By Bill Finley
When Olivier (Tapit) worked a half-mile in :49.80 last week at Oaklawn Park for trainer Rodolphe Brisset there was nothing special about the breeze. It was the 45th best work at the distance out of 137 horses who went the half-mile. But it was a step in the right direction, albeit a small one, for a soon-to-be 4-year-old who can't seem to get on the right path. Barring a setback, he should make his debut some time early next year at Oaklawn. Might he finally be ready to turn things around?
That's the question and the only reason anyone wants to know the answer is that Olivier is a full-brother to 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline, who many call the horse of a lifetime. But it seems that their pedigree is about the only thing they have in common.
“He's not a horse you want to compare to Flightline,” Brisset said. “There's absolutely nothing to compare. I got pretty close to Flightline a couple of times. They are totally different horses. If you were able to put one next to the other you'd never know they are brothers. I've been around a long time and I know better. I'm not going to put pressure on myself just because I am training Flightline's brother. But that's hard to translate to people. We will see where the horse takes us and go from there.”
About four months after Flightline broke his maiden, Olivier showed up at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale where he RNA'd for $390,000. After the sale, WinStar Farm acquired a majority interest in Olivier from breeder Jane Lyon. He was sent to Brisset.
“I had the horse in training when I was at WinStar last year and then he got moved over to Keeneland,” Brisset said. “He breezed out of the gate a couple of times and he was pretty close to being ready to run. We didn't know at the time how good he might be because we hadn't tested him in the morning. Without posting some blazing fast works we thought he was showing enough where we could look for a maiden special race at a big league track.”
A minor setback derailed their plans, and Brisset had no other choice but to try to regroup and hope to get a start out of Olivier as a 4-year-old.
“Being a full brother to Flightline, we wanted to give him all the time he needed to make sure he was fresh and 100%,” Brisset said. “We had a couple more works at WinStar and then moved along to Oaklawn. He's coming along slowly but surely.
“I'm not sure when he'll have his first start. When we got him last year he was a little bit immature. He is a totally different horse than his brother. Physically, he has developed and matured the right way. But talent-wise we don't know where we're at yet. We should learn more with his next couple of works. Sometime around the beginning of the year would be a logical time frame for his first race. He's going to have to get fit and step it up time wise. We really don't know where we're at.”
At the very least he should turn out to be better than Flightline's 4-year-old half brother Voron (Pioneeof the Nile). He sold for $100,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale 2020 and is now racing in Russia. The best hope for a Flightline sibling to emulate their famous brother is the unraced 2-year-old Eagle's Flight (Curlin). Lyon had the colt entered in the Keeneland September Sale but withdrew him and will race him. Eagle's Flight has had two workouts at Santa Anita, three furlongs in :37.40 and two furlongs in :23.80. Like Flightline, he is trained by John Sadler.
Brisset said he won't be focusing on Eagle's Flight or any other siblings to Flightline that come around. He has a job to do and it is to get the very best out of Olivier.
“It's exciting to have a full-brother to Flightline but, at the same time, I'm not feeling much pressure,” he said. “Our job is to figure out this horse and not to compare him to his brother. That can be difficult to translate to the public or to the bettor. We know he is well-bred. We know he is Flightline's brother. But you have to put all of that to the side and try to figure out the horse by himself and on his own. A lot of people ask about him. He's going to turn four and has never run. We felt like he deserves a chance now to see what we have and where he will take us.”