For all the success trainer Bernie Flint has had with young horses during his career, he hasn't wavered in his belief that patience is still the main intangible when it comes to getting the best out of babies.
"I'm not squeezing any lemons early," the 71-year-old Louisiana native deadpanned on Thursday. "Whatever they do, they're going to do on their own and they're either going to float to the head of the class or not."
Flint is giving two of his more promising juveniles a chance to show him how much buoyancy they have right now. He is set to saddle the Jim Stone-owned duo of Exfactor and Bonaparte in Saturday's Grade III, $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs.
The 6-furlong Bashford Manor is the first graded stakes races for juveniles of the season, and if you're a Churchill fixture like Flint, it's an ideal spot to find out what kind of ammo he might be sitting on next spring.
Exfactor ran second to fellow Bashford Manor entrant and 3-to-1 morning line pick Sum of the Parts in his career debut at Churchill on May 14 but came back in splashy fashion next time out.
The gray son of Exchange Rate headed every point of call in winning a 51/2-furlong maiden race over the Churchill oval by 41/2 lengths on June 9. That impressive effort came a little more than a week after his stablemate Bonaparte won his first start by 51/4 lengths going 41/2 furlongs at Churchill — a feat magnified by the fact Flint doesn't lose too much sleep if his 2-year-olds don't find the winner's circle first time out.
"I never work a horse expecting to win the first time out, that's not my style," Flint said. "When they do win the first time out, they just show they're that much the best.
"These two are pretty much on the same page so far. They're both very nice, well-bred horses who have a chance to be of that quality. But you never know with these baby races."
The 11 juveniles in the Bashford Manor will have plenty of time to sort themselves out in the coming months, and Flint isn't getting too far ahead of himself where his duo is concerned.
One thing the veteran trainer is fairly confident about is that his two-pronged entry won't burn each other out on the front end. Although Bonaparte won his debut on the lead after facing early pressure, Flint expects the son of Touch Gold to play more of a closing role on Saturday with Exfactor sitting near the pace.
"Neither one of them has to have the lead, that is not necessary," said Flint, who won the 2008 Bashford Manor with Screen Your Friend. "It'll be an entertaining race and we'll have some entertainment on the front end and entertainment in the back."
The Tom Amoss-trained Sum of the Parts broke slowly in his debut but recovered to put together a strong 23/4-length win going 41/2 furlongs against Exfactor.
Considering it flattered his own horse, Amoss was pleased to see Flint's charge win his next race — not that he wants that trend to continue Saturday.
"Exfactor won a split (maiden) race and he ran a lot faster than the other division, so that was encouraging," he said.