Betting against Flightline in the Breeders' Cup Classic

November 4th, 2022

#3 Flightline (3-5) is arguably the most likely winner on the nine-race Breeders’ Cup Saturday program at Keeneland, an imposing 3-5 morning line favorite against seven rivals in the $6 million Classic (G1). The competition will be running for second if the unbeaten colt runs back to his last start, a 19 1/4-length win in the Sept. 3 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar.

But Flightline did have everything his own way by the far turn of the Pacific Classic, which has been the case in all five career starts, and it’s fair to ask what happens if he gets into a battle. The Breeders’ Cup Classic represents a tougher challenge from a class perspective, with quality speed and dangerous stalkers looking to pounce, and Flightline’s mental fortitude figures to be tested.

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He may pass all obstacles with flying colors, but upsets happen in horse racing. And I’ve been tasked with the following: “Who to bet if trying to beat Flightline?”

Let’s examine the three main rivals.

#2 Life Is Good (6-1) was the early-season Classic favorite, romping over 2021 Horse of the Year Knicks Go in January’s 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup (G1), but he sustained his first setback at a route when finishing fourth in the 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup (G1) over a deep track in late March.

The four-year-old colt has bounced back with convincing wire-to-wire wins at 1 1/8 miles in the Whitney (G1) and Woodward (G1), and Life Is Good has led at the first call in all 11 starts, but his affinity for the Classic distance is suspect. Last year’s Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) hero may prefer less ground, and the projected pacesetter appears likely to face pressure before the stretch drive.

#1 Taiba (8-1) was too inexperienced for the Kentucky Derby (G1) in early May, but the late-blooming colt appears to be entering the Breeders' Cup in peak form for four-time Classic winner Bob Baffert. By Gun Runner, Taiba exits an impressive three-length win in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), displaying outstanding tactical speed and receiving a career-best 113 Brisnet Speed rating. It’s interesting to note his recent work tab, with his last four drills all coming five days apart, a five-furlong bullet and three swift six-furlong moves.

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The rail post compromises jockey Mike Smith’s hand, and Taiba may look to break running from the innermost gate, adding more speed to the equation by prompting a hot pace.

Runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1), #6 Epicenter (5-1) has thrived since being freshened over the summer, recording a pair of smashing wins in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) at Saratoga, and his Speed ratings have risen significantly since the spring. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt has also become more push-button, netting Brisnet Lace Pace numbers as high as 117.

Epicenter appears to be entering in top condition, training forwardly in preparation according to reports, and the bay sophomore drew favorably in post 6, enabling jockey Joel Rosario to work out a trip behind the speed.

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Flightline puts in his final work for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland. (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Analysis

Flightline does his best running on the front end, registering triple-digit Brisnet E1 and E2 Pace ratings in the last three outings, and the odds-on favorite may want to avoid getting embroiled in a heated duel before the final furlongs.

If early exertions leave Flightline vulnerable to a powerful finisher from off the pace, Epicenter will be poised to take advantage, utilizing the same bold late kick we witnessed in the Travers.

Epicenter is the horse to bet if trying to beat Flightline in the Classic.

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