Trainer Shug McGaughey is gearing up Ogden Mills Phipps' Storm Flag Flying for a historic run at the Breeders' Cup Distaff - Presented by Nextel (gr. I) at Lone Star Park. The $2-million Distaff kicks off the eight-race World Thoroughbred Championships.
Storm Flag Flying can make history Oct. 30 by becoming the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner to later win the nine-furlong Distaff.
McGaughey plans to work his star homebred filly a half-mile at his base of Belmont Park Sunday morning before loading with several other New York-based horses on a flight for Dallas.
It will be unchartered waters for both Storm Flag Flying and McGaughey, since neither one has been to Lone Star Park.
"I haven't been there and haven't talked to anybody about it," McGaughey said from Belmont Park Friday. "We're hoping to go down there and let her run her race. She'll do fine. She should like two turns."
Despite being based in New York, and with six of her 13 career starts taking place around one bend at Belmont, Storm Flag Flying has had four starts around two turns and has three wins and a one third.
Her first win was the 1 1/8-miles Long John Silvers Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park in 2002. Passed by Composure in early stretch, the daughter of Storm Cat
out of Easy Goer's Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag, came on again to win by a half-length in one of the more memorable moments in the 20-year history of the Breeders' Cup.
In an injury-plagued 2003, Storm Flag Flying only made two starts, but a lot has happened since then.
This year she has a 3-1-3 slate from seven starts and her trainer was inducted into racing' s Hall of Fame.
Storm Flag Flying kicked off the year with a two-turn win at Gulfstream against optional-claimers. In other two-turn efforts, she was third in the 1 1/8-miles go For Wand Handicap (gr. I) behind Azeri and Sightseek, then turned the tables on Azeri in the 1 1/4-miles Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I). In her last start, she forced the issue early before succumbing to Sightseek in the one-turn Beldame Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont on Oct. 9.
McGaughey is looking a reversal of tempo this time around.
"The race looks to have a lot of speed in it, which the Beldame was devoid of," he said. "She should like that."
Another thing she should like is the weather. Rain is in the forecast for next week, and McGaughey is quick to say, "an off-track wouldn't hurt her none." Storm Flag Flying is two-for-two over non-fast track surfaces.
Her biggest hurdle comes in the form of 2002 Horse of the Year and defending older filly champ Azeri. They've met three times this year, with each one taking down a win. In the June 19 Odgen Phipps Handicap (gr. I), Storm Flag Flying was second while Azeri faded to fourth for only her second off-the-board effort in her 23-race career. Owner Michael Paulson said Azeri bled in that race.
"I have nothing but respect for her," McGaughey said of Azeri. "She's a great filly who has done well with both of the people that have handled her." Azeri was trained by Laura de Seroux until this season. Now she is trained by D. Wayne Lukas. "Maybe she didn't like Belmont," McGaughey said. "I don't know whether or not she'll like Lone Star, but I'm sure Wayne will have her ready, but we're going to go down there and try to win the race."
After all, that's the name of the game.