Talk is done, horses are set for two days of Breeders' Cup races at Keeneland

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Breeders' Cup Classic favorite Flightline stretches his legs Thursday morning at Keeneland. Photo by John Voorhees, Eclipsesportswire, courtesy of Breeders' Cup
Breeders' Cup Classic favorite Flightline stretches his legs Thursday morning at Keeneland. Photo by John Voorhees, Eclipsesportswire, courtesy of Breeders' Cup

LEXINGTON, Ky., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The talk is done about Saturday's $6 million Grade I Longines Breeders' Cup Classic, one of the most anticipated races in years, and now it's up to the horses to have their say.

First up by virtue of his accomplishments is the morning-line favorite, Flightline, undefeated and ranked the No. 1 horse in the world.


He's poised to enter the rarified atmosphere of "greatest ever" if he can approach his performance in his last race - a 19 1/4-length victory in the Grade I Pacific Classic in his first try at the Breeders' Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Flightline galloped on the Keeneland main track Thursday morning and trainer John Sadler said it all by saying nothing.

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"There's not much more I can say," Sadler said.

Although he has answered every question, winning all five starts by a combined 62 3/4 lengths, Flightline will have another challenge in Saturday's race in the form of Life Is Good.


The two have similar running styles, starting with devastating early speed. If they run to form, Flightline might have a rival eyeballing him for at least the first mile - a new experience.

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If that early test in fact occurs, the issue becomes which of the two can carry on. Maybe both. Maybe neither, with the race setting up for a closer from the 3-year-old ranks -- Epicenter, Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba or upset Kentucky Derby champ Rich Strike.

Bill Mott, who will saddle Olympiad for the Classic, summed up the situation nicely Thursday morning.

"Life Is Good has just tremendous speed, particularly away from the gate," Mott said.

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"He's the kind of horse who puts 2 or 3 lengths on them right away and, if a horse has trouble picking up the chase, he can get a breather on the front end. With Flightline, he's a horse who maybe isn't quite as good out of the gate ... but it looks like after three or four strides, he gets himself together."

Mott added: "I'm a fan and I love watching these kinds of races.

Epicenter, who lost the Kentucky Derby to Rich Strike in the final strides, went on to win the Grade II Jim Dandy and the Grade I Travers at Saratoga and trainer Steve Asmussen reckons a win Saturday would have him in line for Horse of the Year honors.


"The opportunity is there," Asmussen said after Epicenter galloped Thursday. "And is it easy? Absolutely not. Should it be easy? Absolutely not. That's what's so special about this. Everybody has showed up here in great shape."

The only exception to that is Happy Saver, who developed a quarter crack during the week and is galloping with a patched hoof. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who also handles Life Is Good, said Happy Saver "had a good morning" Thursday.

The Classic is the culmination of two days of racing -- 14 events that will settle championships in multiple divisions. They're all tough races so for handicapping help, have a look at the in-depth analysis provided by industry veteran and insider Jude Feld at

Friday's races are for 2-year-olds, on both turf and dirt, and will identify prime contenders for the 2023 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Saturday brings a blizzard of nine rich Grade I events in a row. Counting backwards from the Classic:

The $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf features top Europeans including Nation's Pride, Rebel's Romance, Mishriff and Broome, against U.S.-based War Like Goddess, Virginia Joy and Channel Maker.

The $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff has the first two from this year's Kentucky Oaks, Secret Oath and Nest, against fellow 3-year-old Society and older rivals Clairiere and Malathat in what promises to be a thrilling scramble.


The $2 million FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile, run on the turf, is heavy with European talent but also features domestic prospects like Domestic Spending and Annapolis.

Defending champion Aloha West is back in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint, but runs into a pair of juggernauts in Jackie's Warrior and Jack Christopher, plus the only Japan-based horse in this year's program, Chain of Love.

A competitive mix for the $2 million Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf includes Cazoo Oaks winner Tuesday and Irish Oaks runner-up Toy in from Ireland, Queen's Plate and Woodbine Oaks winner Moira visiting from Canada and local star In Italian.

The Breeders' Cup part of the Saturday program kicks off with the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, the $1 million Turf Sprint and the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

The races will be aired on NBC-TV and its affiliates. Post time for the Classic is 5:40 p.m. EDT.

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