Flightline lives up to hype with blowout win in Pacific Classic

del mar, california

can route Got a mile and a quarter? Can he.

Can he make two laps? As he entered the second, the crowd was roaring like a champ.

Flightline isn’t just playing that role on Saturday afternoons.He lives in first grade, $1 million Pacific Classic in del mar

He improved his record to 5-for-5 by destroying the field that included two other Class 1 winners, winning by a length of 19 1/4.

Not just winning. On an 88-degree afternoon, he scorched five opponents so far behind that they might as well have been running the next race.

“It was a thrill,” said winning coach John Sadler. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to own a horse like this, so I’m really grateful.”

This should be the toughest challenge yet for the 4-year-old Tapit pony owned by Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing, and is being adopted by a growing number of fans. Instead, Flightline (3-10) was the odds-on team for the fifth time, finishing the 1 1/4 mile in 1:59.28, just 0.17 of the track and stake record set by Candy Ride in 2003 second.

“It’s the best day I’ve ever had here,” said Del Mar CEO Joe Harper, who has worked on the track for 45 years. “From seeing the horse in the second race last year and then seeing him, everyone’s mouth was open.”

Second-choice Country Grammer (7-2), who came into the game with $10,897,320, finished second in 2:02.73. That’s 2.24 seconds faster than his winning time in the 1 1/4 mile Dubai World Cup (G1) in March – but not even in the same area code on Saturday.

“I think he thinks he won,” Country Grammer coach Bob Baffert said. “He was in a very competitive race. …I saw a lot of ‘wows’ here, and this was one of them. (The flight path) was spectacular. He’s been training like that. I had to Stand up to cheer and applaud him.”

Jockey Flavien Prat broke through from No. 5 and pushed the fly line forward ahead of time. Extra Hope (49-1) started off the rails and finished fifth, fighting an early battle with Flightline, who completed the first quarter mile in 23.42 seconds. Extra Hope kept pace and even held the lead for the half-mile at 46.06 seconds. Flightline then moved forward to open a length lead in the first six furlongs timed at 1:09.97.

Then the opening becomes a chasm. The extra hope disappeared, and Flightline ran itself. He had a 10-mile lead at 1:59.28. The 12,077 sunbathing fans shouted as he crossed the finish line, and they repeated it as he and Pratt returned to the winner’s circle.

Country Grammer was two lengths ahead of third-placed Royal Ship (10-1), the stables of Extra Hope, who was headstrong in the paddock before the race and on his toes.

“When you have a horse like ours, you have to try it,” said Richard Mandela, coach of Royal Ships and Extra Hope. “So we did that and we ran third and fifth.”

Express Train (12-1), who won this year’s Santa Anita handicap (G1), finished fourth, followed by Extra Hope and finally Stilleto Boy (33-1). The 11-game card attracted $27,825,223.73 in omnichannel deals, the sixth-highest single-day deal in Del Mar history.

If there’s one picture of a happy and peaceful post-match, it’s Sadler. Although the win was the biggest of Flightline’s career, it was also the fourth in double digits. So Sadler said he wasn’t surprised.

“You just have to watch him run,” he said. “Sometimes people say can he go? I mean, come on. He’s never been challenged.”

When Flightline pulled away a huge lead, the crowd yelled and Prat could only stay on the irons, and Sadler admitted he was almost in the winner’s circle.

“I feel good,” he said. “I said I’d watch him to the end? Or would I go down the stairs? I said I’d watch him finish.  …” Remember, this is only his fifth game. That’s what makes it so special. “

Flightline returned $2.60 on a $2 bet.

For a horse who got a late start to his career after an accidental hip injury at age 2 and missed the start this year with sore hocks, the Flightline is probably the least experienced horse to be favored in the Breeders’ Cup Classic race. With two days remaining on the winning futures bet, he cut the odds to 9-5 by 10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Not for nothing, but Saturday’s race is a win and you’ll be in the qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If Flightline loses – an idea that seems absurd right now – he might have to play the Awesome Again (G1) match at Santa Anita on October 1 to qualify for the $6 million win at Keeneland on November 11 Dollar, 1 1/4 mile race. 5.

There will be no such port of call now.

“The plan now is the Breeders’ Cup,” Sadler said. “He’s not going to race before the Breeders’ Cup. He’s going to be running in Kentucky.”

There, he will face his toughest test yet. Again, this is the same thing that was said before this weekend. That was before he proved he could walk the 1 1/4 mile. But that was after Sadler thought he could do it.

“We’ve always said our mantra is John Sadler we trust,” said lead owner Kosta Hronis. “Today you saw all the hard work he and his team put in. … having them train him to walk a mile and a half, I’m not sure that’s a very welcome thing. But John knows how to handle this horse.”

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