11/08/2009 12:00AM

This time, it all goes right for Talamo


ARCADIA, Calif. - Half a year later, the letdown of not getting to ride in the Kentucky Derby was about the furthest thing from his mind. Joe Talamo waved his whip excitedly when passing under the wire Saturday at Santa Anita in winning the aboard front-running California Flag, driving his Derby frustration into deeper recess.

"This definitely helps," Talamo said Sunday morning, still reveling in the greatest victory of his nascent career. "Something like the Derby, that was pretty heartbreaking. This definitely makes up a lot for that."

Talamo was supposed to make his Derby debut by riding I Want Revenge, the morning-line favorite for the May 2 Derby, but got the bad news on Derby morning that the colt had to be scratched because of injury. The 19-year-old jockey drew praise for showing class and poise in the face of such bitter disappointment.

In direct contrast to those somber moments, the winner's circle scene Saturday following the BC Turf Sprint was one of unrestrained joy. With his mother, father, and sister in from their hometown of New Orleans, Talamo savored the moment after becoming the second-youngest jockey to win a BC race. Only Fernando Jara, at 18, was a younger age when he won the 2006 BC Classic at Churchill Downs.

"There were a lot of people crying there in the winner's circle," said Talamo. "To be honest, it kind of surprised me that I didn't."

Talamo gave California Flag a terrific ride, getting the high-strung gelding to relax on the lead in the run down the hill in the 6 1/2-furlong turf race.

"It gave me the biggest thrill to know that I was loaded with horse right before I crossed the main track," he said. "Then I heard Trevor Denman say, 'California Flag opens up,' and the hairs stood up on my arm. I said, 'I'm going to win this!' It was an incredible feeling."

The first half-mile of the Turf Sprint went in a moderate 43.09 seconds, which allowed California Flag to be able to go clear at a critical juncture. Last year, California Flag and Talamo were pressed through an opening half in 41.81 seconds before beating a steady fade, and the jockey said he couldn't help but notice the difference in pace this time around.

"He's so fast, but he does it so easy," said Talamo. "That 43 felt like he went in 46. He just gallops. How many horses go in 43 and still have a nice kick like him? He's just a great horse."

Brian Koriner, who trains California Flag for breeder-owner Keith Card, said Sunday morning he expects the 5-year-old gelding to stay active into next year. "He hasn't had any problems lately, so I don't think there's any reason we wouldn't keep going with him," said Koriner.