Merchant Navy Wins Diamond Jubliee
Outstanding Fastnet Rock colt Merchant Navy left Australia earlier this year as the best three year-old sprinter in the country and is now one of the best in the world after capturing the Group I Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6f) at Royal Ascot overnight for Coolmore.
Trained in Australia by Ciaron Maher and then Aaron Purcell, Merchant Navy won the prestigious Group I VRC Coolmore Stud Stakes in November and was last seen finishing a close third to Redkirk Warrior in the Group I VRC Newmarket Handicap.
After that race, the decision was taken by Coolmore to send the colt to Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, a move that has proven very much to the liking of Merchant Navy.
He made a winning debut for his new trainer when taking out the Group II Greenlands Stakes at The Curragh last month and was well fancied to win the Diamond Jubilee.
Partnered by Ryan Moore, Merchant Navy travelled behind the leaders and then was strong to the line to win by a short head over French bred Siyouni stallion City Light with Wesley Ward’s US sprinter Bound for Nowhere in third. Redkirk Warrior failed to fire finishing in tenth place.
“Merchant Navy made lovely progress from the Curragh to here, but we thought that it was an impossible task for him. We knew that he was meeting the field 12lb wrong than he was in Australia and it was a big worry for him,” said Aidan O’Brien.
“He was only a three-year-old being treated as a four-year-old. He was travelling very well and we knew looking at him that Ryan was very happy. I think he was hoping he would not have to get there too early on him. He got a little bit of a bump and Ryan said it took a bit of time to rebalance. We are over the moon with him.”
To make a successful transition from Australia to racing in Europe is no easy task and Merchant Navy is the first Australian bred winner of the Diamond Jubilee since 2012 when it was won by Black Caviar and in 2010 by Starspangledbanner following on from Choisir’s historic victory in 2003.
Temperament and constitution go a long way towards making the feat possible and in that regard Merchant Navy is blessed.
“When he ran at the Curragh he didn’t know if he was going into the winter or coming into the summer,” said Aidan O’Brien.
“He had a lot of readjusting to do, and you have to leave it to nature, but he’s obviously got a great constitution as well as a great mind. He sleeps and eats and is very straightforward.
“He’s a lovely big horse. He’s relaxed and genuine and has a good mind. He’s no problem in any way. He’s a joy to have anything to do with.”
Merchant Navy is entered for the Group I Darley July Cup on July 14, but a decision on a start is up in the air.
“I can’t tell you how happy we are. He improved a lot from the Curragh to here, and we thought there was plenty more to come, but he’s booked to go back to Australia after this so I don’t know what’s going to happen,” O’Brien added.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have him for the July Cup too.”
A $350,000 Inglis Easter purchase from the Segenhoe Stud draft for Ciaron Maher Racing, Merchant Navy is a full brother to Group II winner Jolie Bay and stakes-placed Zara Bay.
With seven wins from 10 starts, Merchant Navy runs for a Coolmore controlled syndicate and will retire to stud in Australia this spring at a fee of $55,000 to stand alongside his illustrious sire Fastnet Rock.
Bred by Chris Barham and foaled and raised at Segenhoe, Merchant Navy is the best of six winners from the good producing Snippets Group III winner Legally Bay, a half-sister to Group I winner Bonaria.
Legally Bay has a yearling colt by All Too Hard and a weanling colt by Fastnet Rock, but will not foal this spring having missed to Fastnet Rock last year.