Gustav Klimt gave Aidan O'Brien a third consecutive win in the Ballylinch Stud Two Thousand Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown April 14, coming home strongly to beat Imaging by 1 3/4 lengths.
His stablemate and last year's European champion 2-year-old U S Navy Flag disappointed, trailing home last of the four runners.
The winner, sent off as the 6-4 favorite, was held up by jockey Ryan Moore for much of the race before being switched out and asked for effort in mid-stretch. The son of Galileo pulled away inside the final furlong and finished in 1:38.60 for the seven-furlong test on the heavy turf.
Gustav Klimt, racing in the colors of Coolmore-associated owners Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, made his first start since winning the Bet365 Superlative Stakes (G2) at Newmarket in July. He will likely be aimed toward the May 5 QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas Stakes (G1).
"The ground was far from ideal, but it was nice to get a run into him ... and Ryan was very happy with him," O'Brien said. "Ryan said he was very impressed with how the horse quickened, especially on that ground, as he's a real quick-ground horse. The plan is to go straight to Newmarket now, all being well."
U S Navy Flag was content to track the pace for much of the race, but the Kentucky-bred War Front colt found very little once jockey Seamie Heffernan asked him to challenge. This was a second consecutive setback for the dual group 1 winner, who finished his 2-year-old campaign with a distant 10th in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) on the dirt at Del Mar.
The runner-up, Dermot Weld's Imaging, led for much of the straight but couldn't match the class of the winner in the closing stages. Kenya (also trained by O'Brien) was asked to set the pace before dropping out of contention in the final two furlongs and finishing a well-beaten third.
"U S Navy Flag we knew would hate the ground, but he needed to get him out, and Kenya will stay further," O'Brien said. "I'd say Kenya could go for a Derby trial, and U S Navy Flag might go to the English or French Guineas, and he'll grow another leg between now and then."