04/27/2012 1:30PM

California breeding notes: California Flag, 8, finds best form again in San Simeon

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Benoit & Associates
The 8-year-old California Flag, racing for the first time since the Breeders' Cup in November, scores in the San Simeon under Joe Talamo.

Age is apparently an asset for California Flag, the 8-year-old turf sprinter.

Making his first start of 2012, California Flag won the eighth stakes of his career in the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita on April 21. He looked every bit as competitive through the race, run on the track’s hillside turf course, as he did earlier in his career.

The victory left trainer Brian Koriner thinking of a fifth consecutive start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November for California Flag.

In 2009 at Santa Anita, California Flag won the richest race of his career in the $1 million BC Turf Sprint. He was honored at the end of that season as the co-California-bred Horse of the Year. California Flag finished 10th in the BC Turf Sprint in 2008, eighth in 2010, and 12th last fall in the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.

While California Flag won the Grade 3 Morvich last year, Koriner heard rumblings that the gelding should be retired. He said that the San Simeon win should put an end to that argument.

“It’s exciting,” Koriner said. “You don’t have to listen people saying, ‘Retire the horse.’ There is no question if he should be racing. The pressure is off.”

Typical of recent seasons, California Flag will be raced sparingly this year. Koriner said after the San Simeon that California Flag may return for the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on July 29, the Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita in late September or early October, and the BC Turf Sprint.

A California-bred by Avenue of Flags out of the Afleet mare Ultrafleet, California Flag has won 11 of 26 starts and $1,288,825. Bred by Hi Card Ranch, California Flag is raced by Barbara Card, John Fradkin, Kevin Jacobsen and Jim Atwell.

Fradkin and his wife, Diane, bred California Flag’s sister Cambiocorsa, who won 9 of 18 starts and $522,055. Cambiocorsa has produced two foals. One of them is Schiaparelli, a Kentucky-bred by Ghostzapper who won an allowance race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on April 22.

“I think the family likes the hill,” Fradkin said.

Foal crop stabilizing

The California foal crop is likely to stabilize or show growth this year, according to Doug Burge, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

In 2011, there were 1,762 live foals in California, a drop of 6.8 percent from the 1,891 foals in 2010. Burge said he expects this year’s figure to be about the same.

“I think we’re going to be on par or better than last year,” he said in a recent interview. “We’re in the 1,700 to 1,800 range.”

There is a chance with an improving economy and other factors, such as higher stakes purses, that the foal crop could show growth. The Golden State Series of stakes, launched this year, has been well received. The first two stakes for 3-year-olds in the series – the Echo Eddie and Evening Jewel Stakes at Santa Anita on March 31 – drew fields of 11.

For Saturday’s Gold Rush program at Betfair Hollywood Park, the purses for two stakes for 3-year-olds were increased to $300,000. The Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies drew seven runners, while the Snow Chief Stakes had 10 entrants.

The Golden State Series includes stakes for horses of all ages throughout the year, with an emphasis on stakes for 2- and 3-year-olds.