CALIFORNIA FLAG SEEKS A RECORD THIRD MORVICH STAKES WIN MONDAY

ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2011) – Although it’s been 23 months, the last two times California-bred millionaire California Flag raced over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, he annexed his second straight Morvich Stakes en route to capturing the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That said, the 7-year-old gelding would need a current form reversal to secure a record third win in Monday’s Grade III, $100,000 Morvich.

The 38th running of the Morvich, at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s unique grass layout, heads a special Columbus Day program of nine races that includes a supporting feature, the $65,000 Jack Goodman Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs. First post is at 1 p.m.

The horse to beat among eight entrants in Monday’s Morvich would appear to be trainer Mike Mitchell’s Camp Victory, fresh off a solid second to The Factor in Del Mar’s Grade I Pat O’Brien Stakes at seven furlongs on Aug. 28. But Brian Koriner, who trains California Flag, isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

“He’s doing really good right now,” Koriner said of California Flag, “so hopefully he runs good on Monday. If he doesn’t run real good, he’ll probably be retired.”

The gray homebred son of Avenue of Flags, who has banked $1,168,825 for Hi Card Farm, has traveled extensively since taking the 2009 Breeders’ Cup event by 1 ¾ lengths, his sixth victory in seven starts spanning 16 months.

He raced in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and at Keeneland in Kentucky as well as in California. But the only win California Flag could add to his record was a nose victory in Del Mar’s $102,000 Green Flash Handicap in August of last year. His most recent effort was a decent fifth-place try in Del Mar’s $104,000 Pirate’s Bounty Stakes on Sept. 7. “He ran good in that race,” commented Koriner. “He was loaded at the top of the lane and he was a little short, I think.”

California Flag will be rejoined by jockey Patrick Valenzuela in the Morvich while trying to separate himself from a pair of other two-time winners: El Cielo (2000 & 2001) and Impressive Luck (1977 & 1978). This will be his reunion with Santa Anita’s downhill turf course since the Breeders’ Cup triumph. California Flag has won 9 of 23 starts. Four of his wins have been achieved over Santa Anita’s grass surface.

Camp Victory, a 4-year-old Forest Camp gelding, has developed into a top grade sprinter since been being claimed for $40,000 by Mitchell last Feb. 11 at Santa Anita for the partnership of Featherston, Jacobsen and Miller.

The Virginia-bred promptly won an allowance event at Santa Anita, lost by a nose to Regally Ready in Santa Anita’s Grade III San Simeon Handicap, took Hollywood Park’s Grade III Los Angeles Handicap when Amazombie was disqualified and ran second in a pair of Grade I sprints, Hollywood Park’s Triple Bend Handicap which was won by Smiling Tiger and the Pat O’Brien that went to The Factor.

Joe Talamo, aboard for Camp Victory’s last four starts, has the return call on Monday. It will be the bay gelding’s first start on turf since the narrow loss in the San Simeon over the hillside course on April 16. Camp Victory has posted an overall record of 7-3-0 in 18 races for earnings of $335,986. He has won 4 of 9 on turf and will carry high weight of 123 pounds.

The complete field for the Morvich Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Al Instante, Hector Berrios, 118; Ain’t No Other, Garrett Gomez, 116; Excessive Passion, Joel Rosario, 118; El Gato Malo, David Flores, 118; Leroy’s Dynameaux, Rafael Bejarano, 118; California Flag, Patrick Valenzuela, 118; Camp Victory, Joseph Talamo, 123, and Posse Power, Leslie Mawing, 118.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Secret Circle, a dazzling 7 ¼-length winner of his maiden debut at Del Mar on July 23, should be favored when facing six juveniles in the Jack Goodman, which goes as the day’s third race. Rafael Bejarano rides the son of Eddington owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman.

The complete field for the Jack Goodman Stakes, with jockeys in post position order (all starters carry 118 pounds, with the exception of A Toe by Three, who carries 116): Galex, Talamo; A Toe by Three, Valenzuela; Panettone, Victor Espinoza; Secret Circle, Bejarano; Sweet Swap, Rosario, and Scallion, Mike Smith.

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