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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