Flintshire crushes them in the Sword Dancer, but will he come back for the Breeders' Cup Turf?
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Flintshire ran right up to his powerhouse international formlines when demolishing the field in Saturday's $1 million Sword Dancer (G1), a "Win & You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1).
Although the Andre Fabre charge was second to Main Sequence in last year's Turf at Santa Anita, connections had previously sounded cool about contesting this year's running at Keeneland, citing concerns that he might not get the lightning-fast conditions that suit him so well. After his Sword Dancer tour de force, however, racing fans everywhere have to hope for a rethink.
Moreover, the way that he rode the hedge and delivered the coup de grace turning for home, scotched my pre-race concerns that he might not be seen to best effect on the tight inner turf. The even-money favorite simply dispatched them with a rapier-like thrust, like a world-class French fencer, and powered clear in a terrific 2:23.77 for 1 1/2 miles.
Top jumps rider-turned-flat jockey Vincent Cheminaud gave Flintshire a perfect ride. Saving ground throughout from post 2, the globetrotting son of Dansili raced within striking distance of the tepid pace set by German shipper Guardini through splits of :24, :48.74 and 1:13.51. Flintshire crept closer at the mile mark in 1:37.66, shot clear after the 1 1/4-mile split in 2:01.47, and crossed the wire as much the best by 2 1/2 lengths.
Red Rifle, who rallied from last for second, was valiant in pursuit. Never giving up the chase, he pulled 3 1/4 lengths ahead of third-placer Twilight Eclipse, who was placing in the Sword Dancer for the third straight year. There was a nine-length chasm back to War Dancer in fourth.
Flintshire was earning his third top-level laurel, following victories in the 2013 Grand Prix de Paris (G1) and last December's Hong Kong Vase (G1). He also captured the Prix du Lys (G3) during his sophomore campaign. He has amassed seven stakes placings, six at the Group 1 level -- chief among them to Treve in last fall's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) and the June 28 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) last out. The British-bred dark bay has also garnered minor awards in the past two editions of the Coronation Cup (G1), and he was second in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night.
The Sword Dancer served as his prep for another crack at the Arc at Longchamp October 4.
Quotes (as posted on Paulick Report):
Jockey Vincent Cheminaud: "He was a little bit slow. Andre, the trainer, said to keep to his position and to remain calm and that he has a good turn of foot. The horse was in good position and quickened well for him to go through the gap."
Teddy Grimthorpe, Juddmonte's Racing Manager: "He’s a remarkable horse. He’s just so unbelievably consistent. He’s traveled the world. He’s won in Hong Kong, he’s won in Dubai, and now he’s won here. He’s a remarkable horse. 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 loves fast ground, a mile and a half, so from that point of view he’s ideal. It’s hugely important to get a win like this before the Arc. We’ve got his father, we’ve got his mother, we’ve got his grandmother, we’ve got his sister. The people who work on the farms, the people who race him, this is huge for us."
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography.