It’s totally understandable if you missed it on Saturday, given it was the first full week of college football, but Flightline’s performance in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar was one for the ages. And a strong statement ahead of the Breeders’ Cup.
The lightly raced 4-year-old colt amazed a crowd of more than 12,000 at the Southern California track with a 19-1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 stakes race. You owe it to yourself to see how Flightline and Flavien Prat blew the field away in the $1 million 1-1/4-mile race.
You see, it’s not that he won by nearly 20 lengths or even just missed breaking the 19-year-old track record at that distance. It’s what the John Sadler-trained horse encountered and overcame to dominate. Flightline got squeezed on both sides just after they broke from the starting gate, and as they made the first turn, the colt and Prat ran well wide of the rail. There are times in racing when just one of those occurrences can derail a horse’s chance of winning.
Not Flightline, though. He gave up the lead just once, but he quickly recovered. And midway through the backstretch, Prat just let the horse go, and from that point, it was a race for second place. Flightline could have high stepped like Deion Sanders down the stretch and still won by 10 lengths.
“This horse has a high cruising speed,” Sadler said after the romp. “Once he was flowing, I knew we were in good shape. We had a lot of confidence going in.”
‘An Exceptional Horse’
The Pacific Classic was just Flightline’s fifth race and also the first for him at 1-1/4 miles. Sadler admitted after the race that there were some questions about whether his colt could handle the distance.
But the trainer also thought his horse would be able to dominate like he did, too.
Did I think he could do that – win like that? Kinda yeah,” Sadler said. “You don’t want to say it in front of the race, but now that he’s done it….The thing about him is that he’s fast and he can carry it. Some horses are fast, but they can’t go on. This horse can. He’s an exceptional horse.”
Next up for Flightline is likely the Breeders’ Cup Classic, another 1-1/4-mile race, at Keeneland in Lexington, KY, on Nov. 5.
4-5 Odds in Breeders’ Cup Futures Pool
On Monday, pari-mutuel wagering concluded for the second Breeders’ Cup Classic futures pool, and bettors flocked to Flightline. Of the $437,147 wagered over the holiday weekend, $203,420 went on him to make him the commanding favorite in the pool, which featured 23 horses and field entry for other potential entrants.
When the betting window closed at 6:30 pm ET, Flightline’s odds were 4-5. Next on the board was Epicenter, the Steve Asmussen-trained 3-year-old fresh off an impressive performance in the Aug. 27 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, at 7-1.
Right behind Epicenter were two more 4-year-olds. Life is Good, trained by Todd Pletcher and a winner in 8 of 10 starts, is at 8-1. So, too, was Olympiad. The Bill Mott-trained colt has six wins in seven starts this year, including a two-length victory over Americanrevolution in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday.
That win not only came a month after a disappointing fourth-place result in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, but it also gave Olympiad a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“It’s gratifying to see him come back,” Mott said. “The [performance] the other day was almost too bad to be true considering the form he had been in the previous five races.”
Bettors took a keen interest in Olympiad in the final hours of futures wagering. At 2 pm, he was at 23-1.
Those four horses are the only ones with single-digit odds. Bob Baffert’s Taiba is next at 33-1, followed by another Baffert horse, Country Grammer, who ran second to Flightline Saturday. Country Grammer finished seven lengths ahead of third place finisher Royal Ship.
“I think he thinks he won the race,” Baffert said after the Pacific Classic.
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