Allen Stable homebred War Flag (9-1) ran down the even money Chad Brown trainee Grand Jete and held off Brown's Dacita (4-1) to score her first Grade 1 win in Sunday's Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park, ending a three-year streak in which Brown had sent out the Flower Bowl winner. War Flag, off at 9-1 odds, fought all the way down the stretch under Jose Ortiz to win by a head, giving the jockey his second Grade 1 on the card. A 4-year-old daughter of War Front trained by Shug McGaughey, War Flag covered 1 1/4 miles over the firm turf in 2:00.26 to earn an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
“A mile and a quarter wasn't a problem today,” said McGaughey. “She grinded it out. She had a really good trip. I felt Jose [Ortiz] rode a great race on her and had her in perfect position. We didn't really know what was going to happen. I kind of misjudged it, I thought maybe the 5 [Beauly] would go with the blinkers on. I just told him to ride his race.”
The top two betting choices both wanted the lead leaving the starting gate, but it was Grand Jete who took up a three-quarter length advantage over Zhukova heading into the clubhouse turn. Those two set fractions of :24.76, :49.24 and 1:12.60 as War Flag sat pretty in the spot just a couple lengths behind the frontrunners. Guilty Twelve was tracking her from fourth, and Dacita was in fifth down the backstretch.
Zhukova increased her pressure on Grand Jete around the far turn, and Ortiz sent War Flag three-wide around the leaders to make her rally. Zhukova faded and left Grand Jete alone on the lead at the head of the stretch, but War Flag was no more than a half-length behind that rival. Dacita was following War Flag's footsteps precisely, though she tucked in late around the turn to save a bit of ground.
Grand Jete was very game through the stretch, only ceding the lead in the final sixteenth of a mile as War Flag took over. War Flag had just enough left to hold off the late-running strides of Dacita by a head at the wire. Grand Jete would have to settle for third, and Beauly was fourth. Zhukova finished last in the six-horse field.
“Grand Jete [No. 1], she's a really nice filly,” Ortiz said. “She ran well in the Arlington race for fillies [the Grade 1 Beverly D.] and Dacita won it, and I was surrounded by those two. My filly ran hard in the last sixteenth, she pinched her ears and just kept trying and thank God she hit the wire first.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owner, War Flag is out of the winning Arch mare Black Speck. She won a Group 3 at Chantilly, then came to the United States in 2017. War Flag won an allowance race before coming up with a pair of graded placings in her next two starts. Overall, the filly has a record of five wins and three seconds from nine starts along with earnings of over $450,000.
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