Going into 2022, is Flightline the most exciting horse in racing?

Flightline, ridden by Flavien Prat, cruised home in the Malibu Stakes on Sunday, winning by 11 1/2 lengths on a hand ride. The Malibu was his third win in as many starts and his first Grade 1 stakes. The 3-year old son of Tapit was purchased for $1 million as a yearling, but missed his two year-old season after a farm accident where he lacerated his right hindquarters.

Flightline missed his 2-year old season after a farm accident.

But he’s making up for lost time. Flightline ran his debut race in April at Santa Anita, and winning by 13 1/4 lengths. He didn’t race again until September at Del Mar, when he won a first-level allowance by 12 3/4 lengths. His ownership group and trainer, John Sadler, opted to skip the Breeder’s cup because of the colt’s inexperience, saving him for last weekend’s race. In his Malibu Stakes performance he turned in fractions of 22.01, 44.48 and 1:08.72. The final time for the 7 furlongs was 1:21.37 — again, under a hand ride and no horses anywhere near him! Flightline is the first horse to win the Malibu as their third start.

“This horse is so brilliant,” he said. “This is not an ordinary horse. This is a very special horse. There is a lot of pressure on you, but it is the pressure you want. It’s like the high school coach for LeBron (James). You know you have something special and he is much the best. This horse is there. You just don’t want to screw it up.”

John Sadler, Flightline’s trainer

For those who follow handicapping, the Malibu Stakes performance put Flightline into a whole new echelon as he earned the year’s highest Beyer Speed Figure — 118.

What’s the Beyer Speed figure? It’s a way of assessing a horse’s performance based on the time of the race, the distance and the inherent speed of the racetrack. The system was developed by Andrew Beyer in the 1970s.

The final speed figure that appears in Daily Racing Form past performances begins with a Speed Rating, based on a chart of final times at different distances. For example, a horse that runs six furlongs in 1:09 and two-fifths seconds earns a Speed Rating of 115. That’s the same Speed Rating a horse would earn for going seven furlongs in 1:22 flat. So, every horse gets a number to start with, for comparison’s sake.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. Beyer and his team of eight have calculated “par” times for various class levels and distances. After averaging final times for a specific card, the team determines how much slower or faster than par a racetrack was on a particular day. That number, called the Track Variant, is subtracted or added to the Speed Rating to determine the Beyer Speed Figure. So in the case above, if the Track Variant was determined to be -10, the horse with a Speed Rating of 115 would receive a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

Beyer describes his number as a “pure” speed figure.

Figure Makers, The Paulick Report

What a running style this horse has. He floats across the track and makes it look so easy!

Flightline wins his maiden.
Flightline wins his second race at Del Mar.
Flightline wins the Malibu Stakes.

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