Ectot Upsets Flintshire in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

October 02, 2016 02:18pm

Heavy rains in the New York area produced a wet and yielding turf course at Belmont Park which was to the liking of Ectot (9-1), who was able to lead the mile and a half $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) every step of the way and thus upset the odds-on (1-5) favorite Flintshire.


Flintshire, who was the undisputed leader of the Male Turf division based on his three very impressive graded stakes victories this year, had a reputation for not liking the soft going when he raced in Europe. The Chad Brown trainee raced in perfect position throughout the race, but when he was asked to make his usual explosive move by jockey Javier Castallano he came up empty and could not gain any ground on the eventual winner, Ectot.

A disappointed Castellano said, “I was surprised because I think he’s one of the best horses in the country. The way he did it today, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do. It was really soft ground and heavy. I think he didn’t like it much.”

Ectot had shown a great deal of promise early in his career. While racing in Europe he won six races in a row spanning his juvenile and then three-year-old seasons. His win streak ended with a 17th place finish in the l’Arc de Triomphe of 2014. After being unable to find the winner’s circle as a four-year-old, he was send to the United States and transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher. He made two starts on the firm Saratoga grass earlier in the year finishing the fourth and second.

Today, however, was to be Ectot’s day. Jose Ortiz got the mount for the first time after his regular rider John Velazquez switched horses to ride Money Multiplier for Chad Brown. Right out of the gate Ortiz sent Ectot to the lead and there he stayed the entire twelve furlongs. Ortiz got Ectot in front where he relaxed while maintaining a lead of a length of so. Money Multiplier sat just outside of Ectot with Twilight Eclipse in third and Flintshire was in fourth in the four-horse field while running safely in the two-path.

The fractions were just what a horse running loose on the lead would like: 24.78, 49.85, 1:15.03, 1:15.03, and 1:39.78. Turning for home Castellano had Flintshire on the move as they easily took second place. However, down the stretch as Castellano asked for more; Ortiz looked around for challengers, but found none. Flintshire clearly did not like the yielding turf and could not sustain a rally while Ectot spurted away to win by a final margin of five lengths.

"When we got to the backside, he relaxed very well for me,” said Ortiz. “When I passed the three-eighths pole, I looked and I saw Twilight Eclipse three lengths behind me and I saw Flintshire in the clear, so I still had to run to win. When we got to the quarter pole, I saw Johnny all out and Flintshire was passing and I opened two lengths without even asking, so I thought I had a really good shot. When I asked him to go, he responded very well. I was happy to win this race for the Sheikh and for Todd and I appreciate the opportunity."

For Pletcher, Ectot would be his third victory in the Turf Classic having won the race in 2006 and 2007 with English Channel. This was first win for Jose Ortiz.

With the victory, Ectot secured a “Win and You’re In” spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 5 at Santa Anita. Ectot earned $300,000 for the win and improved his career stats to an impressive 14: 7-2-1 with earnings of $840,010. For his supporters at the windows, Ectot paid $20.40, 4.40. In the four-horse field there was no show wagering. The $2 exacta with Flintshire paid $37.00. Twilight Eclipse was able to get third, while Money Multiplier ended up in last position.

In the end Pletcher said of Ectot, “If you looked back at his two and three-year-old form, you would hope he would get back to that [Breeders’ Cup contention]. Today’s race was a big step. We don’t anticipate we’ll get a lot of rain in California but at the same time, he’s run well on firm ground. We’re delighted with his efforts today.”


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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