Jumpabola Pragmatic

Flightline grabs limelight at Del Mar

Flavien Prat rode Grace Adler to a dominating win Sunday in the Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Debutante and 30-1 longshot Liam’s Dove scored a stunning victory under Kyle Frey in the supporting $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf.

But a 3-year-old colt almost stole the show on Ladies Day — the penultimate day of Del Mar’s 82nd summer meeting.

Flightline, a son of Tapit who brought $1 million at auction in 2019, scored a 12¾-length win and threatened a 48-year-old track record while winning a 6-furlong, $72,000 allowance race earlier in the program.

“He’s a rare, gifted horse,” trainer John Sadler said after Flightline cruised home under a hand-ride from Prat at 1 minute, 8.50 seconds — or less than a second off the track record of 1:07.50 set by King of Cricket (carrying 4 fewer pounds) in 1973 — in what might have been the most impressive performance of the meeting.

Sadler later said Flightline could have set the track record had he been pressed.

“But that’s not what we’re trying to do,” said the trainer, who didn’t commit Flightline to any particular race in the future, although he certainly looked like he could be a top contender in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar in early November.

“There’s also a Grade I at Santa Anita the day after Christmas,” said Sadler, referring to the Malibu Stakes. “And we’re thinking about two turns next year. We’re looking.”

Sunday’s win was Flightline’s second in as many career starts. The first came at Santa Anita on April 24 by 13¼ lengths under Prat. Flightline was then off for 4½ months. “He had a slight bone bruise in a hoof and we don’t rush those things,” said Sadler.

As for Sunday’s featured attractions for 2-year-old fillies, the Bob Baffert-trained Grace Adler, a daughter of Curlin, cruised to an 11¼-length win in the 7-furlong Debutante for the third of Prat’s jockey-title-clinching four wins on the day.

And Frey kept Liam’s Dove ahead for almost the entire mile of the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Baffert’s other horse in the Debutante, the favored Eda, battled Elm Drive for the lead through the first half of the Debutante with Grace Adler ($11.20) going five wide in the turn to take the lead and pull far ahead of runner-up Dance to the Music. Eda finished fifth in the field of eight and Elm Drive beat one other filly.

“I wasn’t happy with Eda’s position early because they were going way too fast up front,” said Baffert. “Grace Adler is a really good filly and she really made up the ground. They’re both good fillies, it’s just too bad Eda got caught up in a speed duel.”

Said Prat: “Bob told me Grace Adler wasn’t as fast as the other fillies, but that she’d come running. He was certainly right. It might have looked like I moved too early with her, but it was more a case of them coming back to me.”

As for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Frey and Liam’s Dove ($71.80) beat Helens Well (and Prat) to the finish by a head, refusing to give up the lead to the fast-closing favorite over the final strides.

“I’m speechless,” said winning trainer Peter Miller, who is never speechless. “A 30-1 shocker. Kyle is a good speed rider, but I didn’t think we’d be on the lead. … I thought we’d be sitting second or third. But Kyle got the lead and put them to sleep.

“He played it and played it.”

The win was the 14th of the meeting for Frey, who almost returned to Golden Gate Fields after the first weekend here in July. “This is a tougher group of riders to go against,” said Frey. “But I don’t feel like they’re a whole lot better than me. I think I fit here and it’s been working out.”

Frey put Liam’s Dove, a daughter of Liam’s Map, in the lead shortly after the start of the mile run and was never headed.

Closing day today

The focus shifts to the 2-year-old males in today’s closing program with the $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Futurity and the accompanying $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf.

Baffert will have the two of the three top morning-line picks in the six-horse Futurity at 7 furlongs — Murray (Prat) at 2-1 and Pinehurst (Mike Smith) at 5-2. Also at 5-2 is American Xperiment (Umberto Rispoli), a son of Nyquist trained by Steve Asmussen who was shipped west off a maiden win at Saratoga.

Murray, a son of Street Sense, and Pinehurst, by Twirling Candy, are the remaining two of the 33 horses Baffert originally nominated for the Futurity back in June. Both won their debut races at Del Mar earlier in the meeting, with Murray romping to a 10¾-length win July 25 and Pinehurst scoring Aug. 1.

One race earlier, Silver Surfer (Joe Bravo) is the 5-2 morning-line choice in the Juvenile Turf, with MacKinnon (Juan Hernandez) and Optimising (Drayden Van Dyke) at 3-1. Silver Surfer, an English-bred, had a win and three seconds in five races in Ireland; Optimising, an Irish-bred, won his only start in England. MacKinnon broke his maiden in a turf race here July 31.

Center is a freelance writer.