October 28, 2021

Flagstaff comes through in mass finish

Flagstaff (right, green cap), with Luis Saez up, wins the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes over Whitmore and Ricardo Santana Jr. at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. May 1, 2021. Photography by Jamie Newell.

Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing’s Flagstaff followed the leaders from midpack in Saturday’s $500,000 Churchill Downs S. (G1), circled several rivals entering the stretch, lost the lead briefly to Whitmore and then to Lexitonian, then dug in gamely beneath Luis Saez to post a dramatic head victory.

The pacesetters, Get the Prize, Tap It to Win and Bango, dueled through through quick fractions of :21.97 and :44.21, with the eventual winner drafting behind them and in the clear. When six furlongs was hit in 1:08.84, Bango still held onto a slight lead. However, he soon gave way to the eventual top three finishers and others, who all slugged it out in the final furlong. In the end, a dead-game Flagstaff prevailed. The final time for the seven-furlong fast main track test was 1:21.82.

“I’m thrilled,” winning trainer John Sadler said afterward. “He’s a real hard knocker. He always runs his race. He knocked it out today.”

Whitmore, the reigning champion male sprinter, was a nose behind Lexitonian in third, and completing the order of finish were Hog Creek Hustle, Phat Man, Bango, Mind Control, Basin, Endorsed, Shashashakemeup, Tap It to Win and Get the Prize.

Flagstaff, a seven-year-old gelded son of Speightstown, is the first foal out of the unraced A.P. Indy mare Indyan Giving, who herself was produced by Fleet Indian, the 2006 champion older mare. His younger half-brother is none other than Game Winner, the 2018 champion two-year-old.

With Saturday’s triumph, Flagstaff has now earned $991,585 from a record of 19-7-6-3. Aside from Saturday’s victory, which was his first in a Grade 1, the gelding also possesses scores in last year’s San Carlos at Santa Anita and last month’s Commonwealth at Keeneland, both reputable Grade 2 seven-furlong sprints.

Sadler didn’t give any indication where or when Flagstaff would make his next start.