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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

He's Good, but...

There are certain horses in recent history who have captivated the public based on their dazzling speed and superior past performance sheets. We adore our Triple Crown Winners. We love our undefeated champions. As horse racing fans, we live to see the power of a thoroughbred who can post win after win by unimaginable lengths against tough competitors.

I ask you though, have we allowed ourselves to simply settle for what appears to be the magnificent based on “that’s all we have going” at the current moment in time? Is it in direct opposition to what real magnificence should be? Could be? What once was and will never be again?

At a time when we are basically forced to take what we can get without questioning the absurdity of it, we, as die-hard horse racing fans, are unknowingly settling for mediocrity in this sport. On every level. Over the last decade or so, the standards have dropped substantially from the grandeur it once was. Our blind acceptance of the attributes that we are supposed to consider as “Horse of the Year” material has dwindled so far down it is almost an embarrassment.

Flightline will most likely win the Breeders Cup Classic leaving him with an unblemished perfect and beautiful undefeated record. The lengths by which he has defeated his opponents will be celebrated as a tremendous and remarkable effort, worthy of Horse of the Year and a spot in the history books as one of the best. Rumor has it that the Classic will be his last race and he will be retired to stud commanding top dollar for those Champion genes. I truly hope the rumors are false, but if they are true and he does indeed retire to the shed with his Horse of the Year title, most will sit back and accept it as normal and deserved.

I would not be in that camp. I would see it as completely absurd and the exact type of maneuver that has ruined our sport from what it once was. He is a fantastic horse but when did everything change so drastically in our sport? Let’s look closely at what we are supposed to accept as the “standards" of Horse of the Year and “top dollar” in the Breeding sheds in the USA in the year 2022.

Assuming he runs in the Classic, the four-year-old Flightline would have had 6 races in his entire career. That sentence alone shows the sheer insanity of the state of Horse Racing today. If he is retired, Flightline will command at least 100k in the shed and the rich will pay millions for his offspring at the Keeneland sale, because after-all, the sire was the Horse of the Year. The reality of this colt's career is completely buried within the accolades of his perceived brilliance. He's fast, he's dazzling, he's beautiful and he's undefeated, and that right there is all we see.

Let's look directly in the face of the eventual 2022 Horse of the Year in the United States:

At Two Years Old:

Flightline did not enter a gate as a two-year-old. He did nothing on the track.

At Three Years Old:

The entire 12 months of the 2021 season, Flightline stood in only three gates.

1. A maiden race

2. An allowance race

3. the 7f Malibu Stakes against 6 opponents.

He won each one of them, but the fact remains, he posted one Graded Stakes race at 7f, beating 6 horses.

At Four Years Old:

4. the 8f Metropolitan Handicap against 4 opponents

5. the 10f Pacific Classic against 5 opponents.

If we look at this rationally, the most respected horse of 2022, has beaten 9 horses all year so far. In three Graded Stakes races, he beat a total of 15 competitors in his entire career before the Breeders Cup. In the Pacific Classic at 10f, he was on the lead on an oil-slick bias, uncontested, with awesome visuals in his 19-length win. Meanwhile, at Saratoga, Epicenter was demolishing a full field of Derby runners at 10f on a harder and more demanding bias, but he "only" won by 5 lengths, so we don't talk about that. Flightline will be crowned the Horse of the Year by the so-called bigshots of horse-racing and the public will gobble it up.

To put this into perspective and to demonstrate just how ridiculous our sport has become, between the years of 1954 and 1956, a horse named Ribot won 16 races in a row.

At two years old, Ribot won each of the following against full fields:

1. JulPremio Tramuschio at 5f

2. Criterium Nazionale at 6f

3. Gran Criterium at 8f

At three years old he won:

4. Premio Pisa at 7.5f

5. Premio Emanuele Filliberto at 10f

6. Premio Bembo at 11f

7. Premio Besana at 12f

8. Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at 12f

9. Gran Premio del Jockey Club at 12f

At four years old he won:

10. Premio Guilio Venino at 10f

11. Premio Vittuone at 12f

12. Premio Garbagnate at 10f

13. Gran Premio di Milano at 15f

14. King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at 12f

15. Premio del Piazzale at 9f

16. Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at 12f

Scroll back up and look at Flightline's resume again. Granted, I may have gone to the extreme using an overseas runner from the past as an example, but Ribot's accomplishments warrant titles like "Horse of the Year" and his body of work should demand 100k in the Breeder's shed. Undefeated in 16 races against full fields traveling between 5f and 15f. That is a Champion horse. That is what our trainers should be producing, and it is the reason why this sport is a shell of what it once was.

Some may say that Flightline could only race against those willing to face him on the track, therefore, he has had so little competition. I say, his connections entered him into only two starting gates all year, so you can't blame frightened competition for his lack of starts in the first place.

Flightline is a tremendous talent but how we perceive greatness on the track has truly diminished to a mere 19 length win against 5 opponents on a speed favoring track. We do not demand sheets like Ribot's in order to give a trophy in the United States and therefore we don't get it. Flightline is touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread this year and look at that resume. He won 3 graded stakes races from 7f to 10f against a total of 15 opponents. This is the best that our country has to offer, and this is the state of American Horse Racing. I have absolutely nothing against this horse and I know he will be at the top of my bets in the Classic with one other, but I question our perception of what constitutes real greatness on the track.

This pattern started several years ago, where so-called "Once in a Lifetime" souped up speedsters won races that they were not built for and retired soon after. Posting wins in a just a handful of races and then shipped to the shed with astronomical price tags to breed with them.

Charlatan demanding 50k in the Breeding Shed after winning only 2 graded stakes races in his entire career, one of which he was cited for being drugged. Justify ran on the track for a total of 4 months in his entire career and commands 150k for the "privilege" of a mating with yet another who posted a win while drugged. The fact that people actually stand in line for it makes it intolerable. The fact that they each received votes for the Eclipse award is even worse than that.

Both Charlatan (2020) and Justify (2018) were voted Horse of the Year by the "elite" who accept the absurdity of these trophies and expect us to follow with the crowd. This, in turn, makes a resume like Flightline's completely acceptable and normal. Over the past decade, our sport has slowly dissolved into a veil of what it was in the past. And we allowed it. The difference between America and Overseas when it comes to Horse Racing is night and day. There is no comparison between the two.

It is becoming harder and harder with each passing year to take all of this as seriously as I did years ago. Why can't our horses run in 16 races in their career like Ribot did? Why do we give awards to horses who ran in 3 races the entire year against a shell of a starting gate? Why does the number of lengths won by supersede the number of dominant performances in another? Why would anyone in their right mind pay over a million dollars for the son of a sire who won 3 graded stakes races? But the biggest question is, why do we accept it as the norm? Have we become completely blind as to what truly constitutes a Champion on the racetrack, and can you imagine what this sport will look like in a decade if this continues?

I will say this with all of my heart and love that I hold for this sport... If there is a Horse Racing God in the clouds hovering above the Keeneland racetrack on November 5th, please give Epicenter the wings to fly and help get this sport back on track. I am sure that most would disagree with my outlook on the Horse of the Year when it comes to Flightline. He truly is a spectacular beast and if he continues into next season, surely, I will see things differently. But if the Classic is the cherry on the top of his minimal career, I will only see it as detrimental to our standards for the future.


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