Secretariat

The Race of the Century Will Never Happen

We all know that America’s two biggest hopes for Horse of the Year are on a collision course for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in what could be one of the most memorable events in years. But is that the race for which both are best suited? Right now I believe the answer is no, and shuts out two other horses who would have made for a true “race of the century.” ~ Steve Haskin

The Race of the Century Will Never Happen

By Steve Haskin

Photo by Erica Miller

 

Right now the showdown everyone is hoping for likely will take place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and that is the matchup between Life is Good and Flightline. However, we could be talking about a race that is not the best distance for both colts and may not show off their true talents.

But it is the Breeders’ Cup Classic and that is where the money and the glory are. Life is Good vs. Flightline in the Met Mile would have been the ultimate battle at the perfect distance. But it didn’t happen. The second best arena for them to do battle would have been in the August 6 Whitney run at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga. But it’s not going to happen. Instead, Flightline, who has never had a horse even remotely close to him in the final furlong, will stretch out to 1 ¼ miles in the Pacific Classic. If he loses or wins unimpressively, there goes your big showdown in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where you don’t want to see any chinks in the armor of your superstar.

Yes, if he defeats Country Grammer (assuming he runs) it would boost his reputation even further. But he is still an unknown at the distance. Another of the top older horses in California is Stilleto Boy, and Flightline has already beaten him by 12 ½ lengths…going seven furlongs.

As for Life is Good, he will head for the Whitney, which he should win, and then most likely go for the 1 1/8-mile Woodward Stakes. Even if he wins both races, he will go into the Breeders’ Cup Classic with the stigma of having run his worst race in his only start at 1 ¼ miles, and that came in the Dubai World Cup where he tired to finish fourth.

Of course both colts are capable of winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but they likely will go into the race with question marks and you normally don’t see a “race of the century” with its two stars having question marks.

If you are looking for a true “race of the century” then cast aside your glorification of mile and quarter races as the only distance to conduct a race worthy of that billing. Instead, acknowledge the fact that an event of such lofty distinction should be one pitting superstars against each other at a distance over which they all excel and will show off their true greatness.

Although it’s not going to happen let’s turn our attention to Travers day, August 27 and the seven-furlong Grade 1 Forego Stakes, with a $600,000 purse that could easily be boosted to $1 million. If you want a race that would overshadow the Travers imagine a field that included Flightline, Life is Good, Jackie’s Warrior, and Jack Chistopher…all doing what we know they do best.

First off, we’re talking about four horses who have won 26 of their 32 starts. All have excelled at seven furlongs, all have run seven furlongs in 1:21 and change, and all have won at the distance by four lengths or farther. If you feel Life is Good doesn’t have the early speed of the other three, he has run his opening halfs in :44, :44 3/5, and :44 4/5, and outran Jackie’s Warrior early by open lengths going seven furlongs the only time they’ve met. The combined racing record of this talented quartet going five furlongs to a mile is 24 wins in 27 starts, with two neck defeats.

In their individual last starts, going 6 ½ furlongs, seven furlongs, seven furlongs, and one mile, they have won by margins of five lengths, 10 lengths, five lengths, and six lengths.

As part of an informal poll on Facebook, fans were asked who they would like among those four going seven furlongs. The results were Flightline (62), Jackie’s Warrior (24), Life is Good and Jack Christopher (tied with 17). So is Flightline such a freak that he would command so many of the 120 votes? That is what the Forego would tell us.

As an alternative, there is the one-mile Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park going a flat mile. Life is Good won last year’s Kelso by five lengths in 1:34, and Flightline, Jackie’s Warrior, and Jack Christopher have all won Grade 1 stakes going a mile at Belmont. As we all know, breeders covet one-mile races, especially one-turn miles, more than any other distance and this would be the ultimate one-mile race, with the victor considered one of the greatest milers of all time.

I am well aware none of this is going to happen, but it is food for thought and worthy of discussion in regard to who would win such a titanic battle.

So, let’s just hope Flightline emerges from his early 10-furlong debut in the Pacific Classic with the same luster that shines on him now and Life is Good can defeat top-class older horses twice going 1 1/8 miles, appearing as if he will handle the mile and a quarter a lot better than he did over a deep track in Dubai.

If all that happens then we will have a major showdown in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But the Forego and Kelso will have passed us by and we still will always wonder what would have happened had these four super freaks faced off at their peak of brilliance and at a distance they all love.


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Leave a Reply to Matthew W

92 Responses to “The Race of the Century Will Never Happen”

  1. Matthew W says:

    Shout out for Clairiere, who has lived up to her potential, today Rosario put her into a sealed pocket, with Johnny V holding her down there, for 6 fur…..did not matter, Clairiere has become a very good filly—Malathat enhances her reputation, she’s good as well…..

  2. Nelson Maan says:

    The supposed distance limitation of Flightline and Life is Good would feed the hopes of Country Grammer and actually the chances of the rising star Olympiad in the BC Classic. Country Grammer has already proven his aptness for the 10 furlongs but Olympiad has not run further than 9 furlongs. However, the way the son of Speightstown won the Foster signals that an extra furlong should suit him pretty well… I share Junior Alvarado’s confidence in that assessment.

    Also the fact that both Flightline and Life is Good have similar running styles makes them vulnerable in the minds of the connections of other BCC aspirants.

    The 1 ¼ mile could trigger moments of brilliance for the likes of Hot Rod Charlie, Mandaloun and some older Stakes horses are counting on serendipitous events that might lead them to inch closer to the stars of the Division…

    Bombshells in the making could be some capable horses like Dynamic One, First Captain, Happy Saver, Speaker’s Corner, Americanrevolution, There Goes Harvard, Express Train, Stilleto Boy and even Fearless. Some have won 10F-Stakes but none of them pair the speed ratings of Flightline and Life is Good. Then again, eventual suicidal pace and distance sometimes are great equalizers …

    Who would not love to see Flightline being challenged by Life is Good in the Breeder’s Cup Classic but more often than not great showdowns are not materialized.

    For instance, the following were showdowns for the ages that were conceivable but never happened: Tiznow vs. Point Given, Mineshaft vs. Pleasantly Perfect, Ghostzapper vs. Smarty Jones, Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra, Justify vs. Gun Runner and Authentic vs. Knicks Go. Nonetheless, I hold high hopes in the Flightline – Life is Good stellar match 104 days from now.

    There is a handicapping premise stating that one should be cautious about a horse doing things for the first time… well, in the Metropolitan Mile Flightline overcame facing four Grade 1 horses, shipping (2,400 miles) and running a mile for the first time. Superstars are not chained by conventional assumptions.

    I know that it is difficult to visualize that a horse capable of running the first two quarter miles in 21 and 44 seconds can sustain his speed over 2 kilometers; but Flightline proved in the Metropolitan that he is not only capable of overcoming tough trips but also of handling the Classic distance with authority. Being a son of Tapit must help him do just that…
    It would be great to have a 6 million-dollar race at a mile and officially have championship title for milers; but in America all the great horses have to pass a 10-furlong test at the highest level.

    If Flightline can get to the Breeder’s Cup date at peak form we will see the greatest display of speed and bravery in the style of Skip Away and Ghostzapper.

    And If you want your horse to become a Superstar he has to fight Flightline first.

    • Davids says:

      Nelson, I think you can be assured that the connections of Flightline will only run their champion at peak form even if an 80% fit Flightline would probably beat everyone anyway. Like everyone, I’d hoped Flightline would have be given a prep race before attempting the Pacific Classic but obviously running Flightline ‘fresh’ is their favored option these days. From what we’ve seen so far, the further the race, the further the winning margin maybe.

  3. TommyMc says:

    White Abarrio is 4 for 4 at Gulfstream Park and 0 for 4 everywhere else. Apparently, Saffie Joseph and the owners are the only ones that don’t realize that he’s a “Gulfstream horse” and a “field filler” outside Florida. No offense.

    • Davids says:

      Often milers can impress, early on, in extending their optimum range but eventually it catches up on them. White Abarrio would be effective ‘anywhere’ when restricted to mile or 8 1/16 mile races, 9f is simply too far. Time to regroup.

  4. John Goggin says:

    According to the DRF this morning Taiba ‘came off the bridle in the backstretch’-which may have cost Taiba the win-according the DRF. Both Taiba and Cyberknife earned 102 Beyers but Nest earned a 104 B.

  5. TommyMc says:

    Churchill Downs jockeys Tyler Gaffalione and Ricardo Santana are struggling big time at Saratoga. Gaffalione is just 1 for 42 and Santana 2 for 33. Gaffalione had a few great chances yesterday and got blanked. Santana rides mostly longshots at Saratoga. Not getting on those Steve Asmussen hotshots anymore.

    • TommyMc says:

      Steve Asmussen is 0 for 8 himself at Saratoga. Maybe he’s not as “loaded” as usual this year. He’s got Clairiere today and next weekend is expected to have Jackie’s Warrior in The Vanderbilt and Epicenter in The Jim Dandy.

      BTW, speaking of Clairiere. there are only 4 horses entered in the Shuvee this afternoon. It should be run as a non-wagering exhibition IMO.
      If Jackie’s Warrior does show up for The Vanderbilt, how many horses will dare to oppose him?
      The Jim Dandy is already expected to be a fairly short field.
      Only 3 1/2 months until The Breeders Cup with big fields of quality horses.

  6. Mike Relva says:

    Was wrong on JC, He will be ok.

  7. John Goggin says:

    First, congrats to Cyberknife for his victory….a gutty victory at that.
    Second, I believe that Taibe was the best horse in the race and would have won if Baffert, according to his own words, had another week to prepare this horse.
    But ‘would of, could of’ along with $5 can buy you a nice flavored coffee at your local Starbucks.

  8. Matthew W says:

    Taiba can….run in the Pacific Classic or the Penn Derby, he was getting to Cyberknife at the finish, and I could see why so many were critical ofhis works, Taiba needs to be RIDDEN! Rosario, would bgood fit! Big Money Mike nearly got him there, though, and take nothing away from the winner, and his (superb) trainer!

  9. TommyMc says:

    The Jim Dandy and The Vanderbilt at Saratoga next Saturday. Early Voting, Zandon, and Epicenter have been mentioned for the Jim Dandy. Another mile and an eighth race which should suit all three horses.

  10. Nelson Maan says:

    Jack Christopher could not overcome the distance and the superb talents of Cyberknife and Taiba in the Haskell. Florent Geroux outsmarted Mike Smith with a rail hugging run coming to the homestretch. Taiba looks like a real deal … he got great upside for sure…

    No excuse for Jack Christopher but he is still a brilliant miler … no disgrace in losing to a more mature (and professional) Cyberknife who set a new track record [9F in 1:46.24].. he broke the record of 1:46.53 by the 4-year-old Highly Motivated (as a 4-year-old) a couple of hours prior to the Haskell.

    Gun Runner has so far been a text book example of the perfect Thoroughbred …

    • Nelson Maan says:

      The previous track record for the 9F at Monmouth was established by Spend A Buck who clocked 1:46.80 on August 17ht, 1985… Monmouth got a very fast track today … very fast indeed…!

      • Discopartner says:

        Jack Christopher was in a duel that the 2 closers stayed away from, that made a huge difference. I’d give him another chance at 9 f., maybe the Penn Dby., but who knows what Brown will do.

        • Matthew W says:

          I don’t know, that was a 70-1 shot, Jack was not what I would call in a duel….inside horse is under pressure, outside is just sitting there…

          • Discopartner says:

            So a 70-1 longshot can’t be in a duel? They’re the ones who frequently are. Jack Christopher was on the pace, either pressing it or being pressed, and the win/place horses were not…easier for them.

    • Mike Relva says:

      No excuse for horse who finished second.

    • Davids says:

      Thus far Charge It, 17th in the Kentucky Derby; Cyberknife 18th in the Kentucky Derby; and Taiba 12th in the Kentucky Derby; have all performed extraordinarily well on return. Now it’s up to the big boys Zandon, Epicenter, and Early Voting to show if they have progressed since the Derby in the Jim Dandy this Saturday.

      Charge It leads the pack at present. Jack Christopher and White Abarrio are obviously best suited at mile races or shorter to perform at their ultimate best.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        I am with you there Davids… I always loved Charge It’s potential… the 3/4 brother to Flightline will be making every one run for their money where ever he is slated to run.

        Taiba impressed me today … he is no fluke! He is bound to improve next time out. Hope these rising stars remain happy and healthy.

        • Davids says:

          Yes Nelson, Taiba has a very bright future. I watched his dam, Needmore Flattery, run many times, she has an excellent record of 39 Starts = 17 – 4 – 6 with great determination that Taiba has inherited.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            Needmore Flattery was Ohio Horse of the Year in 2013 and 2014. She has proven that your mare don’t need to run at the top race tracks to be a good producer.

            Taiba resembles both his parents … all good looking chestnuts and also with grit to spare…!

            We are really lucky to be witnessing such a great group of Thoroughbreds shining this year.

            • Davids says:

              Blushing Groom’s influence and not just color, stamina and grit that’s what I see in Taiba and Gun Runner.

  11. TommyMc says:

    It looked to me like Jack Christopher got a perfect trip. The mile and an eighth may be a little more than he wants.
    Taiba got shuffled back and came running late. Tab for next time? Cyberknife got through on the inside and it might have been the difference today.

    Congrats to poster Matthew who gave out that winner a couple of days ago. If my memory serves me correctly, I think that’s the second time that Matthew has given out Cyberknife at a good price on the various blogs. Great job!

    • TommyMc says:

      Don’t feel too bad for Chad Brown. He saddled 5 winners at Monmouth today. Four ridden by Flavien Prat and one ridden by Manny Franco. He also won the 9th race at Saratoga today.

      • TommyMc says:

        Is it time to give up on Gufo? He wasn’t much of a factor in the United Nations at Monmouth today. He never had a quick turn of foot, but, when he got it going, he really gobbled up the ground. I’m not seeing that from him lately. I’ve always liked that big fella.

  12. Spaldeen says:

    Owners rarely if ever do things for the sake of the sport anymore.
    I guess the financial downside for them is just too great.

    • Derek Manthey says:

      You forget that owners with money for grade 1 horses set up their stable as a business. It’s a write off!