Churchill Downs Notes: Thunder Bertie To Run in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

From Churchill Downs
He has been a fixture at Churchill Downs since the 1970's, but veteran Bernie Flint has had only a sideline view of the track's biggest events.

Flint, whose 272 training wins at Churchill Downs puts him seventh on the track's all-time victory list, has never saddled a starter in the Kentucky Derby (GI) and has started only one runner (Dr. Bizzare, 6th in the 1988 Juvenile) in the four visits by the Breeders' Cup to his home track.

"I don't believe in bringing one over that doesn't stand a chance," said Flint. "I have never done it before. I've always been careful."

Flint's credo means you should pay close attention to a two-year-old daughter of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch named Thunder Bertie. The former New Orleans police officer is pointing her toward a race against the best of her gender and generation in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

A homebred owned by Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein, Thunder Bertie is coming off an impressive 2 3/4-length victory in the one mile Arlington-Washington Lassie (GIII) at Arlington International.

She won despite the fact that jockey Jeremy Beasley dropped his whip during the stretch run.

"You just about have to go with her," said Flint. "She won without a stick and looked pretty good doing. She's moving up leaps and bounds, so we hope we're catching her at the right time."

Another signal of Thunder Bertie's quality came Thursday when Unbridled Elaine and I Believe And You, fillies she had beaten in her Sept. 16 maiden win at Turfway Park, returned to finish 1-2 at Keeneland while dominating another field of maidens. The efforts by those fillies was another piece of evidence to support Flint's belief that he has a serious Juvenile Fillies contender.

"She came out of that last race in good shape," said Flint. "She's a tough little cookie. Thunder Gulches and Churchill Downs are kind of a hard combination to beat."

Thunder Bertie is not the only 2-year-old in the barn that has Flint thinking big. He is also enthusiastic about Outofthebox, a Montbrook colt and another Klein homebred who is coming off a strong runner-up finish in the $400,000 In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course on Oct. 7.

Outofthebox won his Ellis Park debut by seven lengths and then demolished a Turfway Park allowance field by 17 lengths before his runner-up finish to the well-regarded Express Tour at Calder.

Flint said he believes Outofthebox would fit in the Breeders' Cup picture, but he will pass on the Juvenile (GI) with an eye toward a spring campaign.

"There's no question about his ability in my mind," Flint said. "Not going to the Breeders' Cup improves our chances of having a good spring."

For Thunder Bertie, the future is now.

"Colts don't develop like fillies do, let's face it," he said. "Fillies develop quick, they come running, and they're bigger and stronger."

There's some irony in the fact that Flint is finally returning to the Breeders' Cup with a filly by Thunder Gulch. Flint purchased a painting of the sire's Kentucky Derby victory at an auction a few years back and it adorns the wall of his home study. If that's an omen of good things to come in the Juvenile Fillies, that's fine with Flint.

"I'm hoping it will be," said Flint. "It's a tough field. It's not going to be an easy race by any stretch of the imagination.

Work Tab (Track: FAST) -- Bashford Manor (GII) runner-up Strait Cat breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5...Dif A Dot, third in the 1999 Churchill Downs Distaff (GII) breezed a half-mile in :49.