Unfurl the Flag Earns Triple Bend Salute

California-bred sprinter Unfurl the Flag won the first graded stakes race of his career Sunday when he dusted a large field in the $350,000 Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) on Independence Day weekend at Hollywood Park.

Unfurl the Flag, a 5-year-old gelding by Bertrando, won for the fourth time in five starts at Hollywood Park.

Corey Nakatani rode the winner, placing Unfurl the Flag forwardly through speedy fractions before taking over at the head of the stretch and pulling away to a two-length victory. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:20 4/5, one second off the track record.

David Bernstein trains Unfurl the Flag, who was coming off a two-length victory in the state-restricted Tiznow at 7 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood April 24.

"He loves this track and he had been training just fantastic for this race," Bernstein said. "And Corey did a great job."

Nakatani added, "He's just a tremendous athlete. He does everything right. To run this kind of a race against this company was huge."

Bear in the Woods, ridden by Alex Bisono, and McCann's Mojave, the morning line favorite with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard, finished in a dead heat for second. Saint Afleet was fourth in the 13-horse field, a nose better than Harvard Avenue.

Then came Areyoutalkintome, the 5-1 favorite Mass Media, Taste of Paradise, Tsigane, Forest Grove, Ender's Shadow and Saint Buddy. Roi Charmant, breaking from the inside post, dumped jockey Victor Espinoza on the second jump from the gate. Espinoza was not injured.

Unfurl the Flag led early while completing the opening quarter mile in :21 4/5. Forest Grove led at the half (:43 4/5) before Unfurl the Flag began to pull away when running six furlongs in 1:07 4/5.

Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod bred the winner, who won for the sixth time in 18 starts. Out of the Storm Cat mare Escape the Storm, Unfurl the Flag earned $210,000 for the ownership partnership of Gaylord Ailshie, Tom Harris and Bruce Rose, et al, and now boasts a career bankroll of $520,408.

Unfurl the Flag, one of three horses sent off at odds of 5-1, paid $13.40, $6.80 and $5.40. Bear in the Woods returned $18.80 and $20.40. McCann's Mojave paid $4.20 and $4.80.

Mass Media never got untracked for jockey John Velazquez.

(Chart, Equibase)