Win or lose Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Distaff – Presented by Nextel (gr. I), champion Storm Flag Flying will be making her last start.
She will head to Claiborne Farm next week and in 2005 is to be bred to A.P. Indy
Trainer Shug McGaughey hates to see her leave his barn, but the family has been so good to him he looks forward to other runners from the first three-generation Breeders' Cup winner.
McGaughey trained Personal Ensign to win the 1988 Distaff in one of the most thrilling Breeders' Cup races in the 20-year history of the event. She just got up to beat Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Winning Colors by a nose on a very sloppy Churchill Downs surface.
In 1995, Personal Ensign's daughter My Flag won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Belmont Park, and then in 2002, My Flag's daughter Storm Flag Flying took the Juvenile Fillies.
Storm Flag Flying's Breeders' Cup race was also rather exciting -- she was headed by Composure in the stretch and came back on to get the victory.
Storm Flag Flying, by Storm Cat, as a 2-year-old was known for her antics, throwing tantrums in the tunnel, refusing to work, giving her handlers a hard time. Now, things are different.
"She was unbeaten before the Breeders' Cup at two, now we're coming in under the radar," McGaughey said as longtime assistant Buzz Tenney grazed Storm Flag Flying Thursday morning at Lone Star.
"She was fine when we first got her at two," he said, "but she got wound up when we put her in training. Her mother was that way, and then you add in the Storm Cat...well she kept us all on our toes. I remember when we ran her in the Frizette (gr. I) I had no idea how she would run because she had done everything wrong leading up to the race. She won and then shipped to Arlington and won the Breeders' Cup.
People wanted to give up on Storm Flag Flying after she made just two starts at three, but she has not been off the board in seven races this year and her wins include a victory over Azeri in the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I), a race obviously named for her granddam.
"I was a relatively young trainer when Personal Ensign won," McGaughey, now 53, said. "Look what that family has done for me. Miner's Mark won on the day I had six winners at Belmont, My Flag won the Breeders' Cup and CCA Oaks (gr. I)."
On Oct. 16, 1993, Breeders' Cup Preview day at Belmont, McGaughey won five stakes capped by Miner's Mark's win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
"When the Phipps family hired me (in 1985) they were coming off some lean years. I never dreamed of this. It has exceeded all my expectations. I'm in the Hall of Fame and back then, I probably didn't even know what the Hall of Fame was.
"I remember telling someone I was going to get the kind of horses that can win the Champagne (gr. I) and Frizette (gr. I) and I won them both the first year."
Since the death of family patriarch Ogden Phipps, the operation is being continued by his son, Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps.
Can Storm Flag Flying go out a winner?
"I think she's the best in race," a modest McGaughey said.
He looks forward to Saturday, and to a few years from now, when her offspring begin arriving in the barn.