10/04/2002 11:00PM

Storm Flag Flying takes Frizette in stride


ELMONT, N.Y. - With a professional-looking win in Saturday's $500,000 at Belmont Park, Storm Flag Flying heads to the Breeders' Cup the favorite for the Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Storm Flag Flying, the 3-5 favorite in the seven-horse field of 2-year-old fillies, was a two-length winner over Santa Catarina. It was another 11 1/4 lengths back to Appleby Gardens in third.

The victory gave Storm Flag Flying's trainer, Shug McGaughey, his fifth win in the Grade 1 Frizette. McGaughey finished second in the 1995 Frizette with My Flag, the dam of Storm Flag Flying and the winner of the Juvenile Fillies.

Storm Flag Flying can be temperamental, but behaved well for the most part on Saturday. A Storm Cat filly, she was excused from the post parade, as she was in the Matron, and left the paddock before the rest of her rivals. Before leaving, she froze twice and jockey John Velazquez dismounted each time.

"Once she got to the pony today, she was really relaxed," McGaughey said.

Storm Flag Flying was eager to run early, but Velazquez was able to get her to relax down the backstretch and she tracked Santa Catarina, who set the early pace.

After Santa Catarina set fractions of 23.70 seconds, 47.58, and 1:12.26, Storm Flag Flying put away the pacesetter in upper stretch and had the lead with a furlong remaining.

Jerry Bailey, who rode Santa Catarina, said, "Not good enough for the winner. I thought we could be on the lead or that Storm Flag Flying would take the lead. We were given an easy lead and I took it. The other filly is too good."

Storm Flag Flying's final time of 1:44.20 over a fast track is the slowest running since the Frizette was moved to 1 1/16 miles in 1994. The winner returned $3.20.

Velazquez didn't hit Storm Flag Flying, but slapped her shoulder during the stretch to keep her mind on the task at hand.

"She's gotten more aggressive," Velazquez said. "She wanted to get to the lead early and I had to crack down and get her to relax. I never hit her today. I just showed her the whip."

Storm Flag Flying, owned by Ogden Mills Phipps, is now undefeated in three starts. In her last race, Storm Flag Flying won the Grade 1 Matron by 12 3/4 lengths.

"I don't think this was an overly hard race on her," McGaughey said. "I think the Matron was a harder race because Johnny rode her harder. I wasn't thinking about the Breeders' Cup today. I was thinking about the Frizette."