Kilroy previews 2022 Breeders' Cup Classic contenders
There’s only one thing standing in the way of this being the most white-knuckle, adrenaline-pumping, root-worthy Breeders’ Cup Classics of all time. And that’s Flightline. He’ll be bet like a sure thing, and every shred of evidence says he will run like it, too.
But let’s dive in and do the two things that horseplayers do best: poke holes and spin stories. Anything can happen, right? Especially when you have the likes of this formidable group of potential starters in the 2022 Classic (G1).
Flightline could steamroll this field. A freak of nature since the first time the four-year-old hit the racetrack, he has never let a foe within within four lengths of him at the top of the stretch. From there, he won by 61 lengths combined from five career starts. Flightline could perform at a level we will never see again in our lifetimes.
Hole-poking time. Has he been tested? Country Grammer and Happy Saver are two of the best that he has beat, and both appear unlikely to run in the Classic. Could Flightline be cooked in a speed duel? Life Is Good, Hot Rod Charlie, and Defunded (who is considered possible) may all be aiming for the early lead.
How strong are Flightline's figures? His 117 Brisnet Speed rating in the Pacific Classic is sobering compared to other numbers, one of the fastest races of the modern era. His Prime Power rating is four points higher than Life Is Good and five points better than Taiba.
The Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite finished second in the first two legs of the Triple Crown and it seemed like this talented colt might have hit his ceiling. However, he came back to win the Jim Dandy (G2) two months later, barely breaking a sweat. Then the Travers (G1), a stunning five-length victory that earned a 110 Brisnet Speed figure. That effort galvanized an already impressive three-year-old campaign, putting him among the top tier of the Classic list.
Epicenter was bet down as the 5-1 second choice in Classic future wagers, and Steve Asmussen is one of the best trainers at getting his horses to peak at the end of the year.
Life Is Good
The same horse Irad Ortiz Jr. said is the best horse he has ever sat on is the same one horseplayers are eager to fade after his performance in the Woodward (G1), which he won. Why? He arguably looked flat, didn’t extend his lead in the stretch, and beat a soft field.
Life Is Good has nine wins in 11 tries, including beating 2021 Horse of the Year Knicks Go and winning the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) by more than five lengths. A need-the-lead colt, Life Is Good has never trailed at any call. But he lost his lone start at 1 1/4 miles, a fourth in the Dubai World Cup (G1), and has never faced a horse like Flightline.
His breakout performance came in his second start, winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) with a huge 111 Brisnet Speed figure. But it was his 113 Speed rating winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) that suggests this Gun Runner colt is the real deal. Though Taiba ran in the Kentucky Derby out of Tim Yakteen’s barn, he’s back with four-time Classic winner Bob Baffert and is firing bullet workouts in the morning.
A progressive horse that does not appear to have hit his ceiling, Taiba rates as huge threat.
Olympiad exits his first Grade 1 win, a two-length score in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in early September. In the Whitney (G1) two back, Life Is Good had his way with Olympiad, handing him his only loss of the year, a well-beaten fourth.
Boll Mott has known for a while that Olympiad runs best in a long stretch like Keeneland’s, gathering velocity with every late stride. Olympiad also has gate speed to stay near Flightline.
Rich Strike. “A savage.” “Never going to win again.” “His jockey elbows the other jockeys.” Haters have loved to hate on the 80-1 Kentucky Derby upsetter. But like it or not, if things get vicious on the front end, we could see a Derby deja-vu where this fella comes flying late. Right?
Even though his recent Speed figures have validated his talent, they still look a notch or two below the best in the Classic field. Will lightning strike twice for Ritchie?