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Flightline Has A Chance to Reach Rarefied Air Among Recent Greats

Undefeated Superstar Could Join Top 12 in Last 50 Years

The list of the top 12 North American racehorses in the last 50 years is ready for an update. Flightline is poised for inclusion with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5. The 4-year-old will be a short price in the horse racing odds off a Pacific Classic victory that turned heads and sent speed figures nearly through the roof. Flightline, 5-for-5 lifetime by an eye-popping 63¾ lengths, would belong among the top 12 horses in North America over the last 50 years provided he runs another hole in the wind in Lexington, Ky.

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Flavien Prat walks to the paddock before riding Flightline during the 129th running of the Hill 'N' Dale Metropolitan at Belmont Park
Sarah Stier - Getty Images - AFP

Flightline Can Reach New Heights With Breeders’ Cup Triumph

Flightline has won three straight races — all Grade Is ranging from 7-to-10 furlongs — by a combined 36¾ lengths. He has never been higher than 4-5 odds at the racebook and is expected to be in the 1-2 range in the Classic leading up the race when betting online, but a better price can be found right here, right now.

The Tapit colt worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Santa Anita on Oct. 15 with his next work scheduled for Saturday morning. “All’s good,’’ trainer John Sadler told the media about Flightline. “That’s him, that’s the way he works. He’ll have one more here and then he goes to Keeneland …. He’ll have one work over there.”

Flightline is the second-fastest horse in the 32-year history of the Beyer speed figures, earning a 126 with a 19¼-length victory in the Pacific Classic on Sept. 3 at Del Mar. The owners will reportedly decide after the Breeders’ Cup whether to race Flightline in 2023 with an eye perhaps on the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream and/or some potential overseas options.

From Ruffian to Secretariat, Five Decades of Greatness

A nod to Ruffian, who was 10-for-11 lifetime before sustaining a fatal leg injury during a much-anticipated match race against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure in 1975.

11. Zenyatta was 19-for-20 lifetime with her breathtaking come-from-behind running style adding to the excitement. Zenyatta finished second in her last race — the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic by a head to Blame — after winning it the year before.

10. John Henry, the claimer turned superstar, won 39-of-83 races. John Henry was Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1984, and champion turf horse in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984. He sustained a leg injury prior to the inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984, and was retired at age 9.

9. Ghostzapper owns the highest Beyer speed figure — a 128 in winning the Iselin at Monmouth in 2004. Ghostzapper was 9-for-11 lifetime, including graded stakes victories at six furlongs, seven furlongs, one mile, 1⅛ miles and the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1¼ miles.

8. Justify went 6-for-6 in a career that spanned 112 days, and won the 2017 Triple Crown. He ran the first quarter of his first race in 21.59 seconds. An argument could be made that a horse that raced for less than four months shouldn’t be considered, but he won the Triple Crown.

7. Cigar won 16 straight races – 14 in stakes company – from 1994 to 1996, including the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Cigar’s streak ended with a loss to Dare and Go in the 1996 Pacific Classic. He retired three races later following a third in the BC Classic.

6. Forego was Horse of the Year in 1974, 1975 and 1976, winning 34-of-57 races from seven furlongs to two miles. Forego was fourth behind Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby. He won the 1976 Marlboro Cup at Belmont while toting 137 pounds.

5. Horse racing didn’t celebrate a Triple Crown winner for 36 years before American Pharoah accomplished the feat in 2015. American Pharoah, 9-for-11 lifetime, capped his career with a victory in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. His wire-to-wire Belmont Stakes triumph featured quarter times of 24.06, 24.77, 24.58, 24.58, 24.34 and 24.32 seconds.

4. Spectacular Bid may be getting a bit short-changed here and could be No. 2, but an infamous safety pin intervened. Those closest to Bid, 26-for-30 lifetime, believe that his third-place performance in the 1979 Belmont Stakes — preventing him from winning the Triple Crown — was because of stepping on the pin on the morning of the race.

3. Affirmed claimed the Triple Crown in 1978, with Alydar second in all three races. Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby by 1½ lengths, the Preakness by a head and the Belmont by a nose. The rivals were never more than one length apart in the Belmont. Affirmed finished 22-for-29 lifetime after winning his last seven races, six of which were Grade Is.

2. Seattle Slew gets a slight edge over Affirmed by virtue of his victory over that rival in the 1978 Marlboro Cup. Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, began his career with nine straight victories capped by the Belmont. He finished 14-for-17 lifetime. Seattle Slew, like Secretariat, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid, won Eclipse Awards at ages 2, 3 and 4.

1. Secretariat’s 31-length victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes is arguably the most iconic moment in racing history. Only two horses – Easy Goer in 1989 and A.P. Indy in 1992 — have come as close as two seconds of Big Red’s race record of 2 minutes, 24 seconds. Two seconds equals about 10 lengths. Secretariat, 16-for-21 lifetime, was also the fastest winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His heart weighed 22 pounds – 13 more than the average horse, according to the astonished veterinarian performing the necropsy in 1989.

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