ELMONT, N.Y. – Chad Brown confirmed that multiple Grade 1 winner Flintshire will make his seasonal debut in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day following an encouraging bullet breeze on Belmont Park’s inner turf on Saturday morning.
A two-time runner-up of the prestigious Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, Flintshire worked five furlongs over the firm grass in 1:00.60, the fastest of 18 at the distance and his fifth regular breeze since he joined the trainer’s barn earlier this spring.
“I am going to run Flintshire,” Brown said of the Manhattan. “He’s been doing fine. He’s been working well and his work this morning was outstanding. He showed me today that he’s ready to go. The horse couldn’t be any better. He gets the green light.”
Flintshire, who earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his 2 ½-length victory in his only other North American career start in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, is one of three likely candidates for Brown in the Manhattan. Brown’s expected contingent includes reigning Eclipse Award champion grass horse Big Blue Kitten and Grade 1 Man o’ War hero Wake Forest, who breezed an easy five furlongs on the turf in 1:04 Saturday.
“Wake Forest worked well this morning and is likely to run,” said Brown. “He’s coming off a perfect race in the Man o’ War. He’s had a couple of maintenance works since the race and they’ve gone well, so he’ll run back.”
Brown added that Slumber, winner of the 2015 Manhattan, and Man o’ War runner-up Money Multiplier remain possible for the Manhattan but could be steered towards the Grade 1 United Nations on July 3 at Monmouth Park.
Brown will be represented in the Grade 1, $1 million Longines Just a Game by Rainha Da Bateria, who finished second to Royal Ascot-bound Tepin last time out in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs, as well as Mrs McDougal, a one-length winner of the Plenty of Grace on April 16 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“[Rainha Da Bateria] looks terrific. I think this is a good spot for her,” he said. “And we gave [Mrs McDougal] a little breather after her stakes win at Aqueduct. She really ran a big number in that race so I thought a little extra time to recover would be beneficial and it has been. She’s another filly that physically looks outstanding right now and her breezes have matched her looks.”
Also expected from the Brown barn for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival are Elusive Quality winner A Lot, probable for the Grade 3 Jaipur Invitational; Economic Model, a four-length allowance winner last time out who is pointed to the $150,000 WinStar Easy Goer; and License Fee runner-up Zindaya, probable for the $150,000 Intercontinental on Thursday, June 9.
Pletcher to be well-armed for Belmont Stakes Racing Festival
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Saturday morning that his two Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes contenders, Destin and Stradivari, each jogged one mile on the training track and stood at the starting gate.
“Both seemed energetic and enthusiastic [in their jogs] and stood well at the gate,” Pletcher said.
As is Pletcher’s modus operandi during major racing events, the trainer will be well represented during the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. On June 11 alone, the day of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the number and quality of his intended stakes starters is impressive.
An unprecedented winner of seven Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer, Pletcher has confirmed three horses to run in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap: Anchor Down (Jose Ortiz to ride); Blofeld (John Velazquez); and Stanford (Javier Castellano).
Anchor Down, a son of Tapit, is coming off a powerful 6 3/4-length victory in the local prep for the Met Mile, the Grade 3 Westchester. That front-running victory on a muddy and sealed surface marked Anchor Down’s first visit to the winner’s circle since July 2015. In between, the 5-year-old ridgling lost seven starts.
“I think he trained as good going into his last race, and coming out of it, as he has at any point in his career,” Pletcher remarked. “Maybe he is finding himself.”
Stanford, a 4-year-old son of Malibu Moon, enters the Met Mile, a “Win and You’re In” designated race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, on the heels of a two-length win in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic. His last two starts – the other being a second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap behind stablemate Blofeld – earned Stanford triple digit Beyer Speed Figures.
“I think he’s a better 4-year-old than he was a 3-year-old, but he was on the verge of being a really good 3-year-old as well, as evidenced by just missing in a couple spots, like the Louisiana Derby,” Pletcher said. “Physically he is a stronger and more developed horse from three to four.”
Blofeld, a son of Quality Road, Pletcher’s 2010 Met Mile winner, followed his victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, a mile race, with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at a mile and an eighth.
“Hopefully he can repeat his Gulfstream Park Handicap performance,” Pletcher said. “He likes the mile, but I think eventually he will prove he will be able to handle more distance. He was stopped on the first turn of the Oaklawn Handicap and [John Velazquez] said the horse didn’t like being held-up when he had to be wrestled back.”
In the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps, a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Pletcher, who seeks his fourth victory in the race, plans on running Curalina (Velazquez) and Stopchargingmaria (Castellano).
Stopchargingmaria, the winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, made her 2016 debut in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland April 9. That day the 5-year-old was beaten just a neck in her first start since the October 30 Distaff. Last year, Stopchargingmaria used the Madison to launch her 4-year-old campaign and finished second. The daughter of Tale of the Cat was being prepared to run in last year’s Ogden Phipps when she spiked a fever the week of the race and therefore was not entered.
“She’s training with as much enthusiasm as she did last year,” Pletcher said. “[The Madison] was a great race. It was a winning-type of race. We purposely gave her only one start before [the Ogden Phipps] because she runs well fresh.”
The other Pletcher horses mentioned by the trainer on Saturday morning as being pointed to June 11 stakes are: Awesome Gent (Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens) and Rally Cry ($150,00 WinStar Easy Goer). Both Off The Tracks and Rachel’s Valentina are considered “possibilities” for the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn.
Cherry Wine, Brody’s Cause turn in final breezes for G1 Belmont
Dale Romans’ Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes contenders Cherry Wine and Brody’s Cause wrapped up their major preparations for the final jewel of the Triple Crown on June 11, undertaking very separate workouts Saturday morning at Belmont Park.
Walking onto the main track shortly after the renovation break, Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine breezed five furlongs in 1:00.12 with exercise rider Faustino Aguilar in the saddle. Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Brody’s Cause, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, set down into the lane shortly after, covering three furlongs in :37.11 while ridden by his regular jockey Luis Saez.
“I was pleased with the way they both worked,” said Romans. “They both showed good energy. They came back to the barn happy. We just want to sharpen them both up. By this time, they’ve been on the Triple Crown trail a long time. They are fit horses, and we just want them sharp and ready to roll.”
Exaggerator gallops on Big Sandy; Swipe returns to worktab
Exaggerator completed a two-minute lick on the main track Saturday morning. The Preakness winner is expected to walk tomorrow, gallop on Monday and conduct a final breeze on Tuesday before the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 11.
“He’s maturing and seems a little more relaxed and focused.” said Julie Clark, an assistant to trainer Keith Desormeux. “He looks good.”
Swipe worked a half-mile on the main track, marking his first work since undergoing a throat procedure after finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Lexington on April 16 at Keeneland. Clark said Swipe will likely work again on Saturday, June 11, and will be put on a regular schedule.
“He’s good, he had his first work today and it was awesome,” Clark. “It was a half-mile in 51 1/5 [seconds], which was our target time. It was just a nice, easy half for him back. I’m excited about him. He got out real quick. It was good for sure.”
Swipe, 1-5-1 in eight career starts, breezed with jockey Junior Alvarado aboard. The son of Birdstone has finished fourth to Nyquist in all four of his Grade 1 starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on October 31 at Keeneland.