08/19/2010 4:32PM

California Flag shows new dimension in Green Flash win

Benoit & Associates
California Flag after winning the Green Flash.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Turns out, there is more to the millionaire California Flag than a speed-crazy turf sprinter. He can come from off the pace, too, even though that style of racing left trainer Brian Koriner spooked as Wednesday’s $102,175 Green Flash Handicap unfolded.

Instead of leading throughout, as he did in the 2009 Green Flash and the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, California Flag was fourth early and closed 3 1/2 lengths in the final three furlongs to win the five-furlong Green Flash by a nose over Quick Enough and My Summer Slew, who finished in a dead heat.

“When he was that far back, that was a little scary,” Koriner said. “I sit right on the wire and I thought he got up. I don’t think he was fully cranked today.”

California Flag ($4.20) will be pointed to the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, with a prep race likely in late September or early October. The Green Flash was California Flag’s first win since the 2009 BC Turf Sprint, and his third start since that race. He was fifth in the $1.54 million Hong Kong Sprint last December and third in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March, his most recent start.

The layoff concerned Koriner before Wednesday’s race.

“He needed a big race to get there and he barely did,” Koriner said in the winner’s circle. “This will be good for him. I wanted the horse to come back well. Down the road is the main thing.”

Any of the first three could have won. Quick Enough was stuck in traffic along the rail in early stretch and closed brilliantly. My Summer Slew was sixth on the backstretch and was finishing fast on the outside.

“He ran out of ground,” said Craig Dollase, who trains My Summer Slew. “Another half-furlong, and we win.”

Cost of Freedom, the Grade 1 winner making his turf debut, finished fourth, beaten a half-length.

California Flag, a 6-year-old gelding, was ridden by Mike Smith and was timed in 55.58 seconds. Owned by breeder Keith Card, California Flag has won 9 of 19 starts and $1,166,171. Last year, California Flag returned from a layoff of more than eight months to win the Green Flash Handicap.

Miss Reditore eyeing Debutante
Miss Reditore’s victory in an optional claimer for 2-year-old fillies Wednesday may lead to a start in the $250,000 Darley Debutante on Sept. 4, trainer Eric Kruljac said.

Miss Reditore would have to be supplemented for $10,000, which means Kruljac and owner Ted Ford have until entry day on Sept. 1 to decide whether to pay the steep entry fee.

Ridden by Smith, Miss Reditore ($16.80) closed from last in a field of five to win the six-furlong race by a neck over 11-1 Gone Rebel, finishing in 1:11.03. Cathy’s Crunches, the 1-5 favorite, could only finish third, coming under a ride in the final quarter-mile.

Miss Reditore has won 2 of 4 starts. Kruljac said her victory Wednesday was particularly meaningful, since Ford traveled from his home in Phoenix to attend despite battling cancer.

“I’ve known him for about 40 years,” Kruljac said. “This really means a lot to me.”