By Bill Finley
Thoro-Graph, which has been computing speed figures for 35 years, gave Flightline (Tapit) a negative 8 1/2 for his win in the GI TVG Pacific Classic, the fastest number it has ever assigned to a horse. The previous record was a negative 8, the figure Frosted (Tapit) ran when winning the 2016 GI Metropolitan H.
Flightline was given a 126 Beyer figure. That is the second fastest Beyer number ever, trailing only the 128 that team gave to Ghostzapper (Awesome Again) when he won the GIII Philip H. Iselin H. at Monmouth Park in 2004.
Even though he gave Flightline the fastest number he has ever given to a horse, Jerry Brown, who owns Thoro-Graph, said he chose to err on the side of caution and that had he not the figure would have been much faster.
“When I first looked at it I could have given this horse a much better number,” he said. “There were only two dirt routes on the card and neither had big fields. When substantial proportions of those fields don't fire you're left to make figures off a very small number of horses. That makes it difficult. If I had the other horses he beat running anywhere near what they usually run he would have gotten a negative 11 1/2.
“As a figure-maker, you have to sometimes decide which scenario is most likely. You're already going to give a horse the best number of all time, even if I did it the way I did it. You have to decide which is more likley, that several other horses he ran against did not fire or they did fire and Flightline ran a figure that would be like breaking the sound barrier or a human running a three-minute mile. If you give a horse a minus 11 1/2 you're talking about Bob Beamon stuff. (Beamon shattered the record for the long jump in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, breaking the old record by nearly two feet). That was my choice, go with a figure that would have been the sort of thing that happens once in a billion or have several horses that ran behind him, ones who are usually pretty consistent, just not run their race. I chose to go the way I did and he still wound up getting the best figure of all time.”
Brown said that if Flightline runs another sensationally fast race in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic he may take another look at the Pacific Classic number.
“If he wins the Breeders' Cup and it looks again like the figure should be a minus 11 1/2, I'll give him a minus 11 1/2,” he said. “That would also make me go back and look at the Pacific Classic again. We do review races.”
While Brown has no problem rating Flightline's Pacific Classic as one of the greatest performances ever in racing, he will be picking against the 4-year-old in the Classic. One of the theories behind the Thoro-Graph numbers is that very fast performances take their toll on a horse.
“If you look historically at the horses that have run almost this fast, a couple of them, Midnight Lute (Real Quiet) and Ghostzapper, held it together,” he said. “But if you look at horses who have run very fast, either relative to what they have done before or relative to the breed, where they have run a figure that is incredible compared to the rest of the horses out there, these horses generally don't hold together. That doesn't always necessarily always manifest itself in the same way, but it usually manifests itself in some way. And you're dealing with a horse here who, apparently, has enough issues that he's only made a few starts. So the question is what happens now? People say there is plenty of time between now and the Breeders' Cup. Yes. But there's also plenty of time for things to go wrong. A lot of training will take place between now and then. A race is not the only place where a horse could get hurt.”
Brown bet against Flightline in the future wager bet for the Classic.
“I spread out a fair amount in the future wager,” he said. “He's odds on and I don't think he's 1-2 to make the race. That's not to say that he's an unsound horse or anything like that. It's just that horses generally don't survive running that fast.”