Trainer Chad Brown will send out a formidable duo in Royal Flag and Search Results for Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian, a one-turn mile for older fillies and mares, at Belmont Park.
W.S. Farish homebred Royal Flag will make the first start of her 6-year-old campaign on the heels of a breakthrough season that saw the Candy Ride chestnut capture the Grade 3 Shuvee at Saratoga Race Course and the Grade 2 Beldame Invitational at Belmont. She completed her campaign with a rallying fifth, defeated just 1 1/4-lengths, in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar.
Bill Farish of Lane’s End Farm said he is pleased to have the talented mare back in action.
“I talked to Chad on Wednesday morning and we’re pretty excited to get her back,” Farish said. “Dad rarely runs a mare as a 6-year-old, so we’re excited to get her back and hopefully have her at Saratoga this summer.
“She’s won so many nice races and it’s not easy to win at Belmont or at NYRA in general and that’s her home base,” Farish added. “Having another year with her up there is pretty exciting. We’re hoping she’ll be up there this summer and swing through here at Keeneland in the fall.”
The well-bred Royal Flag, out of the Mineshaft mare Sea Gull, is a full-sister to graded-stakes winner Eagle and a half-sibling to the multiple graded stakes winner Catalina Cruiser.
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Farish said Royal Flag came into her own through the latter part of her 2021 campaign.
“From last year at Saratoga to the fall of her 5-year-old year, she changed physically so much. I’ve never really had a horse change that much that late in her career,” Farish said. “She’s filled out and matured. I can’t wait to run her on Sunday.”
Royal Flag will have to fend off a talented stablemate in Klaravich Stables’ Search Results, who captured the Grade 1 Acorn in June at Belmont traveling the Ruffian distance.
The 4-year-old Flatter dark bay, who was runner-up to Malathaat in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, completed her sophomore season with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Longines Test in August at Saratoga.
Search Results finished a distant third last out in her seasonal debut in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Distaff Handicap on April 9 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Distaff Handicap Replay
Joel Rosario will pilot Royal Flag from post 3, while Search Results will emerge from post 4 under Irad Ortiz, Jr. Brown’s contenders have been assigned a co-field high 124 pounds.
Hidden Brook Farm, Joseph G. McMahon and Anne McMahon’s New York-bred Bank Sting will make her first start against graded company after passing the open-company test last out with a neck score over Battle Bling in the one-mile Heavenly Prize Invitational on March 6 at the Big A.
Bank Sting, a 5-year-old Central Banker bay trained by John Terranova, has won 7-of-9 starts, including the one-turn mile Critical Eye here last May over a muddy main track.
Flavien Prat picks up the mount from the inside post.
Gary Barber’s New York-bred Make Mischief will look to make the grade for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. The 4-year-old Into Mischief bay has won 5-of-16 starts, including a win last February in the Maddie May against fellow state-breds at the Big A along with third-place finishes in the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs and the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont.
She romped to a 10 1/4-length score in her seasonal debut traveling a one-turn mile in an open optional-claimer on April 14 at Aqueduct.
Dylan Davis retains the mount from the outermost post 6.
Zaajel Seeks First Win Since June
Shadwell Stable homebred Zaajel, a 4-year-old dark bay daughter of Street Sense, hasn’t won since capturing the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Mother Goose in June at Belmont.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Zaajel won the Grade 3 Forward Gal at second asking last January at Gulfstream Park. She finished off-the-board in two graded starts following her Mother Goose coup and was a distant fourth in her seasonal debut last out in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct.
Zaajel will exit post 5 under Luis Saez.
Rounding out the field is Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Lady Rocket [post 2, John Velazquez], who won the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap in December at the Big A for trainer Brad Cox. Lady Rocket enjoyed success last year over Big Sandy, finishing second to Bella Sofia in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap in September ahead of a win in a division of the Pumpkin Pie over a sloppy and sealed main track in October.
The Ruffian is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.