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Flightline’s a superstar, but is he one of sport’s greatest?

How do you measure greatness?

That’s been a topic of much discussion this week among racing fans following Flightline’s near effortless victory in Sunday’s $300,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

By every gauge, the John Sadler-trained 3-year-old colt’s performance in the 7-furlong race was sensational.

The son of Tapit out of an Indian Charlie mare won by 11½ lengths while geared down and was never seriously challenged by any of his six rivals, including Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Dr. Schivel. He ran far faster than older male horses in the $200,000 San Antonio Stakes earlier on the card, and 3 seconds (about 15 lengths) quicker than Kalypso, winner of the La Brea Stakes, the Malibu counterpart for 3-year-old fillies.

The 118 Beyer speed figure he earned was the highest awarded this year by the speed figure service, according to the Daily Racing Form. TimeformUS handicapper Craig Milkowski said the 141 he assigned to the winner was the highest sprint figure he has given in 10 years as chief analyst for the service.

The victory pushed the colt’s record to three for three, all of them cakewalks. His combined margins of victory in those starts: a whopping 37 ½ lengths.

So does that put Flightline on the list of the sport’s true greats?

I agree with what I’d say is a majority of the debaters that he hasn’t yet earned that distinction.

There’s no disputing that what he’s done so far under Sadler’s patient tutelage has been phenomenal. His Malibu victory left my mouth farther agape than in any race since Arrogate’s 2017 victory in the Dubai World Cup.

But we’ll need to see more before we can put him in the pantheon of horses like Forego, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Ghostzapper or the most recent superstar, Gun Runner.

The good news is that the colt should get the chance to etch his name alongside those famed thoroughbreds, though he’ll likely have to do it in fewer starts than any of them, given his exploding value as a sire. Sadler told the DRF’s Steve Anderson that he and the colt’s five ownership interests are planning on racing him as many as four times next year, one of which is expected to be the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard in June.

Serious setback for new racing regulation

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) threw a big wrench into efforts to get newly enacted Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act up and running by its summer deadline, It announced Friday that it had not been able to reach an agreement with the industry panel created to implement the law.

“After months of negotiations, we have been unable to enter an agreement in line with the requirements of the Act, and one which would have given us a reasonable chance to put in place a credible and effective program,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “While we are obviously saddened by the outcome at this stage, we tried our absolute best to find a way forward but without success.”

It’s not clear what happens next, but finding a quick stand-in for the respected USADA will not be easy.

Thus far no one is saying anything about the reasons for the announcement, but the cost of the rigorous new drug-testing regimen envisioned under the act is the likely sticking point.

Late scratches

Santa Anita Park proactively canceled its Thursday card due to forecasts calling for heavy rain. Racing will resume on Friday, but the three stakes originally slated for the New Year’s Eve card were moved, with the Blue Norther and Eddie Logan stakes shifting to Sunday and the Robert Frankel Stakes to Saturday to avoid likely heavy tracks. … Action heats up on the Road to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday with the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park and the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct for newly turned 3-year-olds.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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