11/02/2009 1:00AM

Another chance for California Flag

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ARCADIA, Calif. - When the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint was run down the hill last year at Santa Anita, California Flag and Mr. Nightlinger went head-to-head through a half-mile in an absurd 41.81 seconds.

California Flag, ridden by Joe Talamo, eventually put away Mr. Nightlinger to win that battle - but lost the war, fading late to finish 10th in the 6 1/2-furlong race. "I think he might've looked up at the clock and said, 'What the heck?' I just ran too fast," said Brian Koriner, who trains California Flag for Hi Card Ranch.

This time around, California Flag and Talamo once again figure to set the pace in the Turf Sprint, but Koriner is optimistic that suicidal early fractions can be avoided.

"I don t think there's as much speed in against this year," said Koriner, noting that Canadian Ballet figures as the prime early threat. "There are only a few horses that fast anywhere in the country."

California Flag was one of two Turf Sprint prospects to work Sunday over the Santa Anita turf, going an easy half-mile in 48.79 seconds. Cannonball went a furlong farther, finishing in 59.44 seconds.

A full field of 14 is expected for the Turf Sprint, including four female runners: Canadian Ballet, Diamondrella, Gotta Have Her, and Lethal Heat. With 22 pre-entered horses, the opt-outs and defections will get the fourth alternate, Get Funky, into the race.