Heading into the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Saturday Flintshire had never won when soft was mentioned in the going description and he still hasn’t. The heavy odds-on 1/5 favorite only faced three runners but was beaten by a wide margin into second.
In polar contrast to the favorite, his conqueror Ectot has only ever won when soft was part of the ground conditions. Indeed the 9.4/1 winner boasted Group 1 winning form in France on soft and was officially rated just 4lb inferior to Flintshire in that country.
Trainer Chad Brown (pictured) can be forgiven for thinking he could get away with it on the ‘yielding’ ground with this former Andre Fabre trained French import. After all Flintshire was looking a more consistent horse since his arrival in the USA, with three wins from as many runs, but all on firm. Bettors should know leopards cannot change their spots. Brown was hoping that with just three rivals class would out and it did, Ectot’s.
Sitting off a slow pace, set by the winner out front, was also a disadvantage as Ectot quickened away to take the Grade 1 contest by daylight, though the officials called it five lengths.
Flintshire’s three victories prior to this were two Grade 1 races either side of a Grade 2 victory. All had been on his favored firm ground. Indeed his European form is of the highest calibre when getting his conditions, as runner-up spot in two Arc de Triomphes, Europe’s premier middle-distance race of the year, testifies. However the six-year-old son of Dansili has always been very beatable when the track is not right for him and, besides that sticky issue, Flintshire’s consistency has also been questionable.
Brown was not disheartened by the reverse, and the best of the USA sportsbooks still have his charge at the front of their racebook betting lines for the Breeders Cup Turf. As the trainer pointed out, he is likely to get the firm ground he needs at Santa Anita.
Ectot’s handler Todd Pletcher said afterwards that his charge had been training well and that conditions fell right for him. He also pointed out the horse had good firm ground form and he will likely head to California for the Breeders Cup party as well.
California Chrome Awesome Again
Unlike Flintshire, California Chrome did not fluff his lines in his Breeders Cup trial race. He won the appropriately-named Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita Park hard held and eased down, beating Dortmund over two lengths but value for so much more.
Veteran trainer Art Sherman paid credit to Dortmund’s effort, but said he was training probably the best horse in the world right now and who could possibly disagree?
Dortmund tried to bustle up his rival but could only stay with him for a quarter mile. Starting 2/5 favorite, California Chrome had too many gears and it was just a paid piece of work for the cheaply-bred son of Lucky Pulpit.
Next stop is the big one, the $6million Breeders Cup Classic at his home track. The only surprise is that the offshore sportsbooks still have Sherman’s star at odds against. Arrogate is second favorite in the betting after his wide-margin Travers Stakes success but he remains a largely unknown quantity and is holding up the favorite’s price.
California Chrome will get a million dollar bonus, attached to the Pacific Classic, Awesome Again & Breeders Cup Classic, if he prevails at Santa Anita. It would be small change for this highest money-earner of all time. He is fast closing down the $14million mark and has yet to be defeated this calendar year.