Sunday’s $301,000 Malibu (G1) was supposed to present Flightline with a class test, but the unbeaten colt was a class apart from the opposition at Santa Anita. The 2-5 favorite galloped by 11 1/2 lengths, as though not taking a deep breath, while rattling off seven furlongs in 1:21.37.
“I was in cruise control the whole race, galloping freely,” regular rider Flavien Prat commented. “He was quite impressive. I wanted to get a good position and get myself into the race. My idea was to get out there running and see what happened. He has been brilliant so far. He really has been quite amazing.”
Indeed, the only potential problem came early in this stakes debut, and even that wasn’t enough to make Flightline break a sweat. Off a beat slow from post 7, and bumping with principal foe Dr. Schivel, the John Sadler trainee didn’t find himself in a good position in the opening strides.
Yet Flightline simply shrugged it off and moved up to take charge through an opening quarter in :22.01. It wasn’t the panicky rush one often sees in these situations, but the controlled behavior of a superior athlete just gathering his stride. Team Merchants chased on the outside, and Baby Yoda attended from his rail post, but both were working harder as the favorite clocked the half in :44.48.
In contrast, Flightline was traveling as smoothly as ever turning for home. The Tapit colt bid his pursuers adieu, despite Prat sitting motionless in the saddle. Running up the score to 5 1/2 lengths while passing the six-furlong mark in 1:08.72, Flightline more than doubled that margin inside the final furlong. Prat’s snug hold didn’t have a discernible effect on the super-talented colt, whose piston-like strides continued with mechanical precision to the wire.
Flightline telegraphs an ability to go further. Sadler indicated that a stretch-out is coming next, without making any specific commitments in the postrace interview.
Baby Yoda was best of the rest, albeit in another zip code, and jockey Jose Ortiz described what it felt like to try to keep up.
“He broke very well, but I looked to my right passing the five-eighths pole, and Flightline was there looking very comfortable. I couldn’t go any faster,” Ortiz said. “When I was ready to make my move I did, but Flightline was too good. We were going very fast early, and for Flightline to have that kind of turn of foot later on was very impressive. My horse ran a winning race anywhere else. If Flightline isn’t there, I win. He’s a freak.”
The honest Stilleto Boy was another length away in third. Triple Tap wasn’t involved in fourth, a further 6 1/4 lengths adrift. Fifth-placer Timeless Bounty edged Team Merchants, and Dr. Schivel was a subpar last after his troubled start.
Campaigned by the partnership of Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, breeder Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds, and Woodford Racing, Flightline has won his three starts by a combined margin of 37 1/2 lengths. The $1 million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling has earned $259,800, but his stud appeal puts his value far higher. Out of the Grade 3-winning Indian Charlie mare Feathered, Flightline descends from the superb Phipps family going back to Blitey and champion Lady Pitt.
“We hoped to win this,” Woodford Racing’s Bill Farish said, “but to do this against this kind of field, this was the real class test for him, and I think he answered it the way we thought he would.”
Co-owner Kosta Hronis is eager for Flightline to fulfill his potential on the racetrack before heading to the breeding shed.
“It’s always great to see a great racehorse stay on the racetrack and run as long as he can,” Hronis said. “We hope we can see Flightline put up a terrific year.”
Sadler, relieved to get this Grade 1 laurel out of the way, will let Flightline dictate his plans.
“I’ve been stressing the last 20, 30 or 40 days getting ready for today. The next race is up to the horse. We have to be true to the horse. We will chart the course from there.
“This horse is so brilliant. This is not an ordinary horse; this is a very special horse. We want to do right by the horse and all other things will fall into place. He was late getting here. He had a foot bruise at Del Mar, so we backed off.
“After Flavien (Prat) got off him the last time, he said this horse can go further. He’ll go a distance the next time.
“There is a lot of pressure on you, but it is the pressure you want,” his trainer summed up. “It’s like the high school coach for LeBron. You know you have something special and he is much the best. This horse is there. You just don’t want to screw it up.”
La Brea (G1)
As another factoid illustrating Flightline’s supremacy, his Malibu time was substantially faster than the $301,000 La Brea (G1) two races earlier. The Bob Baffert-trained Kalypso captured the companion race for sophomore fillies in 1:24.78 – 3.41 seconds slower.
Unraced since her bleeding episode when eased in the Apr. 30 Eight Belles (G2), the 8.80-1 chance was settled in third by new rider John Velazquez. Up front, Livingmybestlife was winging it through splits of :22.11 and :44.92. The prompting Brilliant Cut accosted the pacesetter swinging into the stretch, but both were about to be tackled.
Kalypso blew past the leaders in midstretch and opened up by 4 3/4 lengths at the wire. The course-and-distance winner of last January’s Santa Ynez (G2), as well as the 2020 Anoakia at six furlongs, the daughter of Brody’s Cause paid $19.60.
Brilliant Cut crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Livingmybestlife. Next came Eddie’s New Dream; Canoodling; Baffert’s 3-5 favorite, Private Mission; and the eased Missy P.
David A. Bernsen, Gainesway Stable, Rockingham Ranch, and Chad Littlefield’s Kalypso has compiled a mark of 9-3-3-2, $480,600. The chestnut placed in the Starlet (G1), Las Virgenes (G3), and Santa Ysabel (G3) when attempting two turns.
Velazquez spoke of how the La Brea’s race shape ended up panning out for Kalypso:
“Bob and I talked about it. We thought there was a lot of speed in the race, and we knew she had speed, but I didn’t want to be in a duel and not have anything to finish with. I told Bob that if she has more speed, then I’m just going to let her go let her be in the lead. I wanted to give her a chance the first part of the race and everything was really easy until I got to the three-eighths pole.
“I kind of got on her a little bit and she bit into the bridle, so I said, ‘al lright we’re going good.’ At the quarter pole I pulled her to the clear and from then on it was pretty easy.”
Velazquez was winning his fourth race on the opening-day card. Three came for Baffert, including the 1ST race with juvenile Blackadder and the 4TH aboard 1-2 favorite Shaaz. The latter race was the maiden featuring Beholder’s son, Q B One. Not showing much first out, Q B One beat only one home in sixth.
“Johnny V., after the first race, I told him that is the first time I have won the first race at this meet,” Baffert said. “You know Johnny V. is great to begin with. He’s like Tom Brady. He’s a lot wiser. He doesn’t panic. He rides his horse. That’s why he is a great one.”
Kalypso was bred by Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky and sold for $240,000 as a Fasig-Tipton July yearling. Her dam, the Malibu Moon mare Malibu Cove, is a full sister to Grade 2-winning sire Prospective.