04/15/2003 11:00PM

Champ filly finally makes season debut


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It will be a Good Friday indeed for fans at Aqueduct as champion Storm Flag Flying makes her long-awaited 3-year-old debut in the Grade 3, $100,000 Comely Stakes at one mile.

When last seen in the afternoon, Storm Flag Flying put forth one of the more courageous efforts in recent Breeders' Cup history, battling back to win the Juvenile Fillies by a half-length after briefly relinquishing the lead in mid-stretch to Composure. It was the fourth victory in as many starts and clinched an Eclipse Award for Storm Flag Flying, the regally bred filly who is owned by the Phipps family.

Storm Flag Flying, a daughter of Storm Cat out of the mare My Flag, spent the winter in Florida where she resumed serious training in February at Gulfstream Park. While trainer Shug McGaughey had considered running Storm Flag Flying in the Forward Gal Stakes in March, he decided to wait.

"She got backed up a little bit when it got hot down there, which is why I discounted running her in the Forward Gal," McGaughey said. "I didn't miss any time with her, but it was kind of wearing on her a little bit."

Storm Flag Flying shows nine workouts since Feb. 12, her most recent move being a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.62 Sunday at Belmont.

While she displayed immense talent winning the Matron, Frizette, and Juvenile Fillies, Storm Flag Flying also showed signs of immaturity at 2. She would sometimes freeze up on the track in her training and would tend to loaf when she made the lead.

Her deportment at Gulfstream was excellent, and McGaughey believes his filly has matured from 2 to 3.

"She's just a lot quieter, she's more manageable," McGaughey said. "I think she's grown up, she does what I want her to do now."

Storm Flag Flying will break from the rail in her return and may have to deal with a wet track as rain is forecast for Friday.

"I wish it was a fast track, but there's nothing I can do about it, she needs to run," McGaughey said.

McGaughey said he would evaluate how Storm Flag Flying runs Friday before making a decision whether to wheel her back in the Kentucky Oaks.

Cyber Secret, winner of the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes, has an upset chance in the Comely. She is 2 for 2 at Aqueduct and should be able to get the mile. She is unlikely to run, however, if the track comes up wet.

Belong To Sea, Bonay, Glorious Jenna, and Xtra Heart - who are eligible for second-level allowance condition - complete the field.