Bobby Flay excited about Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca hits in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November (Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire)

Those of a certain vintage may remember Graham Kerr, who was one of the first and most entertaining cooks to appear on television. Still, Bobby Flay is undoubtedly the Galloping Gourmet of the latter days.

The American TV icon and celebrity chef is hoping to bring a little special sauce to the royal reunion with star filly Pizza Bianca.

She is set to take on the respective English and Irish heroines of the 1,000 Guineas Cachet and Homeless Songs in a tantalizing renewal of the Group One Coronation Stakes.

Jose Ortiz will continue his partnership with Pizza Bianca, following the success of their Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf in Del Mar in November.

Although Flay recently purchased We The People, who compete in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, the owner-breeder has his eyes firmly on the lady of his life who arrived this side of the pond on Tuesday.

“She’s a good traveler,” says Flay. “She’s never raced twice at the same circuit. She’s had five races and every circuit has been different, so she carries the track with her.

“It was a long trip. She had to go from Belmont to Kentucky and then had to quarantine. Then she had to go to Indianapolis, catch a plane, fly to Stansted and from there to Newmarket. It’s a long trip of two and a half days.

“She looks awesome, knock on wood. She traveled incredibly well. She’s with Luca Cumani – that’s a legendary moment right there!

Ride with spectacular Breeders’ Cup winner Pizza Bianca

Flay, best known for popular American competitive cooking shows Beat Bobby Flay and Iron Chef and who owns restaurants in Las Vegas, New York and Atlantic City, unsuccessfully tried to win the Coronation Stakes in 2011 with More Than Real, him making you want to win this race more than any other.

“A lot of people here want to win the Kentucky Derby, but I’d rather win the Kentucky Oaks or the Coronation Stakes because those are the races I’m interested in,” he said.

“It’s like my Derby. It’s the race I want to win, because I race fillies on the grass more than anything. So just being part of it makes me feel like… to be a winner.

“If she were lucky and something special happened, it would be amazing. I don’t know how I would react. I’m not really preparing for that, let’s put it that way.

Flay got into racing when his grandfather took him to Saratoga as a teenager.

“We think it’s a magical place and it is,” he added.

“Saratoga is one of those places where if you haven’t been and are showing up for the first time, you’re addicted to the place. I actually just bought a house there last year that’s right on the practice track. I like it up there.”

Jose Ortiz expected to retain partnership on board Pizza Bianca

Still, he insists Royal Ascot is taking a beating. “The experience of this is what it’s all about. When you have a horse like this she can take you on different experiences all over the world and for me Royal Ascot is the pinnacle,” he added.

Flay bred filly Fastnet Rock, named after an Italian pizza without tomato sauce, after buying the dam, White Hot – a half-sister to Pour Moi – at the age of one.

“She was a very expensive one-year-old filly. I forget what it was in guineas, but it was over $2 million. She never raced,” Flay added.

“She didn’t show the same promise as her pedigree in terms of talent. John Gosden had that. He felt that since she had such a wonderful pedigree, let’s make her useful in that direction.

“I bought the mother because I wanted to be part of this family and obviously she is by Galileo, and she is beautiful. She was chosen by (blood agent) James Delahooke.

“Once that happens and they don’t run, it’s usually a long climb. So having a first foal that turned out to be a Breeders’ Cup winner is obviously an incredible moment.

“I always say, ‘the good blood will show up eventually’. If they have it in them, at some point, if you’re patient, it will show up – you just don’t know when.

“And obviously you never think it will be the first foal – you can hope but… so it was a very nice surprise.”

Pizza Bianca, who is coached by Christophe Clement, has already beaten Cachet and French Group 3 striker Malavath but is seen as a 16-1 overall chance for the Coronation Stakes, part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

Far from being wronged, Flay is just happy to have a horse good enough to compete at the highest level and take part in this meeting which he describes as “the crème de la crème of races”.

“For me, there is nothing quite like seeing a homegrown student win a race, period. Specifically, a big race like the Breeders’ Cup,” added Flay.

“The fact that I’m taking part in Royal Ascot with her is a win! For me, I have already won. The fact that she can compete with the best fillies in the world, I know we are going to have an amazing time.

“If she runs well, it will be even better, but I love being able to participate in a race like that.”

Breeders’ Cup winning form was cleared and Pizza Bianca showed she had practiced by winning the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico on her second start of her three-year campaign.

“Obviously when they go from two to three things can change, but so far it seems like she’s definitely in the mix and that, to me, is the most important thing,” said Flay.

“She grew a bit and definitely got stronger.

“In January, after we gave her some time off in Florida, I went to see her and was like, ‘She hasn’t grown much,’ and then in the last two months she’s had a growth spurt. They’re like babies. I think she’s really thriving now.

Racing and herding can be a welcome release from the high-pressure environment of a professional kitchen, but Flay will be keeping a close eye on the many culinary delights on offer next week, including fare from London’s Borough Market,’ where I could spend all day,” he said, before admitting he’ll probably do it on Thursday.

“Food and drink is obviously an important part of my life and Royal Ascot does that well. It’s spectacular. I wish some of the US tracks did it that way. It’s like going to a beautiful wedding.

“For someone like me, I really love the pageantry and tradition of horse racing and I love the formality of Royal Ascot.”

He added: “I don’t know if Pizza Bianca can beat these very talented fillies. Each of these fillies is packed with talent and whoever shows up that day is likely to win the race – that’s how it works. But I love the competition and the sporting part.

There has yet to be a crowning American winner, although with Graham Motion-trained Spendarella also expected to be in the roster, the home team may not have things their way.

This Generation’s Galloping Gourmet hopes Pizza Bianca can top a momentous Platinum Jubilee renewal, but Flay is eager to drink in the atmosphere, regardless of the outcome.

“Royal Ascot is special. My girlfriend spent the last two months trying to figure out what she was going to wear.

“For me, that’s what’s exciting, spending time in London. The race is a minute and 38 seconds long, but everything around it is part of it – and I can’t wait.

“I just want to get a shout out in there – then I’ll be happy!”

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