Easy transition for Flintshire

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Chad Brown felt like the butt of a joke earlier this year when he got word that Prince Khalid Abdullah planned to transfer global superstar Flintshire into his care for a 6-year-old campaign in the U.S.

“It’s like you think you’re being punked,” Brown said last Saturday at Belmont Park, shortly after Flintshire made quick work of a strong field in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Brown laughs now when he thinks back to that day, when Juddmonte Farm’s Garrett O’Rourke called and told him what the man at the helm of one of the world’s most successful breeding and racing operations planned to do with its all-time leading earner. He wasn’t laughing that day though, far from it.

“It was one of those calls where, when Garrett O’Rourke called me and told me what the Prince wished to do, obviously I accepted right away, it was one of those moments where I had to sit down and think about what just happened,” Brown said. “A lot of things ran through my head. Of course working for Bobby (Frankel) and all the great horses he had for Juddmonte, hoping one day they would call and that I’d get any horses from them, let alone the highest earner in the history of Juddmonte.

“When I was told that it was, wow, to get that level of responsibility and trust is really rewarding. It makes you feel like it was all worth it. All the hours, all the traveling, all the learning. When an operation like that trusts you with a horse like this, you can’t get a better vote of confidence. If that doesn’t get you up early in the morning then you need to do something else.”

Flintshire shipped into Brown’s barn at Belmont earlier this spring and immediately adapted to life in the States. He’d been to the U.S. twice before, the first time in 2014 for a runner-up finish to Main Sequence in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park and last summer for a victory in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course.

Legendary French trainer Andre Fabre also sent Flintshire to England, Dubai and Hong Kong.

“The horse has an indescribable amount of class about him,” Brown said. “He’s so intelligent. You can pick that up very early on with horses, when they get into your program. This horse, he just walks around the shedrow like he’s the man and he is the man. He picks things up at light speed, oozes class and we’re privileged to work with him every day.”

Javier Castellano, who rode Flintshire to a 1 3/4-length win over Ironicus in the $1 million Manhattan, knew all about the European invader when he arrived at Brown’s barn one morning this spring to work the horse.

Castellano rode against him twice in his U.S. raids, both times aboard Twilight Eclipse, and was immediately impressed when he got a leg up on the horse before breezing him on the grass.

“Unbelievable,” Castellano said when asked to describe his first impression.

“I’d watched all his races and his replays the first time he came to the country and Mr. Brown gave me a great opportunity,” Castellano said. “Before I worked him he told me he’s got one horse that’s really special and he is. He’s a pro horse, he hooked up with the best horses in the country and he showed today he was much the best.

“When I rode against him I was on Twilight Eclipse (in the Sword Dancer) and was third. I followed him the whole race, but he’s got great acceleration, very powerful horse. I’m very blessed and thankful to ride those kinds of horses.”

The 1 1/4-mile Manhattan wasn’t the original pick for a starting point for Flintshire’s U.S. campaign. The Grade 1 United Nations going 1 3/8 miles at Monmouth Park was considered, but Brown said it made more sense for Flintshire to stay home and run for a seven-figure purse versus shipping to New Jersey for $300,000.

The distance was also a bit of a question. Flintshire only raced shorter than 12 furlongs once since early in his 3-year-old campaign – a close second in a small stakes going 1 3/16 miles at Chantilly to start his 5-year-old season in 2015.

“This race wasn’t our first pick when we got him in and got him into a schedule,” Brown said. “But he was so sharp, work after work, I can’t leave him in the barn for a million bucks when he’s housed just a couple hundred yards from here. The cutback was fine for him.

“Obviously the goal for this horse is to take down that race at Santa Anita at the end of the year and walk away with an Eclipse Award. How we get there, there’s more than one way to do it. The way he cut back today, and how fast he ran, you’d have to look at the Arlington Million versus the Sword Dancer, a race he already won, but both are big purses. I’ll speak to Garrett O’Rourke and the rest of the Juddmonte team on what we think is the best way to get to the Breeders’ Cup, but everything is on the table.”