USA: Flintshire to star on Belmont undercard

Flintshire: impressive at Saratoga but probably just below the level required to win an Arc according to Harry Bentley

Flintshire is already a Grade 1 winner in the US

  PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos  

Preview: USA, Saturday 10.37pm BST (live on ATR)

Belmont Park: Manhattan Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f, turf, 4yo+

FLINTSHIRE (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano), for so many years as reliable as they come at the top level for Andre Fabre, makes his debut for his new US-based trainer in the Manhattan.

Now a six-year-old, the Juddmonte globetrotter is sure to start a short-priced favourite for this $1 million contest, one of six Grade 1s at Belmont Park on Saturday.

However, not only is he returning after a seven-month layoff since being beaten into second by Highland Reel in Hong Kong, he is cutting back in trip to 1m2f, a distance he has not seen on grass since his three-year-old days. He also has a wide draw to overcome, having landed in gate 10 of a 12-runner field.

Despite the presence of several top US turf performer, Flintshire’s form is miles in front of his rivals – and he has already run well in North America, having been beaten by only US champion Main Sequence at the 2014 Breeders’ Cup before a consummate success last term at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

As the son of Dansili has been sent to the States in search of the fast ground he loves, a chance of thunderstorms later in the afternoon won’t go down well with his connections. On the plus side, his recent work has been “outstanding” according to his trainer.

“The horse looks fit and ready to go,” said Brown. “It’s a great opportunity to run for a huge purse in a very prestigious race and run out of your own barn and not have to ship. So when I saw that final piece of work, it convinced me to run.”

Brown, renowned for his prowess with ‘turfers’, has won three of the last four runnings. He has declared four altogether, with last year’s one-two Slumber (Irad Ortiz) and Big Blue Kitten (Joe Bravo) joined by a third Grade 1 winner in ex-German-trained Wake Forest (John Velazquez), second favourite with British bookmakers after winning the Man o’War on his most recent outing. Brown said one of them could bypass the race and wait for the United Nations at Monmouth on July 3.

Divisidero (Buff Bradley/Edgar Prado) beat plenty of these in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby day. Ironicus (Shug McGaughey/Irad Ortiz), who looked good winning a Grade 3 last time, is another to note as he makes his top-level debut.

France has a runner with outsider Oathkeeper (Mikel Delzangles/Florent Geroux).

Ladbrokes: Evens Flintshire, 15/2 Wake Forest, 8 Divisidero, Ironicus, 9 Big Blue Kitten, 12 Slumber, 16 World Approval, 20 Grand Tito, 25 Take the Stand, 33 Oathkeeper, Triple Threat

Also on Saturday

Belmont Park: Just A Game Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 4yo+ (8.58pm BST, live on ATR)

In the absence of last year’s winner Tepin, bound for Royal Ascot, there’s an open look to this $700,000 contest in which Newmarket visitor Irish Rookie (Martyn Meade/Irad Ortiz), second in the Group 3 Ridgewood Pearl three weeks ago, has distinct chances under her top New York pilot.

While the four-year-old still has only a couple two-year-old wins to her name, she was runner-up in last year’s French Guineas and placed behind top-class mares Esoterique and Integral in the Sun Chariot.

Celestine (Bill Mott/Junior Alvarado) has been posting some fast works since her Gulfstream win. Her trainer, who has won this four times in the past, also runs Lady Lara (Jose Lezcano) and My Miss Sophia (Mike Smith), while Tepin’s trainer Mark Casse saddles Lexie Lou (Patrick Husbands), the 2014 Canadian Horse of the Year.

Ladbrokes: 9-2 Irish Rookie, 5 Mrs McDougal, 6 Celestine, Faufiler, 8 Recepta, Rainha Da Bateria, 10 Lady Lara, My Miss Sophia, 14 Strike Charmer, 16 Lexie Lou, 25 Tapitry, 33 La Berma, Prize Exhibit

Belmont Park: Metropolitan Hcap (Grade 1) 1m, dirt, 4yo+ (9.41pm BST, live on ATR)

A race better known as the Met Mile, this $1.25m event still features a top-notch double-figure field, despite the scratching of the luckless Sloane Avenue, who sustained a quarter-crack in his left front foot during training at Belmont.

Even in the absence of the Jeremy Noseda-trained contender, however, there are several names familiar to those who follow the Dubai Carnival – not least the three representing Kiaran McLaughlin: Frosted (Joel Rosario), Marking (Jose Lezcano) and Tamarkuz (Luis Saez).

Likely favourite Frosted, runner-up to American Pharoah in last year’s Belmont on this card, and stablemate Marking both scored impressively on their Meydan debuts in March before flopping on World Cup night. Frosted now cuts back in trip after fading late on in the world Cup, while Marking was beaten favourite in the Godolphin Mile.

Tamarkuz became a standing dish on the Meydan dirt in 2015, when he won four races culminating in the Godolphin Mile. He did not really thrive in the States last year and returns in a hot race for his seasonal debut.

Todd Pletcher also runs three: likely pace players Stanford (Javier Castellano) and Anchor Down (Jose Ortiz), plus Blofeld (John Velazquez).

 

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