09/20/2002 12:00AM

Storm Flag Flying asserts herself


ELMONT, N.Y. - There are indications this could be a vintage year for 2-year-olds.

A number of colts have distinguished themselves, but the most impressive performance to date was Sky Mesa's victory in Saratoga's Hopeful Stakes.

The filly division gained a leader here last Sunday when Ogden Mills Phipps's Storm Flag Flying, carrying the familiar black and cherry colors, exploded through the stretch to score by almost 13 lengths in the $200,000 Matron Stakes at one mile.

When Storm Flag Flying won her maiden last month, she was skittish in the paddock and well off the pace during the early stages. She was another horse - more like a horse and a half - in the Grade 1 Matron.

Her prerace behavior was much improved, she raced closer to the pace, and her closing punch was a knockout. Wild Snitch, who was second, came from Monmouth's Sorority Stakes, which she won by almost seven lengths.

"I thought she would run well," said Storm Flag Flying's trainer, Shug McGaughey, "but I didn't expect her to dominate. She improved a lot from her first start and we look for more improvement ahead, particularly mental. As to her capacity to stay, her pedigree says she can. Her mother won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at one and one-sixteenth miles and the Coaching Club American Oaks at a mile and a quarter. My Flag was also third when she ran against the colts in the Belmont Stakes at a mile and a half."

Storm Flag Flying is by Storm Cat, who stands at Overbrook Farm in Lexington, Ky., for a stud fee of $500,000. She is scheduled to complete her Breeders' Cup preparation in the 1 1/16-mile Frizzette here on Oct. 5.

Frankel doing it again

Bobby Frankel, who led all American trainers last year with $14,607,446 in earnings, is doing even better this year. With $12,196,436 in purses as of mid-September, Frankel has a lead of approximately $3 million. Many of racing's richest stakes, including the Breeders Cup' events with their seven-figure values, will be up for decision in the weeks ahead. If Frankel can continue at his torrid pace, he has a chance to break the record. It was set in 1988, when D. Wayne Lukas's stable earned $17,842,358.

A number of Frankel's prominent clients, including Prince Khalid Abdullah and the Niarchos family, race the main divisions of their stables in Europe. The emphasis in Europe is on the classics, and when a horse turns 4, the opportunities for him in Europe are very limited. In contrast, American racing has many of its major features for older horses, and Frankel's patrons are delighted with the results he has obtained with horses transferred from Europe.

The key to his success is his patience. Most of the arrivals are given holidays of several months to become acclimated and familiar with the rhythm and ways of stabling in America. Only when they are ready are they asked to take up the challenge, and their natural ability reaps maximum results.