There is good news and bad news for Royal Ship.
After his loss as an even-money favorite in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita, Royal Ship rebounded and won Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap last Saturday at odds of 9-1, well up from the 4-1 that I had pegged him at on the morning line. That’s the good news.
Next for Royal Ship is a start in Del Mar’s signature race, the Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic on Sept. 3. But in that race he will have to face undefeated superstar Flightline. That’s the bad news.
Flightline gave yet another exhibition of poetry in motion last Saturday morning at Del Mar.
In a team drill from the gate, Flightline started outside his workmate. With assistant trainer and ex-jockey Juan Leyva aboard, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Tapit colt “went along as steady as a metronome, clicking off consistent fractions -- per Del Mar clockers -- of :22.80 for the quarter, :34.80 for three furlongs, :46.80 for a half-mile, then completing his work officially in :59.48,” Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported.
Flightline’s clocking for four furlongs would have been the bullet for that distance. The fastest time of the 86 Del Mar works at four furlongs last Saturday was Mardukas’ :47.00.
Equibase lists Flightline’s time for the five-furlong workout as :59.40. That time ranked fifth of the 93 works at the distance.
Impossible Task, the aptly named workmate in terms of trying to keep up with Flightline, was timed in :59.60 for the five furlongs.
Flightline is four for four. He won his first two starts by 13 1/4 and 12 3/4 lengths. That was followed by an 11 1/2-length victory in Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes last Dec. 26. Most recently, he won Belmont Park’s Grade I Met Mile by six lengths on June 11 after breaking tardily and being steadied twice early.
In his first four races, Flightline’s Beyer Speed Figures have been 105, 114, 118, 112.
Impossible Task’s biggest Beyer Speed Figure is an 89. In his most recent start, the 5-year-old gelding won an allowance/optional $20,000 claiming race at Los Alamitos when credited with an 83 Beyer.
While Impossible Task’s record pales in comparison to Flightline’s, Impossible Task is a good work horse, as evidenced by his bullet four-furlong workout in :47.00 at Santa Anita on June 19, best of 70 works at the distance on the main track that morning.
According to Privman, Del Mar management accommodated Flightline by allowing him to get his work out of the way before anyone else was allowed on the track after the first renovation break at 6:30.
“The gate for morning works is placed at the 1 1/4-mile start [in the chute] -- where the Pacific Classic begins -- and Flightline worked to the five-furlong pole,” Privman wrote. “He galloped out an additional furlong, to the half-mile pole, in 1:12.40.”
Trainer John Sadler explained to Privman why the decision was made to work Flightline from the gate prior to the Pacific Classic.
“He didn’t break good in New York,” Sadler said, adding that because of that, it was decided that the colt would have one gate work before the Pacific Classic. “His last couple of races, he was too relaxed in the gate.”
A “nice easy work” was how Sadler described Flightline’s Saturday drill. “Not trying to get crazy. We’re ahead of schedule.”
Seven days earlier, Flightline likewise worked five furlongs in :59.40, alone, not from the gate.
“The thing with this horse, I don’t think he knows what a maintenance drill is,” respected clocker Toby Turrell said of that workout by Flightline on the radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles hosted by Mike Willman. “In fact, when he hit the wire, he was gallopinh. But then the real running somehow just began as he was going around the turn. I mean, it was an amazing turn time on the gallop-out all the way back to the three-quarter pole for basically six furlongs in about 1:12. Just phenomenal. Words can’t even describe it.”
Steve Dennis wrote about Flightline this week for Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
“He’s a once-in-a-generation type of horse,” Sadler was quoted as saying on the phone to the turf writer in England.
“You’re from England, right?” Sadler continued. “Well, Frankel might be the equivalent.”
Dennis could hardly believe his ears. Was Sadler actually comparing Flightline to Frankel, the great European Galileo colt who won all 14 of his races from 2010-12 and registered 10 Group I victories?
“People who know me will say there’s no braggadocio about me. That’s not my style,” Sadler said. “But that’s just the way it is. He’s the kind of horse who comes along every 20, 30 years. The numbers he runs are unbelievable. I don’t think there are many people who’ve ever had a horse this good.
“He’s been a ‘wow’ horse from day one. April Mayberry, who broke him at her farm in Ocala [Florida], said the first time she saw him breeze she knew he was special.
“He’s a very strong, powerful horse. He hasn’t been easy to train. He used to pull too hard, always wanting to go faster, always on the bit. My assistant Juan Leyva has done a beautiful job with him, and [jockey] Flavien [Prat] says that he’s finally beginning to pay attention -- but he’s still tough to train.”
Will Flightline, “who already is worth his burly weight in gold as a stallion prospect,” as Dennis put it, race beyond 2022?
“We’ll see where we are at the end of the year,” Sadler said. “Yes, stallion values are very important, but Flightline is such an exciting horse, he’s captured the public’s attention, their imagination. Some things, sometimes, are about more than the money.”
Both Sadler and Kosta Hronis, one of the colt’s owners, have talked about the possibility that Flightline will continue racing in 2023. My fingers are crossed.
BC CLASSIC FUTURE WAGER INTRODUCED THIS WEEK
Having won his four races by a combined 43 1/2 lengths, Flightline opens as the 3-1 favorite in this week’s Breeders’ Cup Classic Future Wager.
The Breeders’ Cup, in conjunction with Keeneland Race Course, is offering the future wager this week. The 1 1/4-mile Classic will be run Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
There will be two BC Classic Future Wager pools this year. The first pool opens this Friday (Aug. 5) at noon ET and concludes Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. The second pool will open at noon on Friday, Sept. 2, and ends at 6:00 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 5.
The BC Classic Future Wager, which is being offered by Xpressbet.com and 1/ST Bet, has a $2 minimum. This is a win wager only. Place, show and exotic betting are not available.
Like the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW), the BC Classic Future Wager consists of 23 individual horses and an “all others” option.
The only two horses other than Flightline opening at under 15-1 in this week’s BC Classic Wager are Life Is Good at 7-2 and Olympiad at 9-2. The “all others” option opens at 30-1.
Life Is Good and Olympiad clash this Saturday in the Grade I Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Also entered in the 1 1/8-mile affair are Americanrevolution, Happy Saver and Zoomer.
Pretty much the same principles apply to the BC Classic Wager as the KDFW. Right off the bat, it would seem prudent to see what happens in the Whitney before getting involved in this week’s BC Classic Future Wager.
Remember, be careful. If you bet a horse in the future wager and it does not run, you do not get a refund, unlike if you bet the horse on race day and the horse scratches. And don’t forget this is a pari-mutuel pool, not fixed odds. It’s advisable to wait as long as possible to make your wager or wagers in order to have a better idea of what the odds will be when the pool closes.
Also, making a bet so far in advance of any race, it’s more important than ever to try and get value. In other words, as of right now, is Flightline the most probable winner? Yes, he is. But is he worth betting at low odds so many weeks away from the race? No, he is not.
I will be attempting to something similar to what I did in 2014. At about this same time of the year, I made a $100 future wager on Bayern to win the BC Classic in Las Vegas at odds of 20-1. He had recently won Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational by 7 1/4 lengths.
That future wager sure didn’t look too good when Bayern then finished 10th as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga, a race he lost by 20 lengths. But there was nothing I could do about it. After Bayern ran such a stinker, I figured my $100 had gone bye-bye.
But then Bayern bounced back big-time and won the Grade II (now Grade I) Pennsylvania Derby by an emphatic 5 3/4 lengths at 7-2. Finishing sixth as the 4-5 favorite was fellow 3-year-old California Chrome. This victory by Bayern gave me hope that perhaps my BC Classic future wager on him wasn’t dead after all.
And it turned out that Bayern did win the BC Classic. Sent away at 6-1 on race day (I had made him 6-1 on the official morning line), he eked out a nose victory, then had to withstand a stewards’ inquiry that lasted for approximately nine minutes as to whether he should be disqualified for causing interference leaving the gate. When watching the replay over and over while the stewards were in the process of making their decision, I was not optimistic. I thought Bayern’s number probably was coming down and my $100 future wager at 20-1 would be no good.
In my 2014 BC Classic recap for Xpressbet.com, I wrote: “In 1984, Wild Again won a controversial inaugural running of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic. And now, all these years later in 2014, Bayern, a grandson of Wild Again, won a controversial 31st running of the Grade I BC Classic last Saturday.
“While the stewards were conducting their inquiry, I can tell you that my expectation was that Bayern would be disqualified for what he did at the start. So when he was not disqualified, I was surprised.”
I was also surprised later to learn that, according to the stewards, after they posted the inquiry sign, not one jockey following the race informed the “quick official” person, former jockey Larry Gilligan, that they wished to lodge an objection.
When I made my future wager on Bayern in 2014, I liked his price at 20-1 and felt that he had the look of an improving 3-year-old who might be able to step up and win the BC Classic.
This time around, I have the same feeling about Taiba, who opens at 30-1 in this week’s BC Classic Future Wager. I will be playing the Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner at 20-1 or higher. I can see Taiba possibly winning the Pennsylvania Derby, a la Bayern. If Taiba does that, I would be perfectly willing to have a wager on him at 20-1 or higher in the BC Classic.
What do Bayern and Taiba have in common? It’s Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
I also have my eye on three other 3-year-olds that I might put some money on if the price is right. They are, in order of preference, Charge It (who opens at 15-1), Epicenter (20-1) and Cyberknife (30-1). Country Grammer also is under consideration to get some of my money in that he opens at 20-1.
Charge It blew me away when he annihilated his opponents to win the Grade III Dwyer Stakes by 23 lengths at Belmont on July 2. His 111 Beyer for that performance is the top figure by a 3-year-old so far in 2022. Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher trains the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt.
Epicenter won last Saturday’s Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. To the surprise of just about everyone, the Kentucky-bred Not This Time colt was last early in the field of four, then rallied to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
For his Jim Dandy effort, Epicenter received a 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
Cyberknife likewise recorded a 102 Beyer when he won the Grade I Haskell Stakes by a head over Taiba on July 23. It appears to me that Cyberknife is maturing for multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Cyberknife’s 102 Beyer was quite a step forward from his previous top of 94. The 94 came when he won the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 12 in his start immediately preceding the Haskell.
Country Grammer, another Baffert trainee, won the Group I, $12 million Dubai World Cup last March. The Kentucky-bred son of Tonalist ran second in last Saturday’s Grade III San Diego Handicap, but I’m not holding that loss against him too much inasmuch as he was returning from a layoff. Country Grammer had not raced since winning the Group I, $12 million Dubai World Cup last March 26.
Again, I will be putting money on Taiba, Charge It, Epicenter, Cyperkife and/or Country Grammer only if I feel that the price is right, meaning anything in the neighborhood of their opening odds.
Complete Breeders’ Cup Classic Future Wager information is available by going to https://breederscup.com/futurewager. According to the Breeders’ Cup, live odds will be available on the website.
If you do play this week’s BC Classic Future wager, I hope you have the same outcome that I did when I played Bayern eight years ago.
The opening prices for the BC Classic Future wager are listed below:
15-1 Charge It
20-1 Country Grammer
30-1 Dynamic One
20-1 Early Voting
30-1 Emblem Road
30-1 Express Train
30-1 First Captain
20-1 Hot Rod Charlie
7-2 Life Is Good
30-1 Rich Strike
30-1 Royal Ship
30-1 Stilleto Boy
30-1 Tawny Port
30-1 “All Others”
JACKIE’S WARRIOR MAKES HISTORY
When 2021 Eclipse Award-winning male sprinter Jackie’s Warrior proved a punctual 1-5 favorite in last Saturday’s Alfred G. Handicap, he became the first horse to ever win a Grade I race in three consecutive years at Saratoga.
Keep in mind that this achievement takes into account only horses to have raced at Saratoga from 1973 on. That’s because graded stakes races were introduced in this country in 1973.
Nevertheless, this was quite an achievement by the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Maclean’s Music colt, who now has won 12 of 16 career starts.
Jackie’s Warrior’s first Grade I triumph at Saratoga came in the 2020 Hopeful Stakes. He also won the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Memorial at the Spa in 2021.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY FRIDAY
The National Museum of Racing will induct the 2022 Hall of Fame class on Friday (Aug. 5) at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The ceremony will be broadcast live on the museum’s website, www.racingmuseum.org.
Beholder and Tepin will be inducted from the contemporary ballot.
Racehorses Hillsdale and Royal Heroine, along with trainer Oscar White (no relation), were chosen by the Historic Review Committee.
James Cox Brady, Marshall Cassidy and James Ben Ali Haggin will be inducted as Pillars of the Turf.
Beholder and Tepin are both on my list of the Top 100 racehorses of the 21st century so far to have won in North America, which I compiled and revealed for the first time a couple of weeks ago.
I already have made one change to the list. Trainer Dale Romans trained both Roses in May and Kitten’s Joy. At the time I decided to where to rank them, I wondered if maybe I should put Kitten’s Joy higher than Roses in May. I then recently heard Romans say on the Horse Racing Radio Network program Equine Forum that he considers Kitten’s Joy to be the best horse he’s ever trained.
And so, out of respect for Romans and because I already had wondered whether Kitten’s Joy should be ranked higher than Roses in May, I have elevated Kitten’s Joy to No. 47 on my list below of the Top 100 racehorses of the 21st century so far to have won in North America (active horses excluded):
1. American Pharoah*
4. Rachel Alexandra
8. Shared Belief
9. California Chrome
11. Gun Runner
13. Wise Dan
15. Point Given
19. Smarty Jones
22. Lava Man
23. Bricks and Mortar
24. Rags to Riches
25. Candy Ride
27. Pleasantly Perfect
28. Kona Gold
30. Saint Liam
32. Ouija Board
33. Knicks Go
36. Essential Quality
37. Afleet Alex
39. Monomoy Girl
40. Xtra Heat
41. Game On Dude
42. Mucho Macho Man
43. Empire Maker
46. I’ll Have Another
47. Kitten’s Joy
48. Roses in May
49. Blind Luck
50. Havre de Grace
51. Royal Delta
52. Big Brown
53. Lost in the Fog
54. Midnight Bisou
55. Cape Blanco
56. Gio Ponti
57. Lookin At Lucky
58. English Channel
59. Medaglia d’Oro
60. Tiz the Law
61. Midnight Lute
62. Street Sense
63. Discreet Cat
64. Lawyer Ron
68. Quality Road
69. Fantastic Light
71. High Chaparral
72. Lady Eli
73. Funny Cide
74. Rock Hard Ten
75. Raven’s Pass
76. Maximum Security
79. Unique Bella
80. Uncle Mo
81. City of Light
84. Groupie Doll
85. Lemon Drop Kid
89. Lido Palace
93. Fort Larned
94. Street Cry
95. Left Bank
96. Vino Rosso
97. Animal Kingdom
98. Roy H
99. Honor Code
100. Indian Blessing
*Triple Crown winner
RENOWNED BROADCASTER VIN SCULLY PASSES AWAY
Vin Scully, best known for being the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years, died Tuesday (Aug. 2). He was 94.
Count me among those who listened to Scully’s summertime magic as a youngster. I was supposed to be going to sleep, but I would have my transistor radio on low under my pillow.
The difference between me and the majority of others listening to Scully on the radio in the 1960s is I was not doing so in Southern California, but rather in Spokane, Wash. The 50,000-watt Los Angeles broadcast Dodger games came in loud and clear at night on my transistor radio. Ah, those are such wonderful memories. And then I also was able to enjoy listening to Scully on radio and TV during the years that I have lived in the Los Angeles area from 1981 on.
Another terrific broadcaster, Al Michaels, said this to Dan Patrick on his Fox Sports Radio program when paying tribute to Scully the day after his death was announced: “I can only tell you, Dan, if it was a contest for best baseball announcer of all time, and it was a horse race, Vinny was Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths.”
THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
After Epicenter’s win in the Jim Dandy, he enters the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. He is No. 7.
The Top 10 is below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 351 Flightline (25)
2. 306 Life Is Good (4)
3. 291 Olympiad (6)
4. 282 Jackie’s Warrior (2)
5. 142 Clairiere
5. 142 Country Grammer (1)
7. 78 Epicenter
8. 89 Regal Glory
9. 87 Nest
10. 48 Hot Rod Charlie
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC RANKINGS
Following Royal Ship’s San Diego Handicap victory, he enters the Top 10 in this week’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings. He is No. 7. Epicenter, who was No. 6 last week, moves up to No. 4 this week.
This week’s rankings below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 323 Flightline (25)
2. 279 Olympiad (5)
3. 259 Life Is Good (4)
4. 202 Epicenter
5. 197 Country Grammer
6. 154 Hot Rod Charlie
7. 100 Royal Ship
8. 79 Cyberknife
9. 55 Charge It
10. 37 Americanrevolution