There was plenty of hype surrounding four-year-old Flightline heading into the esteemed Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland this month. He delivered and then some, destroying the field to win in a display that will be forever remembered as one of the greatest performances to have taken place at the famed race since its inception in 1984.
Entering the one-and-a-quarter-mile affair as the prohibitive favourite at 2/5 in the horse racing betting odds, the John Sadler-trained colt was perceived by many as a shoo-in to come away with a sixth consecutive victory.
While his outings at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Belmont Park were incredibly impressive in their own right, Flightline’s run at Keeneland has assured his acquisition of legend status. As the horses jumped from the barriers, third favourite Life is Good and his jockey Irad Ortiz Jr pushed the pace early – hoping to overwhelm the remainder of the field and hold on late.
Flightline’s cruising speed and engine is exceptional however, and he managed to reel in Life is Good’s lead with ease as they approached the straight. What ensued was mesmerising to watch, as the world number one ranked horse kicked into gear and romped home to win it by more than eight lengths from the second-placed Olympiad and third-placed Taiba.
As a result of Flightline’s dominance in the Classic, he has drawn comparisons to all-time great thoroughbred Secretariat – who is widely considered to be the best race horse to hail from North America since Man o’ War.
Mike Smith, the jockey atop the third-placed Taiba, called Flightline the best horse he has ever seen. That’s high praise from a jockey who has 27 victories in top class fixtures – of which includes a triumph on-board 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.
"I take my hat off to him. He just has a different engine and breathes different air. He's up there with old Secretariat," Smith said when speaking with the media post-race.
Flightline’s trainer Sadler echoed Smith’s sentiments, noting that a horse of Flightline’s calibre only comes around once in a generation.
“He’s been brilliant,” he said. “Brilliant is his normal. He didn’t disappoint. He never has.
“This is a rare horse, it happens every 20 or 30 years. One of the best American racehorses we’ve seen in a long, long time, and I’m talking back to Secretariat, Seattle Slew. You go through the list.”
Given the pretty penny and enormous interest Flightline will garner at a breeding level, his owners made the decision in the aftermath of his Breeders’ Cup win to retire the four-year-old to stud. It appears as though it was a smart business decision, with one of his owners already selling his 2.5% share for a cool $4.6 million.
His second career as a stallion is estimated to be worth in excess of $180 million.
For those who followed the racing tips from Paddy Power right across the Breeders’ Cup meet, 50/1 shot Caravel was the biggest shock of the Grade 1 affairs, with the five-year-old taking out the Turf Sprint by half a length from Emaraaty Ana.
Published by Samantha Brown