With A 118 Beyer, Flightline Heads Into 2022

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Flightline | Benoit photo

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The team that puts out the Beyer speed figure numbers made it official Monday morning. 'TDN Rising Star' Flightline (Tapit) is really, really, fast.

Flightline was given a 118 Beyer figure for his sensational performance in Sunday's GI Runhappy Malibu S. at Santa Anita, which is the top figure assigned to any horse this year. Prior to the Malibu, Flightline and Baby Yoda (Prospective) were tied for the best number on the year, a 114. Baby Yoda finished second in the Malibu, but was never a threat to Flightline, who won eased up by 11 1/2 lengths.

According to the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman, the 118 is the highest number given to any horse since Shancelot (Shanghai Bobby) got a 121 when winning the 2019 GII Amsterdam S. at Saratoga. Shancelot was trained by Jorge Navarro, whose years of doping horses under his care have been well documented.

“We've waited a long time for a horse like this and I think we have one,” said Terry Finley, who heads the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate, one part of an ownership groups that also includes Hronis Racing LLC, Siena Farm LLC, Summer Wind Equine LLC and Woodford Racing, LLC. “He's a special horse. He's a gift. You can throw out superlative after superlative. To me, he's a gift.”

Flightline had already made headlines before his first career start, selling for $1 million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. Making just his third lifetime start after very impressive wins in a Santa Anita maiden and a Del Mar allowance, Flightline was tested for class in the Malibu, and couldn't have passed any more easily. After breaking a step slowly, the 3-year-old took control early on, started to draw clear on the turn and then galloped away from his rivals without ever being asked by jockey Flavien Prat. He was nearly in a walk when crossing the wire after completing the seven furlongs in 1:21.37.

With a horse who did not make his debut until April of his 3-year-old year and , who has raced just three times over the span of eight months, trainer John Sadler has been very deliberate with Flightline. That's not about to change. He said Monday that he had not picked out a next start for the colt and was not in any hurry to do so.

“No specifics,” he said. “I have said that everything is on the table. He's the kind of horse that when he's right and ready to run that's when he's going to go. I'm going to take it one step at a time. I've got a good ownership group. They keep stressing do what's right for the horse. That will be my guiding principle.”

Finley said that all decisions regarding a racing schedule will be made by Sadler.

“Dale Romans gave me some good advice,” he said. “He said the best input you can have is to make sure you don't have any input. In the army they called it unity of command. John doesn't need any help from us. He's done a super job and he's made all the right moves. It will be well thought out and he'll have him ready to run no matter where he winds up.”

The only thing Sadler would commit to is that Flightline's next race will not be a sprint. The Malibu was the longest start of his career.

“The big step that I know for sure is that we want to get him stretched out,” he said. “Where and when, I don't know yet. I don't think he has any distance limitations.”

While Flightline is expected to have a more complete campaign next year than he did this year, don't expect him to run seven or eight times. He may just be the type of horse who is so fast than he needs ample time between races. Another very fast horse who was handled that way was Ghostzapper (Awesome Again).

“I'm going to be very mindful of his campaign,” he said. “I think there will be articles about this later in the week, that they've never seen a horse that is faster. So some of the traditional rules may not apply. We expect next year to go a lot different than this year because when you do right by a horse, you build a better product going forward. It's an exciting time. There's nothing written in stone, but I am mindful of the fact that I need to be careful.”

Considering that he is by Tapit and, therefore, should do his best running at longer distances and that Sadler-trained horses usually don't reach their peak until turning four, or even five, could Flightline actually get better?

“That is possible,” Sadler said. “There is so much to look forward to out there.”

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