Author: Lindsay Griffin
As the Breeders’ Cup races loom, one name is being continually repeated in every discussion of the headlining race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Flightline. Flightline. Flightline. In the span of a year, Flightline went from being a flashy allowance winner to a horse who is garnering comparisons to the all-time greats and is one of the top contenders of the 2022 Breeders Cup.
With as popular as he is among punters and fans, Flightline certainly has the equine “It” factor. Let’s look a bit more closely at all he brings to the table.
Flightline is a bay colt, meaning his legs, mane, and tail are black, while the rest of his body is a copper-colored brown that sparkles in the sun. When he runs, he carries his head high with his ears pricked forward, giving the impression that his efforts are no more taxing than a midday stroll. He has what many horsemen call “the look of eagles,” which is a glint in his eye that shows intelligence and the knowledge that he is something special.
Flightline’s sire is Tapit, one of the most important sires of the twenty-first century so far. Although Tapit himself never got to attempt classic route distances, having had his last race in the 2004 Grade I Wood Memorial, he has stamped himself as a true source of stamina by siring a mind-boggling four Belmont Stakes winners.
Tapit’s grandsire, A.P. Indy, was a star of the early 1990s, winning the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic en route to being named 1992 Horse of the Year. A.P. Indy is a son of Seattle Slew and a grandson of Secretariat; Tapit’s, and therefore Flightline’s, male line has no lack of class.
Flightline’s dam, Feathered, by contrast, was a turf miler. Her career highlight was a win in the 2015 Grade III Edgewood Stakes. Her sire, Indian Charlie, was third in the Kentucky Derby, but his get tend to perform best at distances of 1 ⅛ miles or shorter.
This combination of speed and stamina has the potential to produce a superhorse- one that shows equal amounts of brilliance in sprints and routes.
The Race Record
Five starts, five wins.
It’s hard to find fault with the race record of an undefeated horse.
It’s especially hard to find fault when each of those victories was by daylight.
Flightline’s first racetrack appearance was on April 21st, 2021, in a six furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita Park. Heavily favored at more than even money, Flightline went gate to wire and won by 13 ¼ lengths.
The next race came more than four months later. This time, Flightline took on allowance company at six furlongs over the Del Mar strip. The result was nearly identical: Flightline allowed Norte Dame to set the pace for the first quarter, but then he powered to the front and continued to a 12 ¾ length victory.
From there, his connections decided that Flightline was ready for the upper echelons of racing. He made his stakes debut at Santa Anita in the Grade I Malibu Stakes, a seven furlong race held on the day after Christmas. Flightline delivered a gift to his crew in the form of another victory, this one an eleven-length romp.
Not wanting to overwork his charge, trainer John Sadler chose for Flightline to make his 2022 debut in the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at a mile, his longest distance yet. Being held at New York’s Belmont Park, it was also the colt’s first race outside of California. In the end, the layoff and the changes made no difference: another victory, this time by a “mere” six lengths.
At this point, there was no doubting that Flightline was a talented racehorse, but some were unsure about his ability to get the 1 ¼ mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Those concerns vanished two minutes after post time for the Grade I Pacific Classic Stakes at that exact distance. Flightline made the lead easily and did not look back. In a field with multiple Grade I winners, Flightline floated ahead effortlessly, increasing his lead with each stride. He turned the race into a tour de force, cantering home nearly twenty lengths in front.
He’s got the looks. He’s got the breeding. He’s got the speed. He’s got the stamina.
And Saturday afternoon, there’s every reason to believe he will get the Classic.