ELMONT, NY – Joseph Allen’s homebred War Flag broke through for her first American graded stakes victory, holding off a duo of Chad Brown-trained stars to spring the upset in Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Flower Bowl is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with War Flag receiving an automatic berth in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4.
Off slowly from post 2 under Jose Ortiz, War Flag tracked in third early while Brown’s Grand Jete led Zhukova through opening fractions of :24.76, :49.24, 1:12.60, and 1:36.16. War Flag began moving up three-wide as the field approached the far turn, and coming onto the front stretch, Ortiz set her down for the drive. The Shug McGaughey trainee pulled alongside Grand Jete and took command in the final turn, then held off a late charge from Brown’s other entry, Dacita, to prevail first by a head in a final time of 2:00.26 for the 1 1/4-mile turf event.
“Shug told me to ride it like it comes up,” Ortiz said. “I was going to be a little more (forwardly placed), but she broke bad out of the gate. Grand Jete and the European filly (Zhukova) went on, and it was a perfect setup for me. I sat right behind them, and when I was ready to move, I got clear on the other side. It was perfect.”
Grand Jete held third by a neck over a belatedly-running Beauly, with Guilty Twelve and Zhukova completing the order of finish.
A Group 3 winner last year in France, War Flag moved stateside for 2017, debuting with an allowance-level win at Monmouth Park on June 18. The 4-year-old daughter of War Front finished second and third in two subsequent Grade 3 races before getting the victory today. Her career earnings now stand at $454,660 with a record of 9-5-3-1.
“I would think (we’d go to the Breeders’ Cup),” McGaughey said. “I have never been to Del Mar, so I can’t comment on the turf course out there, but I think she’d probably like the California turf course, you know the way they get over the ground the way they do. A mile and a 1/2, we will just have to see. She’s got some tactical speed. We saw today where she can kind of be up in the race. That is one of the things Jose said, I don’t want to be back because they probably won’t be going very fast and I will get blocked, and we went from there. Hopefully, she will come out of it good and we will be able to make the trip.”
War Flag returned $21.20 to win, $7 to place, and $3.50 to show. Dacita brought back $4.30 to place and $2.40 to show, while Grand Jete paid $2.10 to show.