How does a speed horse like California Flag get away with early splits of :23.84 and :45.83 in Saturday’s Hollywood Turf Express Handicap? Well, to hear trainer Brian Koriner tell it, the riders on Delta Storm (Aaron Gryder) and One Union (Victor Espinoza) decided it was suicide to go out and run with the winner, so they took back and paid the price.
“I think those two riders down inside, they’ve watched this horse run before,” Koriner said. “They know if they go with him, they’re going to get in trouble. By doing it that way, they’re going to ride to run last. So I think we got lucky and they just left him alone.”
Koriner believes the 4-year-old gelding would have run better than 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita if they hadn’t elected to send California Flag.
“I really think, possibly, in the Breeders’ Cup if we didn’t give Joe (jockey Talamo) instructions just to run off and go to the lead, it might have been a whole different ballgame.”
Koriner said the son of Avenue of Flags might be freshened and then run back in the next stakes down the hill during the Santa Anita meet, which begins Dec. 26.