10/02/2016 7:03PM

Ectot, Flintshire look forward to firmer BC Turf

Barbara D. Livingston
Ectot's victory in the Joe Hirsch on Saturday was his first win in two years.

ELMONT, N.Y.  - Ectot and Flintshire will both move on to Southern California for next month’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. Turf condition and field composition there figure to be markedly different from Saturday, when Ectot upset Flintshire in the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Ectot, knows it. Chad Brown, trainer of Flintshire, is counting on it.

In a four-horse field in the Joe Hirsch, a race run over yielding turf, Ectot recorded a front-running, five-length victory over Flintshire, the 1-5 favorite, who appeared to struggle with the soft ground.

For Ectot, it was his first win in two years, or since he won the Group 2 Qatar Prix Niel at Longchamp. Ectot, a 5-year-old son of Hurricane Run, was making his third start for Pletcher, who received the horse from Al Shaqab Racing in May.

Pletcher said Ectot came out of the race in good order. Pletcher knows there will be a large field assembled for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, which also figures to be run over firm turf.

Still, Pletcher said Ectot’s performance Saturday “gives you confidence that he’s regained his top form. I really like the way he finished and the way he galloped-out. It was impressive. He was full of run at the end and continued to gallop-out strongly afterward. We’re excited about the performance, we look forward to going on to the Breeders’ Cup if all goes well.”

Brown said he, too, looks forward to taking Flintshire to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup, where the pace should be legitimate and the ground should be firm. In 2014, when trained by Andre Fabre, Flintshire finished second in the BC Turf at Santa Anita.

“Thankfully, the horse looks good this morning,” Brown said. “I knew the risks going in; the ground proved to be very soft and unfortunately he didn’t handle it at all. He wasn’t his normal self on it. Draw a line through it and as long as he trains well this month we’ll go west in search of firm ground.”

Brown said Money Multiplier, third in the Joe Hirsch, would also be considered for the BC Turf; Brown said he felt Money Multiplier, too, was compromised by soft turf.

Ectot earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for the Joe Hirsch.

Baker looking forward to more firsts
After Joking gave him his first career Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s $350,000 Vosburgh Stakes, trainer Charlton Baker is now looking forward to participating in his first Breeders’ Cup race when Joking makes his next start in the $1.5 million Sprint.

Joking will be the first horse Baker has ever put on a plane to run, and will be his first starter at Santa Anita.

“I’m looking forward to it; you never know, once-in-a-lifetime,” Baker said Sunday morning.

Baker said he would like to get Joking out to California 10 days to two weeks before the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup to get him acclimated to Santa Anita.

Baker said Joking, a 7-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, has really matured this year, and his behavior is much improved from when he claimed him for $20,000 in January 2014.

“He’s settled down,” Baker said. “Yesterday, he was as calm as he’s ever been. He was super calm and when he’s like that he’s very dangerous.”

Baker said he used to have to train Joking on the half-mile pony track at Belmont.

“Now we can take him there,” Baker said, pointing to the training track, “and he’ll relax. He’s matured.”

Joking, who has won four consecutive races, earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for his Vosburgh win.

Stallwalkin’ Dude, who finished second in the Vosburgh, will most likely make his next start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 29, trainer David Jacobson said Sunday.

Forever Unbridled on target for Distaff
Dallas Stewart was about to board a plane Sunday morning heading back to Kentucky, and his multiple Grade 1-winning filly Forever Unbridled was scheduled to join him at Churchill Downs on Tuesday to continue preparations for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

Stewart, who stopped by Belmont before heading to the airport, said Forever Unbridled came out of her 2 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1 Beldame fine.

“She came out of it good, it’s going to help her, hopefully she’ll be a touch fitter,” Stewart said. “She’s just a nice filly, she’s going to run hard either way. It was a Grade 1 yesterday, we’ll take that and move forward and hope it helps us out on Breeders’ Cup Day.”

Forever Unbridled earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure for her Beldame performance. It was her second Grade 1 win of the year, the other being the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn in April.

It is unlikely that any of the other fillies and mares who ran in the Beldame will move on to the Distaff.

Paulassilverlining not definite for Filly and Mare Sprint
Paulassilverlining came out of her victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap in much better shape than her trainer, Michelle Nevin, who stayed home Sunday morning with a cold.

Nevin said that her staff indicated Paulassilverlining came out of her three-quarter-length victory well, but Nevin was not ready to commit her to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint just yet.

Nevin is not sure Paulassilverlining is ready to take on the best at seven furlongs, a distance that might not be her best.

“I would say the main concern would be distance,” said Nevin, who noted she would discuss plans with owner Vincent Scuderi this week.

Paulassilverlining earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for her Gallant Bloom victory.

Trainer Chad Brown said he felt Wavell Avenue, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner who finished third in the Gallant Bloom, ran well enough to consider trying the Filly and Mare Sprint again.

“I think she ran well enough yesterday to strongly be considered,” Brown said. “She’s definitely not in as good a form as last year. That said, she has run some good races this year and all it takes is one. I’d be inclined to give it a shot.”

Oscar Performance to Juvenile Turf
Trainer Brian Lynch was obviously thrilled with Oscar Performance’s six-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes, but he knows circumstances will be different when he runs him back in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.

“My biggest fear is he’s not going to get away with a 48-and-change half-mile out there,” Lynch said. “It’s a whole different kettle of fish in Southern California racing. But, you can’t ask him to do any more than he’s done.”

Lynch had worked Oscar Performance behind horses since his front-running 10 1/2-length maiden victory at Saratoga in August. The opportunity to sit behind horses didn’t present itself in the Pilgrim, which Oscar Performance won by six lengths on the front end.

Oscar Performance earned an 83 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pilgrim victory.