To win a race so impressively that it’s fleetingly compared to one of the great events, like Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes, is a major accomplishment for a racehorse and its owner and caretakers. To actually run a race that is comparable … boggles the mind.
Yet that is what Flightline did in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on Saturday, Sept. 3.
In winning the race by 19 ¼ lengths in 1:59.28, the dark bay son of Tapit (by Pulpit) ran his unbeaten career race record to five and added a third G1 to previous top-level victories in the Malibu and Metropolitan Handicap.
A $1 million sale yearling from Fasig-Tipton‘s Saratoga sale from three years ago, Flightline was bred in Kentucky by Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm and is an athletic son of one of the farm’s premium producers, Feathered, herself a daughter of leading sire and broodmare sire Indian Charlie (In Excess) and Receipt (Dynaformer).
Summer Wind’s farm manager, Bobby Spalding, said that “Flightline was always a nice, level-headed colt who impressed you with his natural athleticism, but when you’re watching them grow up, you don’t know that one of them is going to win a Grade 1 by nearly 20 lengths. That’s just amazing!
“[Trainer] John Sadler has done a marvelous job with this colt, and he’s grown up to be a grand individual. I think they said he was 16.2. His mamma’s only just 16 hands, maybe, but she’s the kind of mare that I like, not too big, not out of proportion anywhere. Just real nice, and this is a wonderful family,” Spalding concluded.
This is a wonderful family, full of high-quality racehorses and producers, that had been in the hands of the Phipps family from the mid-1960s.
The Phipps patriarch Ogden Phipps, breeder and owner of champion Buckpasser, was always open to freshening the broodmare band and took the opportunity to purchase 1966 champion 3-year-old filly Lady Pitt (Sword Dancer). A winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks, Delaware Oaks, and Mother Goose, Lady Pitt was a medium-sized chestnut more notable for toughness than brilliant speed. Bred in Kentucky by John W. Greathouse, Lady Pitt was a stakes winner at two, but she came into a higher level of form at three, finishing first in six races, including the Alabama (disqualified to second for bearing in on second-place Natashka).
The daughter of 1959 Belmont Stakes winner Sword Dancer was elected champion of her division over Natashka (Dedicate) and Phipps’s Destro (Ribot), and the great racing commentator Charlie Hatton noted that Phipps thought Lady Pitt deserved the award due to her consistency, being in the money 12 times from 16 starts. She stood 15.3 hands at the end of her 3-year-old season.
The owner-breeder stood behind his assessment and added the mare to his broodmare portfolio at Claiborne Farm when the opportunity came. Bred to Buckpasser, Lady Pitt produced Bank of England in 1970, and she is the ancestress of the four-time Grade 1 winner and 2022 freshman sire Oscar Performance (Kitten’s Joy). Six years later, Lady Pitt foaled the notably talented Blitey (Riva Ridge).
A winner of the Test, Ballerina, and Maskette before any of those three were elevated to Grade 1 races, Blitey produced the highly accomplished Dancing Spree (Nijinsky), who won Grade 1s at six furlongs (Breeders’ Cup Sprint), seven furlongs (Carter), and 10 furlongs (Suburban). His full sisters were Grade 2 winner Dancing All Night and Oh What a Dance, the dam of champion Heavenly Cause (Seeking the Gold).
A half-sister to this trio was Fantastic Find (Mr. Prospector), who won the G1 Hempstead and was second in the G1 Test and Ballerina after they went to the top-level designation. Fantastic Find is the fourth dam of Flightline through her daughter Finder’s Fee (Storm Cat), winner of the G1 Matron at two, the G1 Acorn at three.
A major disappointment as a producer, Finder’s Fee did not produce a stakes winner, but the mare’s most successful racer, stakes-placed Receipt, is the second dam of Flightline.
Receipt was third in a listed stakes at Saratoga, as well as fourth in a Grade 2 there, but her branch of the family might have appeared to be going stale, because the Phipps Stable chose to sell her, in foal to Indian Charlie, at the 2012 Keeneland January sale. The mare brought $350,000 from St. Elias Stable. Five months later, she produced Feathered.
Bred by Teresa Viola Racing Stable, Feathered was a May foal, like much of this family, but nonetheless was progressive enough to be a featured prospect at the 2014 OBS March sale from the late J.J. Crupi’s New Castle Farm, agent, and sold for $300,000 to Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.
Feathered won her second start, a maiden special at Saratoga, then showed high form in a trio of Grade 1 races, finishing third in the Frizette, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and second in the Hollywood Starlet.
The following season, Feathered won a couple more races, including the G3 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs, and ran second in the G1 American Oaks. Retired and sent to leading sire War Front (Danzig), Feathered was sold through the 2016 Keeneland November sale, with Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales as agent, for $2.35 million to Summer Wind.
The mare’s first foal was the bay filly Good on Paper, a winner at three who earned $52,940. She was sold privately before racing to Glen Hill Farm.
The second foal out of Feathered was Flightline.
Feathered has a 2-year-old full brother to Flightline named Olivier, who was a $390,000 RNA at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. The colt most recently worked at Keeneland on Sept. 3 (five furlongs in 1:02.2) and has been retained in a partnership. Feathered has a yearling colt by Curlin (Smart Strike), a filly at side foaled on May 17 by Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), and was bred to Tapit.
Spalding said that the initial thought “had been to leave Feathered open and breed the next year, but Mrs. Lyon asked about sending her to Tapit. We only had time for a single cover, but she had the right idea. Unfortunately, the mare did not get in foal.”
Flightline is one of 95 Northern Hemisphere-bred graded winners for Tapit and one of 152 black-type winners for the three-time national leading sire, who stands at Gainesway.