Thankful for the blue collar horse *The Racing Biz

The debate over whether Flightline is the greatest horse of all time, or the twenty-firstStreet century, or just from the last month, fortunately, already in our rearview mirrors. The quietest jewel box in the 2022 race to spread its seed, an activity for which it will earn its owners far more serious coin than it can running in circles with a knight on its back.

The greats, these days, are foolish gold in racing. Once they’re good, they’re gone.

Goodbye to Flightline, and to the most senior three-year-olds of the crop, and…

It’s a tried and true lament: The race has no stars! Lather repeat rinse.

Perhaps Nabokov was right in an entirely different context. Maybe we’re dialing the wrong number, “inverting the ‘o’ instead of a zero.”

Racing is more gambling than sport, its pleasures more, if we are to find them, bag lunches than Thanksgiving. That means you might go a little too long between drinks if you’re waiting for the bartender to bring you a Flightline that’s racing to its seven- or eight-year-old. But if you can get some fun (and find betting opportunities) from a couple of claimants, you might be on to something.

Once upon a time there was a horse named Kelso. But only once.

Joe Hirsch has written this for Horse of the Year five times and whose exploits will almost certainly not be repeated. Consider: His win at the Washington, D.C. International, then the nation’s premier event on grass, came at age seven, at Fourth attempt.

How often these days do horses run four times in one race?

More often than you think, but they’re often not the ones that populate front row events. What they do instead is run in small stakes, state generated events, and local dates.

Just as this Thanksgiving feast is meant to remind you of all you have throughout the year to be thankful for, so may the airlines of the world, with their fleeting fleeting wits, remind us to be thankful for the work horses that live in our days. Your local track every day.

For example:

  • Seven-year-old Penguin Power, who in October became the second horse to win four West Virginia Breeders Classic races.
  • Phil Despert, six, will attempt her fifth win of 2022 at Politelli at Laurel Friday. That would tie her with the Pennsylvania-bred Caravelle and others for the second-biggest win in the country this year.
  • Beverly Park, a girl of only five years old, has played in 27 matches This year alone, with dozens of wins, which is four more wins than any other horse in the country. Oh yeah, he’s back in the entries for Monday’s rookie allowance competition in Mahoning Valley.
  • Nine-year-old Rag Se won the Native Dancer title in Laurel earlier this year.

These five horses have combined for 170 career starts, 75 wins and more than $2.8 million. By contrast, the last five Breeders’ Cup Classic winners have made a combined total of only 77 starts, and the five Kentucky Derby winners ahead of Rich Strike, who is still racing, have raced only 42 starts.

In its three starts this year, Flightline has made more than $4.2 million. That’s 50% more than what hard-hitting batters have achieved in 170 outings.

Once upon a time there was Flightline. But if you blink, you’ve missed it. It was briefly his hour on stage.

These—the Derby winners, the classic champions—may be the horses that briefly and exhilaratingly capture the crowd’s attention (and earn ridiculous money).

But when that moment flees – and it always does – it is these, Fille d’Esprits and Penguin Powers, these rough seas and Whereshetoldmetogos and Beverly Parks, that we return to. They’re the people filling the cards day in and day out at racetracks all over the country, who we can count on to experience the best eight, 10 or 20 times a year.

Bemoan the racing’s lack of glued-up superstars?

No thank you. Be thankful, instead, for the blue-collar horses who are the backbone of the industry.

[Note: This is an updated and substantially rewritten version of a story that ran in 2014.]

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