How far can Flightline go?
1.30 Pacific Classic (Grade 1)
SARATOGA may have been centre stage for the last weeks and the meeting comes to a close with the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup this evening (10.45pm) but there will be more attention on the west coast where Flightline – the unbeaten four-year-old is one of highest rated horses in the world and aims for the Breeders’ Cup as he stretches out two furlongs in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar (1.30am).
Despite having only four races, the son of Tapit has been exhilarating in winning by wide margins and won the Met Mile last time by six lengths in the June, his only start of 2022 and the first over a mile, beating Happy Saver who then ran well against Life Is Good in the Whitney.
It’s a stern enough test with Grade 1 winners Country Grammer, Royal Ship, and Express Train are among his rivals. Trainer John Sadler has won it three times in the past four years.
Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer has won the Grade 1 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup as well as the 2022 Dubai Cup.
Royal Ship, Express Train and Stilleto Boy have all won graded stakes in California this year.
Express Train won this year’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes.
Royal Ship beat Country Grammer and Stilleto Boy in the July 30th Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.
Though the 10 furlongs is a fair jump in distance and Flightline’s pedigree – Tapit out of Indian Charlie mare - might give a few doubts, he has been so dominant that the easier California tracks should allow him to get home here once his pace is used at the right time.
Next Best: Country Grammer
The Jockey Club Gold Cup gives the Bill Mott-trained Olympiad a chance to make amends for his poor run behind Life Is Good in the Whitney. Previously he had been on a five-race winning streak that culminated in an impressive win in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster. He put up little resistance in the Whitney, finding nothing in the straight to finish fourth, behind Happy Saver and Hot Rod Charlie.
Though the race was held in very hot weather, no explanation was revealed for the poor run with Mott saying this week. “He had a bad day. I don’t know what else to say.”
Todd Pletcher provides the main opposition with four runners and Dynamic One and Americanrevolution looks his two main hopes.
Americanrevolution goes 10 furlongs for the first time. Winner of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap last year, he was fourth in the Blame and second last time out to Gold Cup starter Olympiad in the Stephen Foster Stakes.
Shug McGaughey’s First Captain has taken longer to develop and after a Grade 3 win he fell short by a nose to Dynamic One after a dramatic stretch duel in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes in July at Belmont Park.
It might be worth taking a chance with the son of Curlin over this distance.
Saratoga also features the Grade 2 Flower Bowl Stakes for fillies and mares over 11 furlongs.
War Like Goddess, a five-year-old mare heads the field having won eight of 10 career starts. She will look to add to her impressive record after winning both of her starts this season, the latest being the Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes in June.
The three horses that finished behind War Like Goddess in the Glens Falls - Temple City Terror, Virginia Joy and Flanigan’s Cove - have another try against her. Klaravich Stables’ Capital Structure (Lope De Vega) is one of three trained by Chad Brown.
War Like Goddess also won this race last summer and then finished third in the Filly and Mare Turf in the Breeders’ Cup.
Tomorrow evening the first of the Grade 1 two-year-old races takes place at Saratoga with the seven-furlong Spinaway Stakes for fillies which includes the winners of the meeting’s two earlier graded juvenile filly races, Just Cindy and Naughty Gal.
Mark Casse is also confident about Wonder Wheel, who has won her first two starts by a total of nine lengths.