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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

O'Brien aiming to break new ground by scaling The Everest with US Navy Flag

US Navy Flag: will be partnered by Ryan Moore in his bid to create history at Randwick
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6.15am, Saturday, Randwick
The Everest | 6f | Conditions | 2yo+ | ATR

Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore have scaled many peaks in racing but attention turns to The Everest on Saturday (6.15am BST, live on At The Races) when July Cup winner US Navy Flag tackles the richest turf race in the world at Randwick in Sydney, Australia.

US Navy Flag will be the first European-trained horse to contest the $13m (£7m/€8m) race but O'Brien's hopes of snaring the second running of the lucrative sprint have been dampened somewhat by the rain.

O’Brien said: “US Navy Flag travelled over well and the boys who went with him are happy with him.

"He has a good draw [in three] but the likelihood of soft ground is a concern as he prefers it good or quicker.”

US Navy Flag, who this time last year was winning the Dewhurst at Newmarket, has won on yielding and good to soft but floundered in heavy ground at Leopardstown on his return this year, finishing last of four, beaten 15 lengths, behind stablemate Gustav Klimt.

Since then he has run only on good or good to firm ground, saving his best for last time when he dropped back to six furlongs to land the July Cup under Ryan Moore, who will be in the saddle again over the same trip.

US Navy Flag on Thursday was a best-priced 8-1 with British and Irish bookmakers. The market was headed by last year's winner Redzel, along with Vega Magic and Trapeze Artist, who are 6-1 co-favourites with several firms.

Redzel’s co-trainer Peter Snowden said: “I'm happy with the horse, he's come on really well since the Premiere Stakes. It's amazing what that last run has done to him. His coat looks immaculate, so fingers crossed all the ducks are lining up. He's right where we want him."

Redzel (second left) wins the inaugural running of The Everest last year
Kris Lees, who runs Le Romain, In Her Time and Graff, is not too worried by the likely ground. “I think all three horses will be confident in it. You’d like to see a clear day for all the participants and everyone that’s going. I think the track will be affected but I don’t think it will concern my horses,” he said.

The build-up to the Everest was overshadowed by a public row after race organisers wanted the live barrier draw results to be projected on to the Sydney Opera House sails. That led to big protests and the draw was ultimately made in private. 

A six-minute light display on the iconic building did take place on Tuesday, with thousands of protesters staging their own with torches and mobile phone lights. It appears unlikely the Opera House will be used again to promote the Everest.

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He has a good draw but the likelihood of soft ground is a concern as he prefers it good or quicker
E.W. Terms
Sky bet