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

  1. TommyMc says:

    I don’t know if anyone noticed that Nest outworked Corniche the other day. Both looked good. It will be great to see Corniche get back into action.

  2. TommyMc says:

    With Jose Ortiz, Manny Franco, Flavien Prat, and Joel Rosario riding the big Haskell Day Card at Monmouth on Saturday, maybe Tyler Gaffalione can improve on his 1 for 33 3% record so far at the Saratoga meet. He has several promising mounts at Saratoga on Saturday. If Tyler doesn’t step up, Irad Ortiz and Luis Saez could have their run of the place. Maybe Trevor McCarthy can get his first win of the meeting. As usual, Irad Ortiz has a whole bunch of Morning Line Favorites on the Saturday Saratoga Card. He could win 6 races on Saturday if things go his way.

  3. SoloSolo says:

    Totally off topic, but check out the video of Mine That Bird prancing in the Dust Bowl parade—-shades of Zenyatta. I loved that little horse. Steve I recall you described him pre Derby as a little plain brown wrapper of a horse, but he moves well. Did he ever that day.

  4. Davids says:

    There is a possibility, if the money is right? Let’s say Flighline wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Life is Good and Jack Christopher dead heat in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Jackie’s Warrior wins the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

    NYRA goes gaga and offers US$10 million for the “Ciger Mile +1furlong Breeders’ Cup Rematch made in Heaven” if all the above champions face off at Aqueduct or Belmont Park on December 10. Not a handicap but weight-for-age. Throw in the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner then the prize money doubles to $20 million.

    Now there’s a race to dream about and it’s only a month after the Breeders’ Cup so they can all run before they go off to stud. Seems feasible…

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      THAT would be a dream, Davids!

      • Davids says:

        Yes, Ms Blacktype a dream but way back that was one the hopes of the Breeders’ Cup races, enabling the best in Europe to compete with the best in the US. I miss the days when Europeans ran in the Breeders’ Cup Classics and the Dubai World Cup. Now the dirt, turf champions never mix. Instead, we have a jaundice view from the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings on who is the best racehorse in the world. Utterly phony.

  5. Cynthia Holt says:

    I chewed this bone right down to the marrow. Thanks for the very meaty article, Steve! I also long for the golden opportunities which are passing us by for a super match-up of these four phenomenal horses. I am a Frontline believer, and think he is not only a freak, he is a freak among freaks. I wish I knew some behind-the-scene stories of how John Sadler has held this horse together. I don’t think that Life is Good is a lock for the Whitney, just a personal opinion.

  6. Davids says:

    At Ascot on Saturday, one of the world’s great races, the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, will take place with the Irish Derby winner Westover being confronted by the formidable filly Emily Upjohn, among others. Westover is a slight favorite but many believe Emily Upjohn has his measure.

    Should be a great race and let’s hope Frankie Dettori just makes it simple for Emily Upjohn to express her quality over her rivals. Allez, EU!!

  7. TommyMc says:

    Here’s a surprise. At least to me. Taiba 7-5 Morning Line Favorite. Jack Christopher 3-2.

  8. TommyMc says:

    I think that Jack Chrispopher will be pushing the limits of his pedigree in The Haskell. But, Chad Brown gets his turf horses to outrun their pedigrees all the time. I hope “Jack” runs big this weekend, wins, and goes favored in The Travers where it might be time to bet against him.

  9. Matthew W says:

    Am playing Cyberknife in the Haskell…ex boxed with Jack Christopher…..Yakteen didn’t want to run in SA Derby, horsr had just broke maiden…then the KY Derby pace…..Taiba is an example of a terrific talent that was asked way too hard of a question! I recall Chad getting overruled by owner, he didn’t want to go 9 furlongs off the shelf—well, he lost the Derby, after looking to all like the winner—I wonder if running in the Risen Star had anything to do with that but we will never know….Taiba could win Sat but not with my moolah backing, and that’s too bad, and I hope I am wrong.

    • TommyMc says:

      Just throw out Taiba’s Derby run. Draw a line right through it. A crazy pace scenario that caused a mind-boggling result. No disrespect to the #21 horse. But, let’s see him do it again. With Taiba’s missed workout and one debatable workout, I’ll watch the Haskell hoping that Taiba gets a good prep for The Travers and maybe dive in on him at Saratoga on August 27th. By “debatable”, I mean that I read somewhere that a poster didn’t like one of Taiba’s workouts.

  10. Deacon says:

    Unless he is hurt or has been retired why can’t we toss “Hot Rod Charlie” in the mix & maybe even “Mo Donegal”.

  11. Ms Blacktype says:

    Steve, I think you are egging the racing gods on! I’d love to see any of these scenarios play out. If Flight Line stays sound — that’s a big if — I believe he’s unbeatable, Life is Good or not. Now if BB was training Life is Good in the BC Clsasic, I’d predict an upset!

    Great piece for the summer doldrums. So glad the Haskell is this weekend, even if it means August is fast approaching. (Always sad news in the Northeast!) I hope you and Joan are having a fantastic summer.

  12. Bigtex says:

    It seems to me that Life is Good is the horse that would show us if Flightline would crack going 1 1/4. The pace would be hot and if it’s a fast track, not like Dubai’s deep track, Flightline will be in a position to erase all doubts…or not.

  13. Blake says:

    I worry about Flightline against these horses under a mile because of his tendency to break slow. But a mile or more I’d take Flightline.

  14. Mike Sekulic says:

    I love the idea of FLIGHTLINE, LIFE IS GOOD, JACK CHRISTOPHER and JACKIE’S WARRIOR dueling it out at 7 furlongs, or even a one-turn mile. They are very special horses.

    • Matthew W says:

      THAT’S what Steve is talking about, and what a race it would be! Put up $1 million EACH, winner take all……I think Flightline would win, no stick, no problem!

  15. Marc Mink says:

    Steve, you never know when a horse shows an ability or dimension he/she may have.. and previous races don’t always forecast what you might expect. Just look back at 1967..the Woodward.. perhaps the greatest assemblage of horse talent ever in one race..Buckpasser, Damascus, and Dr Fager. On paper it looked ideal.. all proficient at the distance..all weight carrying monsters career wise.. Dr Fager was compromised by the rabbits and Buckpasser was not at his best..although i cannot say that any horse i know could have beaten Damascus that day. Yet the future held much.. Dr Fager amd Dmascus matured as 4 year olds, both displaying talents of historic proportions, and gave us the Suburban and Brooklyn for the ages.. I also think any year, the Met Mile should be on the target of all the best horses and a purse to make sure it happens should be made. My point is.. i am looking forward greatly to the Breeders Cup, with the hope that one of more will show us that we just hadnt been shown until then, how important and able these horses were to be.

    Thanks or a great article once again!

  16. Kenny says:

    This is indeed a great topic for discussion. I especially Like the boosted purse for the Foregos Stakes.

  17. Davids says:

    Steve, it’s always fun contemplating the best possible race scenarios with all the stars competing but they are never fair to all. Even with your suggestion of the one mile Kelso Handicap showdown, the weights wouldn’t be equal (weight-for-age) and, moreover, Flightline would have to travel all the way from California while the others are basically locals.

    For me, Flightline looks every inch a 10f horse but will have to prove it first, Life is Good and Jack Christopher are milers who can stretch their brilliance to 9f (the former has proven this, the latter is facing this test in the Haskell Invitational), while Jackie’s Warrior is not best beyond 8f.

    Until Flightline’s quality actually comes to fruition I believe he will toy with the present opposition. Hypothetically or on the track. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

    • Davids says:

      Meant to read: “Until Flightline’s quality comes into question I believe he will toy with the present opposition.” I had just received a Moderna booster. Lol.

  18. Matthew W says:

    They Saud they were going for t he Met Mile, THAT was yhe race….Steve saw Flightline he doesn’t want any part of him, and the Life Is Good camp wanted Dubai, and I was critical of t hat, the Met Mile holds bigtime stallion value, especially vs Flightline and Speaker’s Corner, no way would I want to travel cross country three times, they made the Met Mile off a layoff— LIG didn’t show…..maybe they will still meet up, maybe. I doubt it

    • Matthew W says:

      “Steve” being Asmussen..

    • Davids says:

      Matthew, you beat me to it. Flightline’s connections have/had been totally transparent on which races they had earmarked for Flightline for 2022, should all go well. Bill Mott, to his credit, was the only trainer willing to take on Flightline, and be tarnished by the might of Flightline, in the prestigious Met Mile.

      The great race of 2022 was to be the East Coast Met Mile, what a pity Life is Good et al couldn’t make it, the inexperienced champion showed then and there that extra distance will be more a string to his bow than a negative. The ship has sailed for Flightline to go backwards in distance.

      • Matthew W says:

        The Forego, 7 fur. …surprised me. ..I like Lufe Is Good, his BCup Mile (dirt) wad terrific!—He lived Del Mar, and they announced Flightline’s next race, so….there he is ..

  19. Matthew W says:

    We just saw a horse come off a 6 month bench, break a step slow then get sawed off whole approaching the lead and then beat a real good horse like it was nothing—Life Is Good beat Speaker’s Corner, too, but Flightline just looks like a different animal, Steve, I think he beats LIG and/or Jackie and Jack Christopher and them all, at one mile….Prat did say he wants longer, he is by Tapit…..they want to get the Classic and I understand why—Life IS Good liked Del Mar, too…..

    • Davids says:

      For me, Flightline attempting longer distance seems more advantageous than shorter distances. The extra distance allows Prat to settle Flightline into a perfect rhythm then launch the attack at will. Game over.

      • Matthew W says:

        If he gets 10 furlongs, like his other races then he becomes an all-time great horse. Two turns a whole other thing….by Tapit, big frame LOOKS like will get ten but still needs to do it…..if he trounced Bob’s horse in the Pac Classic he’s 2/5 in the Classic .

        • Matthew W says:

          I heard….they want to try 10 fur/Pacific Classic…..then BC Classic. …I also heard they are going to run as a five year old, BUT—-insurance will ge costly!

          • Davids says:

            That’s right, the insurance would be a gross negative while stud fees would be phenomenal, initially anyway but could just increase. If Flightline were to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic I can’t see another year of 3 or 4 races. Retiring undefeated is a legacy seldom achieved at the highest echelon.

  20. AMY HURLEY says:

    I like this idea, Steve. I’d favor a matchup in the Kelso. As you stated, that is the distance at which they all would seemingly excel, and we know that NYRA does not want any race to surpass the Travers in public interest. I would go with Flightline regardless of distance, although I do think Life is Good might be able to get the mile and a quarter of the B.C. Classic. As you say, it’s a shame such a race will never happen. I’d also kind of like to see this showdown on the West Coast. It seems unfair that most of the big races – certainly the Triple Crown races – are in the East or mid-South. Why not see how the Easterners would do on Flightline’s home track, Santa Anita? The only problem would be finding an appropriate, existing race for this esteemed quartet.

  21. Derek Manthey says:

    Steve, It’s definitely food for thought but it’s not going to fill our bellies. Owners and trainers used to chase the competition not run and hide. To many graded races and terrible scheduling. When there is to me only 2 races that have any real buzz are the Derby and Breeders Cup that’s an awful long time between meals!

  22. TommyMc says:

    It’s pure speculation on my part, but, I have a feeling that Taiba could develop into a major player for the Breeders Cup Classic. Take away Life Is Good & Flightline and I am not very impressed with the older horses that are likely to show up for the mile and a quarter Breeders Cup Classic at Keenland. Still plenty of questions. Is Taiba back with BB or still with Tim Yakteen? If he is back with BB, would they be welcome at Keenland in Kentucky for the BC Classic? I think BB is only banned at Churchill for another year. But, I could be wrong. I tired of the whole situation and have lost track of where BB stands.
    Three different winners of the 3 Triple Crown Races. I can see that trend continuing in The Travers and beyond. Many people think that Epicenter finally proves his superiority in The Travers. Maybe. But, I would like Taiba or Zandon. Todd Pletcher’s Charge It is getting a lot of buzz after his big win at Belmont that some are ridiculously comparing to Secretariat’s 31-length Belmont win.

    • John Goggin says:

      I believe that Taiba is now listed with Baffert as trainer….been working lights out at SA….his last three are 59.40 for 5 (2/55), 1:12 for 6 (1/1), 1:11 for 6 (1/4), 59:60 for 5 (1/45).

  23. Lynda King says:

    Hey Steve. I am one of those who voted for Flightline in the FB poll.
    Yes, a dream race for sure with Flightline, Life is Good, Jackie’s Warrior and Jack Christopher but at the one turn mile (for me at least).
    Rivalries are a good thing in my opinion in horse racing.
    s

    • Lynda King says:

      Oops, hit enter before I was finished.
      Still think that the 2013 Breeders Cup Classic was one of the best I have ever watched.
      Hope everyone has a great week!

    • Davids says:

      Lynda, I wish the US had a track like Newmarket for milers, both dirt and turf. The Rowley mile is a true test of speed and stamina.

      • Lynda King says:

        I wish that the US had the quality of turf tracks that England and Ireland has for sure.
        And while I am wishing, the quality of the dirt tracks in Japan.
        We need more training centers too like Fair Hill in Maryland.
        I am always impressed by the conditioning of the horses from England, Ireland and now Japan.
        Living 24/7/365 in the track shed rows is no life for a horse.

        • Davids says:

          Couldn’t agree more, Lynda. Over medicated and shut in a box day in, day out is not the ‘life of Riley’ for a horse.

  24. TommyMc says:

    I LOVE Steve Haskin’s idea of Jackie’s Warrior, Flightline, Jack Christopher, and Life Is Good hooking up in the 7-furlong Forego on Travers Day. That would be EPIC. We can dream can’t we? I agree 100% with Steve Haskin that all 4 of those horses are questionable at a mile and a quarter. A mile and a quarter separates the men from the boys. But, for speed horses, 7-furlongs and the one-turn mile are the true test. My eyes will be glued to my 65-inch on Travers Day anyway, but, those 4 horses in the 7-furlong Forego could steal the show.

    • TommyMc says:

      BTW, I would give Life Is Good the best chance of those horses to succeed in the Breeders Cup Classic. Just my personal opinion. Yes, even after his loss at the distance in Dubai.

      • TommyMc says:

        I have my doubts that Flightline runs back in the Breeders Cup just 2 months after his scheduled start in the Pacific Classic on
        September 3rd. I think that the BC Classic is November 5th. Somewhere around there. So far, he’s needed more time between races. It will be interesting. We’ll see. I expect Flightline to have things his own way in the Pacific Classic and win. Unless some surprise “shippers” show up.

        • Davids says:

          The Malibu Stakes demolition by Flightline would have silenced any thoughts by East coast trainers to tackle Flightline on his home turf.

  25. John Goggin says:

    Nah. The race of the century should be in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar where Life Is Good (a track where LIG won his first race and also the BC Mile last year)…could meet Flightline and Country Grammer.
    Note….not ready to put Jack Christopher at this level….let’s see what happens in the Haskell where Baffert/Yakteen is sending Taiba.