10/10/2011 9:54PM

Santa Anita: California Flag breaks drought in Morvich


ARCADIA, Calif. - At 7, California Flag can still duel with the best turf sprinters at Santa Anita.

California Flag won the $100,000 Morvich Stakes for a record third time on Monday, ending a four-race losing streak dating back to the Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar in August 2010.

Owned by Hi Card Ranch, California Flag won the 2008 and 2009 Morvich when the race was a handicap. A California-bred by Avenue of Flags, California Flag is best known for winning the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. It was unclear after Monday’s race whether California Flag would be pointed to that race at Churchill Downs next month.

Ridden in Monday’s race by Patrick Valenzuela, California Flag had an ideal trip, stalking the 13-1 pacesetter Excessive Passion to the dirt crossing and fighting off a threat from the leader to win by a half-length. California Flag ($15.40) ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:11.91.

“He relaxed behind the leaders,” Valenzuela said. “He kicked when I crossed the dirt. He’s a fighter.”

Ain’t No Other finished third in the field of eight.

Excessive Passion was vanned off. A three-time stakes winner, Excessive Passion was taken back to trainer Jeff Bonde’s barn and was reported to be off in his right foreleg, according to track stewards.

The unlucky runner was Leroy’s Dynameaux, who finished fourth. In the final furlong, jockey Rafael Bejarano tried to guide Leroy’s Dynameaux between California Flag and Ain’t No Other but was forced to check when a gap between those horses disappeared.

“I had enough room and when I got closer the hole closed,” Bejarano said. “I had to stop my horse. I think I had the best horse in the race.”

Camp Victory, the 4-5 favorite, was well placed midway through the race behind the leaders, but faded to finish fifth, 2 1/2 lengths behind California Flag.

Trained by Brian Koriner, California Flag has won 10 of 24 starts and $1,228,825. Koriner said after Monday’s race that “we’ll have to make some decision” on whether California Flag would be sent to Churchill Downs for the BC Turf Sprint on Nov. 5.