International Racehorse Magazine: Rhododendron And Magical Are Flying The Flag

Flying The Flag at Bush Hill Stud in May 2017. Image: Candiese Marnewick
Flying The Flag at Bush Hill Stud in May 2017. Image: Candiese Marnewick
*Article first published International Racehorse Magazine January 2018
 Written by Candiese Marnewick  

Bush Hill Stud acquired the handsome chestnut Flying The Flag in 2016 and whilst he is by arguably the worlds greatest stallion the world has ever seen, his damline is equally formidable – out a three-time Gr1 winning mare by a leading European broodmare sire in Pivotal.

Warwick Render of Bush Hill Stud comments on how fortunate they have been to have a horse of Flying The Flag’s calibre on the farm: “Every day I look at this horse I find it hard to believe just how lucky we are to have him here, had it not been for timing in our favour I doubt very much we would have seen him in this country at all with the recent international performances of his family. The quality of his first crop of foals just emphasises how special he is they are much in the mould of their sire, strong quatered high quality with good size and substance – we are absolutely thrilled.”

Beginning his racing career under the exclusive banner of Coolmore Stud who stand his sire, the great Galileo, Flying The Flag’s dam Halfway To Heaven has now produced three Group Winners at stud including a Cartier Champion 2YO Filly.

Halfway To Heaven, who has the Gr1 Irish 1000 Guineas, the Gr1 Nassau and Gr1 Sun Chariot under her belt is proving herself to be equally as exceptional in the breeding paddocks as she was on the racetrack, in particular with her bay daughter Rhododendron.

An imposing chestnut stallion standing 16.2 with plenty of quality, athletiscm and a kind disposition, Flying The Flag retired a 3-time winner including the Gr3 International Stakes in Ireland and placed second in the stallion producing race, the Gr2 Futurity Stakes.

The globetrotting chestnut raced in Ireland, France, England, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa also placed in top company in the Gr2 Jebel Hatta and the Gr3 London News Stakes over distances of 1400m – 2000m.

Flying The Flag is closely related to the two-time Gr1 winning mare Photo Call in America; the winner of the First Lady Stakes where she defeated the great Tepin in the process by three lengths.

Irish-bred Photo Call by Galileo is out of a half-sister to the dam of Flying The Flag, and sold for $3-million at the 2015 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. With the damline already including the likes of sire Verglas, Flying The Flag’s pedigree has been catapulted into the spotlight this year with his full sister Rhododendron and Magical.

Rhododendron and Magical are both trained by Aiden O’Brien and the elder of the two contributed to Aiden’s outstanding achievement of 26 Gr1 winners this year, bettering Bobby Frankel’s record. Galileo is the sire of 17 of those Gr1 wins.

After placing second on debut, Rhododendron set about making herself known in only her third start where she defeated Hydrangea to take the Gr2 Debutante. She followed up with a third place in the Gr1 Moyglare, and followed through next time out to win the Gr1 Dubai Filllies Mile, running on comfortably to win by four lengths at a course where speed is a necessity to win.

She was deservedly given a 212 day rest and started favourite in the Gr1 1000 Guineas under Ryan Moore, where she finished second to Winter. Hydrangea and Intricately finished towards the end of the field that day. Her next mission was the Gr1 Investec Oaks where she was not disgraced, finishing second to the great racemare Enable.

Sporting a Timeform Rating of 116 and after another rest – getting over a burst blood vessel on a hot June day, the first of October saw Rhododendron line up at Chantilly for the Gr1 Prix De L’Opera in leading European company.

Seamie Heffernan rode her to victory by a head from stablemate and rival Hydrangea, with Wuheida finishing fourth – the latter would go on to win at the Breeders Cup with Rhododendron closely behind after finding traffic problems in running.

Aiden O’Brien describes Rhododendron as a special filly, whilst her jockey Heffernan said after her Chantilly Gr1 win: “I rode her a bit in the spring and I had her down as nearly being our number one.”

She ran really well in an English Guineas and in an Oaks. We know why we got beaten now because the winner [Enable] 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.”

In the meantime, juvenile full sister Magical has been filling her full sisters big shoes and secured the Gr2 Debutante the year after her sister won it. After placing second on debut, she won next time out and went on to defeat Gr1 winner Happily in the Debutante by over a length.

Aiden put her against Happily again in the Gr1 Moyglare, and in a nailbiting finish she was just a short head off her first Gr1 win. Entered to race at Chantilly on the same day as her elder Gr1 winning sister, Magical finished fourth in the Gr1 Prix Marcel Boussac less than two lengths off. Timeform Rated at 109, she followed up with a place in the Gr1 Fillies Mile under Ryan Moore.

There is no doubt that the combination of Galileo and Halfway To Heaven is a magical one and its no surprise that the mare has returned to Galileo since.

Flying The Flag. Image: Candiese Marnewick
Flying The Flag. Image: Candiese Marnewick

Flying The Flag’s first crop have been born this season and have impressed breeders across the country, returning mares based on the outstanding size and quality of his foals. A few of the mares he covered in his first season included the dam of Gr1 placed and Hong Kong-bound Misty Burnam (herself by Verglas), as well as own sisters to Champion sire Jet Master and Dubai champion Vercingetorix.

Bush Hill’s own exceptional family of Gr1 winners Zirconeum and Stellite, saw Plutonium (the dam of Orion Quest, Stella Mia and King Neptune) and Graded Stakes producing mare Look Sharp (Gr2 winner The Mouseketeer) covered, as well as Clifton Stud’s Ananova (Gr2 winner Bezanova).  

The dam of Gr1 winner and international globetrotter Irish Flame has produced a flashly leggy chestnut filly this season. The perfect combination of quality and speed, Flying The Flag stood for a fee of R20 000 this season.

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