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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