Breeders Cup to Take Flight, as best runs for the ages

US superstar Flightline faces four last-start G1 winners in the Breeders' Cup Classic

Many argue that the G1 Breeders' Cup Classic - over 2000m on dirt - is America's greatest horse race and it is certainly hard to imagine any 2022 racing encounter grabbing more attention and expectation with the sensational Flightline confronting seven rivals at Keeneland on Sunday (6 November) morning, four of whom were impressive last-start G1 winners.

Excitement was reportedly near fever pitch before Flightline, a US$1 million (approx. HK$7.849 million) purchase, had even raced. It has only escalated since the unbeaten son of Tapit's first win - a runaway stroll over 1200m at Santa Anita in April 2021 - to his near-20 lengths smashing of G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt) winner Country Grammer and four others in September's G1 Pacific Classic (2000m, dirt) at Del Mar.

Echoing the thoughts of many others, Flightline’s 66-year-old trainer John W. Sadler said: "Flightline's performance in the Pacific Classic is one of the best races ever run by an American horse in any generation. The speed figures he runs are numbers that are rarely ever seen."

Sadler has sent out more than 2,000 winners and they include Accelerate, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2018. How does he compare the pair? "Accelerate was a champion but he's not even remotely close to this horse," is the Californian-based trainer's crisp response.

An incredibly strong colt with a famously long stride, Flightline will leave from gate four and it will then be Flavien Prat's role to restrain the colt early on without disappointing a horse possessed with so much exuberance, bordering on equine aggression.

The opposition to the world's highest-rated horse is unlikely to make Prat's job easy. Steven Asmussen – all-time leading trainer in North America in terms of wins with over 9,900 - has a fearsome candidate in Epicenter, an excellent second in Triple Crown races, the G1 Kentucky Derby (2000m, dirt) at Churchill Downs and the G1 Preakness Stakes (1900m, dirt) at Pimlico.

He subsequently posted a career best when romping clear and eased down late on to win the prestigious G1 Travers Stakes (2000m, dirt) at Saratoga in August. Since then, Epicenter has been freshened up with Sunday’s huge prize in mind.

Asmussen said: "The difference between coming here off winning the Travers as opposed to being second in the Derby and the Preakness is that we have a more generous horse mentally. And wow, he's magnificent right now."

Taiba appears to have gone under the radar, but he's handled by trainer Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith who has won a record 27 Breeders' Cup races. And the 57-year-old veteran jockey was on board when the three-year-old delivered a powerful winning performance in the G1 Pennsylvania Derby (1800m, dirt) at Parx in September.

It will be fascinating to see what tactics Irad Ortiz Jr adopts on Life Is Good as he now needs to prove he can properly last this trip. He has shown terrific gate speed on his last three starts gaining front running victories, most recently in the G1 Woodward Stakes (1800m, dirt) at Aqueduct.

Olympiad (Junior Alvarado) is the other last-start G1 winner, gaining a fluent win over this trip in September's G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup (dirt) at Saratoga. That crowned a magnificent season for this galloper who has won six of his seven 2022 starts. As for taking on Flightline, trainer William Mott says: "I'm a racing fan and I love to watch good horses. I'm anxious to see the race and I'm glad to be part of it."

© 2009 All rights reserved.