Halley’s Comet comes around once in a lifetime. Someday, the same might be said of Flightline.
In three starts, the 3-year-old colt by Tapit has won by a combined 37 ½ lengths, going six furlongs in 1:08.75 in his debut, the same distance in 1:08.05 next out, and then racing seven furlongs in 1:21.37 while winning the Grade 1 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday’s opening day of the winter-spring meet. Jockey Flavien Prat was like a statue down the lane as Flightline won under wraps by 11 ½ lengths for trainer John Sadler.
His Beyer Speed Figures were 105, 114 and 118, respectively. The latter is the highest Beyer Speed Figure given to any horse this year, according to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman.
“That puts this horse in a different stratosphere,” said West Point Thoroughbreds’ CEO Terry Finley, one of Flightline’s owners.
An hour before the Malibu, the 3-year-old filly Kalypso won the G1 La Brea Stakes with a seven-furlong final time of 1:24.78, fully 3 2/5 seconds slower than Flightline.
Performance numbers are one way of measuring a horse’s ability. David Ingordo, the bloodstock agent who bought Flightline on behalf of West Point Thoroughbreds and several other partners for $1-million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale, said the colt also passed the eyeball test.
“He’s a brilliant horse and you don’t need Ragozins or Beyers to see that,” Ingordo said. “You can tell that he doesn’t have to put a lot into what he’s doing. He does it so easily.”
Ingordo first laid eyes on Flightline when he and Bill Farish from Lane’s End visited breeder Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm in Georgetown, Ky., to look at a different Tapit colt from the 2018 foal crop, a chestnut-coated half brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Lane’s End consigns the Summer Wind horses and Ingordo said there was interest from a group to buy the colt off the farm privately.
“There was another horse in the paddock and I said to Bill, ‘I like the brown one.’ Bill said, ‘We’re here to see the chestnut one.’”
The brown horse turned out to be Flightline. The chestnut colt, who remained the property of Summer Wind, was named Triple Tap and turned over to trainer Bob Baffert. Two-for-two going into the Malibu, Triple Tap finished 18 ¾ lengths behind Flightline in fourth place.
Ingordo saw the two horses several more times and his preference for the brown colt never wavered.
When it came time for the Saratoga sale, Ingordo hitched a ride to New York on a Tex Sutton flight to ride with a group of yearlings. “I was sitting in the back with one of the guys I knew well,” Ingordo said. “He said it was going to be a bumpy ride and asked if I would grab a couple yearlings. “One of them had a pretty good head on him and I noticed his name was Flightline. I looked up his pedigree and saw it was the horse from Summer Wind that I liked so much.”
Ingordo began representing West Point Thoroughbreds in 2017 and the Tapit colt out of the graded stakes-winning Indian Charlie mare, Feathered, is the kind of prospect Finley said his partners are looking for. Finley knew it would take serious money to buy Flightline, so put together a group that included Hronis Racing LLC, Siena Farm LLC, Farish’s Woodford Racing LLC and Summer Wind. The hammer price was $1-million.
“Stephanie Hronis was there and David has done great work for them (she and husband Kosta Hronis),” said Finley. “She fell in love with the horse at the Lane’s End consignment. We’ve had good luck partnering with Siena (Anthony Manganaro), buying into five together and getting two Grade 1 winners, a Grade 2, and a stakes winner. We had not done anything with Jane Lyon before, but that really makes a difference when a breeder has the confidence to stay in, especially when it’s big dollars. She bypassed the chance to take $250,000 off the table, and that’s a strong statement.”
Finley confirmed that Summer Wind owns 25% of Flightline but didn’t want to disclose how the remaining share of the horse was divided among the four other partners.
There is no textbook for picking potential athletes, whether they are equine or human. Ingordo said he spent time with a couple of professional baseball scouts who are also interested in horse racing and found it’s the same in both professions. There’s an “it” quality with some athletes that is hard to miss, he said, whether it’s a LeBron James in basketball or Bo Jackson, one of the greatest two sport athletes of all time who was named a Major League Baseball All Star and an All Pro running back in the NFL. (The two scouts, Ingordo said, both thought Jackson would be better at baseball if he stuck to one sport.)
“Horses are the same way,” he continued. “I remember when Garrett O’Rourke (Juddmonte Farms general manager) showed me a bunch of 2-year-olds. One of them just stood out, and it was Empire Maker (eventual G1 Belmont Stakes winner). Same thing with Zenyatta. I said, ‘This is a horse we have to have.’ Honor A.P. (G1 Santa Anita Derby winner) is another. I said, ‘I don’t give a crap. I’m buying this horse.’
“Flightline is another one of those. Each time I saw him I liked him more. There was just something about him. Of course the history books are littered with stories about trainers getting great unraced 2-year-olds where something happens.”
Something did happen to Flightline, but, fortunately, it only postponed his racing career.
In January 2020, Ingordo went to visit Flightline and other clients’ horses at Mayberry Farm in Ocala, Fla., an operation run by Jeanne Mayberry and her two daughters, April and Summer.
“I’m watching these sets train and saw lots of beautiful horses,” he said. “I’m waiting for the next set and I hear this big crash, a loud bang. The Tapit colt scared himself, something startled him. He had his tack on and was ready to go out, but caught his butt on a stall door latch. It was a pretty deep wound and took a long time to heal. You can see that scar back there. One of those fluke things that will happen. We gave him plenty of time to heal, then COVID hit, and a lot of people were on a holding pattern.
“The Mayberrys are a big part of the program,” he said. “Jeanne (working alongside her late husband, Brian) trained a Kentucky Oaks winner (Sardula in 1994 for Ann and Jerry Moss). They called me very early on about Zenyatta. And two years ago they called me and said we might have another good one, Honor A.P. And then April called early last year to say, ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy, but we might have two or three horses that are better than the group we had with Honor A.P.”
It’s tempting to get overly excited about a horse after one start. Flightline won his April 2021 debut by 13 ¼ lengths at Santa Anita, then didn’t show up again until Sept. 5 at Del Mar, Sadler giving him plenty of time to overcome a foot bruise. He won that allowance race by 12 ¾ lengths.
That second win brought more hype and speculation that Sadler might point the lightly raced colt to the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar. No dice. He instead circled Dec. 26 on the calendar. Flightline didn’t miss a beat in his training up to the Malibu.
Flightline passed this latest test with flying colors, even though this was not the deepest Malibu field we’ve seen and the other leading 3-year-old colt in training, G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Life Is Good, is in Florida with Todd Pletcher training up to a start in the G1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29.
Sadler, according to Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen, is looking at a possible start in the G1 Met Mile on the June 11 Belmont Stakes day card for Flightline and possibly three other starts in 2022.
“John will steer the ship,” Finley said when asked about possible races for Flightline. “He’s done so well. He’s been training 40 years, and it’s really something to see his passion and intensity – not just John’s but the whole barn. John’s assistant, Juan Leyva, is talking about this horse in a way that I’ve never heard someone at a barn say before. Rene Quinteros, the barn foreman, every single day at 4:15 in the morning, walks this horse for 30 minutes. Everyone is just zeroed in on him.”
Ingordo has been down this road previously with one of the greatest horses of the modern era, Zenyatta, who didn’t lose a race until her 20th and final career start, coming up a head short of Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
“John has referred to Flightline as his Zenyatta,” Ingordo said.
“We’ve all been let down before,” Ingordo said of horses that showed early promise then failed to sustain it. “That’s why when you expect a great performance and everybody has done everything right and then it really happens, it’s that jaw-dropping.
“This one does everything so easily,” he added. “He’s so smart. He’s got it all. We’re not looking to rush him off to the (breeding) shed. We want to run, just as much as the fans want to see him run. We might have to temper our desire to run more than the fans do. But you know how it goes sometimes: Horses will laugh at our plans.”
There’s no telling just what Flightline may be capable of doing. Let’s just hope he has the opportunity to show us.
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This entry was posted in Bloodstock, NL Article and tagged april mayberry, Bill Farish, David Ingordo, Flightline, Jane Lyon, Jeanne Mayberry, john sadler, Juan Leyva, Mayberry Farm, rene quinteros, runhappy malibu, Siena Farm LLC, Stephanie Hronis, summer mayberry, Summer Wind Farm, tapit, Terry Finley, Triple Tap, west point thoroughbreds, zenyatta by Ray Paulick. Bookmark the permalink.