05/11/2004 11:00PM

Storm Flag Flying seeks turnaround


ELMONT, N.Y. - On Saturday in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap, Storm Flag Flying will try to recapture the brilliant form she exhibited as a 2-year-old, when she won two Grade 1 stakes at Belmont Park.

It has been a bumpy road for Storm Flag Flying since she was named champion 2-year-old filly on the strength of her wins in the Matron, Frizette, and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2002. Last year, she raced only twice and lost both those starts - the Grade 3 Comely and Grade 1 Acorn - as the favorite. In Aqueduct's Comely, Storm Flag Flying finished a well-beaten second. She ran sixth in Belmont's Acorn, and was beaten 11 lengths by the winner, Bird Town.

After the Acorn, Storm Flag Flying was found to have a hind leg injury and was given the rest of the year off. She returned to the races a winner in February at Gulfstream Park in an optional claimer. In her last start, on March 27, Storm Flag Flying finished a dull third behind Randaroo in the Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.

Shug McGaughey, Storm Flag Flying's trainer, said the filly shed both frogs in her back feet when she ran in the Distaff.

"I hope it was an excuse, but I'm not making it an excuse," he said.

After the Distaff, McGaughey discussed retiring the filly with her owner, Ogden Mills Phipps, but they decided to press on, mainly because the daughter of Storm Cat has trained so well at Belmont since her last race.

McGaughey said Belmont seems to have a calming effect on Storm Flag Flying, who can be quirky.

"[Belmont] is a bigger place, and with her quirks, I can handle things better with her here," said McGaughey, who has won the Shuvee three times. "She has done well in her training here."

In her last two works, Storm Flag Flying went a bullet half-mile in 47.60 seconds on April 28 and five furlongs in 1:01 on May 8.

John Velazquez will ride Storm Flag Flying in the one-mile Shuvee.

Among the other probables for the Grade 2 Shuvee are Smok'n Frolic, Passing Shot, Roar Emotion, and Final Round. Roar Emotion and Smok'n Frolic also were entered in Friday's Grade 3, $150,000 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Bear Fan headed to Vagrancy

Following Bear Fan's five-length victory in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Genuine Risk, she is being pointed to the Grade 2 Vagrancy on the Belmont Stakes undercard. A 5-year-old, Bear Fan earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107 and covered six furlongs in 1:08.85 in the Genuine Risk, the second-fastest time in 21 runnings of the stakes.

The 6 1/2-furlong Vagrancy will be Bear Fan's fifth stakes start this year. Bear Fan won the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park in February and the Irish O'Brien Stakes on the turf at Santa Anita in March.

Wesley Ward, Bear Fan's breeder, trainer, and co-owner, said the mare lost several days of training before the Genuine Risk because of a quarter crack, which required a stitch, a patch, and a Z-bar shoe to alleviate pressure on the injured foot. The injury forced Ward to scratch Bear Fan from the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, which was run at Churchill Downs eight days before the Genuine Risk.

"Considering all that, what a race she ran," Ward said.

Six-week break for Medallist

Medallist, who won the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct on May 1, will get six weeks off to recover from a tender splint.

Allen Jerkens, Medallist's trainer, said the splint was sore to the touch after the Withers. In the one-mile Withers, which Medallist won by 3 1/4 lengths over heavy favorite Forest Danger, Medallist drifted out badly in deep stretch.

"I hope [the splint] was the reason why he did that, because you can't do that and win many races," Jerkens said. "The splint is near the shin, and we'll treat it like a bucked shin."

Medallist, a son of Touch Gold, was eligible to run in a first-level allowance race when he ran in the Withers. In February, Medallist won a maiden race by 3 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream Park.

* Riskaverse, who is being pointed to the $250,000 Just a Game Handicap on June 5, worked five furlongs in 1:01.18 over Belmont's training track on Wednesday.