Flightline Runs for America’s Biggest Racing Payday…and for History

Eight horses will enter the gate in the 39th running of the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Seven of them will be racing over Keeneland’s mile-and-a-quarter dirt track for second place if you believe the oddsmakers and bettors who made undefeated Flightline the 3/5 favorite.

Saddled by John Sadler and ridden by regular jockey Flavien Prat, Thoroughbred racing’s newest and brightest star is expected to run straight to the front and never let up. The four-year-old son of Tapit has run a perfect five out of five, winning by a combined total of 62 3/4 lengths.

His most recent and biggest victory came in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on September 3rd. In that race, he emerged from a light dusting of Pacific coast fog like a racing version of some mythical hero.

“The Mile and a quarter, that was the question before the Pacific Classic,” recalls Sadler. “He answered that.”

…of 19 1/4 lengths.

But trainers and riders may have other ideas in one of the deepest fields in the race’s history. Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up, Epicenter.

Trainer Steve Asmussen won impressively recently in the Travers Stakes. The three-year-old son of Not This Time was Asmussen’s third Classic winner (Curlin, 2007; Gun Runner, 2017).

“If he beats older horses, yes [Eclipse Award] Horse of the Year,” Asmussen says flatly.

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Todd Pletcher will saddle Life Is Good and Irad Ortiz Jr. will likely. pilot the four-year-old Into Mischief to make an early confrontation with the person you love. His speed is not in doubt. His stamina is beyond the Classic distance. Fad’s early lead in the Dubai World Cup (G1) turned into a disappointing fourth place.

Imagine you win the Kentucky Derby (G1) and are considered “valued” at only 20-1. That’s the level of disrespect that Rich Strike will bring to the race. But trainer Reed says that no matter the outcome, longshot 80-1 Derby winner Rich Strike has changed his life as well as the lives of rider Sonny Leon and business owner Richard Dawson.

“I love this because the horse loves it,” says Reed, who also says Flightline is the only other entry he’s seen train as well as the horse he calls “Richie.” [Flightline] looks full of fire and ready to run.”

Bob Baffert touts the favorite and says he’s all but willing his Sept. 24 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner, Taiba, to finish a distant second. “It would be great, just like last year,” said Medina Spirit runner-up to last year’s winner, Knicks Go.

Although he talks about being ready for the worst, Baffert has trained long enough to know the best. “It’s about the horses showing up and running their races.”

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Hot Rod Charlie always shows up and runs his race, most recently by pushing a nose in front of Rich Strike to defeat Rich Strike in the G2 Lukas Classic Stakes. The BC Classic will be the first time the four-year-old Oxbow runner will play against Flightline.

Trainer Doug O’Neill is also on the long list of Flightline advocates. Still, like the fan favorite gutsy horse, O’Neill is willing to give nothing away for what he called a “once-in-a-lifetime type of horse.” [in Flightline].”

“If something happens and Flightline doesn’t run its best race, and Hot Rod Charlie does, we could shock the world,” says an optimistic O’Neill.

Connections for the Olympics are hoping their entry will take the world by storm and compete with the early pace of Flightline and Life Is Good. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s 10-1 son of Speightstown will likely have to outscore both to have a chance at victory.

Speaking of the opportunity, Pletcher thought it was worth a second chance, even at 30-1, to enter the small field. But Shona Saver will enter the race with perhaps less chance. He will be running with a patch on a left hind quarter leg crack that cost two days of training this week.

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It is not serious and is not expected to affect its performance, but no competitor would want to give Flightline even the smallest advantages.

The field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic features some excellent contenders and one who
achievements even links his competitors gushing praise.

Although it is true that the most serious questions – speed and distance – have received extraordinary answers
from Flightline, serious horse racing enthusiasts feel that two may yet. Accustomed to running i
ahead unchallenged, how could he react if an early, fast opponent “looked him in the eye.”?

And there is still some question about the weather. Temperatures are forecast to drop late at Keeneland
still cool, but winds have been blowing close to 30 mph since early morning under an overcast sky.
And, there is a 30 percent chance of rain at or near 5:50 pm [EDT] race time. A messy surface may result in the best use of a muddy Flightline to float over dry land.

In a few hours, all questions will be answered. Even those who appreciate the light fencing
Raced favorite will be forced to surrender if the hype surrounding Flightline becomes a historic victory.

Feature Image: Richard R. Gross


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