04/21/2012 5:26PM

Santa Anita: Old-timer California Flag shows he's still plenty fast in San Simeon

Benoit & Associates
The 8-year-old California Flag, racing for the first time since the Breeders' Cup in November, scores in the San Simeon under Joe Talamo.

ARCADIA, Calif.-The senior citizen of the California turf sprinters is the best California turf sprinter.

The 8-year-old gelding California Flag won his 2012 debut in Saturday’s $100,000 San Simeon Handicap over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, California Flag ($13.80) led throughout and won by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths over 26-1 Sayif. Compari, the 9-5 favorite, finished third in the field of seven.

California Flag set early fractions of 21.89 and 43.25 seconds, leading by three lengths on the hillside. He maintained a comfortable advantage through the stretch, and finished in 1:11.59.

The final time was .49 of a second off California Flag’s 2008 course record. A California-bred by Avenue of Flags, California Flag has won11 of 26 starts and $1,288,825. The Grade 3 San Simeon was his eighth stakes win, a list that includes the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint over this course.

In the days before the San Simeon, trainer Brian Koriner said California Flag had sufficient training to run well in the San Simeon, his first start since a 12th in the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last November.

“I thought he’d win because he was doing super,” Koriner said. “I was surprised that he could still run 43.25 down the hill. That’s fast.”

Owned by the partnership of Barbara Card, John Fradkin, Kevin Jacobsen and Jim Atwell, California Flag will be raced sparingly this year, Koriner said. The $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on July 29 may be California Flag’s next start. A fifth consecutive appearance in the BC Turf Sprint here in November is a long-term goal, Koriner said.