One of the brightest stars in the Ballydoyle firmament at the start of the year, Flying The Flag’s full sister Rhododendron claimed a hard-fought victory over stablemate Hydrangea in the Gr1 Prix de l’Opera, her second Gr1 victory to date for the Irish Champion Juvenile filly.
In doing so she underlined just what the whole of Chantilly had seen for themselves three-quarters of an hour earlier: namely the towering task facing any horse going up against Enable, her conqueror in the Oaks in June, when Rhododendron started odds-on.
Seamie Heffernan was the beneficiary of Ryan Moore’s decision to ride Hydrangea and summed up what many had thought before that coming out party for John Gosden’s filly at Epsom.
“I rode her a bit in the spring and I had her down as nearly being our number one,” said Heffernan, who drove Rhododendron out to win by a head, with two further necks back to Lady Frankel and Wuheida in third and fourth.
“She ran really well in an English Guineas and in an Oaks. We know why we got beaten now because the winner won again today. She just felt good throughout the race today so I always felt in the last furlong I had a little bit to get to the winning post.”
While Rhododendron’s success paid obvious homage to Enable, the Ballydoyle team deserve every bit of credit going for getting Rhododendron back to the top of her game.
Sixteen days after her Oaks defeat she was well fancied to gain Classic compensation here in the Prix de Diane but, on a red-hot June day was pulled up just after halfway by Ryan Moore after suffering a serious burst blood vessel.
O’Brien, for whom this was a 22nd top-level success of the year, with Bobby Frankel’s record 25 firmly in his sights, said: “She is a special filly. She had a bad day the last day she was here and was stopped for a long time after that, six weeks or so.
“Padraig [Beggy] rode her at Leopardstown and gave her an absolute peach, a loverly ride. It was her first run back after a bad experience.”
Rhododendron could be on her travels to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Paddy Power made the winner 7-2 (from 8) for that contest next month, while Hydrangea may also make the trip to Del Mar.
“We thought that Rhododendron couldn’t get beat in the Oaks and she ran into Enable,” said O’Brien. “Probably a mile and a quarter would be more her trip than a mile and a half.
O’Brien frequently name-checks his staff after a major victory, and in these circumstances it was particularly merited. He said: “The lads did a great job to get her back – Jamie, who looks after her, and Michael, who rides her every day, so credit to them really.”
Flying The Flag, whose juvenile Gr2 winning sister Magical didnt disgrace herself in a Gr1 on the same race card after encountering plenty of traffic problems, finished in a closely contested race just noses apart for fourth place.
The family that includes American Gr1 winning daughter of Galileo, Photo Call, is on fire at the moment for the team at Bush Hill Stud who stand the handsome Flying The Flag.
Warwick Render comments that he is pleased that the breeders who sent mares in the first year for Flying The Flag have all rebooked for the season.
“All the breeders who supported him previously are booking mares back on the strength of the quality of his foals and the continued exciting activity in the family.”
His service fee is R20 000 this season and his foals impressive with plenty of bone, quality and substance.
– extract racingpost.com