2018 Lexus Newmarket Handicap winner Redkirk Warrior (Image: Racing Photos)
By Patrick Bartley
While Redkirk Warrior might be returning ‘home’ to compete at Royal Ascot, it is a different story for Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes winner Merchant Navy.
A controlling interest in Merchant Navy was purchased by Coolmore Stud late last year and rather than heading to England under the guidance of trainer Ciaron Maher, the valuable colt has been transferred to Aiden O’Brien in Ireland.
After flying to Ireland in late March, he will have had an extra couple of months to acclimatise to the northern hemisphere; a recipe that has worked successfully in the past.
Horses of the calibre of Starspangledbanner, which won the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes in 2010 and Haradasun, winner of the Queen Anne Stakes in 2008 as well as 2011 Prince Of Wales's Stakes runner-up So You Think, were all transferred to O'Brien before their assault on Royal Ascot.
Significantly, Merchant Navy is the first racing son of champion stallion Fastnet Rock that Coolmore has bought into, with the mid-term aim of having him in his top form for Royal Ascot after a brief autumn campaign in Australia.
With his two-start campaign seeing him bid farewell to Australia with a close and perhaps unlucky third in the Lexus Newmarket Handicap, he heads to Royal Ascot in great form.
With two wins over 1400m to his name and a proven ability over a straight course, Merchant Navy looks well placed to emulate the deeds of Choisir, which won the Golden Jubilee Stakes as a southern hemisphere three-year-old over the testing Ascot 1200m course.
And for Australia’s other representative it will be another fascinating twist in his extraordinary career. Redkirk Warrior, who has made the Lexus Newmarket Handicap of the past two years his own, has raced himself into an elite group that have been successful twice in Australia’s most important sprint event.
The Lindsay Park galloper will head to England this year but his stabling at Newmarket will not be foreign to the long-striding galloper. Redkirk Warrior was exported to Asia from England four years ago with his new owners purchasing the horse to become a future Derby winner.
Unfortunately, the horse never realised any staying potential as feet issues looked to have thwarted his career. In fact, his owners were prepared to retire the horse believing in 2015 that a racing career was highly improbable. But due to some fine horsemanship from Hayes and his farrier staff, Redkirk Warrior became a rejuvenated racehorse and is becoming one of the world’s finest straight-track sprinters.
His win in the Black Caviar Lightning and his two Lexus Newmarket victories saw the sprinter pitted against the elite of short-course gallopers.
And his wins also saw him record staggering times rarely seen on the straight six at Flemington.
His appearance in England will be eagerly watched by racing people across the world.