ELMONT, N.Y. – Flightline, whosoared to victory in all three career starts in California, will showcase his talents in the Empire State in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap.
The gifted colt has won his three starts by a combined 37 1/2 lengths, producing triple digit Beyer Speed Figures each time, while effortlessly strolling past the wire in a gallop under Flavien Prat.
A 13 1/4-length maiden victory at six furlongs last April at Santa Anita had Flightline on everyone’s radar, but the brilliant Tapit colt would not see action for another five months, capturing an allowance optional claimer at Del Mar on his return going the same distance by 12 3/4 lengths.
Despite never running at stakes level, Flightline was made the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Malibu and gave his connections a late Christmas present, winning by 11 1/2 lengths on December 26. The winning effort produced a 118 Beyer – the highest figure recorded for a thoroughbred last year.
Flightline arrived at Belmont on Tuesday and visited the main track Wednesday and this morning, and also schooling in the paddock both days under the watchful eye of Juan Leyva, the assistant to trainer John Sadler.
Leyva said Flightline wasn’t bothered by the early morning rain.
“On the walk up to the track it was raining, but once we got to the track it was a light sprinkle,” Leyva said. “He did well. He just galloped his usual mile and a quarter. He behaved well and handled it nicely.”
Stephanie Hronis, whose Hronis Racing is the lead partner on Flightline with Siena Farms, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing, was on hand to see Flightline’s training.
“He’s bright-eyed. Juan had told me earlier, you can see his eyes, they have the sparkle in them. He’s settled in nicely and looking good,” Hronis said. “It was nice to see him go to the paddock nicely and taking it all in, stay calm, pause when he needed to, and check things out. He’s very smart, so his brain is working well through this.”
Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds has also been at Belmont to observe Flightline’s training and said he couldn’t be doing any better.
“You really do get a feeling that you’re in the presence of something great when you’re around him,” Finley said. “It just looks like he’s settled in really well. He’s a true professional. He looks confident and settled. It looks like he still has his swagger. Juan is just over the moon with the way he handled it. The shipping and the new surroundings will not factor in if he should not get to the winner’s circle – that won’t be a reason.”
Hronis is particularly fond of the way Flightline has moved so effortlessly throughout his starts.
“His speed and the way his body moves, it’s incredible,” Hronis said. “It’s kind of like your kids in sports – you’re proud of each one and what Flightline has brought to the barn, the family and the ownership group is so unique. Juan and I were talking about how his body moves and how concise it is. There’s not a lot of wasted energy. His first race I remember watching him go across the track. It was almost scary to watch his body move like that. It’s through the incredible care at the barn.”
Hronis recalled how excited Prat was following the Malibu.
“Flavien got off him and just said, ‘That was exciting.’ You could just tell he had huge chills,” Hronis said. “It was a special moment for him, also. He’s on a lot of really nice horses so it was cool to see. In each of the races it’s been like that. Flavien just holds on and goes. He navigates him well.”
Finley spoke volumes of the partnership group, particularly Hronis.
“They know what good horses look like,” Finley said. “He just brings a smile to all of our faces. Hopefully, he’s one that they’re still talking about 100 years from now.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo Flightline winning the Runhappy Malibu by 11 1/2 length with a 126 ESF at Santa Anita Dec.25, 2021 under Flavien Prat. (Benoit Photos)