Chili Flag becomes a stakes winner in the Forever Together (Susie Raisher)
By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and Michael E. Kisber’s Chili Flag picked up her first career stakes win with a powerful stretch-drive surge in Sunday’s $135,000 Forever Together, a 1 1/16-mile outer turf route for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Chad Brown, the 4-year-old Cityscape chestnut provided jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. with his fourth win on the card to continue a torrid run of form that saw the four-time Eclipse Award-winning rider win five races here Saturday.
“It’s perfect, what can I say,” said Ortiz, Jr. of his recent success. “It’s amazing, a great feeling, a special day for us. It’s hard to win one, so to win that many, you’ve got to enjoy it. Thank God and everyone for the support.”
The Brown-trained Faith in Humanity led through splits of 24.88 seconds and 48.63 over the firm footing with 2-1 mutuel favorite Regal Realm applying pressure to her outside from second position and Chili Flag saving ground in third.
Faith In Humanity led the field through the final turn with Regal Realm inching closer to take command at the stretch call as Cigamia and Tass launched outside bids from further back in the pack. Ortiz, Jr. angled Chili Flag off the rail as the field straightened away for the stretch run, briefly impeding the charge of the Jorge Ruiz-piloted Willakia. Once clear, Chili Flag responded with a tremendous turn of foot to run by Regal Realm and post the one-length win in a final time of 1:41.27.
Tass, with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano up, arrived late to complete the exacta by a nose over the rail-rallying Uncorked. It was another head back to Willakia in fourth with Regal Realm, Cigamia, Faith in Humanity and Malavath rounding out the order of finish. Main-track only entrants Movie Moxy and Hot Fuge were scratched.
A claim of foul by Ruiz aboard Willakia against Ortiz, Jr. and Chili Flag for interference in the stretch run was disallowed.
“I’m sitting perfect in behind [the frontrunners in the stretch] and they drift a little, so I’m waiting until they come over to hit the clear,” explained Ortiz, Jr. “Besides Javier [aboard Tass], I think Javier had horse and he probably kept me there, but Javier started floating out and looked like he was dying, so I go with him. I go with the flow. I look, and I don’t see nobody there. I go with Javier and by the time I asked her to run, I heard somebody. So, I looked and I know that I was already there – there was nobody there, so I just go for it and the horse responded.”
Ortiz, Jr. said Chili Flag responded beautifully once she saw daylight.
“She gets there without hitting her one time, and when I hit her, she responded and kept responding,” Ortiz, Jr. said.
Chili Flag launched her career in her native France with her former conditioner Maurizio Guarnieri, graduating last May at Dax and adding a runner-up allowance effort last August at La Teste De Buch. Chili Flag was purchased last October for $137,217 at Arqana Saint-Cloud and transferred to Brown’s care, finishing second on debut for new connections in February at Gulfstream Park.
Chili Flag faced winners in each of her next four outings, hitting the board on each occasion led by a 6 1/4-length score in July at Belmont Park. She arrived at the Forever Together from a narrow nose defeat to Tass in a nine-furlong optional-claimer here on October 19.
Castellano said the Jorge Abreu-trained Tass, who was claimed for $40,000 in August at Saratoga, performed admirably against her familiar foe.
“I like the way she did it today. Last time she ran really well, and she did it again today,” Castellano said. “She fought the whole way until the end. Speed has been holding up, but the winner was right there next to me in the same position. My horse didn’t disappoint me at all and put in a great effort.”
Bred in France by Finanza Locale Consulting, Chili Flag banked $74,250 in victory while improving her record to 15-4-6-1. She returned $10.60 for a $2 win bet. Chili Flag’s second dam is multiple group stakes-winner Blue Duster, who captured the 1995 Group 1 Cheveley Park at Newmarket.
Live racing resumes Friday at the Big A with nine-race card, featuring the Grade 3, $200,000 Fall Highweight in Race 3. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.