Four races after the venerable California Flag registered his seventh
career stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 San Simeon
Handicap, another 5-1 shot, 4-year-old filly Capital Plan, gained her
first stakes win in Santa Anita’s 64th running of the Grade II, $150,000
Santa Barbara Handicap.
Under a crafty ride by Brice Blanc, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry
Hollendorfer’s Capital Plan got the jump on her opposition turning for
home to prevail by 1 ½ lengths over Cambina in the mile-and-one-quarter
turf competition for older fillies and mares. She was timed in 2:01.78.
Longshot Glowing Spirit set out to steal the Santa Barbara, and
jockey Victor Espinoza seized the opportunity while taking the field of
seven through dawdling fractions that included a half in 50.06 and six
furlongs in 1:14.73.
Blanc, meanwhile, had the daughter of Rock Hard Ten placed
closest to the outclassed leader. He sent Capital Plan calling for the
lead on the far turn. In the sprint home, she had ample in reserve to
outkick her pursuers.
Cambina, ridden Rafael Bejarano, closed from last for the place,
a nose in front of Hard Seven and jockey Edwin Maldonado. Vamo a
Galupiar, the 2-1 favorite, could make little impact when fading to
sixth following a mild late rally. Camelia Rose, also 2-1, checked in
fourth while no threat.
Owned by Hollendorfer in partnership with Mark DeDomenico,
Capital Plan was making her 10th career start. Her only previous stakes
try had resulted in a fifth place finish in Santa Anita’s Grade II La
Canada Stakes on Jan. 22. She, however, had won an allowance event on
grass in her only previous effort at 1 ¼ miles.
“She came home well,” Hollendorfer said following the Santa Barbara. “It was a perfect ride by Brice Blanc.”
“Jerry (Hollendorfer) told me to play it by ear,” said Blanc.
“When everybody looked for cover on the front side, I kind of just let
my filly lope along, and I got a beautiful spot. I felt the momentum
from there, and I asked her to pick it up. She really responded and took
off the last three-sixteenths.”
Capital Plan paid $13.20, $7.20 and $5.80. The prices on Cambina
were $4.60 and $3.60. Hard Seven paid $4.80 to show. The victory, worth
$90,000, increased the career earnings of Capital Plan to $215,800 from
a 4-2-0 record in 10 races.
At the age of 8 and sidelined since a 12th place finish in last
November’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, California Flag
put on a dazzling display of dominance in the San Simeon at 6 ½
furlongs over Santa Anita’s unique hillside turf course.
Reunited with jockey Joe Talamo, who was aboard when the gray
gelding captured the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint over Santa Anita’s
downhill course, California Flag overtook Ain’t No Other right after the
Scurrying down the hillside with little urging, he soon opened
up three lengths on his five pursuers, then four. He simply never
surrendered a clear advantage before crossing the wire 2 ¼ lengths ahead
of runner-up Sayif, a 26-1 shot.
“At the break, I just let him get out to the lead,” said Talamo,
who had not ridden California Flag since October of 2010. “He relaxed
fine and did what he is known for. It was almost like déjà vu.”
“He didn’t spurt away quite as far as I thought he would, but he
just kept on going today,” said winning trainer Brian Koriner. “It was
nice. Joe went ahead and let him show his class. He wasn’t exactly
flying today, because he’s seen crazy fractions coming down the hill
“It was nice to see him back. I love the horse, and when I was
being interviewed a couple of days ago, I predicted that he would win
this race. I just thought the horse would win because he’s doing really
good and is super sound. The horse just loves what he is doing.”
California Flag’s final time of 1:11.59 was the third fastest in
stakes history and indicated the scope of the winner’s triumph after he
cut out fractions of 21.89, 43.25 and 1:05.52. The times were just a
tick off those he posted when taking the Breeders’ Cup event over the
course as a 5-year-old. He matched Glick (2004) as the San Simeon’s
oldest winner. The victory was his sixth in nine races over the layout.
Runner-up Sayif, who tracked California Flag for much of the
journey under Jose Valdivia Jr., finished one-half length ahead of the
19-10 favorite, Compari, ridden by Rafael Bejarano.
California Flag, sent off as the fourth choice, paid $13.80,
$7.80 and $4.40. Sayif returned $20.20 and $7 while Compari paid $2.80
to show. Owned by a partnership that includes breeder Barbara Card’s Hi
Card Ranch, the California-bred son of Avenue of Flags boosted his
career earnings to $1,288,825 with the winning purse of $60,000. He has
won 11 of his 26 lifetime starts.
Trainer Vladimir Cerin completed a rare four-bagger when he
saddled Father Pabst ($7.80) to win the 10th and final race following
victories with Format V. ($28.20) in the first, Put It There ($5.60) in
the fourth and Bet On Victor ($42.60) in the eighth. Cerin ran seven
horses on the program.
Saturday’s Pick Six posed an elusive target for handicappers,
but there was one perfect ticket, purchased at Pleasanton, Ca., and it
paid $114,686. There were 49 tickets with five winners, each returning
Santa Anita concludes its 75th winter/spring season on Sunday
with a 10-race program featuring the historic Grade II San Juan
Capistrano Handicap at 1 ¾ miles on turf with 6-5 morning line favorite
Bourbon Bay aiming for his second victory in the marathon. First post is
at 12:30 p.m.