June 24, 2024

Chili Flag tops Brown trifecta in Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Chili Flag (outside) outduels stablemate Coppice to win the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)
Chili Flag (outside) outduels stablemate Coppice to win the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

When Chad Brown’s trio all quickened down the stretch in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs, the only question was the exact order of his trifecta. Chili Flag, the 4-1 second choice, outkicked 8-5 favorite Coppice, leaving stablemate Delahaye back in third.

Brown was winning a record fifth edition of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, surpassing Hall of Famer Bill Mott’s tally of four. Roca Rojo (2017) gave Brown his first victory in this race, and he’s won it four years in succession courtesy of Blowout (2021), Speak of the Devil (2022), Fluffy Socks (2023), and now Chili Flag.

Owned by Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and Michael E. Kisber, Chili Flag was coming off a similarly whirlwind charge to get up in the Honey Fox (G3) at Gulfstream Park. But this affair on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs was deeper, and bettors opted for Juddmonte homebred Coppice as a new import with respectable European form.

While Coppice didn’t help herself by breaking a beat slowly, the pace was honest on a course that still had residual moisture, and the race flow set up for closers. Ag Bullet, who dashed ahead through splits of :23.40 and :47.20, weakened turning into the stretch. The stalking Walkathon then pounced at the six-furlong mark in 1:11.43 and made her bid for glory, but couldn’t sustain it.

The Brown platoon was deploying rapidly by midstretch, and all three swamped Walkathon inside the final furlong. Delahaye, however, didn’t have as sharp a turn of foot as Coppice and Chili Flag, who pulled away to fight out the finish.

Chili Flag thrust her neck in front on the wire, giving jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. his fourth win on the card and third straight stakes. Ortiz previously guided Cogburn in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) and Vahva in the Derby City Distaff (G1).

“(Chili Flag) is a rapidly improving horse,” Brown observed. “I was so impressed with her last start in the Honey Fox. I thought this race made a lot of sense, and she showed that late kick again. She’s a real player in the division.”

Brown was also pleased with Coppice’s near-miss in her U.S. debut.

“I didn’t mind her going inside in the final turn,” the trainer said of jockey Frankie Dettori’s steering. “I didn’t want to be too wide.

“I’m still getting to know her, but I love this filly. I knew she had an electric turn of foot. Running inside of horses that entire stretch against a really formidable foe, that’s not easy. Her having to run down to the wire and having to look at a horse to her right, I think she was at a little disadvantage there.”

Coppice had 1 3/4 lengths to spare over Delahaye. Mission of Joy, from the Graham Motion barn, rounded out the superfecta in a one-paced fourth. Walkathon folded to fifth, followed by Ascendancy, Cairo Consort, Evvie Jets, Ag Bullet, and Not So Close. Heavenly Sunday was withdrawn after running fourth in Friday’s Modesty (G3), and Infinite Diamond was a vet scratch.

Clocking the mile in 1:35.95 on a good course, Chili Flag returned $10.06 and boosted her bankroll to $728,365 from an 18-6-6-1 line. As a juvenile in her native France, she had placed second in the 2021 Prix Saraca. The daughter of Cityscape was sold for $137,217 at the 2022 Arqana Arc Sale following her sophomore campaign and shipped stateside.

Brown brought her along methodically through the allowance ranks in 2023, and Chili Flag concluded last season with her first stakes coup in the Forever Together S. at Aqueduct. She kicked off 2024 with a decent sixth in the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G2) before stepping up for a graded score in the Honey Fox.

“Sometimes these horses, you give them enough time and they start to improve,” Brown said. “She’s just had a great winter of development and rest, and since the Honey Fox, she’s really moved forward.”

Bred by Finanza Locale Consulting SRL in France, Chili Flag is out of Flag Day, who is a daughter of Pivotal and Group 1 star Blue Duster. This is the family of multiple Grade/Group 3 scorer Fantasia (dam of Berlin Tango), Group 3 vixen Pink Symphony (dam of Grade 1 winner Highland Chief), and Group 2 hero Western Hymn.