Now that Flightline has been officially sent to the breeding shed, the debate can begin. Where does this unbeaten runner rank as far as the all-time greats are concerned?
The great thing about sports is the comparison of athletes from different eras. Who is actually better is totally a matter of opinion and like another part of the human anatomy, everyone’s got one and you hope it doesn’t stink (the opinion that is). But regardless of all that, let’s talk a bit about this four-legged phenom called Flightline.
A perfect six for six lifetime on the track, doubters may say “how can a horse that lightly raced be considered as one of the all-time greats?” For Flightline it was not about how many times he won, it was the way he did it. Complete domination may not do him justice when describing his winning style. His margins of victory were 13 ¼, 12 ¾, 11 ½, 6, 19 ¼, and 8 ¼ lengths. That means no one was even close to him at the finish. Four of those races were grade 1 events which draws the best competition as higher purse money is present and fields are normally more accomplished.
Because those six starts were spaced out between April 24, 2021 and November 5, 2022, this John Sadler trained son of Tapit was fresh for every race. Obviously a horse that could carry his fitness, his performances spoke as to his pure athletic talent. The Pacific Classic on September 3, 2022 was one of the most magnificent displays man has ever seen. Having never raced more than a mile nor around two turns, this grandson of Indian Charlie answered all those questions and then some. Winning by almost 20 lengths against a solid field, this Juggernaut’s jog stopped the clock at 1:59.28 just missing the track record at Del Mar (1:59.11).
The final race of his career was another testament for Flightline. Some runners win because they have things their way. The early pace in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5 was torrid to say the least. Running just off an opening quarter mile that smoked in at 22.55 and a hot half mile of 45.47, this was a scenario that could have cooked a lesser. Gathering like a storm cloud, within a lightning flash, Flightline struck the lead at the top of the stretch and thundered home easily in front.
The business of the sport is why we will never see Flightline on the track again. Looking towards a stallion career that will initially bring $200,000 per session, he now looks to contribute to Thoroughbred racing in a different way. As he enjoys this next chapter of his life, those that saw him run will echo the sentiments of his trainer. When asked to describe Flightline Sadler simply says “Brilliant”.
So what’s the answer to our question? Where does he fall on the list? Just being able to think about being in the conversation speaks volumes. Thanks for the ride Flightline.