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Jon White: Top Performances of 2022 So Far

by Jon White

July 7, 2022

Going all the way back to 2004, I have come up with my list of the Top 10 performances by a Thoroughbred in the United States during the first half of the year for Xpressbet.com.

Starting on New Year’s Day, I keep an eye out for a performance that I surmise is a possibility to make this Top 10.

A Thoroughbred’s performance can make this list for various reasons, such as:

--A win by a big margin while showing brilliance.

--Recording a fast final time and/or speed figure.

--Being especially game and/or an extraordinary effort in victory or defeat.

--Overcoming adversity.

--Defeating a particularly strong group of opponents.

--Carrying more weight than usual and/or spotting considerable weight.

--Achieving something historic.

The importance of the race itself also plays a role in determining whether or not I believe a performance deserves to make the list.

Ranked No. 1 halfway through 2021 was Essential Quality’s win in the Grade I Belmont Stakes. He completed 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.11, making it the fifth-fastest Belmont in the last three decades.

Essential Quality’s victory in the Belmont ranked No. 2 on my list of the Top 10 performances by a Thoroughbred in the United States during all of 2021. No. 1 was Flightline’s scintillating 11 1/2-length triumph in Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs on Dec. 26. His 118 for the Malibu was the highest Beyer of the year by 4 points.

You can view the 2021 Malibu on YouTube (Frank Mirahmadi has the call).

Keep in mind the “Top 10 performances in this country during the first half of 2022” means the race must have taken place from Jan. 1 through June 30. Three performances from last Saturday certainly would have been candidates to make the list, but they didn’t qualify because they occurred on July 2. The three July 2 performances were Life Is Good’s win in the Grade II John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park, Olympiad’s victory in the Grade II Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs and Charge It’s runaway 23-length triumph in the Grade III Dwyer Stakes at Belmont.

And now, without further ado, my list of the Top 10 performances by a Thoroughbred in the United States during the first half of 2022 is below:

10. MUNNYS GOLD in Monmouth Park maiden special weight race at five furlongs on dirt June 17. (Owned by Robert and Lawana Low; trained by Todd Pletcher; ridden by Jairo Rendon; 2-year-old Florida-bred Munnings filly.)

Munnys Gold may race for the Lows, but her debut Beyer Speed Figure was high, a 101.

Sent away at 8-5 (but not favored), Munnys Gold possessed the zip to lead by one length early. Steadily increasing her advantage, she led by six lengths at the eighth pole, then continued running up the score to win by 14 1/2 lengths.

“This one was ridiculous,” Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh wrote. “…It is rare enough for any 2-year-old to cross the 100 Beyer threshold, and when it does happen (rarer and rarer these days), it happens in late summer or fall. Not here, though. The filly was prepared for her debut with Todd Pletcher at Palm Beach Downs in Florida, and Pletcher said he sent her to Monmouth in part to keep the same exercise rider on a horse who, in the trainer’s words, can be headstrong in the morning.”

That same day, Pletcher unveiled Spirit and Fire, another highly regarded 2-year-old filly, in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight contest at Churchill Downs. Pounded down to 2-5 favoritism, the Bolt d’Oro filly finished fourth and recorded a lowly 41 Beyer Speed Figure, a far cry from Munnys Gold’s 101.

The DRF’s Brad Free put Munnys Gold’s 101 Beyer into perspective.

“Not many have done what the filly Munnys Gold did June 17 at Monmouth Park,” Free wrote on June 29. “The Todd Pletcher-trained Munnings filly won a five-furlong maiden race by more than 14 lengths in a blazing :56.60. She earned a 101 Beyer, the season’s highest figure by a juvenile.

“Only a half-dozen 2-year-olds this century earned a triple-digit Beyer prior to July -- In High Gear (104) and Warners (103) in June 2001 at Belmont Park; Diligent Prospect (102) in May 2004 at Hollywood Park; Rated Feisty (102) in May 2007 at Churchill Down; Notonthesamepage (104) in April 2008 at Churchill; and Hot Dixie Chick (100) in June 2009 at Churchill.”

Hot Dixie Chick is the dam of Pauline’s Pearl, who won the Grade I La Troienne Stakes at Churchill on May 6.

9. SECRET OATH in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on dirt (track listed as wet fast) May 6. (Owned by Briland Farm; trained by D. Wayne Lukas; ridden by Luis Saez; 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Arrogate filly.)

After reeling off three wins in a row by a combined 23 lengths against fillies at Oaklawn Park, Secret Oath took on the boys in Oaklawn’s Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 2, finishing third.

Back against fillies in the Kentucky Oaks, Secret Oath was eighth early in the field of 14, unleashed a powerful move on the far turn and went on to win by two lengths in 1:49.44 on the wet-fast surface.

This performance by Secret Oath was flattered when runner-up Nest subsequently gave a good account of herself against males by finishing second to Mo Donegal in the Grade I Belmont Stakes.

After Secret Oath’s Kentucky Oaks victory, she was again pitted against males and ran fourth to Early Voting, Epicenter and Creative Minister in the Grade I Preakness Stakes.

You can view the 2022 Kentucky Oaks on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).

8. JACK CHRISTOPHER in Belmont Park’s Grade I Woody Stephens Stakes at seven furlongs on dirt June 11. (Owned by Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud and Peter Brandt; trained by Chad Brown; ridden by Jose Ortiz; 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Munnings colt.)

This performance kept Jack Christopher’s record pristine inasmuch as it was his fourth win in as many lifetime starts.

Many thought Jack Christopher was America’s best 2-year-old male in 2021 after he began his career with an 8 3/4-length maiden win at Saratoga and a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont.

Off those two victories, I installed Jack Christopher as a 9-5 morning-line favorite in the Grade I BC Juvenile at Del Mar on November 5. But he was withdrawn due to a shin issue. Corniche won the race to remain undefeated and was voted the 2021 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

BloodHorse’s Byron King reported last Nov. 16 that Jack Christopher “had a screw inserted in his left shin by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage, said Bradley Weisbord, racing manager for one of the colt’s owners, Jim Bakke.”

Jack Christopher made a stylish return to the races when he won the Grade II Pat Day Mile by 3 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on May 7. That one-mile affair set him up nicely for his next start, a lopsided win in the Woody Stephens Stakes in New York.

In the Woody Stephens, Jack Christopher extricated himself from the pack to sport a four-length lead at the eighth pole.

“Jack Christopher passes the eighth pole and he is pouring it on here!” said track announcer John Imbriale during his call of the race. “He is going to stay undefeated. Oh, Woody himself would appreciate this effort! Jack Christopher wins the Woody Stephens Stakes in one-minute and twenty-one seconds.”

Imbriale was spot on when saying the late Woody Stephens -- best known for his incredible accomplishment of winning five straight editions of the Belmont Stakes from 1982-86 -- no doubt would have appreciated this praiseworthy performance by Jack Christopher.

Jack Christopher won the Woody Stephens in isolated splendor by 10 lengths. The final time was 1:21.18. Jack Christopher recorded a 107 Beyer, which was the highest figure by a 3-year-old male or female during the first half of 2022.

You can view the 2022 Woody Stephens Stakes on YouTube (John Imbriale, as noted earlier, has the call).

7. TRIBUVAN in Belmont Park’s Grade I Manhattan Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf June 11. (Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso; trained by Chad Brown; ridden by Manny Franco; 6-year-old French-bred Toronado gelding.)

True, when fellow possible pace player Channel Maker dwelt at the start, you can bet that anyone betting on Tribuvan wasn’t shedding any tears, enabling Tribuvan to set an uncontested pace. Nevertheless, any way you slice it, this truly was a splendid performance on the part of Tribuvan.

Tribuvan strolled on the front end while leading by one length after a quarter, then by 1 1/2 lengths after a half. He shook well clear to lead by 4 1/2 lengths after six furlongs. With a quarter-mile left to run, his advantage had grown to six lengths.

When Tribuvan had a commanding seven-length lead with a furlong left to go, none of his nine rivals could close the gap. He prevailed by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:59.54 at odds of 19-1, a price undoubtedly owing in part to the quality of a field that included the likes of Adhamo (second at 4-1), Gufo (third as the 2-1 favorite), Santin (sixth at 7-2) and Channel Maker (ninth at 7-1).

You can view the 2022 Manhattan on YouTube (John Imbriale has the call).

6. SPEAKER’S CORNER in Aqueduct’s Grade II Carter Handicap at seven furlongs on dirt April 9. (Owned by Godolphin; trained by Bill Mott; ridden by Junior Alvarado; 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt.)

Speaker’s Corner kicked off his 2022 campaign with a 1 1/2-length win in the Grade III Fred W. Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29. That was followed by a dominant 5 1/2-length win in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Mile on March 5.

Speaker’s Corner recorded a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Hooper. He was credited with a 106 Beyer in the Gulfstream Park Mile.

In the Carter, Speaker’s Corner’s Beyer jumped to a 114. It was the highest figure put on the Beyer scoreboard during the first half of 2022. He won the Carter by an emphatic 4 1/2 lengths as a 3-5 favorite in an excellent 1:21.34.

You can view the 2022 Carter Handicap on YouTube (John Imbriale has the call).

5. GOLDEN PAL in Keeneland’s Grade II Shakertown Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf (course listed as good) April 9. (Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg; trained by Wesley Ward; ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.; 4-year-old Florida-bred Uncle Mo colt.)

It’s indisputable that Golden Pal is one of the finest turf sprinters in the history of American racing. His exceptional speed has been on display in a pair of Breeders’ Cup grass dash victories, the Grade II Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2020 at Keeneland and Grade I Turf Sprint at Del Mar in 2021.

Making his 2022 debut in the Shakertown, Golden Pal blasted away from the gate -- as he always does if his jockey is ready for the start -- and quickly sprinted clear. He then led nine opponents on a merry chase, eventually reaching the finish 4 3/4 lengths in front.

Hammered down to 3-5 favoritism, Golden Pal registered a final time of 1:02.21 on a wetish grass course listed as good. He recorded a dandy 110 Beyer Speed Figure. This was the top turf figure achieved on American soil during the first half of 2022. It also was the best Beyer of Golden Pal’s career to that point.

You can view the 2022 Shakertown Stakes on YouTube (Kurt Becker has the call).

4. TAIBA in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on dirt April 9. (Owned by Zedan Racing Stables; trained by Tim Yakteen; ridden by Mike Smith; 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Gun Runner colt.)

For Taiba to win the nine-furlong Sana Anita Derby with only one six-furlong race under his belt was without a doubt an extraordinary accomplishment.

This was the 85th running of the Santa Anita Derby. Taiba became the first horse to ever win it in his second career start.

Off at odds of 3-1, Taiba briefly showed early speed after an alert beginning, then was perfectly willingly to sit in third while racing close up early. Even-money favorite Forbidden Kingdom carved out the early fractions of :22.75 for the opening-quarter, :46.70 for the half and 1:10.97 for six furlongs while being pushed by 6-5 Messier.

Turning for home, Messier took the lead. Taiba now loomed menacingly while racing three wide. Forbidden Kingdom began to retreat, eventually ended up last, then emerged from the race with a throat issue.

Messier sported a one-length advantage with a furlong to go. At that point, many understandably thought he was on his way to a Santa Anita Derby victory. After all, which sophomore figured to do better in the final furlong, the more-experienced, multiple graded stakes-winning Messier, or the inexperienced stakes-debuting Taiba?

Well, Taiba was the one who came home with the most gusto. The $1.7 million auction purchase reached the front just inside the sixteenth pole, then bounded away to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

Keep in mind that was no bum Taiba swept past during the stretch run. Messier was coming off a 15-length win in Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles (a performance that was under consideration for this list).

Taiba completed his Santa Anita Derby journey in 1:48.46. He recorded a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, down slightly from the 103 in his 7 1/2-length maiden win at first asking in a Santa Anita maiden race on March 5.

You can view the 2022 Santa Anita Derby on YouTube (Frank Mirahmadi has the call).

3. RICH STRIKE in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on May 7. (Owned by Rick Dawson’s RED TR-Racing); trained by Eric Reed; ridden by Sonny Leon.)

As explained earlier, one of the reasons a Thoroughbred’s performance can make this list is achieving something historic. The importance of the race itself also plays a role in determining whether or not I believe a performance deserves to make the list. To me, Rich Strike’s Kentucky Derby victory satisfies both criteria.

Rich Strike became the first also-eligible to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Additionally, when he captured the 148th running of the Run for the Roses in a shocker at odds of 80-1, it was the second-biggest upset in the history of the race. The Kentucky Derby, which has the distinction of being America’s longest continuously run sporting event, was first run in 1875.

A $2 win wager on Rich Strike returned $163.60.

The only Kentucky Derby winner to pay more was 91-1 Donerail, who got the job done by a half-length and paid $184.90 for a $2 win ticket in 1913.

In yet another first for Rich Strike, no other horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby after having been claimed.

Dawson said he is a big fan of Rich Strike’s sire, Keen Ice, who is best known for his Grade I Travers Stakes win when he upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015. According to Dawson, that’s one of the reasons he claimed Rich Strike. Dawson said another reason for claiming Rich Strike was Reed liked what he had seen of the colt in his workouts on dirt before making his career debut in an Ellis Park maiden contest on turf.

Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike had won just once in seven career starts. His lone previous victory had come in a one-mile maiden claiming race for 2-year-olds on the dirt Sept. 17 at Churchill. Rich Strike won by 17 1/4 lengths. That’s the day he was claimed by Dawson for $30,000. First prize in the Kentucky Derby was $1,860,000.

Rich Strike became just the second Kentucky Derby winner to begin from post 20. The other was Big Brown in 2008. Rich Strike actually was fortunate to be into the starting gate at all. He got into the race from the also-eligible list the morning before when Ethereal Road was scratched.

Early in the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike found himself last among the 20 participants. He passed every single one his adversaries to win by three-quarters of length.

Two factors played a significant role in Rich Strike’s victory. One was the ridiculously fast pace that set it up for a horse with a come-from-behind style to win. The other was Leon’s ride, which was a masterpiece.

The opening-quarter of :21.78 was the fastest in Kentucky Derby history. While the first half-mile was not the fastest in the history of the race, it was a blazing :45.36.

Anybody close to that first quarter of :21.78 got burned. Check out where the first seven horses at the first quarter all were at the finish:

Position at First 1/4 Finish Horse

1 20 Summer Is Tomorrow
2 13 Crown Pride
3 10 Zozos
4 15 Messier
5 18 Cyberknife
6 12 Taiba
7 17 Charge It

Now check out where the first seven horses across the finish line were at the first quarter:

Finish Position at First Quarter

1 17 Rich Strike
2 8 Epicenter
3 13 Zandon
4 15 Simplification
5 19 Mo Donegal
6 20 Barber Road
7 14 Tawny Port
8 9 Smile Happy
9 16 Tiz the Bomb

Looking at the left column in the table immediately above, it shows that the winner, Rich Strike, was 17th at the first quarter. Runner-up Epicenter, the 4-1 favorite, was eighth at the first quarter, etc.

As for Leon’s ride on Rich Strike, as I noted in my Kentucky Derby recap for Xpressbet.com, when watching the overhead drone replay one can only marvel at how skillfully he negotiated the 10 furlongs. Dawson called the ride “amazing.” He’s right. Oh, sure, there also was an element of good fortune along the way. But every time Leon had to make a single split-second decision, it turned out right.

This is from my recap: “Turning for home, Rich Strike was in heavy traffic and stalled behind a wall of horses. Rich Strike and Leon could have gotten stopped cold right then and there. But they managed to linger patiently for a brief time before somehow making their way through the equine crowd. Coming into the stretch, Leon angled Rich Strike down to the inside rail. Riding the rail as much as possible brought three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel to mind.

“While Rich Strike and Leon were flying along the rail in the lane, shortly after going past the eighth pole, they found themselves running right up behind faltering Messier, who was in the process of retreating toward the back of the pack after having vied for the lead all the way around the far turn to the top of the stretch. What Leon was confronted with was akin to when you are driving about 70 miles an hour on the freeway and you suddenly realize that you’re rapidly approaching a truck in the same lane going about 50.

“It appears from the overhead drone replay that Leon initially was going to try and sneak through a narrow hole between the inside rail and Messier. But quicker than you can say Sonny, he changed his mind and elected to go around Messier. That in and of itself was a brilliant piece of race-riding. Without missing a beat, Leon deftly maneuvered Rich Strike around Messier, then moved back down to the rail while continuing to charge home furiously.”

The official Equibase chart lists the final time of this year’s Kentucky Derby as 2:02.61. According to Daily Racing Form’s Formulator, which is an extremely useful tool for horseplayers that I highly recommend, Rich Strike ran his final quarter in :24.83 or :24 4/5 in fifths. That’s an admirable final quarter in a 1 1/4-mile race.

You can view the 2022 Kentucky Derby on YouTube (Travis Stone has the call).

2. LIFE IS GOOD in Gulfstream Park’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup at 1 1/8 miles on dirt Jan. 29. (Owned by CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm; trained by Todd Pletcher; ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.; 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt.)

Life Is Good darted immediately to the front, then was two lengths clear after the first quarter, 3 1/2 clear after the half, 4 1/2 ahead after six furlongs, still 4 1/2 in front a furlong out, then won convincingly by 3 1/4 lengths.

Trouncing Knicks Go is what made Life Is Good’s performance especially impressive. Knicks Go, the 2021 Horse of the Year, had to settle for second when no match for the winner.

Life Is Good was sent away as the 4-5 favorite. Knicks Go was just slightly higher in the betting at 9-10.

Knicks Go came into the Pegasus off a front-running 2 3/4-length win in the BC Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 6.

Beating Knicks Go to the punch to seize the early lead in the Pegasus was no small feat in itself on the part of Life Is Good. In Knicks Go’s past performances, he had led at the first call in nine consecutive U.S. starts. But at the first call in the Pegasus, Knicks Go was third early, three lengths behind Life Is Good.

Thanks to Life Is Good, Knicks Go had an eight-race winning streak in races around two turns snapped in the Pegasus.

Life Is Good’s final time in the Pegasus was 1:48.91. He recorded a 110 Beyer, a career-best figure until he improved to a 112 in his sparkling victory in the Grade II John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont on July 2.

You can view the 2022 Pegasus World Cup on YouTube (Pete Aiello has the call).

1. FLIGHTLINE in Belmont Park’s Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at one mile June 11. (Owned by Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing; trained by John Sadler; ridden by Flavien Prat; a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Tapit colt.)

Flightline won with authority against by far the best group he had faced so far. More and more, this superstar is making his $1 million purchase price look like a steal.

You can view the 2022 Met Mile on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).

Even though Flightline was returning from a long layoff, he trounced four Met Mile foes. He hadn’t started since winning Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26. To have Flightline prepared to run such a marvelous race while making his 2022 debut in June certainly was an outstanding training job on the part of Sadler.

Flightline managed to win the Met Mile by six lengths despite encountering some early adversity after a sluggish start, a development that nearly had his trainer lose his lunch. Not only did Flightline succeed after making a long trip to New York for his first start away from his home in California, the Met Mile was the first time he had raced farther than seven furlongs.

With regular rider Flavien Prat in the saddle, Flightline began from post one. He was backed down to 2-5 favoritism. Most saw Speaker’s Corner as the main threat to Flightline. Breaking from post 2 and ridden by Junior Alvarado, Speaker’s Corner was the 5-2 second choice in the wagering.

Speaker’s Corner went into the Met Mile off a sparkling 4 1/2-length win in the Grade I Carter Handicap on April 9 at Aqueduct. He recorded a 114 Beyer in the Carter, the highest figure during the first half of 2022. When Flightline won the Malibu late last year, he received a 118 Beyer, the biggest figure during all of 2021.

When the starter pushed the button for the Met Mile, the big favorite appeared in big trouble right away. Flightline failed to break alertly, then was steadied twice in the early going. After Flightline’s tardy start, one really can’t blame Alvarado for doing his best to make Flightline uncomfortable. As I wrote in my recap of the race for Xpressbet.com: “What Alvarado did was fair and square. It’s called race-riding. Without committing a foul, Alvarado did his job by making it tough on Flightline.”

How did Sadler feel about Flightline’s situation after the tardy start?

“When I saw him behind early, I wanted to throw up on myself,” the veteran conditioner said.

It also was to Prat’s credit that he did not panic when all did not go well early.

“That’s what you’re exposed to [when breaking from the rail],” said Terry Finley, founder, president and CEO of West Point Thoroughbreds. “That was not the best-case [scenario]. I knew that Junior Alvarado had his eye on us. He did a good job. He dropped over very quickly. I think he tried to set a trap for Flavien. And he did, but the trap dissipated.”

After Prat had to tap on the brakes twice early, he managed to get Flightline to the outside of Speaker’s Corner. While Speaker’s Corner was showing the way early, Flightline was running smoothly in stalk mode while about 1 1/2 lengths off the lead. On the far turn Flightline moved up readily to take on Speaker’s Corner in earnest.

Flightline drew away in upper stretch to reach the eighth pole sporting a 4 1/2-length advantage while clearly still full of run. He proceeded to increase his lead through the final furlong.

Three Grade I winners -- Speaker’s Corner, Happy Saver and Aloha West -- were left in Flightline’s wake on this occasion. As noted earlier, Speaker’s Corner won the Grade I Carter this year. Happy Saver took the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2020. Aloha West proved best in the Grade I BC Sprint in 2021.

Two days after the Met Mile, Andy Beyer, father of the Beyer Speed Figures, said that he believed that Flightline “has the potential to be an all-time great” when talking Monday with Steve Byk on his SiriusXM radio program At the Races.

Beyer said that he thought Flightline “really enhanced his reputation” in the Met Mile.

“Think about what he was being asked to accomplish,” Beyer said. “He had a setback so he was coming off a 5 1/2-month layoff. He was stretching out to a mile, which he’s never run before. And he happened to be facing the best older horse in the country [Speaker’s Corner]. And then on top of that, he didn’t break. He had an imperfect trip. He had to steady a little behind Speaker’s Corner and still blew him away, winning by six and running a figure of 112. I mean, what more can he do?

“You know, after this race, I was trying to put him into proper historical perspective. I said, ‘Complete this sentence: Flightline is the best American horse since blank.’ This may be a premature judgment, but I’m filling in the blank with Ghostzapper.”

Ghostzapper, the 2004 Horse of the Year, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, who died in 2009, told me on more than one occasion that the best horse he had ever trained was Ghostzapper.

When Ghostzapper won the 2004 BC Classic, he recorded a 124 Beyer Speed Figure. The only other BC Classic winner to ever get a Beyer that high was fellow Hall of Famer Sunday Silence, a figure he registered when he took the 1989 renewal.

In Ghostzapper’s only 2005 start and the final race of his career, he won the Met Mile by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:33.29. Flightline’s performance in this year’s Met Mile was quite similar. He won by six lengths in 1:33.59.

Interestingly, even though Ghostzapper and Flightline both won the Met Mile in 1:33 and change, there is a sizable difference in the Beyer Speed Figure they each received for that race. Ghostzapper posted a 122 Beyer. Flightline was credited with a 112.

Flightline’s 112 Beyer in the Met Mile ranked as the second-highest figure this year from Jan. 1 through June 30.

The highest Beyer Speed Figures recorded during the first half of 2022 are listed below:

Beyer Winner (Finish, Race, Track, Date)

114 Speaker’s Corner (won Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 9)
112 Flightline (won Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 11)
110 Life Is Good (won Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream on Jan. 29)
110 Golden Pal (won Shakertown at Keeneland on April 9)

The top Beyer Speed Figure through the first half of 2021 was the 109 achieved by Mischevious Alex when he won the Carter Handicap and matched by Essential Quality in his Belmont Stakes victory.

Through his first four career starts, Flightline has won by 13 1/4, 12 3/4, 11 1/2 and 6 lengths. That’s an average winning margin of 8 lengths.

For Xpressbet.com, I reported a couple of weeks ago that Sadler said there is a possibility that Flightline could race in 2023. On the radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles the day after the Met Mile, Sadler told Mike Willman that “there’s nothing written in stone” as to Flightline’s future beyond 2022.

“They’re certainly thinking about bringing him back next year,” Sadler said. “You’ll know at the end of the year. But I’m hoping that he’ll come back and run next year.”

In a June 30 story for Horseracingnation.com written by Mike Brunker, he interviewed one of Flightline’s owners, Kosta Hronis. Brunker wrote that, according to Hronis, Flightline will have a 5-year-old campaign if he remains healthy and continues to relish racing.

“If he is healthy and wants to continue to race…we would absolutely love to keep him on the racetrack another year,” Hronis said.

Will we get the chance to see Flightline strut his stuff beyond 2022? I have my fingers crossed.

I ranked Flightline’s Malibu Stakes victory as the finest performance by a Thoroughbred in all of 2021. And I am ranking his win in the Met Mile as the finest performance that occurred on the American racing stage during the first half of 2022.


The Top 10 on the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 311 Flightline (22)
2. 287 Life Is Good (7)
3. 248 Olympiad (3)
4. 221 Country Grammer (1)
5. 202 Jackie’s Warrior
6. 91 Clairiere
7. 82 Regal Glory
8. 66 Hot Rod Charlie
9. 54 Letruska
10. 50 Jack Christopher


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 260 Flightline (21)
2. 201 Life Is Good (2)
3. 192 Olympiad (3)
4. 185 Country Grammer (1)
5. 127 Hot Rod Charlie
6. 83 Epicenter
7. 75 Early Voting
8 70 Jack Christopher
9. 43 Express Train
10. 37 Americanrevolution
10. 37 Zandon