(Flightline leaves the track for the last time / All Photos by Coady Photography)
To borrow and paraphrase from one of the greatest movies of all time — “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” — we offer up our own version we like to call “The Unbelievable, The Beautiful & the Reprehensible” of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which concluded on Saturday’s version of “Gone With the Wind” at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.
Like most, if not all, major events — including the previous Breeders’ Cups — there were some unbelievable moments that take the breath; that shutter the eyes; that blow the mind. And, this year’s version was no different. There were times in plentiful supply, and just what the doctor ordered for the greatest sport ever created.
Like most, if not all, major events — including previous Breeders’ Cups — there were some beautiful moments, as well. Memories that become photographs to album in the mind. Scenes that replay over and over on a continuous loop, never to be forgotten or replaced. Lovely pauses of time and life that make you feel alive and glad to be in the moment. There were those “paintings” that will forever stir, too.
And, like most, if not all major events — including previous Breeders’ Cup — there were some reprehensible things that soil the times, if not completely, at least in part. There were moments that left you and others shaking your head in absolute amazement, and not in a good way. There were things that stopped you in the moment and made you question who was in charge, and why was this happening — especially on our biggest stage — without explanation or remedy. There were times when you knew — in your heart and your stomach — that these moments need to be made totally public and transparent; addressed; fixed; explained; apologized for; and promised to never happen again. Unfortunately, there were way, way, way too many of these over the two days, as well. Way too many.
Over the next couple of days, we will cover each. Today’s edition: “The Unbelievable:”
(Flightline flies to the finish line / All Photos by Coady Photography)
This topic must start, and some would say “must finish,” with the amazing Flightline, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap off the two-day extravaganza in both style and substance. The undefeated son of Tapit won his 6th straight race with a burst of brilliance that left his best competition in his wake — as if they were swimming in a pool of sand and in need of binoculars to even capture a glimpse of the disappearing winner in their future.
Coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Flightline was the “Talk of the Town.” He was, for some, “The Conversation of the Generation.” Comparisons were being made to some of the game’s best. As in…ever.
And, why not.
The record speaks for itself.
He has won all six of his career races. He has won at 6 furlongs; 7 furlongs; 1 mile; and 11/4-miles. He has won by 131/4 lengths. He has won by 123/4 lengths. He has won by 111/2 lengths. He has won by 6 lengths. He has won by 191/4 lengths. And, on Saturday, he beat the world’s best dirt horses by 81/4 lengths. If you need to know, that adds up to 6 wins by a total of 71 lengths. He average distance of win is nearly 12 lengths.
Out of the 6 wins, 4 of them came in Grade 1s.
And, on Saturday, he whipped the wonderful, amazing, brilliantly-fast Life Is Good — who captured the Breeders’ Cup Mile just a year ago — as if he was an Iceland-bred.
The next Secretariat? The next Seattle Slew? The next Spectacular Bid? The next, well, you fill in the blank.
Despite what Walker Hancock, the brash young leader of Claiborne Farm which stood the great Secretariat, said before this year’s Breeders’ Cup and may still believe, Flightline may not only be the next Secretariat, he may be even better. He may be the horse that the next great one will be compared to first and foremost. The next great may be called “The Next Flightline.”
Blasphemy? Not really.
Reality? Just maybe.
On Sunday, it was announced that Flightline will be immediately retired to stand as a stallion at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, KY. It’s sad to know that he won’t run again. We will all miss that striking beauty in muscle motion. But it is understandable, too.
The mares now await. The economics now kick in. Flightline will get to see up to 100 mares, or maybe even more, per year. Multiply that by $250,000 or more per mare. You get the picture now painted in green.
He will stride off to a new career and into the sunset. But he will stride off as one of the game’s best. Arguably, he may be the game’s best. Period.
For my money, which will never be enough to breed a mare to him, Flightline is the best I have ever had the pleasure to witness or watch. And, I saw Secretariat, too.
There I said it. (Actually, I wrote it.) And, I feel better for it, too.
(Modern Games / All Photos by Coady Photography)
If the arrogant American — and multiply that by about 10 fold when you narrow the focus to “American Thoroughbred Breeder” — needed any further evidence that we don’t have a monopoly on the sport and/or industry, all of Central Kentucky and the stallion farm operators should have been paying attention to the 7 turf races that were held as part of this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
The domination of the Europeans in these grass races was overpowering and truly amazing. And, it was clear and convincing evidence that we — in this country — are light years behind our elders in the arena of breeding, raising, and racing grass runners.
The numbers simply do not lie.
Out of the 7 races, only one was won by an American-based and U.S.-bred horse — Caravel in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Saturday.
The other 6 Stakes? All won by Europeans.
And, it was more than just that, too.
Out of the 21 top 3 placings in the 7 turf races?
Twelve — 12 — of those were captured by the Euros.
There is no doubt that the European horses — and their various connections — do better in Kentucky than other Breeders’ Cup venues. The travel time is shorter. The grass is more similar. And, the cooler temps are more moderate. Normally.
But this year, after a long drought, our ground was much harder than normal. That should have helped the Americans.
On Friday, the temps elevated to the 80s and was much hotter than normal. That should have aided the Americans.
In the end, though, nothing much helped the Americans against this butt-kicking. Nothing.
(Cody Dorman with winning trainer Bill Mott / All Photos by Coady Photography)
If you weren’t wishing for Cody’s Wish to win this year’s version of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, then, probably, hopefully, you didn’t know the back story on this horse and whom he is named after. That would be Cody Dorman, from Richmond, KY., who was born with a rare genetic disorder known as Wolf-Hirschhorn. It’s a condition that has left the 16-year-old with only one way to communicate — by tablet.
In 2018, he participated with “Make a Wish Foundation” and was hooked up with Godolphin Stable’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles. It was then and there where he was first introduced to a foal. A foal who slowly inched his way up and eventually laid his head on Cody’s lap.
If the story had ended there, it would have been enough. It would have been amazing.
But the story didn’t end there. It was only the beginning.
On Saturday’s Cody’s Wish was back at Keeneland. To run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. In a magical storybook ending, the 4YO got up at the wire to win by a head over the highly-accomplished Cyberknife. A few minutes later, both Cody and Cody’s Wish were reunited in the winner’s circle.
Sure enough, the colt came close — again — and appeared to lay his head close to the lap of his namesake and long-lasting friend, Cody Dorman.
That right there, my friends, is a story that only OUR sport can tell — from the heart of one champion to another.
That right there, my good friends, is why we all love this sport and what makes is so special.
That right there, my true friends, is why horses mean so much that we celebrate their legs and their hearts.
Next edition: “The Beautiful”
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