Being the centrepiece of the three-day July Festival in Newmarket, the £500,000 Group 1 July Cup has long been established as one of Britain’s most valuable and prestigious sprint races. The six-furlong sprint has also gained a reputation as a stallion’s race, with many of its winners subsequently parlaying their racing ability into successful careers at stud.
Going back through the honour roll as far as 30-odd years, Danzig’s son Green Desert won the July Cup in 1986 while Danehill placed third in 1989. Anabaa, Stravinsky, Mozart, Oasis Dream and Starspangledbanner were all winners of the July Cup, and among several other winners of the race, they all became influential sires.
The July course is renowned for being tough with a strong uphill run over the last furlong, so with the July Cup being the first contest each year in which 3-year-old sprinters get to prove themselves against older rivals at the highest level, they need to be the best around to score.
Only five 3-year-olds have triumphed in the last 15 years, including 2018 winner U S Navy Flag (USA) who beat home 2017 July Cup placegetter Brando (GB) and stablemate Fleet Review (USA). He also finished ahead of race favourite Blue Point (IRE) and multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Redkirk Warrior (GB).
The last six winners have also gone on to be crowned top European sprinters, with U S Navy Flag the most recent example having been awarded Champion 3YO Sprinter in Europe, Great Britain and Ireland following his victory.
He had already won the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes at two, only the second horse in history to complete this double, while also earning the titles of Champion 2YO in Europe and Champion 2YO Colt in Great Britain and Ireland.
Adding the July Cup to his Group 1 scores, and completing a Newmarket Group 1 triple crown, he carved himself a niche in racing history. Now the son of War Front will join the Valachi Downs stallion roster and follow in the footsteps of the winners before him.
He also followed something of a blueprint for success in the breed-shaping July Cup, providing his trainer Aidan O’Brien with his fourth winner of the prestigious race. Eight years prior, O’Brien had guided Starspangledbanner to victory, while also having success with Mozart and Stravinsky in 2001 and 1999 respectively.
“U S Navy Flag has already proven himself a world class horse,” commented Coolmore Australian sales and nominations manager Colm Santry.
“He was a dual Group 1-winning champion 2-year-old and is a Group 1 winner at weight-for-age at three, winning one of the most prestigious sprints in the world in the July Cup.”
U S Navy Flag will stand the 2019 season at Valachi Downs at a fee of $20,000 + GST.