Athletes always face questions, that’s the nature of sports. They answer on the playing field. The 2022 Pacific Classic at Del Mar provided more than just a simple reply to any interrogatives.
Flightline came into the 32nd running of this mile and a quarter scamper at the Seaside Oval as an overwhelming favorite. Unbeaten and a winner of four races by a combined 40 lengths or so, this son of Tapit had been extremely impressive. So who would be dumb enough to ask questions about this fantastic four-year-old?
If we are going to be real about it all, I was one of those imbeciles. Having never raced around two turns with 1 mile being his longest race, how would a lightly raced runner stack up against a salty field that featured a combined 85 starts? A minute fifty-nine and one-fifth after the gates opened we ALL got the answer.
Coming into the race, trainer John Sadler was confident. “Ready to run” were his thoughts. A hulking presence in the paddock, Flightline’s mass of muscles and pricked ears were proof positive he was ready to roll. I had picked against him and after laying eyes on him in the walking ring my thoughts were simply hmmmmmmm.
Breaking alertly, this Kentucky-bred grandson of Indian Charlie battled for the lead early with long shot Extra Hope. Throwing down solid early fractions (23.42 opening quarter, 46.06 half mile) Flightline withstood the early pressure and proceeded to flex his four-legged fantasticness. After putting away his companion with confidence, the stride lengthened without asking. At the top of the stretch, the lead was 10 lengths. Making it look all too easy and under a hand ride, the distance between Flightline and his followers grew to a jaw-dropping 19 ¼ lengths at the wire.
The mercurial magnificence of Flightline was on full display as he guaranteed himself a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. After this Secretariat-like throw-down, the only question I had was a simple one… Which stooge did I most resemble for doubting Flighline…Moe, Larry, or Curly ?