Travers Day. Tomorrow’s card at Saratoga pretty well has it all. Not only do we get to watch classic winners Exaggerator and Creator do battle with a handful of emerging pretenders in the big race itself, we also get to see the comeback of Lady Eli, launched straight back into the deep end after her improbable victory over laminitis. And then, of course, we get to enjoy one of the most consistent, most accomplished, most magnificent Thoroughbreds on the planet.
Not only has Flintshire won massively more prize money than anything else running in any of tomorrow’s six Grade 1s (his $8,274,910 puts him in the all-time world top 10 of non-Japanese earners, and behind only California Chrome among horses currently in training outside Japan), he’s also achieved a higher official rating than any of them - higher even than the Preakness and Haskell winner Exaggerator.
He has produced world-class performances in five countries, finished second in two Arcs and a Breeders’ Cup Turf, and won the other three times he has raced in the United States. In all, he has run in 14 G1s, and has been out of the first four only once - eighth in Treve’s 2013 Arc on very, very soft ground.
Tomorrow the Juddmonte homebred goes to post as hot favorite for the $1m Longines Sword Dancer Stakes, a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (which is his ultimate target this season) and a race he took comfortably last year while still trained in France by Andre Fabre.
Since then, of course, the son of Dansili has relocated across the Atlantic, and is now in the hands of Chad Brown, who also trains Lady Eli and Travers second favorite Connect. It’s a fair bet that Brown will have fewer anxious moments over Flintshire at Saratoga tomorrow than with most of his other runners.
“The horse has an indescribable amount of class about him,” the trainer told This Is Horse Racing after Flintshire won the Manhattan at Belmont in June. “He’s so intelligent. You can pick that up very early on with horses, when they get into your program. This horse, he just walks around the shedrow like he’s the man, and he is the man. He picks things up at light speed, oozes class and we’re privileged to work with him every day.”
Jockey Javier Castellano described the horse as ‘unbelievable’ after the Manhattan. “Before I worked him, he [Brown] told me he’s got one horse that’s really special. And he is,” he told This Is Horse Racing. “He’s a pro horse, he hooked up with the best horses in the country and he showed today he was much the best.”
A model of consistency: Flintshire’s best G1 performances
Grand Prix de Paris
Cirrus des Aigles
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
Breeders’ Cup Turf
Hong Kong Vase
(Willie Cazals 2nd)
Dubai Sheema Classic
Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud
Sword Dancer Stakes
(Red Rifle 2nd)
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
Hong Kong Vase
Be in no doubt, Flintshire is one of the most important racehorses in America right now. He’s an international turf superstar, an animal who has mixed it with distinction with the very best the world has had to offer over the last three years, and his mere presence is a huge lift for turf racing in the U.S., a branch of the sport currently languishing some way behind Europe.
“The move [to America] is for a number of reasons,” Lord Grimthorpe, Racing Manager for Juddmonte owner Prince Khalid Abdullah, told John Gilmore on TRC in March. “Prince Khalid has wanted to strengthen the American stable, generally ground conditions are good or firm, going which he prefers, and American races are run at a fast pace from the start. Flintshire has already shown his ability to handle American tracks.”
Grimthorpe attributed Flintshire’s consistency to two factors. “The horse has been very sound throughout his career, which makes a big difference, and he has always run well when ground conditions are in his favour and a race is run at a good pace throughout.”
And then, of course, there’s his pedigree. The 6-year-old represents some of the finest turf bloodlines in existence. His sire, Dansili, who was third in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Mile when trained by Fabre for Juddmonte, is a son of the mighty Danehill and has had a stellar career at stud himself, being responsible for 19 different G1 scorers to date, including Arc winner Rail Link, King George winner Harbinger (highest rated horse in the world in 2010), five-time G1 winner Proviso and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf heroine Dank.
He also sired the outstanding four-time G1 winner The Fugue, who like Flintshire is out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. Indeed Dansili has consistently produced high-class offspring when mated with daughters of the 14-times European champion stallion, and Flintshire’s dam, the G2-winning Juddmonte homebred Dance Routine, is typical of the quality mares most successful in that relationship. Indeed, Flintshire’s two-years-older full brother, the G2-placed Dance Moves, won six races, two of them listed.
All of which suggests that Flintshire has the potential to bring as much to U.S. turf racing as a stallion as he is now doing as a racehorse.