Flightline’s retired, and I’m not feeling too good myself

They gave you 44 cents on the dollar Saturday if you bet on Flightline, who was about the surest of sure things in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

But you’d have had to search far and wide to find a sucker suckerish enough to give you those odds on what was going to happen next with the four-year-old colt. Though the connections might have pretended otherwise, well, duh: of course he would be whisked off to stud.

Six starts, six wins, $4.5 million in the bank. See ya later, pal.

It sure would have been nice to see some more of the big fella. You don’t, after all, get that many chances to witness greatness.

Yes, he would have been 1-5 or less in every start the rest of his career. In the immediate sense, there were no new worlds to conquer.

The real race, though, would have been between the horse and history: how much might he have accomplished? Where in the pantheon would he ultimately reside?

The answer now is: not in the pantheon. We’ll remember him as an exceptional horse whose career was too short, his resume too thin, to warrant inclusion in “all-time” discussions.

Of all the words of tongue and pen, et cetera.

Still, as Casablanca’s Rick Blaine said, “I understand the point of view of the hound, too.”

West Point Thoroughbreds and partners took a big swing with this horse, dropping one million dollars on him at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in 2019. 

Flightline romped home in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Photo by Tim Sudduth/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup.

That’s a lot of money for a horse, and it’s money you don’t spend without an idea of how you might get it back. While Flightline the racehorse has certainly done his part to justify the initial outlay, the real payday for such a horse comes in the breeding shed.

He’s got the bloodlines – by Tapit out of a graded stakes-winning Indian Charlie mare – to be a big hit at stud, and his four Grade 1 wins will make folks sit up and take notice. Better yet, they came at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles, sprinting on up to the classic distance. And how often do you see brilliance like that?

All of which is to say: It’s a business, and businesses gotta, you know, business.

But if you’re a fan of the sport, it leaves you cold. And man, what a vacancy in trainer John Sadler’s barn. 

[See Flightline’s Breeders’ Cup Classic]

It’s similar to when a favorite team trades a favorite player because he’s too expensive or about to be a free agent. We understand it’s a business, but we’d prefer not to have to confront that fact too often.

And Flightline’s retirement, coming one day after the biggest victory of his magnificent, miniature career, smacks you right in the face with the business end of this business.

Flightline’s retired. And I’m not feeling too good myself.