In her fourth North American start and first try against top-level company, War Flag added to the depth of the female turf division when she caught race favorite Grand Jete in late stretch then held off Grade 1 winner Dacita to prevail in the $500,000 Flower Bowl Stakes Oct. 8 at Belmont Park.
With Jose Ortiz aboard, War Flag settled in third behind dueling pacesetters Grand Jete and Zhukova heading into the far turn of the 1 ¼-mile race. With clear racing room outside the top two, the War Front filly began her sustained surge and had dead aim on Grand Jete as the field of six fillies and mares settled in for the stretch run.
She eventually fought past Grand Jete to her inside and turned back Dacita at the wire by a head to earn herself a fees-paid berth into the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
"I would think (we'd go to the Breeders' Cup)," said winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "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.
"She's got some tactical speed. We saw today where she can kind of be up in the race. Hopefully she will come out of it good and we will be able to make the trip."
Owned and bred by Joseph Allen, War Flag made her first five starts in France, where she won the Prix Chloe at Chantilly in July of 2016. She didn't race again until resurfacing at Monmouth Park in June, when she won an allowance test prior to her runner-up effort in the Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes in July.
Though she finished third again next time out in the Grade 3 Glens Falls Stakes, McGaughey said signs of the 4-year-old filly's progression were there.
"You know, from the Glens Falls to here, she came into the race really well," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "So, we were confident that she would run a good race. Whether it was good enough or not, you never know."
War Flag's game rally allowed her to hit the wire in 2:00.26. Danita fought hard but came up short, and Grand Jete was a length back in third. –Alicia Wincze-Hughes
The daughter of Candy Ride , ridden by jockey Jose Ortiz, patiently waited in third and then moved three-wide around the leaders on the turn before kicking away for a 3 ½-length win. She earned an automatic berth in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Del Mar with the victory.
Klaravich Stables' filly looked like a standout in her debut, winning by 11 ¾ lengths in a six-furlong maiden event at Saratoga July 30. She was favored at 3-5 in her next start, the seven-furlong Spinaway Stakes, but weakened to finish third after engaging in a speed duel. Sunday's one-mile event at Belmont Park was the first graded win for the filly.
"My staff deserves a lot of the credit," winning trainer Chad Brown said. "She drew the rail in the Spinaway. She had gone wire-to-wire in her debut, so she was kind of forced. She's always trained kind in the morning and she's a real easy horse to be around.”
Separationofpowers finished the one-turn mile in 1:38.66 as the 1.95-1 favorite. Caledonia Road, who raced near the rear of the field early on, followed Separationofpowers in the stretch, but wasn't able to keep up, settling for second. Maya Malibu was 8 ¼ lengths back in third.
"We're confident (going to the Breeders' Cup)," Brown said. "I know it's a tough division, there's some horses out west who look very good. This horse always gave us the impression she would be better around two turns. You look at her pedigree and you look at her physically, how much she's grown through the course of this summer, I'm excited to get her around two turns." –Erin Shea