A closing second to Letruska in last summer’s Shuvee S. (G3), Royal Flag overtook another gutsy pacesetter, Horologist, in time in Sunday’s $200,000 renewal at Saratoga. The 1.65-1 favorite kicked into gear from last, out in the middle of the track, to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
Royal Flag’s stablemates from the Chad Brown barn, Gold Spirit and Dunbar Road, wound up fourth and fifth, respectively, in the field of six. While Chilean import Gold Spirit turned in an encouraging U.S. debut off a seven-month layoff, Dunbar Road failed to fire as the 2.25-1 second choice.
Horologist, the lone Bill Mott runner after the scratch of Antoinette, was intent on using her tactical speed from the rail. Clear through an opening quarter in :23.35 on a track that had been upgraded to fast, Horologist found company as the race unfolded down the backstretch.
A rank Liberty M D advanced to attend the leader, with Gold Spirit also prominent, at the half in :47.01. Gold Spirit applied the pressure when Liberty M D bowed out by the three-quarter split in 1:11.13. Crystal Ball also took closer order, and Dunbar Road began to improve.
But none could get past a stubborn Horologist, who repelled the tiring Gold Spirit and dug in to stave off Crystal Ball. Dunbar Road’s hint of a rally soon vanished, for she flattened out in the stretch.
Then Royal Flag played her hand. Last early under a patient Joel Rosario, the daughter of Candy Ride suddenly emerged into the picture and got up to finish 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.42.
Horologist held second by a head from Crystal Ball. Gold Spirit, in between that pair entering the final furlong, was unable to hold her position and checked in another 1 1/2 lengths back. Dunbar Road was the same margin astern in fifth, and Liberty M D was a tailed-off last. Antoinette was withdrawn after coming down with an illness, as Mott told Acacia Courtney Saturday on “America’s Day at the Races.”
W.S. Farish’s homebred Royal Flag was earning her second graded victory. Last November’s Turnback the Alarm H. (G3) at Aqueduct marked her breakthrough following a trio of stakes placings in the Molly Pitcher (G3), Shuvee, and Lady’s Secret S.
The lightly-raced five-year-old was making just her second start of the season here. Royal Flag missed by a head to Bonny South in her 2021 debut in the April 16 Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland, but subsequently needed to time to recover from a virus. The Shuvee enhanced her resume to 10-5-3-2, $375,520.
“She was able to get up in time,” Brown told NYRA publicity. “She was quite far back turning for home. I was very proud of her effort. She showed that she has a lot of heart. She might not have run a lot of times in her career, but every time she shows up.”
“I thought her last race at Keeneland a few months ago was a good race for her. I wasn’t sure what the pace was going to (be), so I told him (Rosario) to put her wherever she was comfortable and I saw her back there. The pace was solid enough and he timed it just right. It was a beautiful ride.”
“Chad told me that to stay out was probably the best,” Rosario said. “I was just following his other horse (Dunbar Road). I just wanted to have a clean run when I started moving. When she started moving in the last turn and then with the stride that she has – I was not even asking for everything yet – so I felt she was going to run really big.”
Horologist’s rider, Junior Alvarado, commended her effort.
“She has always been a good, game filly,” Alvarado said. “We had been trying to track a little bit and make a run (in past starts). It seems like she wasn’t happy being stuck in between horses. Bill said, ‘Send her out of there, take advantage of the break, and by the three-quarter pole if you’re on the lead fine, if someone else wants the lead, just sit right off of them.’ She hustled me out of there, I put her right there, and she fought the whole mile-and-an-eighth to the wire.”
A rematch could be on tap in the Personal Ensign S. (G1), a Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) “Win and You’re In” over the same track and trip Aug. 28.
Royal Flag is the third graded winner produced by Sea Gull. The Mineshaft mare is also responsible for multiple Grade 2 hero Catalina Cruiser (by Union Rags) and Grade 3 scorer Eagle (by Candy Ride), who is a full brother to Royal Flag. Further back, this is the family of high-class sprinter and noted sire Mt. Livermore.