How poignant that, in this week of all weeks, Belmont’s two most jaw-dropping winners of the day have both drawn comparisons to Ghostzapper, whose GI Breeders’ Cup Classic at Lone Star Park in 2004 was surely the most great thoroughbred performance ever achieved on Texas soil. Because if everyone from the races came to Dallas that day, it looks like there won’t be a reciprocal embrace when it comes to the standards sought – not just federally, but internationally – to give credibility to American horse racing in the public engagement contest in the 21st Century.

It is precisely because some states, stubbornly or cynically indifferent to the big picture, can prove so unworthy of their precious autonomy that we need to find a better solution. As things stand, one that has produced many great riders and women, not to mention a Triple Crown winner in Assault, is now threatened with strangulation as regulation. It feels like the political equivalent of reckless sadomasochistic excess turning into a tragic accident.

Anyway, to more cheerful topics. Or maybe not, because while it’s gratifying that the 22-year-old original is still recycling his genetic prowess at Hill ‘N Dale, the idea that we might have not one new Ghostzapper, but two, seems too far-fetched a coincidence considering how rarely we are favored by such monstrous talent.

It’s pretty clear what Flightline (Tapit) and Jack Christopher (Munnings) need to do, if they are to maintain comparisons so far boosted by the zest for life with which they’ve dominated all comers. And it’s finally to expand like Ghostzapper did, that day at Lone Star.

As things stand, there at least seems to be a tantalizing possibility that they’ll end up doing it together, and in the same race as their big model. Until they do, however, it seems a little premature that this controversial adjective, “awesome,” has been applied as generously as it has already done to Flightline, in particular.

There’s no denying his extraordinary natural ability, and it’s exciting that he’s being bred to be at least as good in round two. Luckily, we may be able to test that hope very soon, or as soon as a career calendar allows that promises to make him a poster child for the notorious distrust modern riders have of their predecessors. You’d think a son of Tapit, with a second dam by Dynaformer, might equal a more old-school campaign, but at least those influences will be squarely behind him once his stamina is examined.

From a European perspective, the rise of Flightline demonstrates a different way of measuring things here. After clocking these monster Beyers in inaugural and optional sprints, no American rider was surprised to see him part ways with his Grade I rivals with equal disdain – and he’s now averaging 112 over four starts.

In a race environment less beholden to the clock, however, you might still hear a caveat or two that in the GI Met Mile he beat a horse that really needs 10 furlongs; another who took a remarkable step backwards; and a pure sprinter. Such an insignificant loss of pace, in light traffic at the start, wouldn’t be taken very seriously either. On the other hand, no one could fail to be dazzled to be able to do so after a long stopover, embarking for the first time, and on a new voyage.

What should really sharpen European antennae, however, is the other “F” word in the room. When it comes to greatness, no modern horse across water has achieved as much consensus as Frankel (GB) (Galileo {Ire}). So much so that at the time, it took nerve to dare to question the conservatism with which he was campaigning, to beat the same guys in the same discipline until his penultimate departure, and not leaving a single night his stand. While there were admittedly tragically extenuating circumstances, the fact is that there had never been a time when his late trainer Sir Henry Cecil would have been comfortable risking his champion’s immaculate record in, say, the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Arc.

An unbeaten record tends to become a burden that holds back the hand of adventure. Frankel was always measured against the ghosts of the past, but never looked for trouble, even against his contemporaries. It’s wonderful that Flightline’s connections are willing to explore the range of his genius. But after relaunching it on the same day the Kentucky Derby winner was bombed in the third leg of the Triple Crown, after rejecting the second, let’s hope they remember our collective mission – already mentioned, in a different context – of public engagement.

Flightline is one of those paragons that the bloodstock industry needs to function, once in a while, as a seven-figure yearling from a noble dam line that’s going to pay off those stakes, big time, in as a stallion. But potentially exposing his wares on no more than half a dozen starts wouldn’t just short-circuit breeders of the future, who need proof that he’s a dependable vessel of the kind of tenacity latent in his page. It also leaves him little chance of reaching the kind of audience so much more accessible at the time, for example, of his ancestor Lady Pitt (Sword Dancer) of 10 for 47.

As for Jack Christopher, while we naturally respect Chad Brown’s direct experience with Ghostzapper, one would think Munnings will need a lot of help from the mare if he is to bring his son home in the Breeders’ Cup. Classic. Jack Christopher’s dam is by Half Ours, hardly an endurance mark, and is also a half-sister to Street Boss, an exceptionally fast horse for a son of Street Cry (Ire).

Their mother, by the way, was by Ogygian – and thus contributes to the redemption of Damascus, as a distaff influence, after failing to establish a paternal line. Daughters of Damascus itself produced Red Ransom, Boundary and Coronado’s Quest, as well as Maclean’s Music grandma. Among his “failed” sons, Bailjumper is Medaglia d’Oro’s mother-sire; Accipiter gave us Cairo Prince’s second barrage; and Ogygian, above all, has established himself as the father of a mother in Johannesburg.
Johannesburg son Scat Daddy of course managed to find a triple crown winner from a mare by none other than Ghostzapper. So we know that the brightest horses can carry their speed further on land than on paper.

Certainly, Jack Christopher seems for the moment the most charismatic member of a culture that remains far from resolving its hierarchy. In fact, all it takes is one barn to establish its own pecking order, and the rest can follow, with Jack Christopher nodding with Zandon (Upstart) and Early Voting (Gun Runner).

Between Early Voting and Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo), the GII Wood Memorial has now provided two classic winners. If Mo Donegal could also win the GI Travers, he would emulate Damas as one of five horses to win an ‘Empire State’ triple crown from Wood, Belmont and Travers.

Damas, to be fair, ran 16 times in threes. He lost by half a length in Gotham in a tooth-and-nail duel with Dr. Fager, and came out six days later to win the Wood by half a dozen lengths. Okay, maybe we have to accept that most riders today consider it unreasonable to campaign with a modern racehorse like Frank Whiteley Jr. did Damas, who won by six furlongs two miles away. But if we give up on this point, however reluctantly, hopefully others in our industry can recognize the need for a more obviously healthy form of modernization.