By Bill Finley
The undefeated sensation Flightline (Tapit), last seen thumping his rivals in the GI Runhappy Malibu S. at Santa Anita Dec. 26, may return to the races sooner than later and one possible spot where he could have his next start is the seven-furlong GI Churchill Downs S. May 7, the day of the GI Kentucky Derby.
Appearing on this week's TDN Writers' Room podcast, trainer John Sadler said he did not think the injury suffered by the 'TDN Rising Star' would keep him sidelined for long. Sadler announced last week that Flightline would miss his planned start in the GII San Carlos S. Mar. 5 at Santa Anita after being diagnosed with a strained hock.
“What I wanted to say all along is that this is a setback,” Sadler said. “It's not more severe than that. I don't want to be tied to a specific timetable, like he'll be out two weeks or three weeks. We don't know exactly how long yet. We'll let him come along at his own pace.”
When asked about a possible racing schedule going forward, Sadler replied: “So far as the time line goes, the only thing we know that is off the table is the San Carlos. We've always said we were looking at the Met Mile and that is still kind of the goal. With the San Carlos out, he could he run at Churchill in the (Churchill Downs S.), which we won last year with Flagstaff (Speightstown). It might make some sense to go there. There are a lot of things to think about.”
A start in the Churchill Downs S. followed by the GI Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan H. would mean that Flightline would head into the summer months having never raced beyond a mile or around two turns. Sadler said he's convinced his 4-year-old will do even better once given the opportunity to run longer.
“I'm looking at the Breeders' Cup Classic,” he said. “It's just that when you have a setback it's hard to go from first base to third. We think that this horse will be better longer. If you look at his races and watch him run when he's going 1:08 it's not like he's going 1:08 and is going to slow up. He is cruising along. You could make the case that he will be better at longer distances. He trains like he will be better at longer distances. We're just not there yet. We're definitely looking to stretch him out.”
Sadler has approached every move with Flightline with caution, but said he hasn't treated this horse any differently than any other horse he might have in his barn that are less valuable and less talented.
“When you're racing in California, the standard of care is the same for all these horses,” he said “I treat him the same as I would with all of them. The only difference is I'm on here with you guys talking about him. If it were another horses and this happened I'd only be talking to the owner.”