Jon White: Flightline, an Equine Tidal Wave

How impressive was Flightline’s 126 Beyer Speed Figure in this year’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 3? It broke the record for highest Beyer in the race’s 32-year history. The previous top figure by a Pacific Classic winner had been Candy Ride’s 123 Beyer in 2003.

To put Flightline’s 126 into perspective, it’s a higher Beyer than the winning figure for all 374 of the races in the history of the Breeders’ Cup to date.

In other words, in terms of Beyer Speed Figures, Flightline ran fast enough in the Pacific Classic to have won every single Breeders’ Cup race run from 1984 to date. And keep in mind, Flightline might well have received an even higher Beyer than a 126 in the Pacific Classic if he had not been geared down late and “just cantered in,” as track announcer Trevor Denman put it.

The top Beyer by a Breeders’ Cup winner is the 125 that Precisionist recorded when he won the 1985 Sprint at Aqueduct.

The highest Beyer by a BC Classic winner is the 124 by Sunday Silence in 1989 and Ghostzapper in 2004.

The biggest Beyer at last year’s Breeders’ Cup was Knicks Go’s 112 for his 2 3/4-length win in the Classic at Del Mar.

John Sadler has likened training Flightline, a superb talent, to coaching LeBron James in high school.

Flightline’s “just bigger, more powerful, stronger than the other horses,” Sadler said last week during an interview with the Paulick Report’s Ray Paulick and Joe Nevills. “I’ve said all along that he’s never hidden his talent. He’s shown great ability from day one. What’s remarkable is how fast he is and he can carry it over a distance of ground.”

Ex-jockey Juan Leyva, Sadler’s assistant trainer, is Flightline’s regular exercise rider. Whereas the $1 million auction purchase once was quite headstrong when training in the morning, he has become much more settled and relaxed, thanks in large part to Leyva.

“Training with this horse has always been centered on controlling his speed because he’s so quick and so brilliant,” Sadler said. “We’ve seen him mature as a horse, learn how to rate better. We’ll have works now where he’ll go off the first eighth in :12 4/5. And maybe as a young horse, before he’d ever run, he would pull super hard. To see him relax and mature, kind of with what comes with racing and age, has been really fun. And a lot of credit goes to my assistant Juan Leyva, who rides him. Juan has done a brilliant job with him. I think Juan said once Flightline’s like riding a tidal wave. It’s not easy, but Juan makes it look easy.”

The “equine tidal wave” struck Del Mar on Sept. 3. If you watched the $1 million Pacific Classic that day, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought Flightline won by about 2,000 miles. But, no, his official margin of victory turned out to be 19 1/4 lengths.

Last Sunday, Flightline did travel more than 2,000 miles from California to Kentucky for his upcoming engagement in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5.

Flightline’s journey to Kentucky began with a van ride from his home base at Santa Anita Park to Ontario Airport. The first leg of the journey was 32 miles, according to Google. The next leg was a 2,054-mile plane ride, a “Flightline flight” if you will, to Louisville International Airport. After that, he was vanned 70 miles to Keeneland, the final stop on his 2,156-mile journey.

Reports were that Flightline traveled well. Evidently he likes flying a lot more than I do these days.

Flightline clearly has top billing at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. This will be the 39th Breeders’ Cup, which was held for the first time in 1984 at Hollywood Park.

Keeneland is playing host to the Breeders’ Cup for the third time, having previously done so in 2015 and 2020.

Flightline undoubtedly will be the BC Classic betting favorite at what is anticipated to be very short odds, probably 3-5 or lower. As I have written previously, I think there is a pretty good chance that he is going to be 2-5, which would break the record for lowest odds ever by a BC Classic favorite. Easy Goer holds that record. Easy Goer was a 1-2 favorite when he finished second to Sunday Silence in the 1989 BC Classic at Gulfstream Park.

One of the reasons I believe Flightline very possibly is going to be lower than 3-5 or 1-2 is he doesn’t have a rival who is going to get bet as much as Sunday Silence did in the 1989 BC Classic. Sunday Silence was 2-1 when he met Easy Goer in a Horse of the Year showdown in the BC Classic. Yes, Epicenter and Taiba are very good 3-year-olds. They certainly are going to attract some wagering support in the BC Classic, as will 4-year-old multiple Grade I winner Life Is Good. But I don’t see Epicenter, Taiba, Life Is Good or anyone else being anywhere close to 2-1 vs. Flightline in the BC Classic.

My BC Classic odds are below (Brad Free’s DRF odds in parentheses):

 2-5 Flightline (3-5)
 6-1 Epicenter (6-1)
 8-1 Life Is Good (5-1)
 8-1 Taiba (8-1)
15-1 Hot Rod Charlie (15-1)
15-1 Olympiad (15-1)
15-1 Rich Strike (20-1)
20-1 Cyberknife (30-1) expected to enter BC Dirt Mile, not BC Classic
30-1 Happy Saver (30-1)

As you can see above, Free has Flightline at 3-5. Nick Tamarro is making the official Breeders’ Cup morning lines this year for the first time (a difficult task I have had the honor of doing seven times). When Tamarro’s BC Classic morning line is announced Monday (Oct. 31), I won’t be surprised if he, like Free, has Flightline at 3-5.

Meanwhile, Daily Racing Form’s David Grening seems to agree with me that Flightline’s price might well end up being lower than 3-5.

“Though there is talent in this Classic field, led by the 4-year-olds Life Is Good and Olympiad and 3-year-olds Epicenter and Taiba, Flightline could challenge Easy Goer (1-2 in 1989) as the shortest-priced favorite in the history of the Classic, which will be run for the 39th time,” Grening wrote. “Easy Goer lost to Sunday Silence, who twice had beaten him during that year’s Triple Crown series.”


As mentioned earlier, Flightline’s 126 Beyer in the Pacific Classic broke the record for the largest figure in the history of the race. That’s just one of several records that Flightline has broken.

Flightline’s goosebumps-producing 19 1/4-length tour de force in the Pacific Classic obliterated the record for the biggest winning margin in the history of the race. The previous record of 12 1/2 lengths had been set by Accelerate in 2018.

NBC racing commentator Randy Moss has called Flightline’s Pacific Classic the greatest performance in American racing since Secretariat’s legendary 31-length victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes to end a 25-year Triple Crown drought.

Another record Flightline broke in the Pacific Classic was for the lowest $2 win payoff in the history of that 1 1/4-mile event. He paid $2.60 for each $2 win wager. The previous lowest $2 win payoff had been Accelerate’s $2.80 in 2018.

Flightline’s sensational Pacific Classic performance also broke the record for the best Thoro-Graph number in the 35 years that they have been computing those speed figures.

In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, the higher the number the better. The opposite is true for Thoro-Graph numbers.

According to Bill Finley of the Thoroughbred Daily News, Flightline’s Thoro-Graph number for the Pacific Classic was a negative 8 1/2.

The previous lowest Thoro-Graph number was Frosted’s negative 8 when he won the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park by 14 1/4 lengths in 1:32.73.


If Flightline wins the BC Classic, even though he will have made just three 2022 starts, he will be an odds-on favorite to be voted Horse of the Year. If that happens, he will cause another record to fall. It would be the fewest starts made in said year by a Horse of the Year during the Eclipse Awards era, which began in 1971.

Since the formation of the Eclipse Awards, four is the fewest number of starts during the year by a Horse of the Year. Ghostzapper holds the record. He was four for four in 2004. Ghostzapper won the Grade II Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park, Grade III Iselin, Grade I Woodward Stakes at Belmont and Grade I BC Classic at Lone Star Park in 2004.

Interestingly, if Flightline does win the BC Classic and becomes the 2022 Horse of the Year, his three Grade I victories in said year will be more than Ghostzapper’s two Grade I wins in 2004.

Invasor made five starts in 2006, winning four. That’s the next-fewest number of starts during the year by an Eclipse Award-winning Horse of the Year. Invasor, like Ghostzapper, won the BC Classic, which was run at Churchill Downs in 2006.

Below is a list of horses voted an Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year to have made seven or fewer starts during the year:

Year (Starts in Year) Horse of the Year

2004 (4) Ghostzapper
2006 (5) Invasor
2005 (6) Saint Liam
2019 (6) Bricks and Mortar
2018 (6) Justify
2017 (6) Gun Runner
2012 (6) Wise Dan
2010 (6) Zenyatta
2021 (7) Knicks Go
2020 (7) Authentic
2013 (7) Wise Dan
2008 (7) Curlin
2001 (7) Point Given
1992 (7) A.P. Indy
1985 (7) Spend a Buck
1983 (7) All Along
1977 (7) Seattle Slew

By the way, Lady’s Secret, who was nicknamed “The Iron Lady,” holds the record for most starts during the year by a horse voted an Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year. Lady’s Secret made 15 starts during her Horse of the Year campaign in 1986, winning 10, all in stakes races.


Besides the Pacific Classic, Flightline’s only other 2022 start came in Belmont Park’s Grade I Metropolitan Handicap on June 11. He won the Met Mile by six emphatic lengths despite a tardy start and early adversity.

If Flightline wins the BC Classic and is voted Horse of the Year, he will equal the record of fewest starts during the year by a Horse of the Year prior to the Eclipse Awards. The great Native Dancer was voted 1954 Horse of the Year in the poll conducted by the Daily Racing Form and The Morning Telegraph after having made just three starts in said year.

The Met Mile is a victory that Flightline and Native Dancer have in common. Each won the important New York race as a 4-year-old.

Flightline, who stands about 16.2 hands tall, according to Sadler, won the Met Mile in his first start of the year. In the case of Native Dancer, he had raced once earlier in 1954 prior to his Met Mile triumph.

Owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt and trained by Bill Winfrey, Native Dancer made his 1954 debut in a six-furlong allowance race at Belmont Park on May 7. He was sent away as a 1-5 favorite.

“Ever a big horse, the gray stripped for his first 4-year-old appearance a shade over 16.1 and a Thoroughbred of massive dimensions,” Charles Hatton wrote in the American Racing Manual. “He drew a large, admiring gallery to the paddock to see him saddled.

“With his regular jockey, [Eric] Guerin, in the stirrups, he dawdled along to the stretch, then bowled over his opposition with consummate ease, winning in 1:11 4/5. The going was fast, but ‘Dancer’ was impartial to track conditions, and he cooled out satisfactorily.”

Hatton noted that the purpose of the May 7 allowance race “was to season him for the more exciting events ahead.”

In the May 15 Met Mile, Native Dancer “gave one of the epic performances punctuating the long history of that stake,” Hatton wrote. “Carrying top weight of 130 pounds, he was required to concede 13 to Straight Face, recent winner of the Dixie, and 24 to Flaunt, lightweight in the field of nine. Straight Face had won the Pimlico stake with gusto, and he badly frightened Native Dancer’s backers in the Metropolitan.

“The favorite refused to take the Greentree gelding [Straight Face] seriously in the run down the backstretch, with the consequence that the latter was six lengths in front of him a quarter-mile to go, and with no indication of faltering despite the realistic pace. Entering the long homestretch, Native Dancer lengthened stride and set about attempting to reduce Straight Face’s advantage. He had caught a grim rival, however, and it was slow, hard work, with Straight Face still four in front at the furlong pole. While his admirers watched hopelessly, the champion kept doggedly to his task. It still seemed impossible he could win 50 yards from the finish, but with one desperate thrust he got his neck in front. The time was a creditable 1:35 1/5, the first six furlongs run in 1:10 1/5. Viewed from any perspective, it was one of the brilliant performances in years.”

As for Flightline, he won his Met Mile as a 2-5 favorite in 1:33 2/5 (1:33.59) after he zipped the first six furlongs in 1:08 2/5 (1:08.54).

Unlike Native Dancer’s 130-pound weight package when he won the Met Mile, Flightline carried a much less burdensome 124 pounds in this year’s renewal, one pound less than topweighted Speaker’s Corner, who finished third.

After the Met Mile, Native Dancer appeared on the May 31 edition of Time Magazine.

Native Dancer raced only once more after the Met Mile. He packed 137 pounds in the seven-furlong Oneonta Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 16. He faced just two foes and won by nine lengths on a sloppy track. Native Dancer spotted 19 pounds to runner-up First Glance and a whopping 30 pounds to third-place finisher Gigantic.

“Though nobody guessed it at the time, that was his finale,” Hatton wrote of Native Dancer. “His owner had for months toyed with an adventurous thought to fly him to France for the Arc de Triomphe in the fall, but soon after the Oneonta the colt was found to be lame following a workout. Plans for a far-flung campaign had to be abandoned and it was announced that Native Dancer would be retired to stud.”

Despite making only three starts in 1954, “Native Dancer was selected in the annual poll of Daily Racing Form and The Morning Telegraph as Horse of the Year, the reason for his preference over horses with more logical claims to this honor being that here was a ‘great’ horse, a standard that could not be met by any of the other horses in training on whom the 33 experts -- trackmen, correspondents, handicappers, editors and columnists -- were called on to vote,” Evan Shipman wrote in the American Racing Manual.

No doubt some marked their ballot for Native Dancer as 1954 Horse of the Year despite such an abbreviated campaign that year as payback of sorts for the colt being denied the 1953 Horse of the Year title as a 3-year-old despite his outstanding record.

Native Dancer won nine of 10 starts in 1953, with his lone blemish coming when he almost got knocked down at the first turn and still finished a close second in the Kentucky Derby. He lost the Run for the Roses by a head to Dark Star.

In addition to Native Dancer’s trouble at the first turn, Guerin’s Kentucky Derby ride also drew criticism.

“According to one disgusted observer, jockey Eric Guerin ‘took him everywhere on the track except the ladies’ room,’ ” Mary Simon wrote in her book “Racing Through the Century.”

Native Dancer was overwhelmingly voted champion 3-year-old male in 1953. He would have been the 1953 Horse of the Year in addition to his 1954 Horse of the Year title if not for having the misfortune to be on the 1953 ballot with another of the all-time greats, Tom Fool. Voted champion older male in 1953, Tom Fool was 10 for 10 that year, with eight of his victories coming in stakes races.

As 2-year-old male champion in 1952, Native Dancer was nine for nine, with seven of his wins coming in stakes races. He was not voted Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old in the 1952 poll conducted by Daily Racing Form and The Morning Telegraph, with that honor going to 3-year-old One Count. However, Native Dancer was selected 1952 Horse of the Year by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Just think, if Native Dancer had prevailed in the Kentucky Derby, he would have been a 22-for-22 Triple Crown winner. As it was, he retired with 21 victories from 22 career starts.

Bred in Kentucky, Native Dancer was nicknamed the “Gray Ghost of Sagamore.” Sagamore was Vanderbilt’s Maryland farm.

Native Dancer became a huge television star during the medium’s infancy.

“Television was the American craze of the 1950s, an electronic marvel every bit as epoch-making then as the Internet would be 40 years later,” wrote Simon, who noted that Native Dancer later was “ranked by TV Guide magazine as one of the towering icons of that era, alongside Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey.”

Native Dancer “was a big, powerful, charismatic colt whose gray coat made him easy to recognize in a field of browns and chestnuts,” Simon wrote. “Neophyte television viewers were transfixed by the grainy images of this light-colored blur streaking from behind and under the wire first in race after race. For the first time in its 200-year history, horse racing could draw from a potential fan base of millions rather than thousands, and Native Dancer made the most of it as he galloped his way into the hearts of America.”

After Flightline retires, he will go onto my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 21st Century so far to have won in North America. It’s just a question of how high on the list he will go. Right now, I am looking at him as a possibility for the top spot, depending on what else he goes on to accomplish.

Below is the Top 25 portion of my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 21st Century to have won in North America (active horses excluded):

   1. American Pharoah*
   2. Zenyatta
   3. Arrogate
   4. Rachel Alexandra
   5. Curlin
   6. Ghostzapper
   7. Justify*
   8. Shared Belief
   9. California Chrome
 10. Tiznow
 11. Gun Runner
 12. Invasor
 13. Wise Dan
 14. Goldikova
 15. Point Given
 16. Beholder
 17. Enable
 18. Barbaro
 19. Smarty Jones
 20. Bernardini
 21. Azeri
 22. Lava Man
 23. Bricks and Mortar
 24. Rags to Riches
 25. Candy Ride

Native Dancer ranks No. 6 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century to have won in North America. He is ranked a notch lower, at No. 7, on BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Below is the Top 25 portion of my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century to have won in North America (in parentheses, when applicable, is where the horse ranked on BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century):

   1. Man o’ War (1)
   2. Secretariat* (2)
   3. Citation* (3)
   4. Kelso (4)
   5. Spectacular Bid (10)
   6. Native Dancer (7)
   7. Dr. Fager (6)
   8. Seattle Slew* (9)
   9. Count Fleet* (5)
 10. Affirmed* (12)
 11. Ruffian (35)
 12. Swaps (20)
 13. Forego (8)
 14. Phar Lap (22)
 15. Buckpasser (14)
 16. Damascus (16)
 17. Round Table (17)
 18. Seabiscuit (25)
 19. War Admiral* (13)
 20. Tom Fool (11)
 21. Colin (15)
 22. John Henry (23)
 23. Regret (71)
 24. Exterminator (29)
 25. Whirlaway* (26)

*Triple Crown winner


Flightline worked seven furlongs in 1:11.80 at Santa Anita Park last Saturday morning (Oct. 22) shortly after 6:30. It was his final workout in California prior to the BC Classic.

As usual, Leyva was in the saddle for the drill. When Flightline worked six furlongs on Oct. 15, also officially timed in 1:11.80, it was so dark that just about all that was visible for much of the workout was a light on Leyva’s helmet. Later in the morning after that work, Sadler told me that he probably would work Flightline later in the morning last Saturday because it would not be so dark.

But I was not surprised that Sadler decided to have Flightline work shortly after 6:30 last Saturday, which has been the norm. When all is going well, trainers generally do not like to mess with a horse’s routine.

Thus, once again, when Flightline worked last Saturday, the sun had not yet come up, with Leyva’s light on his helmet more visible than the Tapit colt for much, if not most, of the drill.

This is a link to XBTV’s video of Flightline’s final California workout prior to the BC Classic.

Flightline worked from the five-eighths pole to the seven-eighths pole last Saturday, as he had done on Oct. 15.

Private clocker extraordinaire Gary Young called Flightline’s workout last Saturday “awesome, as good as you could want to see.”

Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free wrote that Flightline’s fractions, as recorded by Young, were :12.20 for the opening furlong, :23.80 for the quarter, :35.80 for three furlongs and :59.80 for five furlongs. Young’s six-furlong clocking was 1:12.20. Young had Flightline galloping out seven furlongs in 1:24.20, one mile in 1:37.20 and 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.00.

Sadler said Saturday’s drill was similar to when Flightline galloped out one mile in 1:37 and change following a workout prior to the Pacific Classic. That, combined with the fact that Flightline has won his five races by a combined 62 3/4 lengths, should have all of the other BC Classic candidates shaking in their horseshoes.

After arriving at Keeneland last Sunday afternoon, Flightline jogged once around Keeneland’s main track on Monday, then galloped 1 1/4 miles on that oval Tuesday, both times with Leyva aboard. Daily Racing Form’s terrific clocker Mike Welsch characterized the colt’s Tuesday exercise as an “easy gallop.”

On Wednesday (Oct. 26), Flightline again galloped 1 1/4 miles, this time on a wet track rated as good.

“With some rain in the long-range forecast for Breeders’ Cup Saturday, it was interesting to see how Flightline would handle the wet footing Wednesday morning,” Welsch wrote. “He’s never raced or worked under those conditions during his career and had only galloped on a wet track one previous time, according to his regular [exercise] rider, assistant trainer Juan Leyva, that coming earlier this year when at Belmont Park training for the Met Mile.

“And handle it he did,” Welsch added.

According to Welsch, Flightline broke off at the five-eighths pole in Wednesday’s gallop at Keeneland, then “got progressively faster the further he went, posting a :28 and change clocking for his final quarter-mile with Leyva keeping out near the middle of the track throughout, ultimately pulling up near the three-furlong pole after a spirited 1 1/4-mile gallop. It was Flightline’s most serious piece of work since arriving here Sunday and should erase any doubts about his ability to handle an off racetrack if the situation does arise for the BC Classic.”

In Sadler’s interview with Paulick and Nevills, the trainer shed some light on Flightline’s gallop on a wet track prior to the Met Mile.

“It rained three inches in about an hour,” Sadler said. “It downpoured. So he had a nice gallop through a muddy track three days before the Met Mile. He adored it. If you look at his pedigree, it looks like mud would be no problem.”

Flightline is scheduled to have his final BC Classic workout this Saturday (Oct. 29) at Keeneland, depending on the weather.


Below are all of the Beyer Speed Figures of 120 or higher by a Breeders’ Cup winner from 1984 through 2020:

Beyer Winner (BC Race, Track)

125 Precisionist (1985 Sprint at Aqueduct)
124 Sunday Silence (1989 Classic at Gulfstream Park)
124 Artax (1999 Sprint at Gulfstream Park)
124 Ghostzapper (2004 Classic at Lone Star Park)
122 Alysheba (1988 Classic at Churchill Downs)
121 Very Subtle* (1987 Sprint at Hollywood Park)
120 Princess Rooney* (1984 Distaff at Hollywood Park)
120 Proud Truth (1985 Classic at Aqueduct)
120 Black Tie Affair (1991 Classic at Churchill Downs)
120 Skip Away (1997 Classic at Hollywood Park)
120 Cajun Beat (2003 Sprint at Santa Anita Park)
120 American Pharoah (2015 Classic at Keeneland)
120 Arrogate (2017 Classic at Santa Anita)



My selections and “nice price dangers” for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races will be posted on the Xpressbet website next week.

As usual, I also will be disclosing my choice as the “most probable winner” at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. My most probable Breeders’ Cup winner has won in 13 of the 18 last years.

My most probable winner at the 2021 Breeders’ Cup was Gamine, who finished third as the 2-5 favorite, losing for just the second time in 11 career starts. I should have gone with Life Is Good, who prevailed by 5 3/4 lengths and paid $3.40 for each $2 win wager.

Below is a list of my most probable Breeders’ Cup winner for each year going back to 2004:

2021 Gamine in the Filly & Mare Sprint (finished third)
2020 Golden Pal in the Juvenile Turf Sprint (won)
2019 Midnight Bisou (finished second)
2018 Newspaperofrecord in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (won)
2017 Bolt d’Oro in the Juvenile (finished third)
2016 Dortmund in the Dirt Mile (finished fourth)
2015 Songbird in the Juvenile Fillies (won)
2014 Goldencents in the Dirt Mile (won)
2013 Wise Dan in the Mile (won)
2012 Groupie Doll in the Filly & Mare Sprint (won)
2011 Goldikova in the Mile (won)
2010 Goldikova in the Mile (won)
2009 Zenyatta in the Classic (won)
2008 Zenyatta in the Ladies’ Classic (won)
2007 Midnight Lute in the Sprint (won)
2006 Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf (won)
2005 Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf (finished second)
2004 Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf (won)


It was 53 years ago this week that I was in attendance to watch Pacific Northwest superstar Turbulator carry 128 pounds and win Playfair’s two-mile Inland Empire Marathon convincingly by three lengths as an even-money favorite. This victory came just one week after he had won the Playfair Mile.

At that 1969 Playfair meet, Turbulator reeled off seven straight wins, beginning in a six-furlong maiden race on Aug. 22 and culminating with his victory at two miles on Oct. 26. His maternal grandsire, By Zeus, gave Turbulator a license to win such a long-distance race. By Zeus won the world’s first grass race worth $100,000, Santa Anita’s 1954 San Juan Capistrano Handicap, by 4 1/2 lengths at about 1 3/4 miles.

Turbulator won a total of 11 stakes races during his career. The popular Washington-bred Cold Command gelding was inducted into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. Breaking the the world record for 6 1/2 furlongs by two-fifths of a second at Longacres in 1970 was his crowning achievement.


Trainer Howard Zucker died on Oct. 20 at Keck Hospital of USC in Los Angeles after undergoing heart surgery several days earlier. He was 74.

For me, that was sad news. I had known Zucker for 40 years. Of all the many trainers I have ever met, none was friendlier.

Zucker won 246 races during his training career. His final winner was Gracelund Gray, who got the job done at odds of 18-1 in an allowance/optional claiming grass race at Del Mar on July 24. Zucker had taken over as Gracelund Gray’s trainer after she won her first two races by a combined 37 1/4 lengths at a little track in Lethbridge, Canada.

Gracelund Gray is entered in Santa Anita’s Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes, which will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on the turf this Saturday (Oct. 29). Peter Eurton is now training the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Goldencents filly.

The best horse Zucker ever trained was Crafty C.T., winner of the Grade II San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita in 2001.

I fondly recall being at Zucker’s barn one morning at Santa Anita before Crafty C.T. went out for a workout prior to his start in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. As always, I had a wonderful chat with Zucker that morning.

Crafty C.T. ran well in the Santa Anita Derby. Unfortunately, a beast by the name of Point Given was in the race. Point Given won by 5 1/2 lengths. Crafty C.T. had to settle for second.

I thought Point Given was going to win the Triple Crown. He ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby, the only time he finished worse than second in his 13-race career. Point Given went on to win the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes (by 12 1/4 lengths), Haskell Invitational Handicap and Travers Stakes before being voted 2001 Horse of the Year.

Crafty C.T. was good enough to finish third to Orientate and Thunderello in the 2002 edition of the BC Sprint at Arlington.

Zucker was well known for his love of horses and involvement in their aftercare once their racing days were over. A former president of CARMA, he was that organization’s treasurer at the time of his death. CARMA is dedicated to providing funding for the rehabilitation, retraining and retirement of California-bred Thoroughbred racehorses.


The Top 10 for this week is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 340 Flightline (34)
 2. 292 Life Is Good
 3. 241 Epicenter
 4. 212 Nest
 5. 159 Olympiad
 6. 130 Malathaat
 7. 102 Jackie’s Warrior
 8.   98 Taiba
 9.   66 Hot Rod Charlie
10.   53 War Like Goddess

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