Flintshire faces only 3 in Hirsch Turf Classic
ELMONT, N.Y. – Flintshire’s biggest opponent in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park could be Mother Nature.
Only three horses were entered against Flintshire on Wednesday for the Joe Hirsch, the highlight of an 11-race program at Belmont Park that begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Flintshire has already defeated two of his rivals, stablemate Money Multiplier and the hardtrying Twilight Eclipse. Ectot, a Group 1 winner three years ago in Europe, completes the field.
Grand Tito, who was expected to run in the Joe Hirsch, was not entered due to an injury to his right front foot, according to trainer Gustavo Delgado.
Flintshire was shipped to the U.S. for this season in large part due to his preference for firm turf. That’s exactly what he got in winning the Grade 1 Manhattan here in June and the Grade 2 Bowling Green and Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga in July and August.
But rain is in the forecast Thursday through Saturday, with as much as an inch possi- ble by Saturday afternoon.
“He definitely prefers firm ground,” trainer Chad Brown said Wednesday from Saratoga. “We’ll see how the storm system develops and how much rain in fact we do get. I’m planning on running the horse regardless.”
Flintshire drew the outside post in the field of four. The race is weight-for-age, so all contestants will carry 126 pounds.
Ectot, whose best races came in 2013-14, will be making his third start in the U.S. and his third for trainer Todd Pletcher. He was fourth, beaten a length, in the Lure Stakes in August and was second, beaten a nose, in an allowance race at Saratoga on Sept. 4. He will break from the rail under Jose Ortiz.
Twilight Eclipse, third to Flintshire in the Bowling Green and Sword Dancer, and Money Multiplier, who ran a very good second in the Sword Dancer, break from posts 2 and 3.
The Joe Hirsch, which offers a fees-paid berth in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita, goes as race 6 and will not be part of the late pick five.
The prospect of a wet track has trainer Dallas Stewart wavering on whether to run probable favorite Forever Unbridled in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park.
Forever Unbridled has never raced on a wet track in 12 career starts.
“I’m very concerned,” said Stewart, who trains the horse for Charles Fipke. “I’m trying to figure it out. We’ll make the call at the appropriate time.”
Forever Unbridled is one of three Grade 1 winners entered in the Beldame, which does not offer a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Off the Tracks, the winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose, and Paola Queen, the winner of the Grade 1 Test, are 3-year-olds trying older horses for the first time. Going for Broke, second to Songbird in the Grade 1 Alabama, is another 3-year-old in the field.
The Beldame field, from the rail out, is: Tiger Ride, Forever Unbridled, Rachel’s Temper,
Flintshire prefers firm turf but might get a soggy course in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.