I'm hard pressed to recall a horse who has looked better in his first two career starts than has Flightline.
When he finally made it to the races at Santa Anita on April 24, the wait proved well worth it, as the much-discussed son of Tapit dazzled his way to a 13 1/4-length runaway against maiden special weight competition.
It took more than four months since that scintillating debut performance for the 3-year-old colt to make his second start, but once again the million-dollar baby left his audience wide-eyed with a showing even better than his first.
Given plenty of time after his freakish debut, and then slowed further with a foot abscess, the John Sadler trainee had impressed in his recent local works. Not surprisingly, he was hammered down to 1-5 odds in a Sunday allowance race at Del Mar.
Away smoothly from the outside, Flightline comfortably stalked the early pace through a :22.01 first quarter mile, before effortlessly taking over on the turn. The leader through a half mile in :44.17, rider Flavien Prat kept his hands where they were, as his talented mount proceeded to sprint down the Del Mar stretch with big, fluid strides.
In a class by himself in his first two starts, the buzz about Flightline seems poised to only grow after this victory. The final margin was nearly identical to his debut, winning this one by 12 3/4 lengths. The final time of 1:08.05 for the 6 furlongs over the fast main track at Del Mar was validation for what we all witnessed with our eyes.
Now only two starts into his career, better than midway through his 3-year-old season, there is a mountain still to be proven by Flightline, but finding a horse who has been more impressive in his initial two outings might be near impossible.
From a speed-figure standpoint, Flightline is off the charts. For his maiden-breaking debut performance in the spring at Santa Anita, he earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. On Sunday at Del Mar, he demonstrated that was only the beginning by achieving one of the top figures by any horse in recent years.
His 12 3/4-length victory in 1:08.05 was less than half a second behind the long-standing track record. The performance, which was completed with little urging from Prat, earned a big Beyer Speed Figure of 114.
Unbeaten and utterly untested to begin his career, Flightline always was meant to be a good one.
Sired by one of America’s best, he was bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Equine, who paid $2.35 million for his young dam five years ago. Feathered was a successful multi-surface runner, sired by Indian Charlie. She won the 2015 Edgewood Stakes (G3) on the turf at Churchill Downs, and also finished a competitive second in the Starlet Stakes (G1) on the dirt and the American Oaks (G1) on the turf.
A good-looking yearling, Flightline was sold for a million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in August 2019. Terry Finley picked him out and created an owner partnership that included his West Point Thoroughbreds, breeder Summer Wind, Hronis Racing, Siena Farm and Woodford Racing.
The investment now looks to be a bargain as Flightline seems to be on a fast track to the big time. Or perhaps a slow and steady climb to racing’s elite would be more accurate.
Never rushed so far, don’t look for him to be quickly thrust into the Breeders’ Cup fire in a few months. With only two 6-furlong races under his belt to date, his connections have mentioned the Malibu Stakes (G1) at 7 furlongs in late December at Santa Anita instead as a possible goal. A schedule like this would lead to stretching him out for big older male races next year.
As gifted and fast as he is, Flightline’s pedigree certainly points to distances beyond the realm of sprinting. Not only was his dam a good second going 10 furlongs in a Grade 1 race on the grass, but his sire, Tapit, has produced a steady stream of top horses who could run a distance of ground, including four winners of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
Patiently handled, the best looks yet to come from Flightline, who has shown us all the potential in the world in his first two starts. Bred to go any distance, he could be the horse to watch in 2022, even if he has looked ready to burst out of his skin already this year.