LEXINGTON, Ky. — Flightline has given John Sadler plenty to smile about this year, and his prospects look good for the trainer maintaining it.
The unbeaten horse is the 3-5 morning-line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and will start the $6 million season finale from the No. 4 post position on Saturday at Keeneland.
The 4-year-old bay colt was the first entrant announced by Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari in Monday’s draw at Rupp Arena, home floor of the fourth-ranked Wildcats. Flightline is coming off a 19 1/4-length domination of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar in September and has won both stakes starts this year by more than 25 lengths combined.
Flightline, with Flavien Prat aboard, will look to improve to 6-0 lifetime against an eight-horse field that includes Kentucky Derby longshot winner Rich Strike, starting the 1 1/4-mile race from the No. 8 at 20-1 odds — and horse of the year favorite Epicenter, the 5-1 second choice from the No. 6 post. Life is Good is the 6-1 third choice from the No. 2 post.
However, Sadler hopes the line continues to form behind his horse.
“It was a good draw,” Sadler said, noting Saturday’s 1:00.60 workout over five furlongs at the picturesque track. “For him, it’s just fine.”
Taiba will start from the rail with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard at 8-1 odds for embattled Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will make his return to Kentucky for the first time since being suspended for 90 days earlier this year by Kentucky racing stewards after his colt Medina Spirit failed a postrace drug test after the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit, now deceased, was taken down as Derby winner with runner-up Mandaloun elevated to champion.
The colt has three wins and a second in five career starts this year, most recently winning the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby. Baffert was not present for Monday’s draw.
Then again, few would be shocked if Epicenter had the final word.
The Derby and Preakness runner-up enters with summer wins in the Travers and Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga to make a strong case as this year’s top 3-year-old. Epicenter has four wins and three seconds in seven starts, a record trainer Steve Asmussen believes boosts his Classic prospects.
“We’re all excited to see how we measure up,” the Hall of Famer said. “As fast as Epicenter has always been, he is a great representative and has a wonderful chance in the Classic. He’s proven at a mile and a quarter.”
Todd Pletcher’s colt Life Is Good also boasts strong credentials with four wins in five starts this year, including three consecutive victories.
Post time for the Classic is 5:40 p.m. ET at Keeneland, which is hosting the season-ending championships for the second time in three years after the 2020 Breeders’ Cup was run without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds highlight Friday’s card, with Cave Rock leading the Juvenile off as the 4-5 favorite. Saturday’s schedule includes nine Cup events.