Saturday Stakes Preview: Flintshire invades Saratoga in The Grade 1 Sword Dancer

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>>Go to the PPs for the Sword Dancer | Post Time 5:04 EDT Saturday

The NYRA has doubled the purse for this year’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer, and the added $500k has done its job, attracting a major Group 1-quality runner from France in the form of #2 Flintshire.

For older turf horses over 1 1/2 miles, the Sword Dancer has pulled just seven others to go along with Flintshire, who was runnerup in both the Arc de Triomphe and Breeders’ Cup Turf last year. He won the Group 1 Hong King Vase in his first start out of the Breeders’ Cup, and has since been 2nd in a pair of other major races around the world: the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Grand Prix du Saint Cloud. If there is any weakness in the game of Flintshire, it may be his penchant for settling. He initially gave his powerful connections high hopes, winning three of the first four starts of his career, including the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris. He has gone just 1 for 12 since, and arrives back in the states with twice as many runnerup finishes as wins. He has come out on top in two major races, and in his defense, he is not being defeated by pushovers. Treve, Dolniya, Cirrus des Aigles, Main Sequence, and Ruler of the World are all top class performers, but Flintshire’s overall record may be some cause for concern.

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The TimeformUS Pace Projector leaves Flintshire with plenty to do, as he is expected to be toward the back of the field early while #8 War Dancer cuts the pace. The other import from Europe in the field, #7 Guardini, does not appear on the Pace Projector, due to a lack of available data. He is not nearly as accomplished as Flintshire, and he will get a blinkers and lasix makeover on Saturday following a poor performance off a good trip in a German Group 2 event.

#6 Messi also arrived from Germany, and he has quickly turned into an up-and-comer in this division. His new trainer found great success after taking over the training of Main Sequence last year, and he has sent Messi out to a pair of visually impressive wins this summer with fresh lasix, including one over this turf course. Messi takes on more distance, and a tougher group, on Saturday, but we are interested to see how he stacks up.

The two with the best chances against a horse like Flintshire are #1 Imagining and #5 Twilight Eclipse. Neither could go with that horse in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last November, but they were far from embarrassed at the end, and they are both Grade 1 winners over here. We prefer Imagining, who did not get a particularly good trip when behind #4 Red Rifle and War Dancer in the Bowling Green last time, though there is truly little separating the two of them.

A longshot to take a look at is #3 Fixador. A Brazilian import, Fixador impressed when stretched out to this distance with lasix on in his second start over here, and second off the layoff, back in December. He earned a solid TFUS Speed Figure of 122 that day after keeping close to a fast pace (note Pace Figures/fractions color-coded red), but he fell just short at the end after taking a good bump at the top of the stretch. He appeared to be prepping in the shorter Lure stakes here 21 days ago, as he flashed early speed before taking back, and was allowed to run past the wire after posing no threat in the stretch. He is far from a likely winner of the Sword Dancer, but he gets a positive rider change, is second off the layoff again, and may be able to land a big piece of this race.

The Bottom Line:

  • Flintshire is very much the most likely winner, and the odds will reflect that.
  • Imagining and Twilight Eclipse are the most logical alternatives to the favorite.
  • Fixador is a longshot who may be able to get involved at a big price.

>>How are we going to play it? Get TimeformUS Betting Strategies for the Sword Dancer, and the rest of the Travers Day card, here.

 

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