Flightline Leads Eclipse Finalists With California Ties

January 8, 2023

Flightline winning the BC Classic (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

Stable Notes By Victor Ryan

ARCADIA, CALIF.—After setting the racing world on fire in 2022, Flightline on Saturday was named an Eclipse Award finalist for champion older dirt male.

Flightline, who was a perfect 6-for-6 in two seasons of racing, would become the fourth champion trained by John Sadler and is potentially the sixth Horse of the Year based in California since 2014.

We’ve been excited about the award season obviously,” Sadler said Sunday morning. “It was quite the run we had with him. It was just a great year and we’re really happy.”

2018, Sadler nearly had his first Horse of the Year with Accelerate. The son of Lookin At Lucky won five Grade I’s that season including the Breeders’ Cup Classic but would ultimately finish second in Horse of the Year voting to undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify. Accelerate would earn champion older dirt male honors.

Other 2022 Eclipse Award finalists with California ties are Taiba, who is up for champion 3-year-old male; Cave Rock for champion 2-year-old male; and Flavien Prat, who for the second year in a row is a finalist for champion jockey.

Cave Rock winning the American Pharoah at Santa Anita in October. (Benoit Photo)

With a perfect three-start campaign in Grade I’s culminating with the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Flightline figures to be a slam dunk to win both Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male. Grade I winner Cave Rock most likely had his championship chase fall short when finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Forte, who figures to take home the Eclipse trophy as champion 2-year-old male.

Indications are the vote for champion 3-year-old male could be close between Taiba and Epicenter. Taiba had three Grade I wins in 2022, which includes the Malibu on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Meanwhile, Epicenter won four graded stakes including the Grade I Travers and was second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Prat, the regular rider of Flightline, booted home 236 winners in 2022 and boasted a 23% strike rate while riding much of the season in Southern California. He also finished second nationally in purse earnings behind only Irad Ortiz Jr. with $29,832,252. 

The winners in all 17 categories will be announced Jan. 26 during the 52nd annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla.

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