It is my opinion that Flashpoint has the capacity to be one of the leading (if not the leading) sprinters in 2011. He proved that point again this weekend with a seven-length victory in the Grade 3 $143,000 Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth Park. Flashpoint has now run five times in his brief career, sprinting thrice and going a route twice. The three sprints were wins and the two route races were utter failures. Flashpoint broke his maiden at six furlongs over the inner track at Aqueduct on January 15. He followed that up with a crushing win in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at seven furlongs, defeating some very good sprinters including Travelin Man.
It is at this point that the connections appeared to get a little bit greedy, thinking the horse might be fast enough to carry that speed longer distances than six or seven furlongs. He was entered in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, drew the outside post in the field of eight, couldn't get to the front like he was supposed to, and ended up running a decent fourth with everything considered. I can actually forgive the connections one attempt to at least see what the horse can do at a longer distance. There is nothing wrong with trying something once and failing at it, after all, most everyone does that every day. It is the next race that actually raised my hackles a little bit with Flashpoint. He was entered in the Preakness at Pimlico, going 1 3/16 miles. To be frank, I don't know what in the horse's performances had indicated that he could go that far, especially if he were to be pressed. Of course, he was pressed right into last place in the field of fourteen by the eventual winner, Shackleford. Was this merely a case of Triple Crown Fever gone awry? It very well might have been, especially since the Derby wasn't in the plans based on Graded Stakes Earnings at that point.
I am now happy to see that Flashpoint is back in the races he should have been running in all along. The time for the six furlongs of the Jersey Shore was a solid 1:08.73, especially given that the condition of the track was muddy. I am looking very forward to seeing Flashpoint challenge the likes of Smiling Tiger, Noble's Promise, Aikenite, Morning Line, Trappe Shot, Amazombie, Big Drama (when he returns) and the other older sprinters he will likely have to deal with for the rest of the year, leading up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint or Dirt Mile (which is a one-turn race at Churchill Downs). As a matter of fact, I think it would be ideal to see trainer Wesley Ward get this guy ready for the Grade 1 King's Bishop at seven furlongs for three-year-olds at Saratoga. That race won't be run until August 27, but it should be a great continuation of what promises to be an excellent sprinting season that has seen only a couple of blips on the radar screen.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!