09/19/2003 11:00PM

'Flag' faces more than just turf - males, too


MIAMI - Trainer Richard Root has wanted to try his speedy Storm Flag on the turf all summer. He'll finally get the opportunity in Monday's $30,000 allowance feature at Calder when he sends the 3-year-old filly out against older colts and geldings going five furlongs on the grass.

Storm Flag wound up in Monday's main event more out of necessity than choice. Root has unsuccessfully been trying to get a third-level allowance race on dirt to fill for his filly for the past several weeks.

Despite the fact that Storm Flag's breeding for grass is ordinary at best - she sports a below-average Tomlinson turf figure of 235 - her pure speed should be enough to make her the horse to beat, even against the boys.

Storm Flag has not started since finishing second behind Ebony Breeze in the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes on July 12. A daughter of Mountain Cat, Storm Flag has never finished worse than second nor been challenged for the lead in any of her previous seven starts. All three of her losses have come at six furlongs. Storm Flag earned a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure when she captured the 5 1/2-furlong Toga Toga Handicap on June 8.

"I wanted to give her a little break after the Azalea," Root said. "She's still got some chronic foot problems and needed the extra time."

Storm Flag is one of two females in the race. The other is 7-year-old Princess Bandiera, who has not started since she finished fourth after breaking far behind the field in the Cool Air Stakes on May 18.

True Love's Secret is the most accomplished of the males in the field and is perhaps Storm Flag's most dangerous rival. He won a second-level optional claiming and allowance race on turf going the same distance on Aug. 10, leading throughout before drawing away to a two-length victory as the 3-5 favorite. The victory was the 10th in 20 tries over the local turf course for True Love's Secret and his 12th career win on grass.

Privat Gold also won a five-furlong turf dash earlier in the session, rallying from off the pace to defeat second-level optional claiming and allowance foes on July 14.

Ivan's Song is the only member of the field with enough speed to challenge Storm Flag for the lead, although he finished far back in his only previous try on turf.

Sweeping Analysis and Model Home would both benefit, along with Storm Flag, if the race were moved to the main track.