Secretariat

How High is High For Flightline

People have been buzzing about Flightline’s other-worldly performance in the Pacific Classic, as they have about all his previous races. Now it is time to see just who Flightline is and where he came from.~ Steve Haskin

How High is High For Flightline?

By Steve Haskin

 

“Oh, good lord!” That was the initial response uttered by trainer Chad Brown at Saratoga on Sunday when he was asked what he thought of Flightline’s performance in the previous day’s Pacific Classic. It pretty much summed up people’s reactions. Brown added, “I honestly don’t think Ghostzapper could have run with this horse.” That was the highest of praise coming from someone who learned his trade in the Bobby Frankel barn where the name Ghostzapper was God-like. Neither Brown nor Frankel had ever been around a horse as great as the 2004 Horse of the Year, who was able to perform magic on the racetrack with his devastating performances at all distances.

But Flightline has proven to be in a class by himself. Whether you were a fan of Secretariat or Dr. Fager or Forego or whatever legend you worshipped there is no way you can say that Flightline in only five career starts is more talented or more accomplished than many of the all-time greats of the sport. But what you can say is that you have never seen anything like him at this stage of his career.

There have been horses who on their best day demolished their opposition while running blazing-fast times. But there has never been a horse who has done it in every race, winning by an average margin of 12 ½ lengths while jumping from six furlongs to seven furlongs to a flat mile to a mile and a quarter and doing it effortlessly every time.

As the late great English racecaller Peter O’Sullevan used to say when he saw something out of the ordinary, “What manner of horse is this?”

I can easily answer that. Flightline is a horse who can jump into a Grade 1 stakes for the first time in his career and win by 11 ½ lengths in a sizzling 1:21 1/5 for seven furlongs under wraps the length of the stretch. He is a horse who can then travel cross-country off a 5 ½-month layoff and win arguably the toughest race in the country to win, the historic Met Mile, and despite a poor start and having to steady twice, win by six lengths in an eye-popping 1:33 2/5. Then after an almost three-month layoff he goes a mile and a quarter and two turns for the first time in the Pacific Classic and finishes in another zip code ahead of a field loaded with Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners. In the end he was 19 ¼ lengths ahead of the runner-up without raising a sweat, his time of 1:59 1/5 was a fifth of a second off the track record, and he earned an outrageous 126 Beyer speed figure.

But in many ways we still have no idea what manner of horse this is. Some three hours earlier at Saratoga, Olympiad was winning The Jockey Club Gold Cup, his sixth win in his last seven starts, and Flightline made that race and perhaps the winner seem insignificant when discussing the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But as Olympiad’s trainer Bill Mott said the following day about facing Flightline at Keeneland, “That was a Secretariat-type performance, but somebody’s got to run against him. You can’t let him run around there by himself.” Unfortunately for rival trainers that’s pretty much what he does anyway.

John Shirreffs, who had a ringside seat for the latest Flightline fiasco in the Pacific Classic, saddling Santa Anita Handicap winner Express Train, said, “I don’t think he even felt any pressure from the other horses in the race. Down the stretch he looked like he was running downhill. It was exceptional. He galloped for a while with the other horses and then galloped away.”

That has become Flightline’s m.o. – just gallop away.

But where did this freak of a racehorse come from and when did he first start showing these freakish gifts to those around him? We know the son of Tapit, out of the Indian Charlie mare Feathered, was purchased by bloodstock agent David Ingordo for the Hronis brothers, West Point Thoroughbreds, William S. Farish Jr.’s Woodford Racing, Summer Wind Equine (the colt’s breeder), and Siena Farm at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale for $1 million, consigned by Farish’s Lane’s End Farm as agent.

It was West Point that signed the sales slip, with Ingordo serving as the connector between several of the buyers. Terry Finley, president of West Point had gone to the Lane’s End consignment and fell in love with First Captain, who would go on to be a top-class stakes colt for him. But then he saw Flightline.

“David was smitten with him at the farm and when I saw him he looked like your typical Lane’s End type of horse,” Finley said. “He had such a beautiful head and I thought, ‘Man, this is what they’re supposed to look like.’”

Lane’s End Farm was always in on the colt, consigning him and then buying him under the name Woodford Stud. “Jane Lyon (of Summer Wind) prepped him and he was just a standout yearling all along,” said Bill Farish. “He was beautiful physically and had a great pedigree, which is why he bought a million dollars. We first started hearing positive things about him from April Mayberry”

After the sale the colt was sent to Mayberry in Ocala, Florida to be broken and given his early training. Mayberry has been around many top-class horses, the most notable being Zenyatta, so she knows when something special comes along. But even she had trouble finding the words to describe Flightline.

“I don’t know a word for him,” she said. “He’s just…I don’t know, a shining star for the industry. I can’t find the right adjective other than he’s amazing.”

Mayberry always breezes her young horses in company, but with Flightline she made an exception and had her top exercise rider Jorge Orancez breeze him by himself, which surprised him and the other riders. When he asked for reassurance that’s what she wanted to do, she told him, “I don’t want him in company. Just let him go down the stretch and let’s see what he does.” Her reasoning was the colt was giving off so much energy and he covered so much ground in his gallops she was afraid he might get too aggressive too soon breezing in company.

“He was so smart,” Mayberry said. “He would just stand on the track watching the horses train. It was like he was watching a tennis match, his head going back and forth as the horses went by him. He was so easy to break, there was no question he was going to be a good horse.”

So Mayberry watched his first breeze and couldn’t believe what she saw. “It took my breath away,” she said. “It was so effortless.” Immediately following the breeze Mayberry called David Ingordo and told him, “You need to come down here. This colt just gave me chills.” She later added, “He‘s unlike anything I’ve ever had. It was surreal. I just wanted someone to validate it.”

Ingordo, who had picked out Zenyatta at the sales for Jerry and Ann Moss, had seen him at Lane’s End Farm before the sale and as Mayberrry said, “was drawn to him.” But he didn’t say anything to his mother Dottie (who was the racing manager for the Mosses) or her husband John Shirreffs. “David doesn’t say much if anything about the horses he buys for other people,” Dottie said. Shirreffs added, “David never mentioned him to me.” That wasn’t surprising how stoic Ingordo is in general. Finley says he can be a little quirky, but when it comes to horses he is “a savant.”

So Ingordo went down to the farm to watch him breeze. Unfortunately while on the trainer’s stand waiting for the colt, Mayberry received a call from the barn. The colt had gotten very playful in his stall and reared up, lost his balance and struck his rump on the hinges of the stall door, tearing a big hunk of flesh off that needed to be stitched up. When she got back to the barn his groom was in tears. Thankfully it was nothing serious and Flightline was back on the track in three months. But he had lost valuable time which is why he didn’t make is debut until late April of his 3-year-old campaign.

When he got back to training he picked up right where he left off. “He knew how good he was right from the beginning,” Mayberry said. “He just did everything so effortlessly. He was such a joy to be around.”

After the colt was sent to John Sadler it didn’t take the trainer long to see the same things Mayberry saw. Through periodic reports from the barn, Mayberry knew he was capable of doing something very special in his debut, as did Kosta Hronis.

Before Flightline’s much-anticipated first race on April 24 Hronis was focused on getting his undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World to the Kentucky Derby. But in one of our texts, he threw this in from left field” “I’ve got one in the barn that is unbelievable.”

Terry Finley recalled, “After John Sadler’s assistant Juan Leyva who had been a jockey, jogged this horse for the first time, he took a video of him and sent it to his wife, who is a horsewoman herself. When she watched the video and heard her husband talk about the horse she started crying. Juan told her, ‘This is the best horse I’ve ever sat on and will ever sit on.’ And this was just jogging him. So you can say it was very early that this horse had the markings of greatness.”

Farish corroborated that story. “When he got to Sadler it was Juan who first got excited. He sent the video to his wife and she got very emotional watching it. When John first worked him we got a call from him saying, ‘Look, I don’t know how good this horse is, but I can tell you he is really good.’”

Mayberry said she was expecting an amazing performance in his debut, which he won by 13 ¼ lengths in 1:08 3/5. “It was the presence he gave off every time you were around him; you just know,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised by his victory. I was waiting so long to see him run and knew he had that in him if he was the horse I thought he was. I had so much confidence in him.”

Hronis texted me after his debut: “It’s only one race, but Flightline is the best horse I have seen in my 12 years as an owner. He just floats over the ground. We knew early on he was something special that no one had ever seen before.”

After the colt started rattling off one jaw-dropping performance after another, Hronis recalled his mindset throughout, “After seeing him work long before his debut I thought, ‘Wow!’ this colt is different. John knew after he got him from April. It’s impossible to predict this type of horse at a yearling sale. You may be getting a great looking horse with fantastic bloodlines, but do you have a racehorse? It’s never a sure thing. We realize we are very blessed to have him and have our family experience such brilliance. He’s a horse of a lifetime.”

He was also a horse of a lifetime for jockey Flavien Prat, who left Saratoga on Friday to ride the colt on Saturday and was back at Saratoga on Sunday.  Before getting aboard one of his mounts on Sunday he was still all smiles from what had transpired the day before. It had been a hectic three days, but Prat said,”I’ll sleep well tonight.”

The questions now are can anyone run with Flightline?  Can anyone make him even raise a sweat? Can anyone actually beat him? Todd Pletcher still has confidence in his brilliant Whitney winner Life is Good, who was bright and alert and a bit feisty when visited at the barn on Friday. And his coat was resplendent as he awaits his final prep in the October 1 Woodward Stakes.

But how confident is Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm, which co-owns the brilliant Life is Good, who has been considered one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Classic all year? Walden actually put a poll on Twitter after the Pacific Classic that read: “Which race should Life is Good run in at the Breeders’ Cup – Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Breeders’ Cup (Dirt) Mile, or Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is one kind of a horse who can compete in all three. Congrats over the weekend to Flightline. What a special horse, too.”

Let’s just say prior to Saturday, the Classic was looking like a showdown between older horses Flightline and Life is Good and the leading 3-year-old Epicenter. Now Elliott Walden is polling the public where to run him. Looking at some of the comments they are all over the place, with some even suggesting the Breeders’ Cup Mile (on grass).

Scott Blasi, assistant trainer of the impressive Travers winner Epicenter, said, “Flightline may have put on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, but Epicenter came out of his race really well and we expect him to continue to improve.”

So there are still some horsemen out there who are not ready to concede the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Flightline. But he has already toyed with the winners of the Santa Anita Handicap, Dubai World Cup, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Carter Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Californian Stakes, San Diego Handicap, San Pasqual Stakes, Bing Crosby Stakes, Del Mar Futurity, and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. And that’s only in five starts.

Now we sit and wait and count down to the next blast-off. As spectacular as Flightline has looked, he has one other attribute. As April Mayberry said, “He’s like Gorilla Glue; he brings people together.”

Terry Finley agreed, “He’s bought a lot of joy to a lot of people. I’m so humbled to be in a position where people you respect are making comparisons to Secretariat. It’s hard to put into words. You put so much into this game and you always ask yourself, ‘Am I ever going to get one of these?’”

The question we have to ask is not whether Flightline is one of these, but is he, as Kosta Hronis said, something we have never seen before.

 

Photos courtesy of West Point Thoroughbreds and New York Racing Association


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198 Responses to “How High is High For Flightline”

  1. Davids says:

    It you haven’t seen the Moyglare Stakes yet go to YouTube, you’re in for a treat. Tarnawa’s half sister by Siyouni, Tahiyra, unleashed a devastating burst of speed to run right past the very good filly, Meditate. There’s an article in The Blood-Horse website as well. Unfortunately, Tahiyra is finished for the year, no Breeder’ Cup, so we’ll have to wait another 8 months or so to see her again but the wait will be worth it for sure.

  2. TommyMc says:

    That Kentucky Downs is a tough track to figure. In the 12th and final race yesterday, Big Invasion was a huge odds-on favorite. He ran a very disappointing 3rd. There was talk of him being one of the favorites in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. I wouldn’t give up on him if you like him. He was running against a possible “speed bias”. One Timer took off like he was shot out of a cannon and kept going. The Christophe Clement trained Big Invasion came with his run too late and may have lacked his usual punch at 6 1/2 furlongs. If I remember correctly, the BC Turf Sprint at Keenland will be at his preferred distance of
    5 1/2 furlongs which could have him flying to the wire. If Golden Pal has slowed even a little bit, Big Invasion could pull off the upset at 4-1 or better. Now, we all know that trainer Clement has struggled mightily at the BC. But, don’t forget that he finally got off the “schneid” last year at Del Mar with Bobby Flay’s Pizza Bianca. I didn’t play Big Invasion yesterday, but, I was impressed with his late run against the possible bias and at a distance that might not be his best.
    They usually put the BC Turf Sprint in the Pick-6 on BC Saturday and we’re going to have to get some prices along the way with a possible 1-5 favorite in the final leg.

  3. TommyMc says:

    I’ve been thinking about Secretariat. Doesn’t he still hold the record for a mile and a half on dirt? If so, he’s held that record for almost 50 years or half of a century.
    I know people are saying that Flightline could have broken the track record at Del Mar. But, he didn’t. I can’t deal in “wouldas, couldas, and shouldas”. Now, I also realize that many tracks are deeper and more tiring now for the safety of the horses. Especially, out west at Santa Anita and Del Mar.
    Does Flightline need to break “track records”? No. If he moves forward off of his record Timeform Rating and 2nd highest BSF of All-time when he runs in the Breeders Cup Classic at Keenland on November 5th, we’re surely going to see something special. His legend grows and he controls his fate. I’ve got the date circled on my calendar. Even if Flightline is “unbettable”, it will be “must-see TV”.

    • TommyMc says:

      Speaking of the Breeders Cup, the Distaff could be one of the most interesting races of the weekend. Malathaat, Nest, Letruska, and Clairiere. Search Results looked better than I’ve ever seen her in her loss to Malathaat and may be coming back into top form. Personally, I like Clairiere to run much better. Something was bothering her in that last race. I choose to draw a line through her race as if it never happened.

    • Matthew W says:

      It’s starting to look like the Classic…race #6…..will be it..

  4. Nelson Maan says:

    Speed Boat Beach is the latest rising star for Bob Baffert. The son of Bayern just won his debut at Del Mar setting a new track record for the 5.5 furlongs. His time was a stunning 1:01.86.

    Speed Boat Beach is worth following to see how far he wants to go …

    Baffert is asserting his dominance around young horses with his three horses occupying the Trifecta in that 6th quality-rich race. Hezaji (Bernardini) the 3.55-Million-dollar colt was second and Fort Bagg (Tapit) closed to be a distant third.

    No Derby venture for him in 2023 though…

    • Davids says:

      It’ll be interesting to see if Hejazi and Fort Bragg line up for the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita or at Keeneland for the Claiborne Futurity Stakes in a month’s time. They look promising.

      Speed Boat Beach looks the precarious sprinter type.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Hejazi seems to be improving steadily and could have a big say in the coming months…

        but Cave Rock seems to be at the top of the heap at this moment… let’s see what happens today in the Del Mar Futurity…!

        • Davids says:

          Yes Nelson, Hejazi is improving and should relish a mile this year with the Classic distances next year. I liked Fort Bragg’s attempt as well while expecting a huge leap forward when next out.

    • TammyJo says:

      Keep your eyes on BBs Cave Rock. He looked really good in his debut too. He runs today in the Del Mar Futurity.

      • Matthew W says:

        I like Cave Rock over the maiden Skinner…..and the Wash bred The Big Wam..

        • Matthew W says:

          Track was fast but 1:20 4/5 by 5 widening lengths…what a sire Arrogate mhave been! been! Skinner is also going to be a Derby horse, for Shirreffs…too bad Cave Rock has to change barns, but that is some kind of talented colt…

      • Nelson Maan says:

        If Cave Rock wins the Del Mar Futurity it would be a tremendous achievement for his sire Arrogate whose daughter And Tell me Nolies won the Del Mar Debutante Stakes yesterday. Cave Rock looks like a Derby horse … let’s he how he handles a nice group of prospects today.

        BTW Cave Rock got Dynaformer as his second granddam sire just like Flightline’s.

        I am glad to see Juan J. Hernandez getting opportunities piloting promising horses and keeping his momentum in California. He is the regular jockey of the talented Forbidden Kingdom for Mandella.

  5. Matthew W says:

    Jon Hardoon said Flightline received a negative two Ragozin number, which is historically good….Spectacular Bid got neg three, for his Strub, thanks in part to a beautifully balanced blood bay named Flying Paster..

    • Matthew W says:

      I saw Flying Paster win the 1981 San Antonio, with a tremendous finish!—-from one mile to nine furlongs I’d bet on Paster vs any Cal bred save Swaps, he finished like it was a turf race!..

  6. Davids says:

    The highly respected Timeform (UK) has been rating US horses for the past 30 years. Prior to the Pacific Classic: Cigar, American Pharaoh, and Arrogate had the highest rating of 139, followed by California Chrome 138, and Ghostzapper 137. Baaeed’s Timeform rating stands at 137.

    After the Pacific Classic, Flightline became the new US leader with a rating of 143. To put that achievement into perspectaive only: Frankel 147, Sea-Bird 145, Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel 144 have ever been rated higher. For those who don’t believe Flightline is as good as many think, Timeform is the gold standard. Period.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      European racing fans have sworn by Timeform ratings for as long as I can remember and a lot longer than that

    • TommyMc says:

      Good information. Thanks. California Chrome is surprising to me. That he’s faster than Ghostzapper and anywhere near Arrogate and American Pharoah. I don’t mean to knock California Chrome and I certainly don’t want to stir up the “Chromies”, but, didn’t he run one of the slowest Kentucky Derbies in the last 25 years?

      I use the Timeform Ratings when they are available. I trust them.

      • Matthew W says:

        The Kentucky Derby is run nearly 3 hours after their previous dirt race, depending on if it’s warm…track can get dry and deep….Chrome was at his best at 10 furlongs, I wouldn’t call him great….he was pretty good..

      • Davids says:

        Tommy, California Chrome received his 138 rating as a 5 year old, winning the Dubai World Cup and Pacific Classic not for the Kentucky Derby.

  7. Eileen T McAllister says:

    so he’s “great” already?

    • Paul says:

      Maybe not “great”, but is it “going out on a limb” to call a horse that, in five starts, has won at distances from 6 furlongs ( both
      run under 1:09 and won in a canter) followed by three G1 wins won at three different tracks, one of which was on the opposite
      coast (the home track or the BC mile champion), the storied Met Mile and, lastly, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, a
      performance which was the impetus for this article. He won all theses races in a canter. He has never felt the whip. So,if not
      “great”’ how about “out of the ordinary”?

    • John Goggin says:

      I would put it a different way….Flightline ran a great race in PC, an outstanding race in the Met Mile and the Malibu.
      Sit back and enjoy the ride.

      • Matthew Wm says:

        Like I said….hearts his own shadow, really hard to compare..to….anyone—five races, all fresh …every race jeeps drawing away….he casts his own shadow..

  8. Liam says:

    File this under the heading of something you rarely see at Del Mar…..”off the turf.”

  9. TommyMc says:

    I’ve always felt that horses who win at Kentucky Downs are “bet againsts” in their next starts. Someone challenged me on that. So, I did a brief survey of the 11 winners, 12 counting Mud Pie’s 2 wins, on Saturday’s KD card. Of those 12 winners, only Calvary Charge followed up his 9-6-21 win with another win on 10-8-21. 1 for 12 is 8%. Many lost at very low odds. I think I’ve invented a new handicapping factor called “The Kentucky Downs Winner Bet-Against”. Twelve is a small sample. But, 8% is pretty low. So, be careful when winners at KD come back at Keenland or wherever else.

    If I’m lucky enough to pick a few winners at Kentucky Downs on Saturday, I’ll stay away from them like the plague in their next starts.

    Like they say, what happens at Kentucky Downs stays at Kentucky Downs.

    • Matthew W says:

      Kentucky Downd is a “trip track”—some horses love it and some do not—the left turn before the wire certainly helps tiring speed….

  10. Matthew W says:

    I like Cave Rock on Sunday, in the Del Mar Futurity…..The Big Wam…a Washington bred—fills out my exacta, there’s talent there, there’s talent throughout that field..

  11. Linda Mann says:

    Breathtaking.

    So disappointed there was no way to watch the race live. I don’t get TVG, and because I’m in Tennessee, TVG wouldn’t let me access their site from my tablet. And I didn’t have time to buy any of the gadgets that TVG said could stream the broadcast. I hope they don’t continue to have a monopoly on big races.

  12. Blake says:

    After the race Johnny V Country Grammar’s Jockey said..”We were in another race, and I rode my horse to win that race”…LOL

  13. Nelson Maan says:

    Very sad news the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II… a beloved Queen who was also an irreplaceable ally of Horse Racing.

    RIP great Queen

    • Jiffy says:

      Indeed. She was a remarkable lady who devoted her life to her country, her people, and her animals. My sympathy to all of them for such a great loss.

    • Lynda King says:

      She was an advocate and voice for the preservation of horse breeds that were endangered.
      The world has lost an amazing woman, the likes of which we will never see again.
      Deepest and heartfelt condolences to her family and the people of Great Britain and the nations in the Commonwealrh.

    • Davids says:

      Sad for a nation, sad for the world, sad for horse racing. The Queen represent stability in an e er changing world. Royal Ascot will never be the same, hopefully, The Princess Royal will take over her mother’s stables.

      • Lynda King says:

        Davids, there was some question as to what would happen to her horses. They were not all Thoroughbreds. And what would happen to her dogs well.
        Hopefully The Princess Royale with her daughter’s help will take over horses.
        Prince Edward’s daughter inherited Prince Phillip’s carriage and his driving team so hopefully she will someday be interested in the
        racing stable. It has been said too that Princess Charlotte has an interest in horses.
        My deepest condolences to you and everyone in Great Britian and the Commonwrslrh.
        She was a shining light of stability, grace, compassion and service to her country for decades.
        I have always had the deepest admiration and respect for her.
        It will indeed never be the same.
        This has been a sad, sad day.
        I knew this morning when it was announced that she would be under medical care and then when her four children and Prince William were going to Balmoral rhat this was end but prayed that she would somehow get through it.
        Thankful that she was at Balmoral…it was her happy place.

        • Davids says:

          Yes Lynda, an era also departs with The Queen’s passing. I’m not so sure the Royal family will be seen in such a favorable light in the future.

          • Lynda King says:

            Some have predicted that Charles lll will be the last British monarch. Perhaps that has some element of truth.
            Personally I do not think we will see anyone like people (including Queen Elizabeth) from that era ever again.

            • Matthew W says:

              I miss that era! It wasn’t perfect, but…..just watching old movies, you can see the dignified way people treated each other, in everyday life..it was a cup half full era..

              • Lynda King says:

                The Queen was from my parents’ generation.
                My Grandmother (only grandparent I knew, the others passed before I was born) became a widow at age 38 and was left with 7 children (ages from 16 months to 17 years old). she managed to keep her family together and I never heard her complain. He accepted the hand that had been dealt to her and did do with a glass half full.

            • Davids says:

              Lynda, I think the Royal Family in England & possibly Wales will eventually be reconstructed to suite modern times. Scotland and probably Northern Ireland will eventually depart the United Kingdom which will have ramifications on the powers the King/Queen has at present.

              The Dutch Royal family, minus their largesse, seems a logical model that could be followed. Kings and Queens being anointed by God are for fairly tales, in this day and age.

        • Laura L Lanham says:

          The Royal Stud will continue in some fashion but it will miss the Queen’s special knowledge and insight. I doubt there are any in the younger generation that really care as she did. She could quote chapter and verse on the lineage of most of the horses at the stud. She had a lot to do with preserving the Cleveland Bay breed. I am sure the staff she had will continue to care for the dogs as the King will most likely retain most of them.

          She was truly a unique person and they don’t make them that way anymore.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Her loss is a real blow to the U.K. and the world. I’m so happy that she didn’t linger — in fact I was surprised given how she looked just days ago that the end came so quickly. That is a mercy, believe me.

      The New York Times did a sidebar on her sporting interests but as she hadn’t won the Epsom Derby, moved on pretty quickly to some unremarkable ACC football game. Two of the queen’s horses — Carrozza (1957) and Dunfermline (1977) won the Oaks, and Aureole was second in the Derby the year she was crowned queen. Not too shabby, no matter who you are.

    • TommyMc says:

      She was Queen for 70 years. That’s unbelievable. She lived through the terror that England endured during World War II. King Charles will have big shoes to fill. An impossible task for anyone. I wish him well.

  14. TommyMc says:

    Steve Haskin’s news that Flightline earned a -8 1/2 ThoroGraph number says it all. Steve Haskin reports that it’s the best number ever. No doubt that Flightline is very special and has done some GREAT things already. I choose to enjoy watching him run and waiting until he’s finished racing to evaluate his full body of work before calling him the best of all-time. He’s certainly heading in that direction.

    I’ll throw out a baseball comparison that many might find useless. Fernando Valenzuela was heading for greatness and looked like a certain Hall-of-Famer. But, he hurt his arm. When he came back, he was a junk-baller and very average. He hung around for a few more years with different teams. But, those later years hurt his overall body of work.

    Interestingly. Fernando pitched his only no-hitter after his arm problems began. I watched every pitch of that game. He threw nothing but junk-balls the entire game. Using what was left of his “fastball” as a “show me” pitch to keep the hitters off balance. Never throwing it in the strike zone. I was amazed at how he was able to bob and weave his way through the entire 9-innings. Maybe that was his final act of greatness.

    • Matthew W says:

      The screwball ruins arms! Years after he retired, he tried a comeback, of sorts….old Civic Stadiun, in Portland, OR packed 30,000 to see him….

    • Deacon says:

      I watched Fernando pitch at Dodger Stadium many times. He had arguably the best & most unhittable pitch in baseball, the “screwball”.
      Unfortunately the screwball isn’t used much anymore if at all because of the strain it puts on the arm. He was such an outstanding pitcher.
      Like horse racing injuries in all sports cut short many careers.
      Gale Sayers, Bobby Orr, Bo Jackson, Yao Ming, Earl Campbell, Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Andrew Luck & the most famous and best Sandy Koufax. Best pitcher I ever saw.
      In horse racing Graustark, Pine Island, Hail To Reason, Majestic Prince, Smarty Jones, Go For Wand, Barbaro, Successor, & so many others.
      My dad was at Santa Anita when George Wolf died on the racetrack nearing the finish, if I remember the story. I was at Santa Anita when Alvaro Pineda died when his horse reared up in the starting gate. Very tragic across the board.

      • Matthew W says:

        Austin Mittler…ran many years….that accident caused a redesign of the starting gates..

      • John Goggin says:

        I was also at Santa Anita the day Pineda was crushed against the starting gate and remember people crying when the track announcer said he had succumbed to his injuries.

  15. Mike Sekulic says:

    I suppose my biggest issue with people who are quick to crown the current best horse as “the greatest horse since SECRETARIAT” is that they leapfrog past SPECTACULAR BID, which is a major mistake or oversight. He earned his position of greatness after a stellar 30 race career, with 26 wins, no less.

    FLIGHTLINE’s performance was phenomenal, but several other great races come to mind that never get referenced. There was SPECTACULAR BID’s 1:57-4/5 Strub Stakes, J.O. TOBIN’s tour de force in the Swaps Stakes, and ANCIENT TITLE’s brilliant Del Mar Handicap romp (which would have been a world record 1:57-3/5 if not for the “120 feet less” than 10 furlongs. More recently, ARROGATE’s Travers was absolutely astounding!

    A lot of great racing has gone on between June 1973 and now, so I’m not too quick to crown a current star as the best of all time, because we’ve seen FOREGO, AFFIRMED, SEATTLE SLEW, RUFFIAN, SUNDAY SILENCE, EASY GOER, CIGAR, ZENYATTA, AMERICAN PHAROAH, GHOSTZAPPER, etc. I can’t forget all the great racing over the years and act as if there has been a 50 year void. Not saying that a modern runner can’t join the group of the all-time greats, because they certainly can, just that I wouldn’t vault them to #1 so readily after a spectacular performance.

    • Mike Sekulic says:

      And how could I forget FROSTED’s Metropolitan Mile victory of 2016 when he ran so fast at the end of the race (:23-1/5 for the last quarter) that it looked like he was shot out of a cannon! He didn’t even have the lead at the 6 furlong mark, yet he won by 14-1/4 lengths in 1:32-3/5. That was definitely better than what FLIGHTLINE did over the weekend (not taking anything away from what he did, of course, just trying to establish some perspective here).

      FLIGHTLINE’s Met Mile was fantastic as well, and he won in 1:33-2/5.

      • Matthew W says:

        Frosted lost in the Arrogate/Chrome Classic by more than ten lengths….BTW…There is a plaque at Del Mar, put up for John Longden, for breaking the winners record, in 1956….on a horse named Arrogate!

      • Matthew W says:

        1972 Hollwood Gold Cup…15 horse field, Quack circled them and drew away, 1:58 1/5 oner a very fast surface one of the greatest performances of my lifetime.

        • Matthew W says:

          Mike I was on track for that other worldly Ancient Title romp….unreal fractions, yet he kept on going….Crystal Water dwelt, sort of galloped out of there, towards the outer rail…Title was 7-1, won by seven….great big bay, that was his best race….

          • Mike Sekulic says:

            ANCIENT TITLE went hard and fast every step of the way that day. It really is unfortunate the world record is not his.

            Matthew – I wrote a letter to the editor in Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN) on Tuesday of this week where I hope I gave FLIGHTLINE his due and respectful place in the pantheon of great performances, but I wanted to remind people that between the time of SECRETARIAT and FLIGHTLINE that there was nearly 50 years of racing with some really great horses doing some totally fabulous things!

    • Blake says:

      Times are subjective. How fast could Flightline have run the Pacific Classic full out? Not sure but no doubt it is well under 1:59

      • Matthew W says:

        Agree! Like I said Flightline casts his own shadow! Off that list of Mike’s….look at each horse’s FIRST two turn race, and compare those, to his—a 19 1/4 gr1, 152 Timeform….check the other first time two turn races….

    • Deacon says:

      I agree about Spectacular Bid but I would throw in Dr. Fager, Swaps, Damascus, Buckpasser, & Kelso. Ruffian was the best filly or mare I ever saw.

      Good points…..

  16. Peggy Cresswell says:

    Thank you Steve for this wonderful article giving us information of Flightline’s history on where he came from and how he has gotten to this point. For me, the most amazing thing about him is that he is a descendant of both Secretariat and Riva Ridge, something very special! As for me, no horse will ever take Secretariat’s place on this earth, but I do feel that we may have been blessed with a stellar horse once again, to take us to a place where dreams come true and our hearts fill with joy and hope!