Shipping outside of California for the first time, Flightline lit up Belmont Park with an eye-popping performance in Saturday’s $1 million Metropolitan H. (G1), shrugging off a slow start to win in hand by six lengths, and the unbeaten four-year-old has won all four starts convincingly.
Flavien Prat was up on the flashy Tapit colt for John Sadler, and Flightline bolstered his credentials by overcoming adversity, stalking the pace for the first time. He left the starting gate as the 2-5 favorite in the five-horse field.
Grade 1 winner Speaker’s Corner, who was off as the 5-2 second choice and had a three-race stakes-winning streak in tow, broke on top and beat Flightline to the lead, angling toward the rail and forcing Prat to steady slightly after breaking tardily from the innermost post.
Flightline moved to the outside, tracking about a length back through opening splits in :22.78 and :45.01, and the response was instantaneous when he was given his cue, blowing past Speaker’s Corner with dazzling turn of foot leaving the far turn. He continued to pour it on in the final furlongs before being taken under wraps late, completing the one-turn mile in 1:33.59.
“He overcame trouble, that’s the storyline,” Sadler said. “He had a rough trip and took up a couple times, but still circled around and proved much the best.”
“He didn’t jump well but after that, I was happy where I was and he was traveling well,” Prat added. “He’s just an incredible horse. Congratulations to John (Sadler) and his partners. They’ve done a great job with him. The way he handled himself once I was behind horses, he was comfortable and I was happy where I was. “It feels great (when he hits his best stride). It seems the sky is limitless and it’s been a real pleasure.”
Campaigned by Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, West Point Thoroughbreds, Woodford Racing, and breeder Summer Wind Equine, Flightline was purchased for $1 million as a yearling at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August sale, and he’s been special since Day 1 on the track, opening his career with a 13-length maiden wins at Santa Anita 14 months ago.
The well-built colt came back at Del Mar in early September, romping in an entry-level allowance by 12 lengths, and his first stakes victory came via an 11-length thrashing in the Dec. 26 Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita.
“He’s such an athlete,” Sadler said. “Winning the Met Mile is so gratifying. It’s such a historic race and a stallion-making race and he’s all of those things. He’s the whole package.”
Flightline has proven extremely formidable, and couldn’t be more exciting, handling more accomplished rivals with aplomb on Saturday, but where he fits in the older male division remains to be seen. The Met Mile marked his first start of the year – the bay Kentucky-bred has commanded at least 100 days between races so far – and he’s never been two turns.
Distance doesn’t look like an issue with his body shape and breeding, and Sadler does have a plan to get Flightline to this fall’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, where the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at 1 1/4 miles is a viable target.
“Flavien says distance is no issue, and we want to try two turns,” Sadler said. “That’s in the plans. But we go one step at a time. He’s lightly raced. This is his first start this year.”
The $1 million Whitney (G1), contested over 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on August 6, is an option for his next start, and supporters will keep their fingers crossed for Flightline to avoid setbacks.
The Met Mile served as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
Grade 1 victor Happy Saver rallied for second, nearly three lengths better than Speaker’s Corner, who was followed by Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West and Informative.
Flightline is out of the Indian Charlie mare Feathered, who captured the two-turn Edgewood (G3) and counted a runner-up in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks (G1) among three Grade 1 placings.