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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach FL, January 27 — At Thursday night’s Eclipse Award ceremony, co-host Britney Eurton of FanDuel TV asked racing’s power-elite assemblage at the posh Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach this question: “How do you define greatness?”

“…So I went to those who know them best and asked ‘how would you describe greatness: ‘Brilliant’. ‘Simply best’. ‘A true competitor’… three descriptions of three finalists worthy of horse racing’s highest honor, Horse of the Year’.”

The towering presence of a multi-generational race horse called Flightline loomed boldly over the festivities, at once, the announcement a foregone conclusion, a celebration of equine excellence and horse racing defined.

His presence, as does his absence from this year’s renewal of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational. surely is something that the dozen competitors in this year’s running aspire to.

Thus, befitting the race day occasion, the word I would have chosen to describe Flightline in particular is ‘aspirational’ as he exits one career to begin another, just as the dozen assembled to race for the lion’s share of a $3 million purse hope somehow to be worthy of what it means to be a great race horse.

Greatness is the goal of every male or female owner hopes to achieve, a mantel that, with apologies to the Bard, is not something thrust upon them but rather one that must be earned.

Of course, Flightline had nothing to prove and asking him to race again following his Breeders’ Cup Classic tour de force would have been, in the description of one of his owners, “insane.”

It was hoped that post-Breeders’ Cup, when the whole world finally was exposed to equine greatness, that he would have given racing and sports fans one more look, the way previous Horses of Year put an asterisk on their careers before being whisked off to stud: Real World 1 – Racing Fans 0.

Now gates full of very good horses will try to advance their careers in the Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf, the Pegasus Turf and Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the lynchpin of an Eclipse Award weekend in South Florida. Flightline left racing fans wanting more. They will have to settle for cashing a few tickets instead.



The Skinny: After overnight scratches, the race is down to a field of eight but is no less contentious. Five of the eight can win this. Chad Brown trains favorite Shantisa (9-5), the most accomplished in here; would benefit from a lively pace she’s unlikely to get here. Hard-hitting Dalika (7-2) or the speedy Queen Goddess (9-2) could sneak away or hurt each other’s chances depending on the break; many questions make that a tough call.

We’re left with two viable value plays from which to choose: Wakanaka (5-1) and Lady Rockstar (6-1) who ran too good to lost last out, losing ground every step of the way, was ready to take command but was reeled in by the one-run winner who kicked on strongly late. We’ll key these with the other three, the straight-pool lean to Wakanaka.


The Skinny: How deep do you want to go? We kept it to a manageable five as we are efforting to beat the fast, most accomplished runner in the field, Ivar (5-2). Today’s ninth furlong is a concern for us ad we have little interest unless double his early line was available at post time.

Hurricane Dream (15-1), our fourth choice, could have been out first but video was unavailable. His most recent work was 58-flat, very un-Motion like. Frankie adds to the intrigue. Graham told us Tuesday a.m. that the import seems to do things easily, is doing well, and “for a million dollars, it’s worth finding out.” Indeed.

Atone (15-1) and City Man (4-1) will be our keys. Last year, Atone prepped for this in the G2 Ft. Lauderdale, This year, Mike Maker opted for an Aqueduct allowances and comes into this fresher; won prep easily and working bullets since. City Man made an excellent course debut, overcoming trouble at two junctures. [see City Man in HRI video section of the homepage] From his wide draw, will need at least early line odds for a straight-pool play.


The Skinny: We promised ourselves we weren’t going to overthink this: Cyberknife (5-2) is the most accomplished of the four-year-olds in here, has been pointed, is fresh with fast works and his pilot is on a roll, Flo getting career win 2,000 on Thursday in NOLA. Yes, post 10. But looking at the projected race shape, just may come out of the first turn smelling like a rose. No lower than 5-2 for us straight; this is no walkover.

Of the other four to peak our interest, Proxy (9-2) is the least inviting. Yes, he’s an improving horse in good hands who has come into his own. Just not enamored of the field he beat in the Lukas and hunch he will be an underlay given the connections. If only surface-loving White Abarrio (10-1) were a tad faster but he’s not. Does go very well for Tyler and training up a storm. Could save at early line odds.

Our keys are Skippylongstocking (5-1) and Defunded (6-1). ‘Skippy’ impressed with his subtle turn move in the Harlan’s Holiday and, to our eye, finished with something in the tank. Improving and dangerous four year old could have a big year with continued development. Jose Ortiz a perfect fit given the dynamics. Defunded in Bullet Bob, the prolific shipper. His style should fit this layout perfectly and his works are uber brilliant, even for Bullet Bob who, intriguingly, taps Irad.

Whichever horse wins this will never its brilliance challenge Flightline’s dominant speed. But ‘simply best’ and ‘true competitor’ are still available.

this live column will be updated throughout the weekend

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Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

17 Responses

  1. In regarding the position of an owner who is only interested in money {which is his right} Flightline did have something to prove, mainly greatness. Flightline was a very fast horse for six races, but didn’t really beat any other true champions.Perhaps if he ran this year a challenge would have presented itself. Spectacular Bid ran as a 4 year old and proved his greatness. The owner and trainer of Flightline is one of the big problems racing has. Neither were willing to have their horse compete at a high level for a reasonable amount of time. If a horses best is 6 or 7 races we no longer have a sport.

    1. Tell that to Justify, and the 3-year-olds who disappeared to the breeding shed long before their time.
      Flightline did not have to prove his greatness anymore to me, he already did that. It’s longevity, obviously, that’s in question.
      Not sure we’ve had a “sport” for quite some time Aaron.
      No disrespect, but I never bought into the “who’d he ever beat argument.” I heard that when I first came around the game almost a half century ago. Twas ever thus: Real good horses make good horses look bad, IMO.

      1. Good point John,really good horses do make other horses look bad. One reason I always liked Affirmed because he beat another great horse 3 times in 5 weeks. For whatever reason a horse like Cigar never got his due even though he beat everyone who was thrown in his way. The game is not a sport anymore,but all sports have changed so maybe it is just the changing times. John,thanks for keeping the game real.

        1. You are entirely welcome, Aaron. Such devotion and passion needs to be recognized and served. And your right, too. Racing as sport has changed with the times. Unfortunately the times, especially with respect to what America is but is becoming, have not changed for the better.

          Maybe thoughtful, respectful people should have their own mantra and slogan: “AI will not replace us”

          1. AI may crossover on the wisdom factor, but the insidious nature of if all adds little in support the other two qualities to have in plenty in Life. Sunshine and Generosity are not factored in consideration within the AI universe at all.,as clearly evidence by the number of job reductions ahead. Very cloudy skies in America’s forecast immediately ahead is my call. Saying a prayer that sanity will prevail is all. Any one else out there recall Alex Guinness in The Man in the White Suit? Be very careful in what you wish for. You just might, yada, yada…

            Me? I’m quite content thank you in just having enough for a cold beverage and two bucks for both the 8th and 9th races on the NYRA card, lol.

            Safe journey to all involved wagering at Gulfstream today. I have a 5 and a 7 dancing over my head as I type. Both Blow Up numbers tenant renants of my wife’s 75th birthday on 1/20. Going with my gut and betting a Heinze 57 in the Pegasus. Just like Loughlin. Different way to get there, but landing on a 5 and 7 Exacta Box. Going with John’s FRA call at Tampa as well. Riders Up!

  2. I`d humbly add WIT and ART COLLECTOR to the 12-13 races gimmicks. The 10 th seems to be among the top 3 favs. Give us a good race to revive some lost interest !

    1. I’m with you, just want to see some good races from these three events. No argument at all with your “gimmick” choices.

    2. Art Collector fit the $-winning habit-track-distance-Hall of Fame trainer-jock angles.Also my ” Nonno ” angle that I use in most big time races.Nice win-place,exacta payoff$ of over $ 34 and $ 140 since I used the great Bernardino horse with four others including the placing favorite.Nice,profitable hour and a half without program,PP s available And Without paying much attention to the so called experts who either pick favs or illogical ‘ value’ horses.Bernier,not as exact as he used to be..What is the ” Machine,” something from. 2001,a Space Odyssey ?

  3. This card tomorrow is going to be something else – I’m going to have to pick my spots early on, because after a long work week, I don’t know that I have the energy to play an entire card that starts at 10:50am. Going to cap the back of the card first tonight, and work my way up.

  4. Doc, that’s what trainers do. Point for the Breeders’ Cup and work backwards.

    I only did the work for the last five races… great minds. No, it takes too much energy and focus to do it right, that’s why I drilled down on half the card.

    I’ll spend the time between races looking at the other heats. If someone doesn’t jump off the page, or I don’t get the clues I want to see from the tote board, I can pass. Have a great day Doc, enjoy it, you other loyal members of the HRI Faithful!

  5. Just one more great thing about this card; Frankie Dettori in town to ride multiple races. What a jocks room – got arguably two of the heads on the Jockey Mount Rushmore in Ortiz and Dettori, with supporting cast of a in no particular order of a post injury resurgent Javier Castellano, Rosario, Saez, Gaffalione, Jose Ortiz, Geroux. Don’t get this outside of a BC card.

    1. All points well taken; can’t wait to see Frankie in action and love the idea of his U.S. farewell tour…

  6. An open note to our good friend Mr. Indulto, wherever he may be. Any persons wishing to second my sentiment is welcome to join in. We will be thinking of you good friendof old as they load into the gate this afternoon, and all grand racing afternoons for that matter. I don’t know where the expression evolved from, but I am so a believer that you are never really gone from life if someone is still thinking of you. Peace be with you good friend 🙏.

  7. Thank You Indulto! In memory of Indulto, I wagered a ten cent super box on races 11,12, and 13. Indy so loved his ten cent wagers. John’s narrative and Indy brought me home today in race 11 for a $46.06 return. What a great story I get to share with his HRI Faithful Friends of Old. Indulto lives on. I now hold a pocket filled with Indulto willed dimes as we progress towards Kentucky. I think it may 99 days to go. Indy and I betcha’ a dime we’re close. Keeping him in the dream seems only fair.

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