Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breeders' Cup Flashback: Storm Flag Flying

Storm Flag Flying’s Breeders’ Cup Flashback could be three BC Flashbacks in one. It all goes back to Storm Flag Flying’s granddam, the great Personal Ensign.
Ogden Phipps’ homebred mare by Private Account came into the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) with twelve straight wins in just as many starts. Also in the field was that year’s Kentucky Derby (GI) winner, Winning Colors. On the muddy track at Churchill Downs, Personal Ensign got up by a nose. It was incredible that she even got there.  With that win, Personal Ensign retired undefeated in thirteen starts.

Claiborne Farm, where all three mares were born and
lived (or live) out their lives.
Photo: Terri Cage

Personal Ensign produced My Flag, who was Phipps bred through and through. The chestnut daughter of Easy Goer entered the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Belmont Park with just one win under her belt, though she had placed in two grade ones. Though the track wasn’t as sloppy as when her mother had won the Distaff, My Flag flew through the mud in a determined performance. Just like her mother, who appeared to have no shot as the horses grew closer to the wire, My Flag looked to be done as the horses were a furlong away from the wire. In fact, as the horses moved into the final eighth of a mile, the camera focused on just two horses: Cara Rafaela and Golden Attraction. Suddenly, however, My Flag reappeared and surged past the two to cross the wire, a half-length in front.
It is remarkable that Personal Ensign, a Breeders’ Cup champion herself, produced a BC Champion. It is even more remarkable that My Flag did the same. Personal Ensign’s daughter produced Storm Flag Flying, who won her first three races as a two-year-old, including the Matron Stakes (GI) and Frizette Stakes (GI). Her fourth race was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park. It would be a race to remember.
The filly ran just off the lead until near the quarter pole, where she took the lead. She passed Santa Catarina, one of three Bob Baffert trainees, as the horses turned for home. But suddenly another Baffert trainee, Composure, surged on the outside. The filly looked like she would sweep right past Storm Flag Flying. She did. However, the granddaughter of Personal Ensign was not giving up. She dug in, but still seemed beat. At the sixteenth pole, Storm Flag Flying abruptly found more. The excitement in announcer Tom Durkin’s voice rose rapidly as the Phipps filly regained the lead. She galloped forward triumphantly, crossing the wire in front by a half-length. In one of my favorite race calls ever, Tom Durkin described the filly perfectly: “Storm Flag Flying: the heart of a champion!”
Storm Flag Flying’s second and final appearance in a Breeders’ Cup race came as a four-year-old in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park. The filly finished an impressive second to champion Ashado. Fittingly, Storm Flag Flying had won the Personal Ensign Handicap (GI) two races earlier.
The family of Personal Ensign is truly a Breeders’ Cup family. It is one of the most incredible Thoroughbred families ever. I’m always blown away when I think of the three mares and how they formed a Breeders’ Cup Triple. They all put on some of the greatest Breeder’s Cup performances of all time, as each of them had the heart of a champion.

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