingua (by Secretariat) and, in addition to being a half-sister to Group 1 star and leading sire Royal Academy (by Nijinsky), that mare is the one who gave us the Grade 1 winner and multiple US champion sire Storm Cat (by Storm Bird).
Royal Academy's 168 stakes winners include European Group 1 stars Sleepytime, Ali-Royal, Carmine Lake, Oscar Schindler, Lavery and Zalaiyka, his international Group/Grade 1 winners include Bullish Luck, Kenwood Melody and Black Caviar's sire Bel Esprit, and the many major winners produced from his daughters include Group 1 star and Australian champion sire Fastnet Rock (by Danehill), European juvenile champion and popular young stallion Dabirsim (by Hat Trick), and dual classic heroine Finsceal Beo (by Mr Greeley), to name just three.
Storm Cat sired 181 stakes winners and founded a dynasty. In addition to being an outstanding broodmare sire - Group/Grade 1 winners include A Shin Hikari, Ballydoyle, Bodemeister, Close Hatches, Folklore, Gleneagles, Kizuna, Lord Kanaloa, Marvellous, Misty For Me, Shared Belief, Speightstown, etc - his many sons who have sired Group/Grade 1 winners of their own include Bernstein, Forest Wildcat, Hennessy, Forestry, Tale Of The Cat, Stormin Fever, Harlan, Stormy Atlantic, Freud and, of course, multiple US champion sire Giant's Causeway.
His many notable male-line descendants include the late Harlan's Holiday (by Harlan) and Scat Daddy (by Johannesburg), both of whom are currently in the top 25 in the 2016 US sires' championship title race. The latter stood at Ashford Stud in Kentucky, was only 11 when he died earlier this year, and this prolific US Grade 1- and South American classic sire has been represented in Europe by No Nay Never, Daddy Long Legs, Acapulco, and current juvenile stars Caravaggio and Lady Aurelia.
Royal Academy and Storm Cat are remotely related to War Decree, but their presence in the family will not be missed whenever the recent Group 2 scorer gets his chance at stud, a prospect that looks likely given the precocity and talent he has shown so far.
He holds entries in the Group 2 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes, Group 2 Galileo European Breeders Fund Futurity Stakes, Group 2 At The Races Champagne Stakes and Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes, and he is available at between 10-1 to 16-1 for next year's Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas, generally third in the betting behind his Ballydoyle team mates Caravaggio and Churchill.
It is a long time until then, of course, and he still has to improve to be up to winning a classic, but War Decree is bred to achieve anything and, given his pedigree and current race record, there is no reason to doubt his ability to stay a mile.
Sadler's Wells (by Northern Dancer) was one of the greatest stallions of all time, a prolific champion sire whose influence is carried on, around the world, by his many male and female descendants. A total of 294 of his progeny won at least one blacktype contest, but of them one achieved something unique.
His offspring were milers, middle-distance horses and stayers, some were notable two-year-olds, but among three-year-olds and upwards only one was a sprinter.
The David Wachman-trained filly began her career with three juvenile starts over seven furlongs, was unplaced each time she tried further, and in an 11-race career she made the frame just twice. The first time was her victory in the prestigious Birdcatcher Nursery over six furlongs at Naas and the second was her neck win in the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes over six furlongs at Leopardstown the following summer.
This race record made Evie Stockwell's filly Liscanna a fascinating broodmare prospect.
Such pace was rare in a son or daughter of Sadler's Wells, and those for whom the eight to 10 furlong range was optimal, speed was strongly evident in the distaff side of their pedigree.
The Irish 2000 Guineas and Breeders' Cup Mile hero Barathea, for example, could have won good sprints if asked to try them after his close fourth to Owington in the Group 1 July Cup, but aside from his two winning runs over seven as a two-year-old, it was the only time he raced over less than a mile.
Liscanna is a daughter of Lahinch, an Aidan O'Brien-trained Danehill Dancer (by Danehill) filly who won three of 11 starts. She made her debut in the Group 3 Debutante Stakes over seven furlongs, finishing last, was then fourth in a six-furlong listed contest, and got off the mark at the third attempt, a maiden over five furlongs.
She was a well-beaten fourth behind Queen's Logic in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes the following month, won a listed contest by four lengths over the minimum trip at Tipperary just five days later, and was then beaten by just a head in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket. A listed success over the same trip at Leopardstown the following April was the only time that she made the frame in five starts that season.
Her half-brother Perugino Bay (by Perugino) won twice over the minimum trip as a juvenile, was third to Pipalong in the Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy over six furlongs, and then failed by a neck to take the Listed Doncaster Stakes over the same trip on his final start that season. The 107-rated colt was third to Enrique in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes over seven furlongs the following spring.
Liscanna's half-brother The Bogberry (by Hawk Wing) stayed further than she did, getting his best win in the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes over 10 furlongs. He was runner-up in the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt over the same trip, third in the Group 2 Prix Dollar over a half-furlong less, and was only beaten by about a length when fourth to Doctor Dino in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase over a mile and a half.
Her half-sister Lahinch Classics is a little more closely related to her than he is, because she is a daughter of Galileo (by Sadler's Wells); they could be described as being three-parts sisters. That filly did not race beyond the 10 and a half furlongs of her maiden success at Dundalk and she earned her blacktype when a neck runner-up to Volume in a 10-furlong listed contest at Newbury, and again when short-headed by Mango Diva in the Group 2 Kilboy Estate Stakes over nine at the Curragh.
Liscanna has five progeny of racing age and her three-year-old, two-year-old and yearling are all by Claiborne Farm's star stallion War Front (by Danzig), which makes them inbred 2x5 to Danzig, 3x3 to Northern Dancer and 4x5 to Forli. The eldest of that trio is the unbeaten Grade 1 winner Hit It A Bomb and his juvenile sister is the recent Group 3 Albany Stakes heroine Brave Anna, both of whom are trained by Aidan O'Brien.
Hit It A Bomb made his debut over seven furlongs at the Curragh in late September, followed-up with an easy listed success over the same trip at Dundalk and then took the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf over a mile at Keeneland in late October. He has not been seen in action yet in 2016, but his string of big race entries includes next month's Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, for which he is available at around 12/1. Timeform rate him 119p.
Brave Anna was unplaced in the five furlong maiden won by Roly Poly at Naas in April, but won over six furlongs at the Curragh before her short-head pattern success at Ascot. She is quicker and more precocious than her brother, which raises a question as to how far she will stay. He appears to be a miler who could stay 10 furlongs, but she may be a sprinter, perhaps a potential Group 1 Commonwealth Cup candidate in 2017 rather than a classic one.
Timeform have Brave Anna on 105p, her entries feature the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes and the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, and it is going to be interesting to see how the careers of both siblings turn out.
On a day when one prolific Group 1-winning daughter of Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) added to her tally on the track, another one became the dam of her first blacktype earner. Both happened at the Curragh yesterday, and about 35 minutes before dual classic star Minding made it five wins at the highest level with an odds-on success in the Sea The Stars Pretty Polly Stakes, Roly Poly won the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Stakes.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained juvenile is a daughter of Claiborne Farm's excellent stallion War Front (by Danzig) and this was her first attempt at six furlongs. She was a short-head debut winner over the minimum trip at Naas in April, was beaten by almost eight lengths when fourth behind Caravaggio in the Listed Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh a month later, and then finished only eighth behind the stunning Lady Aurelia in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot.
That defeat came just 11 days before her pattern success, and as her entries include the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes and Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, we can expect to see her being stepped up in grade before long.
Roly Poly is the second foal out of Misty For Me (by Galileo), the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas heroine who beat Midday by six lengths in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes in 2011 and whose prior form features wins in both the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes and Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. She finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf over 11 furlongs at Churchill Downs on her final start.
Her progeny are listed as being bred by the Misty For Me Syndicate and her first foal is a three-year-old named Cover Song. That American-born bay is a daughter of Australian champion sire Fastnet Rock (by Danehill), whose shuttle seasons to Ireland have yielded the Group 1 stars Diamondsandrubies, Fascinating Rock and Qualify, she is a $450,000 graduate of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, and is a winner from two starts.
Roly Poly's sire can count the European Group 1 winners Air Force Blue, Declaration Of War and War Command among his progeny, each of whom has been trained by Aidan O'Brien, his other seven top-level winners include their undefeated stablemate Hit It A Bomb, who won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf almost eight months ago. The stallion's current juvenile crop also includes recent Group 3 Albany Stakes winner Brave Anna.
Misty For Me, whose yearling and current foal are also full-siblings to Roly Poly, is out of an unraced mare called Butterfly Cove (by Storm Cat) and that makes her a full-sister to two fillies of note. One of the pair is Twirl, who won the Listed Hurry Harriet Stakes at Gowran Park, was runner-up in the Group 3 Musidora Stakes and in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes, when trained by O'Brien, and had a War Front colt last year.
The other sister is Ballydoyle, one of the top juvenile fillies in Europe in 2015. She was short-headed in the Listed Chesham Stakes on her second start, then won a maiden at Newmarket before beating Minding by two lengths in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at the Curragh. She then chased home that star in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes before beating Turret Rocks in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac – Criterium des Pouliches.
Ballydoyle also chased home Minding in the Group 1 1000 Guineas on her seasonal reappearance, and although only sixth in a dramatic edition of the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) eight days ago, she holds a string of top entries and is one of the ante-post market leaders for the Group 1 Tattersalls 250th Year Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket on Friday week.
Butterfly Cove's two-year-old is a colt named Limited Edition (by Galileo).
There are no guarantees with any mare, no matter what she did or didn't achieve as a racehorse or how she's bred, but it is not really any surprise that Butterfly Cove became a broodmare of note. Some have better prospects than others, a higher chance of success, and she has fulfilled that promise and support.
In addition to being a full-sister to the Group 3 winner Kamarinskaya, she is a half-sister to Fasliyev (by Nureyev), who was Europe's juvenile champion of 1999. He won the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, Group 1 Prix Morny and Group 3 Coventry Stakes, retired to stud in the spring of his three-year-old season, and has sired winners at all levels without making a strong impact.
Their dam, Mr P's Princess (by Mr Prospector), was also unraced, but in addition to being a full-sister to the Grade 2-placed Excavate, her siblings include the multiple US Grade 1 stars Desert Wine (by Damascus) and Menifee (by Harlan), both of whom enjoyed some success as stallions. She is also a half-sister to Arsaan (by Nureyev), who won a mile listed contest at Kempton before becoming the dam of the dual Chilean Grade 2 scorer Rock Star Show (by Lear Fan) and grandam of Blueridge Mountain (by Giant's Causeway), an Argentine-born filly who won the Group 1 Majorca Stakes over a mile at Kenilworth, in South Africa, in 2013.
Dame Sybil (by Elocutionist), who was an unraced half-sister to Mr P's Princess, also did her part for the family. Her stakes-winning pair Never Speaking (by Foolish Pleasure) and Princess Sybil (by Cormorant) won a total of 27 races between them, and her dual Grade 2-winning son Alannan (by Conquistador Cielo) was third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes. Her string of successful runners also includes four-times scorer La Sarto (by Cormorant) and that filly became the dam of the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes and Group 1 July Cup hero Les Arcs (by Arch).
This is an outstanding family, and although the bare form of what Roly Poly has achieved so far leaves her with quite a bit to find if she is to be up to emulating so many of her relations by winning at least once at the highest level, the possibility that she could progress to that degree cannot be ruled out.