Last year, California Flag grabbed the lead in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, but tired badly to finish 10th. This year the 5-year-old gelding painted a different picture, getting to the front shortly after the gates opened and improving his position, spurting away from the field on the turn for home to win the $1-million contest by 1 3/4 lengths in convincing fashion (VIDEO).
Bred in California, California Flag races for his breeders, Hi Card Ranch, and is trained by Brian Koriner. Joe Talamo was the winning rider.
"The difference this year is that the horse has matured," Koriner said. "Once Joe made the lead, it was over. This is great. This is what it's all about."
Added Talamo, "He made the lead pretty easily, and I was pretty confident. He had so much in reserve coming down the stretch and really kicked it in the last part. Last year we went :41 for the half and this year we went :43, and that was the difference."
California Flag went to the lead inside in the early stage of the race, and carved out fractions of :21.50 and :43.09 coming down Santa Anita’s downhill turf course. El Gato Malo took up the early chase along with Get Funky and Silver Timber. But the winner was still two lengths clear approaching the bend into the stretch. Canadian Ballet took up the chase and Square Eddie was prominent for a while, but California Flag absolutely fled the scene after crossing the main track and turning into the stretch, as he widened his advantage.
From the back of the pack Gotta Have Her, one of three females in the contest, began picking off horses while moving steadily toward the inside. Gotta Have Her ran on well to grab second, but never threatened the winner. Cannonball finished third, with Delta Storm fourth. California Flag stopped the timer in 1:11.28 for the 6 1/2 furlongs.
California Flag returned $8.80, $5.60, and $3.80. Gotta Have Her paid $8.80 and $5.60, while Cannonball was good for $4.80 for the show.
California Flag is a product of Avenue of Flags and the Afleet mare Ultrafleet, who was purchased out of the 1993 Keeneland September yearling sale for $10,500 by John Fradkin from the William A. Purday consignment, with Taylor Made Sales Agency as agent.
Ultrafleet also produced Cambiocorsa, a full sister to California Flag who scored in the 2006 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) and the Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT) as well as winning two editions of the Wishing Well Stakes and a Irish O'Brien Stakes. Cambiocorsa earned $522,055.
Shadow Raider, a Memo gelding out of Ultrafleet, placed in the 2005 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) and two other stakes.
Ultrafleet is in foal to Bernardini . She has a weanling filly named Cosmopolitan, by Harlan's Holiday, and a yearling colt by Vindication.