Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) 1m 2f

THE story coming in proved to be the story coming out of the 39th Breeders’ Cup World Championships last weekend at Keeneland Race Course.

Flightline dominated the proceedings before, during and even after the 2022 renewal of North America’s richest event.

All eyes were on the unbeaten colt from the moment he touched down in the bluegrass, bedded down in a concrete block barn on Rice Road off the Keeneland backstretch, training before sunrise and even receiving his daily bath leading up to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The son of Tapit lived up to the hype and expectations, winning the 10-furlong Classic in a sublime performance that evoked memories of the greats to race here in the states.

He won by eight and a quarter lengths, a record for the Classic, and defeated a top field that included runner-up Olympiad, third-place finisher and multiple Grade 1 winner Taiba (third), Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (fourth) and rapid-fire pacesetter and multiple Grade 1 winner Life Is Good (fifth).


The win itself was one thing – he improved to six-for-six doing so and picked up an additional $3.12 million for his lengthy list of connections. The way he won was another – rating kindly under Flavien Prat just off what seemed like a suicidal pace of 22.55secs, 45.47secs, 1m 09.62secs and 1m 34.58secs before turning the Classic into another blowout.

Flightline won in 2m 00.05secs, the 10th fastest time in the race’s history and topping the former six and a half-length-record margin of victory set by American Pharoah in 2015 at Keeneland and Volponi in 2002 at Arlington Park.

“He’s been brilliant. Brilliant is his normal,” an emotional John Sadler said after the race, showing as much relief as joy in the post-race press conference. “He didn’t disappoint. He never has. We’re just really thrilled.”

Flightline retired to Lane’s End Farm in nearby Versailles, Kentucky, the day after the Classic. He’ll now stand his first season for $200,000, after a career that saw him win those six starts by a combined 71 lengths.

“In the words of Bud Delp, he’s one of the best horses to look through a bridle,” Sadler said, borrowing the phrase of the late trainer of Spectacular Bid.

“For me, it’s a culmination of your life’s work. When you’ve worked with horses your whole life … most trainers don’t get a horse like this. I’m just feeling very blessed.”

The 45,973 that came out for Championship Saturday expected a Spectacular Bid-like performance from Flightline and got it.


Flightline’s dominance easily overshadowed the other three main takeaways from the weekend – the dominance by the Europeans in winning six of the seven grass races, champion Malathaat winning a three-way thriller in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Cody’s Wish collecting another emotional victory for his namesake.

Huge stories on their own, but small in the wake of Flightline.

“It was the coolest thing all week to be in town and to be around – like the breakfast and everything – people just had a sparkle in their eye when they talked about Flightline,” said Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds, co-owner of the colt with Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Woodford Racing and Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm. “We’re all fans at heart. And obviously privileged to be part of this horse. But the fan in all of us, we’re like, ‘boy, this is really good for the business.’”

Bred by Lyon and born and raised on her farm in Georgetown, Flightline first garnered worldwide attention when he sold for $1 million at the boutique Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. Lyon hoped he’d bring seven figures but was willing to let the colt go for anything above $800,000 that night.

Finley, bidding outside and behind the sales pavilion, said at the time he was “excited” to land such a prospect and that “you keep buying these kinds of horses, I’d like to think we’ll be back in the big time. That’s what partners want, they want really top-end horses, (to) take a shot at the brass ring so to speak.”

The partners earned the brass, gold and dollars from Flightline. A 2.5% interest in Flightline sold for $4.3 million just prior to the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, which values the future stallion at more than $180 million.

Whether he lives up to that in the breeding shed – gamblers might say it’s impossible – but none of that mattered to the crowd filing out of the stands late Saturday night. Fans and horsemen alike were satisfied and awed by the result, whether they won or lost.

Count Bill Mott, the Hall of Fame trainer of runner-up Olympiad who trained two-time Horse of the Year and 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cigar; and Bob Baffert, another Hall of Famer who trained Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and sent out Taiba, as those left impressed.

“How could you be more pleased?” Mott said. “We’re here on the wrong year. His race would have won some other Classics.”

“He just reminds me of American Pharoah,” Baffert said. “He’s a beast. I’ve been watching him. John Sadler has done a tremendous job with him. He deserves that win the way he handled him. Just a tremendous racehorse. Horses like him, Pharoah, Justify, Arrogate, they don’t come along very often. I’ve watched him train.”

Even Aidan O’Brien, who enjoyed perhaps his best Breeders’ Cup weekend with three victories, came away impressed.

O’Brien was among the large crowd that gathered in the walking ring before the race – and without a runner – just to get a close look at Flightline before heading to the boxes to watch the race live.