Flintshire looks to repeat in G1 Sword Dancer
by Heather Pettinger
Juddmonte Farms' intrepid Flintshire will look to bolster his case as the top male turf horse in the U.S. as he heads a field of seven in the Grade 1, $1 million Longines Sword Dancer Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
A perfect 2-for-2 in 2016, Flintshire has established himself as a towering presence in the division since joining Chad Brown's training outfit in the spring. The British-bred son of Dansili returned from a nearly six month layoff when he debuted for his new trainer in the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day, winning by 1 ¾ lengths.
Returning to the site of his first North American win in last year's Sword Dancer, the 6-year-old proved unmatchable in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at the Spa on July 30, deftly navigating a short but closely packed field to cross the wire in hand to win by three-quarters of a length.
Flintshire was previously conditioned by French trainer Andre Fabre through an international career that included three stabs at the coveted Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which yielded back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2015, as well as his American tour last summer when he captured the Sword Dancer by 2 ½ lengths.
"With a horse like Flintshire, we're not trying to reinvent the wheel," said Brown. "By the time the horse had come over to us, he had made almost $8 million, so I'm not going to change anything with the horse. He's settled in nicely and, fortunately, he's taken to our program like the class horse he is. He came to us in outstanding condition from Andre Fabre. He had been managed by both Mr. Fabre and Juddmonte so well, that's why we have a horse at age 6 that's still at the top of his game."
Flintshire will be ridden from post 6 by Javier Castellano.
The Sword Dancer, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Longines Turf on November 5 at Santa Anita Park, has also attracted the second- and third-place finishers of the Bowling Green, Grand Tito and Twilight Eclipse, respectively.
The hard-knocking Twilight Eclipse, who boasts a 5-5-7 record from 27 starts against graded stakes company, will be making his fourth Sword Dancer appearance for West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Tom Albertrani. Twilight Eclipse was second in the 2013 edition and third in 2014 and 2015.
Prior to the Bowling Green, the 7-year-old Purim gelding took advantage of a bit of class relief, drawing clear by 2 ½ lengths in an allowance in July at Belmont to register his first since victory since winning the Grade 1 Man o' War by a neck in 2015.
"We don't want to be afraid of one horse if we think we're live to at least get a good piece of it, or maybe we run our best race ever," Albertrani said of the Sword Dancer. "Apart from Flintshire, it's the same group that we've been running with. The horse has got it in him, so we decided to take our chances. It's a small field and for a million dollars we just feel it's worth it."
Twilight Eclipse will break from post 4 with John Velazquez in the irons.
Finishing behind Flintshire in his last two starts, multiple graded stakes winner Grand Tito will look to turn the tables on his more accomplished rival. The 6-year-old horse was fourth to Flintshire in their first matchup in the Manhattan. In the Bowling Green, the son of Candy Ride maintained a comfortable pace throughout but couldn't hold off the victor's late surge.
Grand Tito, trained by Gustavo Delgado for Grupo Seven C Racing Stable's, is set to leave from the rail with Jose Ortiz at the helm.
In addition to Flintshire, Brown will also be represented by Inordinate, a fellow Juddmonte homebred who checked in fifth against optional claimers last time out, and multiple graded stakes-placed Money Multiplier, a 2 ¼-length winner of an optional claiming contest on August 5 at Saratoga.
Inordinate, a Kentucky-bred Harlan's Holiday colt, will be ridden by Aaron Gryder from post 5, while Money Multiplier will depart from post 2 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard.
Rounding out the field are Three Diamonds Farm's Roman Approval, second to Money Multiplier last time out, for the Mike Maker barn and Applicator, the lone 3-year-old in the field looking to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby on July 9, for owner-trainer Mikhail Yanakov.