On the sidelines since last fall's Breeder's Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT), California Flag returns to head a field of eight in the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita Park April 21.
The San Simeon is one of two turf features on the penultimate program of the 2011-12 Santa Anita season. It goes as race 5 on the card at 2:34 p.m. PDT. The Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles is race 9.
The venerable 8-year-old gray gelding California Flag has participated in the past four editions of the BC Turf Sprint, winning it 2009 when it was held at Santa Anita. Trained by Brian Koriner for Hi Card Ranch and partners, the California-bred son of Avenue of Flags had a bad trip in last year's BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs and finished 12th.
California Flag will be reunited with jockey Joe Talamo while carrying top weight of 121 pounds in his comeback race. Talamo was aboard for the 2009 BC Turf Sprint, which California Flag won in front-running fashion by 1 3/4 lengths as a lukewarm favorite. California Flag has won four of six starts on the hillside course.
“The horse is doing well,” Koriner said. “Everything is coming together. The horse is great now. He trains great every day. We’ve always enjoyed having him around the barn. He’s a happy boy.”
Koriner is looking forward to a possible fifth start from his stalwart in the Breeders' Cup this November at Santa Anita. California Flag, who drew post 6, has 10 wins in 25 starts while earning $1,228,825.
Compari, a close third in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) March 3, cuts back for trainer Marty Jones. Whether running on the hillside or at intermediate distance, 6-year-old Compari has always fared well on Santa Anita's turf, winning six of eight starts.
Owned and bred in California by Harris Farms, Donald Valpredo,and John Nicoletti, Compari led in the stretch of the Kilroe but could not stave off the fast-closing Willyconker. The Redattore gelding won the restricted Sensational Star Stakes on the hillside in his previous start Jan. 28. Compari, assigned 119 pounds, is to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.
Warren B. Williamson's Irish Art, a 4-year-old Artie Schiller colt trained by Carla Gaines, won an allowance/optional claimer on the hillside March 22 by a head. He is 2-for-2 over the course. Joel Rosario is aboard once more.
$100,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 5, 2:34 p.m.), 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Supreme Summit (KY), D R Flores, 116, M Puype
2. Gallant Son (KY), L Mawing, 116, F Lucarelli
3. Victory Pete (FL), C Sutherland, 116, A Barba
4. Sayif (IRE), J Valdivia Jr., 114, P L Biancone
5. Compari (CA), R Bejarano, 119, M F Jones
6. California Flag (CA), J Talamo, 121, B J Koriner
7. Irish Art (KY), J Rosario, 116, C Gaines
8. Ain't No Other (CA), M E Smith, 116, S Miyadi