You’re going to hear a lot about Flightline in the next few days. The undefeated John Sadler trainee will go postward in Saturday’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and he’s been installed as the 1/5 morning line favorite. If Flightline takes to the 1 1/4-mile distance at all, he almost certainly wins. However, I find it very tough to get enthusiastic about a horse that may only run three times in an entire season.
I miss when horses just showed up. I want our best horses able to run consistently at ages two, three, four, and beyond. With very rare exceptions, that doesn’t really happen anymore. Horses either run fast or run often, with very little in the way of a middle ground. The breed’s simply far weaker than it used to be, and trainers are doing what they can to keep those runners healthy.
Flightline may win, and he may do so in sensational fashion. However, how can fans of all levels get behind racing’s most talented runner if that horse barely runs? Fans want stars they can follow and be excited by. With horses running fewer and fewer times per season, those runners are tougher to come by, and that’s a real shame.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Beatable favorite Dream of Change was nowhere in the seventh, but so was Masabeeh, who I leaned on heavily in this space. I dropped $30.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to keep this simple with a trio of $10 win bets throughout the card. I’ll have action on #10 LISHEEN (race 5), #1 WICKED HALO (race 9), and #4 MEDIA SENSATION (race 10). The bookend horses may provide value in wide-open races, and I think Wicked Halo may prove very tough in the Friday feature, the Grade 2 Prioress.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Wicked Halo, Race 9
Longshot: Lisheen, Race 5
Boy Is She a Lady
My Sweet Summer
Nice ’n Spicy
#5 BOY IS SHE A LADY: Has worked very well ahead of her unveiling in what looks like a wide-open race for state-bred maidens. Her dam is a Grade 3 winner that has thrown five winners to date, and judging by the drills, she looks like a runner, too; #1 MY SWEET SUMMER: Debuts for a barn whose lone starter at this stand won the Grade 3 Schuylerville. This daughter of Accelerate has worked strongly at Keeneland, and she may be talented enough to overcome the tricky inside draw; #10 NICE ’N SPICY: Was one-paced in her debut on turf and may not have wanted the grass. This barn’s runners usually improve with experience, and offspring of first-crop sire Sharp Azteca have shown plenty of ability.
Piece of My Heart (MTO)
#3 MAIL ORDER: Sure looks like the main early speed in a rare turf sprint that doesn’t seem to have much zip signed on. She’s had a history of pressing very fast paces, and I think she’ll be able to get much more comfortable against this bunch; #5 MISCHIEVOUS DREAM: Was rated behind a very slow pace last time out and has a right to improve here. That day’s top two finishers came right back to win at next asking, and this one’s two-back victory was a solid one; #2 HIT THE WOAH: Came back running when third in a similar race last month at this route. She’s a bit too pace-dependent for me to endorse on top, but any forward movement second off the bench would make her a logical “underneath” horse here.
Tiz a Giant
Most Wanted Man
#3 TIZ A GIANT: Gets the “now or never” treatment after four consecutive second-place finishes (two at this meet). It helps, however, that he’s shown some early interest in a few of his races, which could help him in a turf marathon with no apparent speed horses in the field; #2 MOST WANTED MAN: Stretches out in distance for his third start off the bench, which is often when horses fire their best shots. He ran third in the same race my top pick exits, and there’s nothing saying he can’t get this 11-furlong trip; #4 OUTPERFORM: Is one of two in here trained by Todd Pletcher, and he’s had some gate issues in each of his last two outings. Still, he was beaten less than two lengths last time out in his turf debut, and perhaps they’ve found what this son of Gun Runner wants to do.
#4 KHALI MAGIC: Won two back but regressed last time out when fourth as a 7/5 favorite. However, she was stuck inside at a time when that wasn’t the place to be on this track. I think she’s in line to improve with both a better trip and the stretch-out to seven furlongs; #8 MOSIENKO: Looked sharp in victory last time out and has moved forward since a rider switch to Luis Saez earlier this summer. I do think she’s at her best going a bit shorter, but she draws favorably here, and a repeat of her last-out effort would make her a formidable foe; #5 BUSTIN BAY: Ran away with a one-mile race out of the Wilson chute against what sure seemed like a weaker group than this one. Maybe it’s a class jump, but she’s 2-for-4 with a third at Saratoga and is 3-for-4 at this seven-furlong distance, so she certainly cannot be ignored.
#10 LISHEEN: Came back running in her first start since September when she cruised home against overmatched foes at Laurel. That day’s runner-up came right back to win, and this event should have plenty of pace signed on. Between the race shape and the potential for a step forward, I think the 12-1 morning line price is a considerable overlay; #7 TRANSIENT: Makes her first start for Saffie Joseph and hasn’t raced since a November outing at Woodbine. She’s been working consistently ahead of her 2022 debut, though, and she’s flashed enough form in her prior races to make me think she’s a contender if she’s ready to run; #8 SANTA GIULIA: Came over from Europe and was greeted with a race that had no early speed in it, which she clearly didn’t enjoy. This race shape seems a bit friendlier, and it’s good to see Flavien Prat stay aboard when he probably had a few options in this fantastic betting race.
#10 SECURITY CODE: Settled for second behind a very nice 2-year-old that came back to win a stakes race last week. Improvement is logical at second asking, and that combined with the cushy outside draw makes me think this will be a tough favorite to go against; #2 STONEWALL STAR: Is a full sister to a multiple stakes-winning 2-year-old named La Fuerza, who was a very nice horse. This dam is one of six multiple winners out of her dam, so there’s plenty of talent in the pedigree, and the August 19th gate drill looks very flashy; #7 SUPER SLIDE: Is worth a look underneath at a big price. The pedigree says he probably wants to go longer, but he comes in off of a bullet five-furlong work over the Oklahoma track and there are other drills that suggest the fast clocking was no fluke.
Ria’s Angel (MTO)
#5 TOPIC CHANGER: Had a legitimate excuse last time out, when he was bumped hard preparing to make his run and didn’t kick on. He drops into a restricted claiming race here, and anything close to his good-looking, two-back score downstate would give him and new jockey Joel Rosario a big chance; #3 FIELDSTONE: Hasn’t won in quite a while but did respond to the drop to this level when third last month in a similar race. The rider switch to Luis Saez is a big one, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this gelding a bit closer to the pace early on; #2 HE’S GOT IT: Finally broke cleanly last time out in a stakes race for state-breds and was beaten less than five lengths by the classy Dakota Gold. He goes back on Lasix for this one, which comes against a weaker bunch, and his best effort could get him a slice at a price.
Wudda U Think Now (MTO)
#6 VOODOO ZIP: Probably moved too soon in the Grade 2 Highlander at Woodbine, which was won by strong turf sprinter/ageless wonder Bound for Nowhere. His one-turn turf races prior to that performance were excellent, he reunites with Joel Rosario, and I think he’ll be the one to hold off in the Lucky Coin; #4 DANCING BUCK: Has won two in a row in two wildly different ways and certainly deserves this opportunity against stakes competition. He’s shown tactical speed, but he also doesn’t need the lead in order to run well, which could come in handy in a group with some fast turf sprinters; #5 THIN WHITE DUKE: Was beaten just a neck by Golden Pal in the Grade 3 Troy, and a repeat of that effort could get him into the winner’s circle for the first time in a while. On figures, though, that was a significant move forward. He may need to show he can string that effort together for multiple races, and this field isn’t comprised of slouches.
#1 WICKED HALO: Won the Grade 2 Adirondack here last summer and, I think, has a big chance to add another Grade 2 score here in the Prioress. She comes in off of two big stakes wins at Churchill Downs, and I just don’t love some of the races many runners in here exit; #6 ANGITUDE: Did the dirty work up front in the Wilton last time out before fading to third behind two classy fillies. The cutback to this distance should be a welcome one, and she’s trained very well for Brad Cox leading up to this event; #2 HOT PEPPERS: Fended off heavy favorite Matareya in the Grade 1 Test, but couldn’t do the same to late-running winner Chi Town Lady. She may go off favored after that performance, but the Test didn’t come back well on figures and this barn’s been on a long cold streak ever since the meet kicked off.
#4 MEDIA SENSATION: Was claimed last time out by David Donk, who doesn’t reach in for many runners. That last-out effort is a total toss, given that it was rained off the turf. His races two and three back were solid, and I think he’s got a big shot at a big price; #6 CONQUIST: Set the pace last time out in his local debut before finishing second and being DQ’d to fourth for interference. The cutback to a mile should help him, and he once again looks like the main speed, just as he did last time; #8 CURLIN’S WISDOM: Got moved up to third in the race my top pick exits and goes two turns on turf for just the second time in what will be his 10th career start. He’s had lots of chances, sure, but he does seem to fire every time out, and that means he can’t be ignored in a head-scratcher of a finale.