11/08/2009 12:00AM

California Flag all the way down the hill

Barbara D. Livingston
California Flag, with Joe Talamo riding, cruises home in the BC Turf Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Turning what had seemed to be a deep and complex race into something entirely different, California Flag flaunted his superior speed Saturday in completely dominating the second running of the at Santa Anita.

Nineteen-year-old jockey Joe Talamo was able to get California Flag to settle into a smooth tempo in the run down the hill of the 6 1/2-furlong turf course, and after crossing the main track for the homestretch with an open lead, the 5-year-old gelding just cruised from there, prevailing by 1 3/4 lengths over Gotta Have Her.

California Flag, bred and owned by Hi Card Ranch and based in southern California with trainer Brian Koriner, returned $8.80 as the lukewarm favorite in a field of 14.

Talamo excitedly waved his whip under the wire after winning a Breeders' Cup race for the first time.

"I was very pleased with the way he relaxed for me early," he said. "What a tremendous horse this is."

Canadian Ballet outbroke California Flag for the early lead, and after a quarter-mile it was just the two of them well in front. As they approached the crossover, Canadian Ballet began to fade while bids from pace-chasers Silver Timber and Get Funky also stalled, allowing California Flag to put the race away.

Gotta Have Her, one of three female runners in the race, was up in the final strides at 9-1 to get second, three-quarters of a length before Cannonball, with Delta Storm a head back in fourth. Diamondrella, the 5-1 second choice, finished 11th, while Desert Code, a 36-1 winner of the inaugural Turf Sprint last year, finished 13th at 22-1.

California Flag, bred in the state for which he is named, set fractions of 21.50 and 43.09 seconds before finishing the 6 1/2-furlong distance in 1:11.28 over a firm turf. He already owned the course record of 1:11.10 from his win in the 2008 Morvich Handicap.

Last year, California Flag faded to 10th in the BC Turf Sprint after leading through a half-mile in a scorching 41.81 seconds. Koriner, a former Quarter Horse trainer who grew up near Santa Anita, noted that the difference this time was the less taxing pace and the fact "the horse has matured. Joe did a great job."

Hi Card is the nom-de-course of Keith Card, an 82-year-old retired contractor who lives in Murrieta, Calif.

Talamo, a New Orleans native who rides regularly on the southern California circuit, is not the youngest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup event. That honor belongs to Fernando Jara, who won the 2006 BC Classic on Invasor when he was 18.

The $2 exacta (3-7) paid $77.20 and the $2 trifecta (3-7-6) paid $635.