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Saratoga Opening Day
Joe Talamo aboard California Flag after winning the Turf Sprint
A full field of 14 older horses went to post in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, run at "about" 6 1/2 furlongs over the downhill turf chute at Santa Anita. Main local hope California Flag, winner of the Hollywood Turf Express, Green Fish, and Morvich handicaps, was sent off as the 7-2 favorite. In to challenge him included 5-1 second choice Diamondrella, winner of the First Lady at Keeneland last out, and 6-1 third choice Cannonball, unraced since winning the Commentator Stakes at Saratoga. Defending champion Desert Code was back, dismissed at 22-1 off a 7th place effort in the Morvich.
Down the stretch with California Flag out front by 3 1/2 lengths
California Flag was quickest away under regular rider Joe Talamo and he opened up a 2 length lead down the chute and across the main track through blistering fractions of 21.50 and 43.09 over the firm course. 45-1 longest shot Canadian Ballet held second on the downhill portion of the trip. Through the stretch, California Flag continued to draw off, opening up a 3 1/2 length advantage at the 1/8 pole. 10-1 Gotta Have Her, who was 12th early and 10 lengths off the pace, came out for room and put in a strong rally but was no match for California Flag who cruised under the line 1 3/4 lengths ahead in a time of 1:11.28. It was another 3/4 lengths back to Cannonball third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 California Flag Talamo 8.80 5.60 3.80 7 Gotta Have Her Baze 8.80 5.60 6 Cannonball Dominguez 4.80 Winning Time: 1:11.28 $1 Exacta 3-7 38.60 $1 Trifecta 3-7-6 317.50 $1 Superfecta 3-7-6-14 4,226.70Results chart
Left: California Flag in the winner's circle.
Right: Owner Barbara Card, jockey Joe Talamo and trainer Brian Koriner celebrate with the trophies. Jockey Joe Talamo said, "It was great. He made the
lead pretty easily, and going right until about the 3/8 pole, 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, this year we went 43. That was the difference." Trainer Brian Koriner added, "The difference between this year and last year is that last year we just said 'go' and this year we used our heads. The horse has matured, and Joe did a great job. Once we made the lead, it was over. This is great. I hope there are more (Breeders' Cup wins) to come. I am not going to be greedy, but this is what it's all about."
Left: California Flag heads out to the turf course before the race.
Right: Owner-breeder Keith Card and his wife Barbara celebrate right after the finish of the Turf Sprint. Keith Card said, "This was very exhilarating, I tell you, the way Flag took off. Joe took ahold of him a little bit out of the gate. And then when he asked him, I don't even think he even asked him, he just let him go. He went on his own. So anyway, it's awesome. It's an awesome feeling.
Left: Second place finisher Gotta Have Her returns after the race. Trainer Jenine Sahadi said, "I am very proud of her, and with a little bit of a different trip I think we would have been in good shape. She deserved to be there, she earned her way there, and she ran awesome. Jockey Tyler Baze added, "She ran awesome, considering the trip we had. Nobody stayed straight down the lane. I had to alter course three times and she should have won for fun. She was unlucky, that's all. I was on the best horse."
Right: Third place finisher Cannonball in the post parade. Jockey Ramon Dominguez said, I had a good trip. I could see that grey horse (California Flag) up there and I was trying to get to him. He was just a little too fast for us. My horse ran hard and I am happy for that." Trainer Wesley Ward added, "It was a good run, but disappointing. They were going fast up front, but not Breeders' Cup fast, and not fast enough for us to close on. What are you going to do? That's racing."
California Flag lost exercise rider Colleen Hartford Wednesday morning after a schooling session at the starting gate near the 3/4 pole and ran off the wrong way around the track. He left the track at the end of the 1/4 mile chute and was caught just inside the barn area at the gap by jockey Aaron Gryder. He looked fine on Thursday morning and obviously it didn't bother him at all.
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