08/20/2006 11:00PM

Now on turf, 'Unfurl' seeking spark

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At 6, Unfurl the Flag may be in the midst of a career change. He made his first start on turf in more than two years in the Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar on July 29 and ran a game third.

Trainer David Bernstein is keeping Unfurl the Flag on turf for the rest of the summer and is hopeful that Unfurl the Flag can win for the first time on the surface in an optional claimer at a mile Wednesday at Del Mar. The optional claimer carries a purse of $75,000 and has drawn a full field of 10.

A 6-year-old gelding owned by a partnership, Unfurl the Flag is winless in his last six starts, dating back to the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park in July 2005. His third in the Wickerr Handicap was his best finish in those six losses. Sent off at 7-1, Unfurl the Flag fought for the lead before finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Becrux.

"I thought he ran well on the turf," Bernstein said. "We didn't know if he would run well on turf. I hope he repeats that effort."

The form of the Wickerr has held up. Runner-up Stormin Away returned to win the Brubaker Handicap here last Thursday.

Bernstein said he first considered running Unfurl the Flag on turf after he finished sixth in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap here last summer.

"We didn't care to run on the main track at Del Mar," Bernstein said. "He doesn't care for it. He ran so poorly in the Pat O'Brien. We thought we'd try the grass and open up a new dimension for this horse."

The optional claimer is Unfurl the Flag's fourth start this year. He finished sixth in an optional claimer and was third in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap in dirt sprints at Hollywood Park earlier this summer.

"We're spacing his races a little more," Bernstein said. "Hopefully, he'll last a lot longer. The Triple Bend was a good race, I thought. He was probably a little short there. I want to get him back on a winning track."

Unfurl the Flag has won 6 of 24 starts and $572,725, the second-highest earnings among the 10 horses entered in Wednesday's race. Texcess, who has placed in four stakes this year, has earned $1,075,725 in his 18-race career.

Trained by Mike Mitchell, Texcess was scratched from the Brubaker Handicap.