- Trainer: Chad Brown
- Likely Jockey: Javier Castellano
- Owner: Juddmonte Farms Inc
- Age & Breeding: 6-year-old horse; Dansili – Dance Routine
- Season Form Figures: 1112
- Career Highlight: Back-to-back victories in the Sword Dancer.
Having survived a controversial soiree with a synthetic surface for its main track, Santa Anita has become the de facto home of the Breeders’ Cup in recent years and will host the event for a record ninth time. Whereas tracks like Churchill Downs and Keeneland are liable to turn soft in the autumn, the California venue is consistently able to provide quick going. For ground-dependant horses like Flintshire, this is a blessing.
Flintshire has been rejuvenated for the switch to North America having come up short against the best European competition. Aided by the application of Lasix and firm summer ground, America’s notoriously weak middle-distance turf division has proven to be easy pickings for the ex-Andre Fabre colt.
Having readily scored in the Manhattan on his 2016 debut, Flintshire used the Grade 2 Bowling Green stakes as a prep. It was a bit of an adventure, as the pace was painfully slow and Flintshire briefly appeared trapped in behind. But once he got out, he won easily. A few weeks later, he attempted to repeat his victory in the Sword Dancer.
Held up in last place, Flintshire’s jockey Javier Castellano always had his hands full. Trainer Chad Brown wasn’t going to allow for a slow pace this time so he entered a pacemaker. As the pacemaker rolled obligingly (and clumsily) off the rail in the straight, Castellano's mount quickened five clear in hand and won easily, even allowing for the paucity of the opposition. It was an ugly race nonetheless, as the pacemaker’s antics did genuinely trouble other runners in the field. But no one was beating Flintshire on this day and the stewards took no action.
Having demolished the overmatched opposition on these three occasions, bettors expected much of the same from Flintshire in the Joe Hirsch at Belmont and invested accordingly.
Sent off at prohibitive odds despite rain having turned the ground yielding, Flintshire was settled at the back of the four-runner field as fellow French import Ectot made the running (there was no pacemaker for Flintshire this time). Entering the straight, Castellano once more asked Flintshire for his effort, only to find his customary turn of foot absent on the slick ground as Ectot strode further clear to win unchallenged.
Flintshire managed to hold onto second in a slow-motion finish, but looked a shadow of the horse he is on fast going. Trainer Chad Brown reasoned that he needed to get a run into the horse and reading too much into this defeat might prove unwise.
Flintshire has looked a cut above the typical North American turfer this season and may well be able to bounce back in the Turf. It’s easy to forget he was second in the Arc last year and has some strong lines of form. Assuming the usual going prevails at Santa Anita, he should be involved in the finish.