01/28/2003 12:00AM

Storm Flag Flying bred for success


Perfection was in great jeopardy for a fleeting moment in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October at Arlington. Storm Flag Flying, a filly with an unbeaten record and an equally good pedigree, had just been passed by Composure in the upper stretch and was under severe pressure to keep up.

Then the family genes kicked in. Storm Flag Flying, by Storm Cat out of My Flag, came roaring back to finish a half-length ahead of Composure in one of the most memorable runnings in Juvenile Fillies history.

Ogden Mills Phipps, whose family owns and bred Storm Flag Flying, acknowledged after the Breeders' Cup that he had experienced moments of concern during the race but that he believed the filly's breeding and gameness would allow her to ultimately prevail.

Phipps' confidence is understandable. He and his ancestors have long been leading breeders in American racing, dating to the early 20th century, when his grandmother, Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, was heavily involved in breeding and racing. Storm Flag Flying's sire, Storm Cat, has become widely acknowledged as the world's premier sire, and her dam, My Flag, won the 1995 BC Juvenile Fillies. My Flag is by the late sire Easy Goer, one of the best colts the Phippses ever raced, and is out of Personal Ensign, the legendary Phipps filly who retired with a 13-for-13 record after her heroic victory in the 1988 BC Distaff.

Predictably, hopes always were high for Storm Flag Flying. Trainer Shug McGaughey unveiled her on Aug. 18 at Saratoga, where she rallied from mid-pack to post a length victory in a six-furlong maiden race.

Off that single start, she raced next in the Grade 1 Matron on Sept. 15 at Belmont, where she won by an eye-popping 12 3/4 lengths as the 7-5 favorite. The following month, she was 3-5 in winning the Grade 1 Frizette by two lengths over Santa Catarina. Three weeks later, she grinded out her gutsy win as the 4-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup.

Storm Flag Flying represents the eighth Eclipse winner for McGaughey, the 52-year-old Lexington, Ky., native who began working primarily for the Phipps family in November 1985. The others were Vanlandingham, Easy Goer, Personal Ensign, Rhythm, Queena, Heavenly Prize, and Inside Information.

Storm Flag Flying currently is in light training in south Florida. McGaughey has said she might make an appearance at the Gulfstream Park meet in the March 14 Bonnie Miss Stakes, but the May 2 Kentucky Oaks is the first serious goal of the year. John Velazquez, who rode her in all four starts last year, will remain her jockey.