Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Flightline retired to stud after six incredible races

Flightline wins the Breeders Cup Classic
Flavien Prat rides Flightline to victory during the Breeders’ Cup Classic raceat the Keenelend Race Course, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

One day after putting on one of the greatest racing performances in Breeders’ Cup Classic history, Flightline has been retired from the races for a lucrative stud career, it was reported.

The undefeated 4-year-old colt, who won all six races of his brief career by a combined 70 lengths, will spend next season breeding at Lane’s End Farm, according to the Thoroughbred Daily News. It’s expected that Flightline will command an exorbitant stud fee — starting at an estimated $150,000 per mating or higher, according to NBC Sports — earning his handlers far more green than the horse could ever reap through racing.

He didn’t race very often, but Flightline ended his career lauded as one of the greatest thoroughbreds to ever hit the racetrack — earning comparisons to the likes of Secretariat after an astonishing 19-length victory in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Race Course in San Diego back in September.

On Saturday, Flightline wowed the crowd of 45,000 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, KY — and millions of fans watching around the world — with a dominant, 8 1/2 length triumph in North America’s richest race, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Under jockey Flavien Prat, Flightline chased the front-runner Life is Good through astonishingly fast fractions, then cruised on at the quarter pole and drew out. 

In doing so, Flightline likely cemented his status as Horse of the Year, as he beat a Classic field that also included Travers Stakes champion Epicenter, who did not finish and was vanned off due to injury; Olympiad, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga and finished second; and Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who wound up finishing a distant fourth.

Flightline’s racing resume also includes a resounding victory in the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park in June; and the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park last December.

“We would like to thank trainer John Sadler and his team for the incredible work they did with Flightline,” Bill Farish of Lane’s End Farm told the Thoroughbred Daily News in announcing Flightline’s retirement. “His historic performances are a credit to their expertise and unwavering efforts to bring out the very best in the horse.”

One of the best ever

With Flightline’s racing career at an end, the conversation turns to where he ranks among the greatest thoroughbreds of all time. 

Comparisons to Secretariat arose after Flightline’s Pacific Classic win. Up to that point, he had never raced around two turns, and while many experts knew he was an incredibly fast and talented horse, doubt remained as to whether Flightline could get the Pacific Classic’s 1 1/4 miles distance.

And Flightline put those doubts to rest with a jaw-dropping showing in the Pacific Classic, destroying five other competitors (including defending Dubai World Cup champion Country Grammar) and pulling away through the stretch in a scene that eerily resembled Secretariat’s 31-length Belmont Stakes win in 1973. 

Flightline ran the 1 1/4 miles at Del Mar in a near-record time of 1:59.28; by comparison, Secretariat won the 1973 Kentucky Derby, at the same distance, in a time of 1:59.4. But Secretariat would go on to race twice more in five weeks during his Triple Crown sweep, capping it off in the Belmont Stakes with a 2:24 time for 1 1/2 miles, breaking the then-track record by 2 3/5 seconds.

Secretariat, who made 21 starts in his career, raced far more frequently than Flightline, whose career had been hampered early on due to a litany of injuries that kept him off the track. It’s also common practice today for trainers not to run high-quality horses very frequently; the opposite was true nearly 50 years ago.

But on mere talent alone, Flightline deserves his place among the greatest thoroughbreds. He was clearly the fastest horse of both his generation and the one that came immediately after. He answered the bell in each start, and blew away his competition — most of which were champions in their own right.