Firing Line

Bred by Clearsky Farms, trained by Simon Callaghan and owned by Arnold Zetcher, this bay son by Grade I winner Line of David out of the Hold for Gold dam Sister Girl Blues debuted at the 2014 Santa Anita autumn meeting. Finishing second in a six furlong sprint, Firing Line looked like he could improve going longer, and did exactly that when given a half-furlong to work with next time out at the inaugural Bing Crosby Season at Del Mar.

The latter effort set him up for his graded stakes debut in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity. What racing fans saw was a game effort that gave him a well-earned second in a three-way photo. Both Firing Line's sire and dam were stakes winners during their respective careers, and the Los Al Derby gave the impression Firing Line would become the latest in the family to reach that status.

A little under two months later, Firing Line returned to Santa Anita to get his sophomore campaign underway. The race was the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, long a prep race for horses being pointed to the Kentucky Derby. Firing Line lost none of his grit in between starts, giving it all he had in a narrow defeat to Dortmund, who had nosed him out in the Los Al Derby. Still, the latest outing made Firing Line a horse to watch as winter went on.

Next came an out-of-state excursion to Sunland Park in New Mexico for the Grade III Sunland Derby. Firing Line not just won the event, he dominated it, manhandling his rivals by double-digit lengths to set a new race and track record (which has since been broken) to throw his name into the Kentucky Derby conversation. That turned out to be his final prep for the first Saturday in May, for he trained up to the Derby after his successful adventure out-of-state.

Despite being close to longshot status in the Kentucky Derby, Firing Line was actually among the top betting interests for the 2015 renewal. People had watched him throughout the prep season, and given how the Sunland Derby was a mile and one-eighth, those who selected him might have felt he could get the ten furlong distance that made up the Derby.

He nearly did so. Spending part of the race right behind Dortmund, Firing Line dueled with his rival for a time in the second half of the race before getting the runner-up spot. He showed his toughness once again, though, battling the eventual winner late. And the only horse that beat him? Eventual Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.

The Derby ended up being the apex of Firing Line's career. He finished off the board on an off track in the Preakness a fortnight later, and then had a long vacation before his next start, which resulted in a fifth against allowance optional claiming company over a year later at Santa Anita in what became his final start. Originally scheduled to compete in Del Mar's Harry F. Brubaker Stakes a few weeks later, Firing Line was scratched out of the race and later retired with a record of two wins and four seconds in eight starts.

As of the summer of 2020, Firing Line is at Kentucky's Crestwood Farm for stud duty. Given how stakes winners seem to run in his family, it will likely surprise no one if his offspring win at that level of competition as well. And it would not be a shock if some of his children inherit the toughness their father had when he raced.

Those who saw Firing Line watched a Thoroughbred with a blue-collar tenacity that took him to a Grade III triumph, placings in other graded stakes, and a berth in racing's biggest event.

Despite not starting in many contests, it can be said that Firing Line did pretty well for himself in the grand scheme of things.

Entry added September 14, 2020 by AF.