Flintshire: class tells as French-trained star defeats American rivals
PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Report: USA, Saturday
Saratoga: Sword Dancer Invitational (Grade 1) 1m4f, turf, 3yo+
CLASS told in no uncertain terms as Flintshire (Andre Fabre/Vincent Cheminaud), withdrawn from the King George on account of the soft ground, found a rich alternative on the faster US turf.
Doubtless this $1 million option was rather easier to win as well, because Flintshire – running without Lasix – slammed his rivals in a hugely authoritative performance that cast a harsh light on the relative weakness of the North American turf division.
Although Khalid Abdullah’s five-year-old had won only once in the previous two years, that victory coming in the Hong Kong Vase, and he had been placed behind a series of top-class horses like Treve and Dolniya in a string of major races, among them the Arc, Dubai Sheema Classic and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he was beaten by US turf champ Main Sequence.
Nothing of that calibre lay in wait in the Sword Dancer, which is why Flintshire was sent off even-money favourite before an emphatic two-and-half-length victory over Red Rifle.
Ridden by France’s reigning champion jump jockey Vincent Cheminaud, who was making his North American debut, the homebred son of Dansili saved ground on the hedge before moving up smoothly as they approached the far turn, where front-running Guardini, the mount of Martin Harley, began to give way.
Although Flintshire was followed through the gap on the rail by Red Rifle, he held far too many guns for that rival and the result was never in any shade of doubt. “He’s a remarkable horse and a wonderful stallion prospect,” said Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe. “He’s just so unbelievably consistent. He’s travelled the world, he’s won in Hong Kong, he’s run in Dubai and now he’s won here.
“He’s always been a very sound type of horse and the way he races – and the sort of value of the races that are available to him around the world – makes him a really attractive proposition for us. He is at his best on firm ground at a mile and a half.”
Another tilt at the Arc is on the cards before a repeat bid for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. “It’s hugely important to get a win like this before the Arc,” added Grimthorpe. “If he returns for the Breeders’ Cup, he will not race on Lasix. Andre does not race any of his horses on Lasix. He says they do not need it.”
Such a high-profile transatlantic success was another feather in the cap of Cheminaud, who rode New Bay to win the Prox du Jockey Club for Fabre before deciding to quit the jumping ranks.
“He was a little bit slow away,” reported the rider. “Andre Fabre told me before the race to keep his position and to remain calm. Nearing the stretch, the horse in front of me went right a little bit, and I sent him through.”
Also on Saturday
Saratoga: King’s Bishop Stakes (Grade 1) 7f, dirt, 3yo
An amazing performance from Runhappy (Maria Borell/Edgar Prado) who broke the stakes record – and missed the track record by only 0.14s – as he stormed home by four lengths from Limousine Liberal.
The 11-1 winner, who came in off a pair of allowance victories at lowly Ellis Park and Indiana Grand, stopped the clock in a blistering 1m20.54s. He was always prominent, vying for the lead with the runner-up before drawing clear inside the final furlong for an emphatic verdict.
Runhappy ran without Lasix for her little-known trainer Borell, a 32-year-old former exercise rider for trainer Barclay Tagg. Borell, who has just five horses at her Lexington stable, was taking her career tally to just four winners.
Runhappy is owned by James McIngvale, better known as ‘Mattress Mac’, the owner of Gallery Furniture. According to his racing manager Laura Wohlers, Borell was hired owing to her ‘no drugs’ policy.
“We were looking for someone that had the same philosophy we do – no Lasix, no drugs,” Wohlers said, speaking to the Daily Racing Form. “We gave Maria a chance.”
Saratoga: Forego Stakes (Grade 1) 7f, dirt, 3yo+
As tough as they come, Private Zone (Jorge Navarro/Martin Pedroza) made a winning debut at Saratoga with a powerful performance from the front to land the fourth Grade 1 success of a long career.
The six-year-old completely bossed this $700,000 event, easily claiming the lead over adouble-figure field at the break from gate seven and then traveling well within himself as he set decent fractions. Although they were stacked up behind at the far turn, nothing could lay a glove on the 8-5 favourite as he powered clear to beat The Big Beast by nearly four lengths. Another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is beckoning; he was third last year.
Dubai star Tamarkuz was never a factor, finishing sixth after his old aversion to the starting gate resurfaced.
Joel Rosario missed his later mounts after being unshipped from Bourbon Courage.
Saratoga: Personal Ensign Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+ f/m
For two-thirds of thia $750,000 event, it was all about the rematch between market principals Untapable and Stopchargingmaria as they duelled around the track. But they wore each other out, leaving Sheer Drama (David Fawkes/Joe Bravo) to pounce from about four lengths back to claim her second successive Grade 1 victory after the Delaware Handicap.
“We couldn’t script it any better,” Bravo said. “The race really set up great for us and everybody knows there were some of the best fillies in the country coming in here today.”
The Breeders’ Cup Distaff comes next for the five-year-old, sent off a 3.4-1 chance.
Saratoga: Ballerina Stakes (Grade 1) 7f, dirt, 3yo+ f/m
So often the bridesmaid in top company at longer trips, Unbridled Forever (Dallas Stewart/John Velazquez) closed from the rear to land her first Grade 1 victory. Having taken her record to three-for-three at 7f with this one-length success, she also qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Filly Mare Sprint under the ‘Win and You’re In’ challenge.
Highly fancied La Verdad was scratched.
Saratoga: Ballston Spa Stakes (Grade 2) 1m1/2f, turf, 3yo+ f/m
Former Chilean-trained star Dacita (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano), a dual Classic winner in her native country last year, scored in eyecatching fashion on her US debut. Sent off 15-2, she unleashed a furious late rally out wide to catch Grade 1 winner Tepin.
The Hugo Palmer-trained New Providence weakened to last of nine after being held up in midfield.
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