Flagstaff Gets Nod in Churchill Downs Stakes

Flagstaff Gets Nod in Churchill Downs Stakes

Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing’s Flagstaff , a 7-year-old gelded son of Speightstown  , backed his winning form from last month’s score in Keeneland‘s Commonwealth Stakes (G3) with a hard-fought victory in the May 1 Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Ford (G1). The dark bay gelding won the photo over 46-1 Lexitonian  and the venerable Whitmore , completing seven furlongs in 1:21.82.

Entered in one of the strongest race fields on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) undercard, Flagstaff left the gate a touch slow under jockey Luis Saez, who was aboard for the first time, but got into contention quickly, and stalked the pace behind early leader Get the Prize , who was only a head in front as the quarter-mile went in :21.97. 

Right behind Get the Prize, Bango  and Tap It to Win  were on deck to challenge on the backstretch and dueled for first and second through six furlongs in 1:08.84. Flagstaff was part of an early scramble for the lead but saved ground on the far turn before being shuffled back to fifth along the inside. Waiting for his chance to strike, Saez tipped Flagstaff to the outside and made a five-wide move that sent him surging to the lead at the top of the stretch.

Pulling away from the field in deep stretch, Flagstaff managed to shake off his competition for a brief daylight advantage. But the relative safety of the leading margin was short lived as he was soon engulfed on either side by Whitmore to his outside and Lexitonian on his inside. The trio raced head-to-head-to head toward the wire with Flagstaff just edging clear in the photo to win by a head. 

Lexitonian held on for second, a nose in front of Whitmore in third. Hog Creek Hustle , Phat Man , Bango , Mind Control , Basin , Endorsed , Shashashakemeup , Tap It to Win, and Get the Prize completed the order of finish. Attachment Rate  was scratched ahead of the race. 

“Getting settled off the pace was the key; they were going pretty fast up front,” said Saez. “I tried to save ground into the turn, and when there was a moment to go out, I had that good spot and he came for me. I know Whitmore is a good horse, but my horse really dug in. When I saw everybody coming past me, I thought it was over, but he never gave up. Finally he gave me the last little bit, and we got there. John told me to ride him with confidence and that he likes to fight and we broke and then you saw that at the end.”

Winning connections of Flagstaff and Luis Saez in the winner’s circle after win of the Churchill Downs (G1) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on May 1, 2021.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Flagstaff’s connections enjoy the trophy presentation for the Churchill Downs Stakes

“(It was) a great ride. That’s a 10 or 100/100—whatever scale,” said trainer John Sadler. “It was a fabulous ride by Luis Saez. He’s one of the top riders in the country. There is not doubt about that, and it’s no surprise there.

“He was up a little close; we didn’t think there was quite that much speed in here. And you saw at a point at the turn he shuttled back a little bit and cut wide. From there it was just a dog fight. He ran great. You could have seen two or three different winners in the last jumps in that race. He got the nod today, so we’re thrilled. He’s a real hard knocker; he always runs his race. He knocked it out today.”


Bred by Summer Wind Farm, Flagstaff, out of the A.P. Indy mare Indyan Giving , is a half brother to three-time grade 1 winner and champion 2-year-old male of 2018, Game Winner  

Flagstaff’s victory is the second from four starts on the season. Overall, he holds a 7-6-3 record from 19 starts and is just shy of being a millionaire with earnings of $991,585. At the seven-furlong trip, Flagstaff has won four of six tries.

Flagstaff’s May 1 victory is his first top-level win and the third overall in graded company. Sadler said he’s impressed with how well Flagstaff has managed to hold his form throughout his career and sees no sign that the gelding is ready to slow down anytime soon. A seasoned traveler, Sadler said Flagstaff always ships well.

“He didn’t have a lot of races as a young horse,” said Sadler. “He had some things we had to wait through He’s made us wait at different times, but he’s a beautifully bred horse, and he’s Game Winner’s half brother. It’s a great female family, and it’s fun to have him running.”

“He ran well at Oaklawn—though he didn’t get (a win) there, but he’s won at Santa Anita Park, Del Mar … he’s won wherever he’s gone and always runs a good race. Big credit to the ownership of Lane’s End Farm and Mr. Hronis and his family. They’ve been patient with him, and it’s fun to see him rewarded.” 

Video: Churchill Downs S. presented by Ford (G1)

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