'One Of The Great Horses Of All-Time': Flightline Runs Away With Breeders' Cup Classic - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘One Of The Great Horses Of All-Time’: Flightline Runs Away With Breeders’ Cup Classic

Flightline wins the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland under jockey Flavien Prat.

It was special. Truth be told, the roar of the crowd was louder when Flightline returned to the winner's circle than it was when he kicked away to an 8 1/4-length victory in this year's $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic; it was almost like those present needed those minutes to process the performance they'd just witnessed.

“This is one of the great horses of all-time,” said trainer John Sadler. “Most trainers don't get a horse like this, so I'm just feeling very blessed.”

The 4-year-old son of Tapit came into the race undefeated, a winner of his five lifetime starts by a combined 62 3/4 lengths. Favored at 2-5, Flightline was still facing the toughest group he'd faced thus far, and Life Is Good gave the favorite no quarter from the get-go, but it just didn't matter.

Life Is Good led early, but Flightline took command at the head of the lane and was never challenged. Jockey Flavien Prat took a look over his shoulder at the sixteenth pole, and saw no one coming as he and Flightline cruised under the wire and into the history books. The final time for 1 1/4 miles over Keeneland's fast main track was 2:00.05.

“We were expecting a great run from him,” Prat said. “I thought it was one of the deepest fields, but he was an old pro.”

At the finish, Flightline was ahead of his closest rival, Olympiad, by 8 1/4 lengths. Taiba got up to finish third, with Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike fourth and Life Is Good fading to fifth.

Flightline's ownership group met him at the winner's circle: breeder/co-owner Jane Lyon (Summer Wind Farm), Kosta Hronis (Hronis Racing), Terry Finley with his West Point Thoroughbreds partnership group, Anthony Manganaro (Siena Farm), and W.S. Farish, Jr. (Woodford Racing).

Unfortunately, the race was marred by an injury to the second-favorite Epicenter (6-1), trained by Steve Asmussen. The 3-year-old winner of the Travers was pulled up on the backstretch. Dr. Alan Ruggles, on-call veterinarian for the AAEP, reported that the colt had been fitted with a protective splint on his right front leg for a perceived injury to his fetlock. Epicenter walked into the ambulance under his own power, and was transported to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.

Upon further evaluation there by Dr. Larry Bramlage and his counterparts, Epicenter was found to have sustained a repairable displaced condylar fracture to his right forelimb. He was reported to have settled for the night and is to undergo surgery in Sunday morning.

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Flightline was cool and collected throughout the post parade, and took a moment apart from the rest of the field and away from the crowd with his pony to stand and observe the scene. Called to the gate by the bugler, Prat guided Flightline into line to face the toughest field of his career.

Life Is Good broke on top, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. guided him out to the center of the track, pushing Flightline wide into the first turn. Prat never panicked, allowing Flightline to track Life Is Good through early fractions of :22.55, :45.47, and 1:09.62. They remained well off the rail down the backstretch, about a length apart, but the leading pair pulled away from the rest of the field by more than 10 lengths.

(The three-quarter time was originally posted as 1:07.98; the correct fraction, above, was hand-timed due to an outrider hitting the beam too early.)

Hot Rod Charlie led the second group, with Olympiad, Epicenter, and Taiba in behind. Rich Strike came next, and Happy Saver brought up the rear.

Though Ortiz again took Life Is Good wide around the far turn, carrying out Flightline to nearly the five-path, Ortiz was already having to ask his mount for more.

As it turned out, the extra ground proved no challenge for the undefeated colt; Flightline ranged up alongside Life Is Good just as the pair turned for home, and the race was over. Galloping down the Keeneland stretch all alone, Flightline pulled away for the dominating victory.

Flightline pulls away to win the Breeders' Cup Classic by a record margin of 8 1/4 lengths

“He's just a remarkable, remarkable horse,” Sadler said, emotional. “In the words of Bud Delp, 'He's one of the best horses to ever look through a bridle.' He's just that good.

“I mean, how do you describe greatness? 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. What I've tried to be is a good steward to him, be fair with him. And if you're good with your horses, they're good with you.”

Olympiad got up to finish second, while Taiba fended off a late challenge from Rich Strike to finish third. Life Is Good faded to fifth, followed across the line by Hot Rod Charlie and Happy Saver.

Bred in Kentucky by co-owner Jane Lyon, Flightline is out of the multiple Grade 1-placed Indian Charlie mare Feathered. Lyon purchased the mare for $2,350,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale, and Flightline was sold in the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select sale for $1,000,000. His record now stands at six wins from six starts for earnings of $4,514,800.

“To have a horse like Flightline in our lifetime is just unbelievable and great,” Kosta Hronis said. “But, more importantly, Flightline is so blessed to have John Sadler and his team because the patience he had with Flightline and what he did to teach him, he was a fast horse all the time. He was quick and fast. And he wanted to run full blast all the time.

“John, Juan Leyva, his assistant, and team, they turned this horse into a racehorse. And he's the champion today who he is because of John Sadler.”

No decision has been made about Flightline's immediate future. The colt will either head to stud Lane's End, or continue to race as a 5-year-old.

“We'll all get together and discuss it at a later time and decide,” said Hronis. “We'll always do what's best by the horse. I can promise you that. We'll get together and we'll just, even-steven, and just decide together how we want to do this.”

No matter what they decide, the partners agree: Flightline has taken them on the ride of a lifetime.

“It was the coolest thing all week to be in town and to be around — like the breakfast and everything,” said Finley. “People, they just had a sparkle in their eye when they talked about Flightline… I've said it, we're all fans at heart. And obviously privileged to be part of this horse. But the fan in all of us, we're like, boy, this is really good for the business.”

November 5, 2022: Flightline, ridden by Flavien Prat, wins the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic on Breeders' Cup Championship Saturday at Keeneland on November 5, 2022: in Lexington, Kentucky. Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup
November 5, 2022: Flightline #4, ridden by Flavien Prat, wins the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic on Breeders' Cup Championship Saturday at Keeneland on November 5, 2022: in Lexington, Kentucky. Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup
Sadler employee gifts one lucky fan with a bloom from Flightline's Breeders' Cup Classic garland
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