Anywhere you look in racing these days, you’ll come across one name, over and over and over. Flightline. Flightline. Flightline.
People are posting compilations of his performances on YouTube. They’re bemoaning how brief his career is sure to be. They’re even lining up his statistics side-by-side with the likes of Secretariat.
What has caused this son of Tapit to capture the public’s imagination? Does he really deserve to be called a super horse? Why is he a favorite according to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup odds by TwinSpires.com?
There’s just something special about a horse who’s never lost.
Flightline has faced the starter five times in his career. He has raced at four different distances at three different tracks in two different sides of the country.
Each of those races, however, has produced the same result: Flightline wins by daylight.
Any attempts by the competition to challenge him have been thwarted by the fact that no horse has gotten close enough to seriously launch a bid. These horses aren’t chumps, either. He beat Speaker’s Corner, the brilliant winner of the seven-furlong Grade I Carter Handicap, going a mile. He then took on Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer at 1 ¼ miles and annihilated him.
He begins his races relatively easily, either controlling the pace or laying just off the pacesetter. He lopes along until the far turn, decides to do some real running, and then keeps going…and going…and going.
What has brought Flightline the most attention was his most recent performance, a 19 ¼ length blowout in the Grade I Pacific Classic.
Prior to that race, Flightline had never run beyond a mile. As brilliant as he had been up to that point, there were serious questions about his ability to race two turns at 1 ¼ miles, the distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Those questions were answered soundly with his domination of the Pacific Classic. Seen fighting for his head early on in the race, jockey Flavien Prat wisely let Flightline run his race. Flightline took off, widening with every stride. He crossed the line alone, Prat doing his best to slow down the colt to preserve him.
Flightline, for his part, looked as though he could run the whole race again.
Breeders’ Cup Competition
Apart from Flightline, there are three top horses looking at the Classic who have serious credentials and have not yet faced the heavy favorite.
Epicenter, a son of Not This Time, is the United States’ top three-year-old contender. He is proven at the 1 ¼ mile distance, having won the Grade I Travers Stakes and placed an unlucky second in the Kentucky Derby. However, he will not have a prep race between the Travers and the Classic, and will as such go into the race without having tested himself against his elders.
Olympiad, by Speightstown, has won two Win And You’re In races for the 2022 Classic: the Grade II Stephen Foster Stakes and the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup. In the latter, he showed that he can win at the 1 ¼ mile distance. However, in his only other Grade I appearance, the Grade I Whitney Stakes, he finished an unimpressive fourth, and his competition in the Jockey Club Gold Cup seems a bit light on class, especially in comparison to the fields that Flightline has faced.
Life is Good, a son of Into Mischief, has been a solid second to Flightline in Breeders’ Cup rankings for most of 2022. He is undeniably fast and versatile, having won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year and winning both the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Whitney Stakes at 1 ⅛ miles.
His ability to get the 1 ¼ mile distance is quite suspect, though; his only attempt at the distance was in the 2022 Dubai World Cup, in which he finished fourth behind Country Grammer, whom Flightline later soundly defeated.
Could Flightline face his first defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic? Of course. Anything can happen in horse racing. However, there is every reason to believe that the hype behind the colt is valid. At this point in his career, he has done literally everything right