Aidan O'Brien saddles three of the four runners in the Ballylinch Stud Irish Two Thousand Guineas Trial Stakes April 14 at Leopardstown, including last year's European champion juvenile male U S Navy Flag, in a bid to capture the race for a third consecutive year. All three will be making their season debuts.
U S Navy Flag, a Kentucky-bred son of War Front , will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 finale when he finished 10th in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar. That capped an 11-race season that included travel to North America and his first start on dirt.
Now he returns to turf, where last year he won both the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (G1) and the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (G1) at Newmarket. The runner-up in the latter race was stablemate Mendelssohn, a contender for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) after his runaway victory in the UAE Derby Sponsored By Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) last month.
Seamie Heffernan will get the ride on U S Navy Flag, while Ryan Moore will maintain his partnership with Galileo colt Gustav Klimt, last seen winning the Bet365 Superlative Stakes (G2) at Newmarket in July.
Rounding out the O'Brien trio is Kenya. Another son of Galileo, he finished his juvenile campaign in style when he took the Killavullan Stakes (G3) over the same course and distance.
Dermot Weld sends out the only opposition to the Coolmore battalion in the shape of Oasis Dream colt Imaging. He is the lowest rated of the quartet and the only non-stakes winner, but he did win easily at Cork last month. Weld has won this race seven times, including two of the last four editions.
Although named the Irish Two Thousand Guineas Trial, no winner has gone on to land the big prize since Saffron Walden in 1999.