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Storm Flag Flying strong in comeback
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Storm Flag Flying, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2002, made a triumphant return to the races Thursday, winning a classified allowance race by 3 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park.
It was her first race since she finished sixth in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes last June 6 at Belmont Park. And it was her first victory since she captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in the fall of 2002, a win that capped off an undefeated season for the regally bred filly.
Storm Flag Flying, a daughter of Storm Cat out of the mare My Flag, was diagnosed with a bruise in a hind cannon bone following the Acorn. She was given time off and returned to training later that summer, with her connections hoping to get her back for a 4-year-old campaign.
Storm Flag Flying looked every bit her old self on Thursday, from her prerace behavior to her good early speed to her loafing a bit after making the lead. In the tunnel, jockey John Velazquez twice had to dismount from the filly after she froze when he got on her. Once on the track, she was fine, though she did get a little hot.
Breaking from the outside post in the seven-horse field, Storm Flag Flying raced close up to pacesetting Keiai Sakura, took over from that one approaching the quarter pole, and drew clear with Velazquez keeping busy on her. Storm Flag Flying covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:42.78. Winning for the fifth time in seven starts, Storm Flag Flying surpassed the million-dollar mark in earnings.
"I was pleased with it," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "If you saw her in the post parade, she was looking to the right the whole time. I didn't know how she was going to break from the outside without a horse around her. [Velazquez] said as soon as she made the lead her ears went up and he had to reach up and hit her a time or two, which when I saw him do that I knew that was part of the reason. I'm glad to be back in the ballgame."
McGaughey was not sure where Storm Flag Flying would run next. He said he would nominate to the Grade 2, $200,000 Rampart here on March 14. The $100,000 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct is the same day. Other options include the Distaff Breeders' Cup at Aqueduct on March 27 and the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 3.
Eddington to face winners on Saturday
Trainer Mark Hennig preferred to run the 3-year-old Eddington in an allowance race rather than a stakes coming off his monster maiden win earlier this month. Hennig got his wish, as Eddington will meet winners for the first time in an entry-level allowance race here Saturday at 1 1/16 miles.
Eddington, a son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, finished second in each of his first two starts. Hennig added blinkers to the colt's equipment on Feb. 7, and he responded with a resounding 4 3/4-length victory.
"I'd rather keep him here and run and take another step here if he's up to it," Hennig said. "He's still green enough where I didn't want to go running around the country this time of year and taking a shot he'd be gawking at the grandstand at Fair Grounds or somewhere."
Jerry Bailey will ride Eddington from post 5 in the six-horse field. Among his chief rivals will be Tiger Heart and Capias, both of whom scratched out of a similar race Wednesday when the track came up wet.
Wolfson thrilled with Sir Oscar's workout
Marty Wolfson is as low key as any trainer on the Calder backstretch. But the veteran horseman could hardly contain his enthusiasm after watching Sir Oscar work a half-mile in 47.60 seconds over a "good" racetrack on Thursday morning.
"He worked exceptionally well," Wolfson said. "It was a brilliant move. It really surprised me how well he worked and how easily he did it, because I'd been told this horse would only work fast if in company or out of the gate."
Wolfson has had Sir Oscar in his barn for less than two weeks. Owner-breeder Oscar Novo transferred his homebred to Wolfson from trainer Manny Azpurua after Sir Oscar suffered his first defeat in seven starts when finishing a distant fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. Wolfson is pointing Sir Oscar for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 13.
Wolfson confirmed that Sir Oscar "bled significantly" in the Fountain of Youth and believes that was the main reason for the colt's disappointing effort in his 3-year-old debut. Sir Oscar has never raced on Lasix, but will do so for the first time in the Florida Derby.
"This morning was the first time he's even worked on Lasix," said Wolfson. "And I'm hoping that's one reason why he worked so well."
Wolfson also confirmed a rider change for another horse he trains, Wynn Dot Comma, who will compete in the Grade 3 Swale Stakes on the Florida Derby undercard. Wolfson has secured Edgar Prado to replace Joe Bravo for the seven-furlong Swale.
Wynn Dot Comma finished fourth after an eventful trip as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 14. He had captured the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid under Bravo in his 3-year-old debut.
"His last race wasn't a true indication," Wolfson said. "He just wound up getting into too much traffic and too much trouble."
My Ro stays unbeaten - and stays on dirt
Given her breeding, it is understandable why Dale Romans would like to try My Ro on the grass someday. Given her success on dirt, there would seem to be no reason to change surfaces now.
My Ro improved to 4 for 4 on Wednesday, winning a mile-and-70-yard allowance race that was rained off the turf to the main track. After being pressed hard by Prime Queen through fractions of 22.74 seconds and 46.40, My Ro put that one away around the turn and won by four lengths.
My Ro is by Dixieland Band out of the mare Romy, a multiple-graded-stakes winner on turf. Romans thought Wednesday's race would have been a perfect way to ease My Ro onto the turf. Instead, Romans found out that My Ro can handle slop and two turns.
"I think she's a two-turn horse," Romans said. "I just want to find the best spot for her."
Brazilian rider Mota wins U.S. debut
Alex Mota, the second-leading rider in Brazil behind Jorge Ricardo, made a successful North American debut Thursday, guiding the Ken McPeek-trained Chrissy Jay to victory in a maiden claiming race.
Mota, 25, was here on a 10-day visit and will return to Brazil next week to ride in two of that country's biggest races. Mota, however, may return to the States in the future to ride for the Brazilian owner Stefan Friborg. Friborg owns several horses with McPeek, including New Dreams, who will run in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes.
Mota would have ridden New Dreams in that race, but the mare was assigned 114 pounds and Mota tacks 118.
Last Song works at sloppy Palm Meadows
Only eight horses made the work tab at Palm Meadows on Thursday, including Buckram Oak's talented 3-year-old filly Last Song, who breezed a half-mile in 49.80 seconds over a sloppy track.
Last Song finished fourth, beaten less than a length, in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on Feb. 7 and is being pointed for next Saturday's Grade 2 Bonnie Miss.
"It was just a little maintenance work this morning," said Ian Wilkes, assistant to trainer Carl Nafzger. "The track was muddy but the footing was good."
Wilkes also confirmed that Lead Story will make her next start in the Grade 2 Rampart on March 14. Lead Story, who worked a half-mile in 50.80 at Palm Meadows on Wednesday, finished a late-running third behind Roar Emotion when making her 2004 debut in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap on Feb. 15.
* Miss Kipper Kitty ($8) made it five straight wins, including four at this meet, with a victory in Thursday's second race, a $10,000 claimer. Miss Kipper Kitty, trained by Scott Lake for her last four starts, has not been favored in any races during her streak.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch