Meet the Man Who Rides Flightline for a Living

September 2, 2022

DEL MAR, Calif.— You’re a true horseman when every time you see a quality horse you wonder ‘What would it be like to ride him.’ The man to answer that question about Flightline, this Saturday’s TVG Pacific Classic favorite, is Juan Leyva, assistant trainer to John Sadler and exercise rider for Flightline.

“He’s not like any other horse,” Leyva says. “He does everything a lot easier than most horses do.”

Like the five furlongs “soft” work he put in last Saturday in :59.60.

“That’s the great thing about him,” Leyva says. “He can go out there and run fast and not even exert himself.”

Flightline posted three consecutive bullet works in August as Sadler prepared him for the TVG Pacific Classic, each week progressing a little farther. From 5 furlongs in :59.00 on the 6th to 6 furlongs in 1:12.40 on the 13th and seven furlongs in 1:24 on the 20th.

“This horse has a very special way of moving,” Leyva says. “Really effortlessly but yet, you feel all that power that’s in there. And he’s smooth.”

Leyva was a successful jockey before he landed as Sadler’s assistant. He amassed earnings of nearly $23 million during a career that spanned 17 years, from 2001 to 2017. He won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Musical Romance in 2011 and retired with 803 victories.

He got to work Accelerate, another standout from the Sadler barn, who won the Pacific Classic in 2018 and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in the year. Accelerate would have been a shoo-in for Horse of the Year but there was this Triple Crown winner named Justify that year. Leyva says there’s no comparison between Accelerate and Flightline.

“Accelerate was a really good horse but he didn’t move the way this horse (Flightline) moves.”

Flightline is the 1-5 morning line favorite for the TVG Pacific Classic that goes off as Race 10 on the special 11-race card Saturday at Del Mar.

Here’s the field from the rail with the jockeys and morning line odds: Extra Hope (Tyler Baze, 30-1); Country Grammer (John Velazquez, 4-1); Royal Ship (Mike Smith, 8-1); Express Train (Victor Espinoza, 12-1); Flightline (Flavien Prat) and Stilleto Boy (Juan Hernandez, 20-1)

DMTC Press Release

Photo: Juan Leyva (Katie Jones)

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