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Flightline dominates Breeders’ Cup Classic, winning by 8¼ lengths

Flavien Prat rides Flightline to victory during the Breeders' Cup Classic race at the Keeneland Race Course.
Flavien Prat rides Flightline to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course on Saturday.
(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)
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No matter how big the hype, no matter how high the expectations, Flightline exceeded every marker in his historic win Saturday in the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course.

Did he cement his place in horse racing history with his 8¼-length win in the country’s most prestigious race?

The 45,973 in attendance appeared to think so as they roared with approval and astonishment as he galloped down the stretch at Keeneland. His victory margin was the largest for a Classic winner and his odds of 2-5 were the lowest.

The knock against Flightline, and in horse racing everything eventually gets knocked, is that it was only his sixth race and possibly his last. The sport doesn’t celebrate its stars, it retires them.

“We’ll all get together and discuss it at a later time and decide [if Flightline will run at 5 years old or go off to the breeding shed],” said Kosta Hronis, who has acted as a frontman for the ownership group. “We’ll always do what’s best by the horse, I can promise you that. We’ll … just decide together how we want to do this.”

Flightline’s value as a stallion, while still unknown, could approach $100 million. That’s what happens when you win your six races by a total of 71 lengths.

It was the second Breeders’ Cup win for trainer John Sadler, the first coming with Accelerate in the Classic in 2018. It was jockey Flavien Prat’s fourth Breeders’ Cup win and first in the Classic.

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“How do you describe greatness?” Sadler asked. “This is a rare horse. It happens every 20 or 30 years. One of the best American racehorses we’ve seen in a long, long time. And I’m talking back to Secretariat, Seattle Slew. You go through the list.

“What I’ve tried to be is a good steward to him, be fair with him. And if you’re good with your horses, they’re good with you.”

The race was not without its moment of serious concern when Epicenter was pulled up on the backstretch because of a repairable displaced condylar fracture to his right front leg. He will undergo surgery in the morning. He did walk on to the equine ambulance. Epicenter is a 3-year-old who won the Travers Stakes. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Flavien Prat poses in the winner's circle after riding Flightline to victory.
Flavien Prat poses in the winner’s circle with Flightline after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Earlier in the day, Domestic Spending was pulled up entering the far turn in the Turf Mile. Trainer Chad Brown tweeted that the horse suffered a “serious pelvic fracture” and was stabilized. Domestic Spending hadn’t raced since Aug. 14 of last year after winning six of seven starts, including in the 2020 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar.

Both horses were taken to nearby Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.

The 1 ¼-mile Classic started with Life Is Good going for the lead and Flightline sitting on his outside. It didn’t take long for the two horses to separate themselves from the field. Down the backstretch, Life Is Good opened up three lengths on Flightline. Flightline made his move on the far turn and pulled even at the top of the stretch. That’s when he left Life Is Good in his rear-view mirror and effortlessly ran to the finish line.

“He shows so much talent,” Prat said. “We were expecting a great run from him. He broke sharp … and I was able to get myself in the clear, he was traveling well and relaxed well down the backside. I felt like he was in control the whole race.”

Flightline paid $2.88 to win, $2.92 to place and $2.30 to show. Kentucky is the only state that pays off in penny breakage. Olympiad was second followed by Taiba, Rich Strike, Life Is Good, Hot Rod Charlie and Happy Saver. Epicenter did not finish the race.

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The Breeders’ Cup Classic could be Flightline’s last race. Even if he wins, some believe he hasn’t raced enough to be one of the all-time greats.

Nov. 4, 2022

“For me, it’s a culmination of your life’s work,” Sadler said. “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 best race of the day was a blanket three-horse finish in the $2-million Distaff. Malathaat, Blue Stripe and Clairiere appeared to all hit the finish line simultaneously. Once the stewards checked the photo, Malathaat ($7.76 to win) was the winner over Blue Stripe and Clairiere. The official margins were nose and nose because there is no smaller increment.

The feel-good moment of the day came when Cody’s Wish ($6.32) won the Dirt Mile. The horse is named for Cody Dorman, a Kentucky teenager with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. The 16-year-old, who is in a wheelchair, was trackside and in the Winner’s Circle with the horse.

Other winners were Goodnight Olive ($5.70) in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Caravel ($87.78) in the Turf Sprint, Tuesday ($10.38) in the Filly and Mare Turf, Elite Power in the Sprint ($13.10), Modern Games ($4.76) in the Mile and Rebel’s Romance ($13.92) in the Turf.

Next year the Breeders’ Cup will be held Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita for a record 11th time. Will Flightline be defending his win in the Classic on his home track? Don’t count on it.

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