Updated on 09/15/2011 12:31PM

Falcon Flight best in Stars and Stripes


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Winless since his first U.S. start nearly 15 months ago, the French-bred Falcon Flight flew through the stretch and won Sunday's Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Handicap at Arlington, equaling the course record for one-and-a-half miles.

Falcon Flight's triumph for owner Gary Tanaka was the first career win for his 35-year-old trainer Donald Burke, who took over Falcon Flight's training from Ben Cecil this spring. Burke had started 14 horses before the Stars and Stripes.

Racing on the West Coast since an excursion to Churchill last May, when he still looked like a turf horse on the rise, Falcon Flight had faced top grass runners like Bienamado, Irish Prize and Ladies Din. There were no such horses in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes, and Falcon Flight clearly benefitted from a drop in class.

A lovely ride by Arlington newcomer Rene Douglas also helped. Douglas never panicked as his mount fell behind a tepid pace set by Langston, who ran a half-mile in 50.19 seconds and three quarters in 1:15.07. Douglas let Falcon Flight edge his way into contention about a mile into the race, and most importantly hugged the rail around the far turn.

Falcon Flight had a full head of steam as he turned for home, collared a game Langston in midstretch and ran on to a two-and-three-quarters lengths win.

Coupled in the wagering with Hesiode, who finished last, Falcon Flight paid $8 as the second choice. He was timed in 2:27.86, which included a final quarter-mile in slightly less than 23 seconds and equalled a 37-year-old track record.

Langston finished second, more than three lengths ahead of the favored Williams News, who won this race last year but fell too far behind the slow pace today.

Falcon Flight could return to Arlington for the July 28 Arlington Handicap, but Burke said he "didn't know about the Million," which is run at 10 furlongs. "I would think the mile and a half today suits him better."