With the 2016 Triple Crown season in the rearview mirror, the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” season is in full gear. While international “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races for this year’s event have been taking place since January, the first U.S. race of the year was the June 4 Shoemaker Mile Stakes, with other North American races coming fast and furious after that.
It isn’t often that a top European horse is switched to a U.S.-based trainer but that’s exactly the case with Flintshire.
The Dansili son started his career in May of his 3-year-old year for trainer André Fabre in France. Winning his first start and finishing second in his second, his connections pointed to the Group 3 Prix du Lys Longines for his third start. Against a field of eight others, Flintshire shined when jockey Maxime Guyon asked for his turn of foot, pulling away to win by three lengths.
Flintshire entered the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris in his next start, a big ask for a horse with just three previous races under his belt. Running near the back of the field, Flintshire bided his time before Guyon asked for him to go in the final few furlongs. Within a matter of moments, he was in front of the field by multiple lengths. The winning margin was cut to 1 ½ in the closing stages of the race when Flintshire was eased down by Guyon.
2013 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris
Two starts later, Flintshire entered what would become a familiar race for him – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. While he would find more success in the race as he aged this time he finished eighth behind 3-year-old filly Treve, who ran away with the race when winning by five lengths.
Flintshire was away from the track for eight months after the Arc and his first assignment back wasn’t an easy one with the colt heading to the Group 1 Coronation Cup. Lining up against Flintshire were five Group 1 winners (or soon to be Group 1 winner in one case), including the extremely successful Cirrus Des Aigles, who had won two straight Group 1 races and finished third in another in the lead up to the race. It was another victory for Cirrus Des Aigles but Flintshire was the best of the rest, getting his season off to a good start.
Flintshire was fourth behind Noble Mission in his next outing and it was the last time he’d finish off the board in a race.
In his 2014 Arc prep, Flintshire was the bridesmaid to the previous year’s Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World by 1 ½ lengths. The performance was good enough for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms to push on with Flintshire for a rematch with Treve.
In a better showing than the previous year, Flintshire was able to get within two lengths of Treve and finish second, taking home a $1,430,350 paycheck for the run. Flintshire made his first trip to the United States for the Breeders’ Cup Turf that year and for a brief moment was in the lead but it didn’t last long with former European runner Main Sequence passing him quickly. But Flintshire didn’t give up, coming back at Main Sequence to lose by half a length for his third straight second-place finish.
Continuing his world travels, Flintshire next headed to Hong Kong for the 2014 Hong Kong Vase that December. Sitting mid-pack, Flintshire waited until they hit the stretch to make his move. Guyon had to work a little this time to get him the victory as they passed by the main part of the field with Cazals closing in on him in the final furlong. Flintshire proved to be able to hold that rival off, finishing half a length in front of him for his first victory since the Grand Prix de Paris.
2014 Hong Kong Vase
Unlike the previous year, Flintshire came back early for the 2015 season. Starting the year off in a prep race for the Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines, he was beat by only a neck when filly Dolniya beat him but it was a foreshadowing of the Dubai World Cup night race.
Taking up his bridesmaid position once again, Flintshire finished 2 ¼ lengths behind Dolniya in the Sheema Classic. The pair tangled again in the Coronation Cup in Flintshire’s next start but this time Pether’s Moon got the best of them with Dolniya finishing second and Flintshire finishing third.
By the time Flintshire entered the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, he had to be tired of seeing fillies in the paddock but the torture wasn’t over. Both Treve and Dolniya were in the race and when it was all said and done, Flintshire was sandwiched between them in the results with Treve winning, Flintshire second and Dolniya third.
Hopping back to the U.S. for his next start, Flintshire went off at even money in the 2015 Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga to get back to his winning ways. Flintshire was much the best on the day, sitting mid-pack with Guardini setting the pace. Down the backstretch, he was moved to third betore taking over in the turn and putting on a show. Winning for fun by 2 ½ lengths, talk quickly started about the Breeders’ Cup for him.
2015 Sword Dancer Stakes
But before anyone could think of the Breeders’ Cup, Flintshire had to try and get revenge on Treve in the Arc. Making an appearance in his third straight Arc, a new group of contenders were in the race including Golden Horn and New Bay while Dolniya was also taking a shot at it.
In a race that solidified Golden Horn as the best horse in Europe, Flintshire again finished second by two lengths. Treve, who was looking for her third straight Arc victory, was fourth while Dolniya was 13th. While Flintshire’s European fans didn’t know it yet, it was the last start he’d make in Europe.
Flintshire’s connections decided to bypass the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2015, instead heading straight to the Hong Kong Vase to try and defend his title.
In the stretch, Flintshire looked like he may win back-to-back Vases when he hooked up with the Irish-trained Highland Reel as they straightened up in the stretch. The pair battled until about the final furlong when Highland Reel pulled away to defeat Flintshire by 1 ½ lengths.
In 2016, Juddmonte transferred Flintshire to Chad Brown in the U.S. where he has dominated the competition.
Making his debut for the trainer on Belmont Stakes day in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan, Flintshire was settled into mid-pack with World Approval setting the pace. Swinging wide around the turn, he won as easily as he pleased by 1 ¾ lengths to make his presence on the U.S. circuit known.
Moving up to Saratoga for the summer, Flintshire left Grade 1 company for the first time since March of 2015 when he ran in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes. In an extremely slow race where the opening fractions were :26.53 and :53.14, Flintshire loped along in third on the rail. But coming into the turn, jockey Javier Castellano was forced to check him and he dropped to last in the four-horse field, swinging around all of the horses in the stretch to win under a hand ride for Castellano by three quarters of a length.
In a controversial Sword Dancer, Juddmonte and Brown entered pacesetting Inordinate for Flintshire to make sure that the fractions seen in the Bowling Green didn’t happen again. With his pacemaker hustled to the front after a bad start, Flintshire was last through the early stages of the race as Inordinate set the pace up front and Roman Approval chased close behind. Flintshire proved to be keen as he came up on the inside around the turn and slipped between Inordinate and the rail to take the lead in the stretch. Under a hand ride, Castellano easily won by 1 ¾ lengths with Twilight Eclipse in third.
2016 Longines Sword Dancer Stakes
"I am very lucky and fortunate," Castellano said after the race. "The way I rode this horse [I tried] to save some ground. Everyone ended up in the same position and I had to make my own decision and use my best judgment and it worked out. I was very lucky to go and cut through on the rail and accelerate. He is a phenomenal horse. I've never seen any horse with that much acceleration on the grass."
It’s safe to say that Flintshire is currently the best male turf horse in the United States. In every race this year, he has toyed with his competition even when it looks like he is in trouble and has put himself in the driver’s seat for the turf male Eclipse Award.
It’s not hard to imagine Flintshire being right there at the line in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He can obviously easily handle the 1 ½ mile distance of the race, seemed to like Santa Anita in his only start there and relishes firm ground. There aren’t many horses in the world that I think can beat him right now but one horse who I think may be Flintshire’s equal is Postponed. Unfortunately for Flintshire, Postponed is being aimed at the Breeders’ Cup.
Flintshire and Postponed never raced against each other in Europe thought they have beaten some of the same horses. If all goes to plan for both camps, both horses will be coming into the race with winning streaks on the line, making the Turf a must-see match up. My big worry about Flintshire is that even though he was a top horse in Europe, most of his finishes were second or thirds and not wins while Postponed has beaten everything he’s faced in England, France and Dubai since July of last year.
If both of them head to the Breeder’ Cup Turf, plus a few others who are talking about coming over, the Breeders’ Cup Turf may turn into the race of the weekend during the Breeders’ Cup meet.
A Juddmonte-bred, Flintshire is by leading sire Dansili. Dansili is out of the great Hasili but has made a name for himself outside of his parents’ resumes. Dansili won multiple group stakes in France during his career and was third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to War Chant in 2000.
As a sire, Dansili has sired 113 stakes winners, including 65 group stakes winners and 171 horses overall who have hit the board in a stakes race. Dansili is the sire of 19 Grade or Group 1 winners, including U.S. champion Dank and U.S. Grade 1 winners Laughing, Price Tag and Proviso. Dansili’s only Breeders’ Cup winner from 17 starters is Dank, who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2013 – the same year she was named U.S. champion.
Flintshire’s dam is multiple group stakes winner Dance Routine, who has four winners from five foals to race. Of those four, both Flintshire and Dance Moves have won stakes races while a daughter of Dance Routine has produced two stakes placed horses.
Flintshire’s second dam, Apogee, was a Group 3 winner in France and has proved to be a better broodmare with four of her foals winning stakes races. She is also the granddam or great greatdam of eight group winners or placers outside of Flintshire’s dam.
Overall, under Flintshire’s first four dams there are 19 stakes winners including seven who won graded or group stakes. Another 16 have placed in stakes races during their racing careers.
A win in the Breeders’ Cup for Flintshire could be big for U.S. breeders. Juddmonte’s Garrett O’Rourke recently told the Racing Post that Flintshire could stand in the United States upon retirement from racing. A win in the Breeders’ Cup would almost certainly secure him champion turf male honors and a place at Juddmonte’s U.S. stud in Lexington, Ky.