The unbeaten sensation Flightline (Tapit) has been cleared for takeoff.
Last seen making it a perfect three-for-three with a gaudy 118 Beyer Speed Figure in Santa Anita's GI Runhappy Malibu S. Dec. 26, Flightline will launch his highly anticipated 4-year-old campaign in the GI Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan H. on the completely stacked GI Belmont S. undercard June 11.
“We're at that stage where he's all ready,” trainer John Sadler said. “He's doing really well. He hasn't missed a beat. We just have to get to next week and get a decent ship in to New York. He'll be there midday Tuesday. He's ready to go.”
Flightline has won his first three career starts–all in Southern California–by a combined margin of a staggering 37 1/2 lengths. A no-brainer 'TDN Rising Star' on debut in Arcadia Apr. 24, he followed up with another jaw-dropping victory in an optional claimer at Del Mar Sept. 5, good for a 114 Beyer Speed Figure.
He dominated his six rivals in front-running fashion by 11 1/2 lengths while making his stakes debut in the Malibu. Distant third-place finisher Stilleto Boy (Shackleford) has since finished third in both the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. and GI Santa Anita H. and captured the GII Californian S. Apr. 30, respectively.
After suffering a minor setback in February, Flightline was forced to miss an intended start in the GII San Carlos S. at Santa Anita Mar. 5.
“He was going for a race in March and he had a little bit of a hock issue,” Sadler said. “We did the diagnostics on him and it didn't show anything too severe. It's just that he needed a little time. The timing was bad, but it was nothing that should compromise him going forward. We gave him a little time to get over that and now he's training lights out. If you look at his work pattern, it's really in good shape.”
Flightline has posted eight breezes since returning to the worktab Apr. 10. He covered five furlongs in :59.80 (2/23) beneath regular rider Flavien Prat at Santa Anita May 30. He is slated to breeze again Sunday before heading to the Big Apple.
“My assistant Juan Leyva has spent a lot of time with him,” Sadler said. “He works and gallops him. With him, it's always like, 'How do you ride a hurricane?' Juan's been working with him and getting him to relax. We had the time to do it, but it's not like we're doing anything different. It looks like he's a lot more settled in the mornings now. And we've got him going off nice and easy in his works, too. I'm really pleased.”
He added, “We'll probably go a half in :48 on Sunday and then come on over.”
The Met Mile will mark Flightline's first start beyond seven furlongs. Streaking Godolphin homebred Speaker's Corner (Street Sense), a visually impressive winner of the GI Carter H.; and GI Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Aloha West (Hard Spun) are also expected to line up for the highly coveted stallion-making race.
“I think he'll love it,” Sadler said of the added distance. “Sometimes, the misconception is that with really fast horses, the farther they go, they're not as good. But if you've watched any of his races, he looks like nothing but a fresh horse at the wire. And it's a one-turn mile, so it should really be well within his wheelhouse.”
Sadler continued, “The harder questions are some of the stuff we haven't answered yet. How does he ship, new environment and those kind of things. But as far as all the things I can control, I couldn't be more pleased.”
Campaigned in partnership by the powerhouse line-up of Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, breeder Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing, Flightline brought $1 million as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. He is out of the GSW & MGISP mare Feathered (Indian Charlie), a granddaughter of MGISW Finder's Fee (Storm Cat). Feathered brought $2.35 million from Summer Wind at the 2016 Keeneland November Sale.
“It would be tremendous–there's no question about the stallion potential of this horse and what this race would mean for him,” Sadler said. “Also for his cache, it would be great to win outside of California. We're excited. I'm not going to get too excited though because we've got a ways to go. But right now, he's doing beautifully.”
Races like the GI Whitney S. at Saratoga Aug. 6 or GI TVG Pacific Classic S. Sept. 3 could be in play this summer for Flightline with a long-term eye on the GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland Nov. 5.
Sadler concluded, “Sky's the limit. I've never had one like this horse.”
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