Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest Post: The Case for Flintshire in the BC Turf

--Mark Cramer

There are three essential reasons why Flintshire (GB) (Dansili {GB}) should be able to win the GI Breeders’ Cup Turf: track condition, the level of competition he's confronted, and the AndrĂ© Fabre cycle. It is often noted that horses coming from the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe face the constraint of a peak race plus short interval. However, both of Fabre's BC Turf winners, In the Wings in 1990 and Shirocco in 2006, came from the Arc, where they each finished fourth. So we can call it a pattern match for Flintshire. Call it the Arc de Triomphe as prep race.
Fabre's Arcangues, winner of the 1993 BC Classic at 133-1, "prepped" the day prior to the Arc, finishing 10th on a heavy track in the Prix Dollar.

Like Arcangues, Flintshire figures to improve on a dry surface. Given his record, Flintshire should relish drought-stricken California, where he will be delivered a firm surface. His record on tracks listed as soft would not warrant a trip to the BC: four races with a second-place finish, two fourths and an eighth. On tracks listed as good, he's won three and finished second three times. His seconds in the Epson Coronation Cup to Cirrus des Aigles (Fr) (Even Top {Ire}) and to Treve (Fr) (Motivator {GB}) in the recent Arc put him in the most elite company. Several of the horses that finished behind him in the Arc could have ended up favored in the BC Turf.

The problem is that Flintshire's win payout, that is, if he wins, figures to be less than the generous place return I got from him in the Arc. He is currently listed as race favorite in both Britain and the USA. Much more often than not, the heavy Euro favorite finishes behind a higher-odds Euro horse in BC races.

Such was the case in last year's BC Turf, when the even-money The Fugue (GB) (Dansili {GB}) got caught by Magician (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), trained by Aidan O'Brien, who was 7-1. Like Flintshire, Magician does his best racing when the surface gets firmer, but needs a patient ride.

Similarly, Michael Stoute's Telescope (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) has excelled when the surface is listed as good-to-firm. Telescope was defeated by the filly Taghrooda (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) at his best distance of 12 furlongs at Ascot. The difference was three lengths. If you believe in "who beat who," then Flintshire looks good by comparison, having finished a length and a quarter ahead of the wide-racing Taghrooda in the Arc. The who-beat-whoers would also have to consider the horse that defeated Magician in the Arlington Million, Hardest Core (Hard Spun).

At this writing in the British books, Flintshire and Telescope are vying for favoritism between 7-2 and 4-1. You can get as much as 6-1 on Magician. Hardest Core is 12-1. The former European horse Main Sequence (Aldebaran) has followed the pattern of horses that have underachieved in Europe because they have craved firmer surfaces. He has thrived for Graham Motion on firm surfaces in the USA and his odds have been coming down to around 6-1. The American odds thus far have Flintshire at 7-2, Telescope 5-1 and Magician at 6-1, with Main Sequence, distinguished for winning photo finishes, also at 6-1.

Most factors still give Flintshire the edge, except for one: the odds. Can the man who has produced Breeders' Cup winners in double- and triple-figure payoffs do it again when he's got the favorite? Fabre faces multiple BC Turf-winning trainers Stoute and O'Brien, as well as the former Euro now longtime American, Graham Motion, who's also won a BC Turf.

Let's see the odds. Backing heavily bet Euro horses in the BC is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. With all the contention, we should demand a double-figure payoff.

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