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Picture: Flightline wins The Pacific Classic At Del Mar

Jane Lyon stood in the Del Mar grandstand watching the horse she bred and raised, Flightline (Tapit), round the far turn on his way to greatness in the Sept. 3 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1).

“I was just trying not to start crying so hard that I wouldn’t be able to see him when he came across the finish line,” she said. “You can’t expect this. You can’t wish it. And to have it happen and for him to continue to grow like he is, better and better and better, it’s just a miracle.”

Lyon clutched the red roses in the winner’s circle, fielding congratulations from several of Flightline’s co-owners. It was Lyon who shepherded the creation of Flightline, a colt she bred in Kentucky by crossing the Indian Charlie  mare Feathered  with Tapit  . Even those good bloodlines could give no indication that it could produce the incredible performance that the crowd witnessed in the $1,000,500 Pacific Classic.
Flightline was expected to win, despite never having raced farther than a mile and while facing five graded stakes winners, including Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) winner Country Grammer . But the way he did it was something few, if any, had ever seen before. After all, Secretariat ‘s 31-length Belmont victory was nearly 50 years ago.
Flightline put himself into the race right from the start, even though horses on either side bumped him leaving the gate. He took the early lead on the outside despite longshot Extra Hope , racing on the rail, actually getting ahead of Flightline as the well-bunched field headed for the first turn.
Racing wide with Prat seeking to keep him settled, Flightline began the assault that would quickly launch him into another dimension. At the five-eighths pole, he took command and would never relinquish it.
Was that too soon to go to the lead? With an ordinary mortal dealing with 1 1/4 miles, maybe so. But this was Flightline. He lengthened his stride, and the distance began to increase–one length, then 10, then 13. The fractions looked like Flightline might slow down, as he completed six furlongs in 1:09.97, but watching the way he moved, no one expected any horse to get anywhere near him.
“When we went into the final turn, he was traveling so well I asked him to pick it up a little bit,” said Prat. “As soon as I looked back and saw how far in front he was, I wrapped up on him.”
The crowd roared as Flightline galloped down the stretch, and Jane Lyon tried to keep those tears at bay. Jaws dropped when Flightline crossed the finish line by an incredible distance, which was later calculated to be 19 1/4 lengths. Even with Prat gearing him down, Flightline stopped the clock in 1:59.28, just 0.17 off Candy Ride’s stakes and track record, accomplished in the 2003 Pacific Classic. Country Grammer finished second, seven lengths in front of Royal Ship  in third.
Flightline’s margin annihilated the Pacific Classic record of 12 1/2 lengths, set in 2019 by Accelerate, like Flightline trained by John Sadler, who has now trained four of the last five winners of the Pacific Classic.
When co-owner Kosta Hronis heard the official margin, he laughed and said, “Well, there goes Accelerate’s record—poor Accelerate.”
Hronis owned Accelerate in the name of his family’s Hronis Racing. Kosta, his wife Stephanie, and brother Pete own Flightline in partnership with Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine, Siena Farm, West Point Thoroughbreds, and Woodford Racing.
Flightline has never been tested, having won all five of his races. It is a light schedule for a 4-year-old, but a few issues kept him from starting until April of his 3-year-old season, and the colt also had a minor setback early this year. Sadler has long said that it is important to harness his incredible speed.
“This horse is so brilliant you have to space his races a little bit apart because he is his own category,” said Sadler. “I know him well, and I know what’s best for him is to build up his energy between one race to the next. We’d all want to see him run more times, but when he runs like this, you don’t need to run him more times. Enjoy the ones that you run in.”
Flightline earned a Breeders’ Cup Challenge berth to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) with his Pacific Classic victory. Sadler was fairly certain that he would train the colt into that race, without going in next month’s Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park, the final Classic prep for West Coast-based horses.
Sadler has been impressed with Flightline since he first saw him, after David Ingordo, who has bought many of Sadler’s top runners, advised purchasing the colt for $1 million as a yearling in 2019 at The Saratoga Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s select yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Ingordo bought him for West Point Thoroughbreds, and the current partnership quickly came together.

Flightline’s five winning margins now total 62 3/4 lengths.