Favored California Flag rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last month with a front-running romp in the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Nov. 29.
Ridden by regular jockey Joe Talamo, the 4-year-old California Flag opened an insurmountable lead in the homestretch and cruised to a 4 1/2-length victory over six rivals. The final time for the six-furlong grass event was 1:08.81 on a firm course.
California Flag broke from the far outside to take a clear advantage through posted quarter-mile fractions of :23.84 and :45.83 while racing slighly off the fence. Hi Card Ranch's California homebred son of Avenue of Flags squirted away from the field on the turn and was in command through the stretch, winning under a hand ride.
"I don't think I've ever won a race that easily," Talamo said. "When a horse is running that good for you there's no sense using him up. Just as soon save him for the next time."
Racketeer, closing on the extreme outside for Rafael Bejarano, ran on for second ahead of Delta Storm by a half-length. Delta Storm, ridden by Aaron Gryder, won a photo for the show spot by a head over Carrilero.
California Flag, who is out of the Alfeet mare Ultrafleet, won the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita hillside turf course Sept. 24 for trainer Brian Koriner. The gray stopped badly in the Breeders' Cup, however, after vying for the lead into the stretch, finishing 10th.
"The horse is great and he's fresh," Koriner said. "It's hard to believe he won so easy against some pretty nice horses.
"I think if we didn't give Joe instructions to run off at the Breeders' Cup it might have been a whole different ballgame," Koriner added.
The Turf Express victory, California Flag's fifth win in 13 lifetime starts, was worth $90,000, increasing his lifetime earnings to $283,216.
California Flag paid $5.40, $3.80, and $3. Racketeer returned $11.40 and $5.40, completing a $2 exacta worth $55.60. Delta Storm was $4 to show.
Carrilero was followed by One Union, Joe Bravo and Unusual Suspect, the defending champion in the Turf Express. Hurry Up Austin, Majestic Diamond and Towzee scratched.