Less than two months after The Oaks Stud made the bold decision to purchase U S Navy Flag outright from Coolmore Stud, their faith in the former shuttle stallion has been rewarded with the title of New Zealand’s champion first-season sire of 2022-23.
U S Navy Flag has held a commanding lead on the freshman sire standings for more than four months.
From 24 runners in his first crop of two-year-olds, U S Navy Flag has sired seven winners in New Zealand for combined progeny earnings of $373,000.
Chantilly Lace became his first stakes winner in this part of the world with her 10-length romp in the Listed Castletown Stakes (1200m) on June 3, while To Catch A Thief and Aprilia both performed up to Group One level. Aprilia was runner-up in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), and To Catch A Thief finished third in both the Sistema Stakes (1200m) and the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes.
“I think he reached the top of the standings in about April and kept going at a good rate from there, and it’s great to have it now confirmed that he’s champion first-season sire,” The Oaks Stud’s general manager Rick Williams said.
“He had a very good year. He just missed in a couple of Group Ones, and he has a very good percentage of stakes performers (four out of 24 runners in New Zealand, or 16.67 percent).”
U S Navy Flag’s seven individual winners are a particularly impressive result. Over the last 12 seasons, only one other freshman stallion has had that many New Zealand winners in their first crop of two-year-olds – Little Avondale Stud’s gun sire Per Incanto, who had seven winners from 19 runners.
Three or four winners were enough to take top honours in almost every other season, barring five-win seasons by Perfectly Ready (2010-11) and Alamosa (2012-13).
U S Navy Flag’s steady stream of winners have continued right up until last week, where the promising Naval Anthem extended his unbeaten record to two-from-two with a smart performance at Tauranga last Saturday.
“The winners have come at a good rate, and he’s also had a very good number of impressive trial winners who haven’t yet raced,” Williams said. “That’s always very encouraging as well. A few of those have gone to Hong Kong now, but if they do well up there, that can only be a good thing for us too in the long run. We couldn’t have asked for much more.”
U S Navy Flag’s promising start has also earned him a second placing on the overall standings for all sires of two-year-olds in New Zealand this season. He trails only Satono Aladdin, whose combined earnings of $680,735 came largely from Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) hero Tokyo Tycoon.
“While the first-season sire premiership is important, I’m even more interested in how all of the sires of two-year-olds stack up,” Williams said. “Obviously whoever sires the Karaka Million winner always comes out on top in terms of prize-money, and that’s Satono Aladdin this year.
“But U S Navy Flag is in second place, beating a lot of proven and top-class sires by prize-money and also with his number of individual stakes performers.
“They’re not speedy squibs either – they’re finding the line late, which suggests they might be able to get up over a bit more ground as three-year-olds. So it’s so far, so good.
“The spring is always so important for a young sire moving into their second season, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens over the next few months.”
Williams is confident that The Oaks Stud pulled the right rein with its decision to buy U S Navy Flag outright in early June.
“He wasn’t really cracking it in the northern hemisphere, so his value had dropped compared to what he was worth when he came off the racetrack as a multiple Group One winner, but it was still a fair bit of money to pay,” he said.
“But we did have quite a lot of confidence in him, and we had heard some really positive feedback about a number of his progeny.
“The problem with a decision like this is that you can be made to look a little bit stupid about 12 months down the track. I think we’ve all had that happen to us in this game at one time or another. But the signs are encouraging with this horse, and we’ve got some reasons to be positive. Onwards and upwards from here, hopefully.”