Flintshire takes Manhattan
Aside from boosting his bankroll to the $7.9 million threshold, Flintshire is putting himself in pole position for a championship. The domestic cast didn’t have anyone in his class at his typical 1 1/2-mile trip, and now he’s confirmed that 1 1/4 mile prizes are equally at his mercy. If Flintshire is to beaten on these shores, it will probably come at the hands of another international.
The 3-5 favorite was well placed early by Javier Castellano, nestled within easy striking range of front-running World Approval. The pace was slow on the firm inner turf -- :23.81, :49.77 and 1:13.90 – but that put a premium on finishing speed, and few can serve it up like Flintshire.
As Divisidero and Grand Tito ranged up to challenge World Approval in the stretch, Flintshire was just breezing up wider out. Ironicus was traveling almost as well toward the inside, but was in tight quarters for a moment. That caused him to hold fire at the worst time.
Meanwhile, Flintshire was delivering the coup de grace, stretching clear with authority, and advancing his record to 20-6-10-1. The son of Dansili notched his fourth career Grade/Group 1 victory, after the 2013 Grand Prix de Paris (G1), 2014 Hong Kong Vase (G1), and 2015 Sword Dancer (G1). He’s placed in a further eight top-level events, most famously the past two runnings of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1); the Coronation Cup (G1) in both 2014 and 2015; the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1); and last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) and Hong Kong Vase in his latest appearance December 13.
Ironicus offered a nifty turn of foot himself once he had room, but the winner was long gone. And in truth, Flintshire would have had his measure anyway. A clean-trip Ironicus must have been closer than the final margin of 1 3/4 lengths, though, and you couldn’t have asked for a better first try at the trip. While the sprint home played to his strengths, I think he’ll be effective over a more truly run 1 1/4 miles too.
World Approval fended off Grand Tito and Divisidero in a gritty third. Divisidero just doesn’t seem to care for Belmont very much, and he’s eligible to bounce back over a different course.
Brown, who entered a total of four in the Manhattan before scratching Wake Forest, didn’t have any luck with his veterans Big Blue Kitten and Slumber. Reigning champion turf horse Big Blue Kitten was never involved in sixth. Slumber, the defending Manhattan champion, wound up eighth of nine and was unfortunately vanned off.
"It's just precautionary," Brown said of Slumber's ride back to the barn. "It looks like he has a run down or cut on his front ankle. Hopefully, it's just that. It's too early to tell but, hopefully, it doesn't look like anything serious."
Slumber has since been diagnosed with a suspensory injury to his left fore, as reported by Karen Johnson via Twitter.
Quotes from NYRA
Winning trainer Chad Brown: "Wow. First of all, many thanks to Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, for trusting me and my staff with such a remarkable racehorse. He is special. He ran to his works. Like I said all month, he was sent to me in outstanding condition. We're just trying to get him into our program, make sure he adapts okay and he doesn't change for the worse, which he hasn't.
"He has an indescribable amount of class. He's so intelligent. He picks things up at light speed, oozes class and is a privilege to work with every day.
"This race wasn't our first pick. When we got him in and looked at the schedule, how far he'd been running - a mile and a half. He just dragged us to this race with his training in the morning. So sharp work after work. I can't leave him in the barn for a million bucks when he's just a couple of hundred yards from here.
"He showed the ability to cut back to mile and a quarter with a good turn of foot today.
"There are no immediate plans. Obviously, the goal is to take down that race at Santa Anita at the end of the year [Breeders' Cup Turf]. How we get there - there is more than one way to do that."
Winning rider Javier Castellano: "I had so much confidence with the horse [after] watching all the replays. Mr. Brown gave me the opportunity to ride this horse and put me in a great spot. He's a phenomenal, spectacular horse. He's very straightforward with his approach. He can [compete] with the best horses in the country. He showed today he was the best horse in the race."
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey on runner-up Ironicus: "I thought we ran good. We got beat a length and a half by probably the best horse in training on the turf. He had a pretty clean trip, I don't think we had quite as clean a trip. I'm disappointed we lost but we ran good. We had to steady a little bit on the inside but maybe the race was over by that point. [Flintshire] had clear sailing around, he was on the outside of us the whole way and we were just second."
Jockey Jose Ortiz on Ironicus: "I was in a perfect spot early on. Then, at the three-eighths pole Javier was outside me and I tried to move out, but he wasn't letting me in. I took a chance going inside but I didn't have much room. If I was in a better position, I think I might have won."