The 2022 Forbes 400, which identifies the wealthiest Americans, includes the same four racehorse owners as in 2021: John Malone (Elizabeth, CO), Tamara Gustavson (Lexington, KY), Gayle Benson (New Orleans, LA), and Vincent Viola (New York, NY).

A discernible pattern on the Forbes 400 is the number of major sports-team owners on the list (Jerry Jones, Dan Gilbert, David Tepper, Shahid Kahn, Stan Kroenke, Robert Kraft, and others).  Likewise, Gayle Benson and Vincent Viola are sports-team owners.

John Malone, age 81, is the 66th richest American, with a net worth of $9.7 billion. He is the largest land owner in the United States and has racehorse farms in Florida and Ireland—Bridlewood in Ocala and Ballylinch Stud in County Kilkenny.  Malone’s main source of wealth comes from cable television.  He holds an earned doctorate in Operations Research from Johns Hopkins University.

Tamara Gustavson, age 60, is 83rd on the Forbes 400, with a net worth of $8.1 billion.  She is the daughter of B. Wayne Hughes, who died in August 2021.  He pioneered the concept of self storage.  Tamara Gustavson and her husband Eric Gustavson own Spendthrift Farm.  She earned bachelor and masters degrees from the University of Southern California.

Gayle Benson, age 75, is number 224 on the Forbes list, with a net worth of $4.7 billion.  She is the widow of Tom Benson and owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans franchises.  She races under the name of GMB racing.

Vincent Viola, age 66, is number 310 on the Forbes 400, with a net worth of $3.6 billion.  His source of wealth is electronic trading.  Viola owns St. Elias Stable and the National Hockey League Florida Panthers and was a partner in 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Brad Kelley is one of the largest landowners in the United States, and his holdings encompass the legendary Calumet Farm.  Yet with an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, he comes in at only number 1,163 on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans.

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The weather in Lexington cooperated and Flightline put on a performance for the ages in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.  Life is Good led until the stretch and showed just how game he is, setting blistering fractions of 22.55 seconds for the first quarter mile and 109.62 for six furlongs. However, in the end, Flightline was so dominant that the rest of the field looked like $5,000 claimers.  The official chart read that Flightline was “in hand during the final stages,” indicating that he could have finished faster than the 2:00.05 recorded for the 1 1/4 miles.

Irad Ortiz, Life is Good’s jockey, described his thoughts during the race: “I felt him [Flightline] every step of the way, just tried to get away from him and couldn’t. I know I’m going fast and said let me look again down the backside and he’s there. I said ‘Oh my God.’ Then he goes by me like nothing. He’s an unbelievable horse.”

Two days after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a 2.5% share in Flightline was sold at the Keeneland Breeding Stock Sale for $4.6 million.  While some people said this auction price gives Flightline an imputed current value of $184 million, that is almost certainly flawed reasoning. A more defensible assumption is that the person who spent $4.6 million for a 2.5% share vastly overpaid and therefore Flightline would not bring close to $184 million if he were to be sold privately or at auction.

The 80-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike, finished fourth, which earned a purse of $300,000.  Not bad at all for a former $30,000 claim.

European-trained horses prevailed in the turf races, with Coolmore and Godolphin winning three races each.  One of the television announcers correctly commented that the winners were not the best horses in the Coolmore and Godolphin arsenals. They were back home in Europe.

All-sources handle for the two-day Breeders’ Cup cards set records.  The total bet was almost $190 million, a 3.4% increase over the previous record set in 2021 at Del Mar.  The ten races on Friday had all-sources wagering of over $66 million—a 7% increase over 2021—and the twelve-race card on Saturday attracted handle of nearly $123 million—compared to $121.5 million in 2021.

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After 4-year-old Flightline demolished the competition in the 2022 Pacific Classic by nearly 20 lengths, with a 128 speed figure, the superlatives deservedly flowed.  Comparisons to Secretariat were forthcoming.  The closest another horse has finished behind him in a race is 6 lengths and his average winning margin is just over 12 lengths. The Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings have Flightline at a 139 rating, the second highest ever given to a racehorse that competes on dirt surfaces. 

While Flightline is undefeated and dominating, he has had only five career starts owing to injury setbacks.  Even so, he will go off as the prohibitive favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on November 5, 2022.

Is he a surefire winner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?  The history of horse racing says no.

Arguably, the greatest upset in sports history, and certainly one of the most astonishing, occurred at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, when a USA hockey team composed of amateur college players defeated the world’s best team from the Soviet Union.  Similarly, horse racing has had many startling upsets, such as:

  • 1919: Man o’ War suffered his only loss to a colt appropriately named Upset.
  • 1953: Native Dancer’s only career blemish came in the Kentucky Derby at the hands of Dark Star.
  • 1973: Onion defeated 1-10 favorite Secretariat in the Whitney Handicap.
  • 2015: Keen Ice, previous loser of eight straight races, defeated Triple Crown winner and 1-5 favorite American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes.

There are sundry reasons, well known to horse bettors, why Flightline could lose the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Among them: 

  • Like a human athlete, he may get up feeling poorly on raceday. 
  • The time differential between his home-base in California and Kentucky could affect him.
  • He may not take to the Keeneland track surface or heavy rain would make the track muddy.
  • His jockey might err.
  • He might be the victim of poor racing luck.
  • An injury.
  • A horse without the innate ability of Flightline might run an off-the-charts career-best race.

Will Flightline win the biggest race of his short career?  Likely, but not a lock.  The ultimate shocker would be if Rich Strike were to repeat his Kentucky Derby win and take down the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Impossible?  Remember Lake Placid 1980.

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