Storm Flag Flying Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Victory And Its Impact On My Life
I would have called myself a lifelong racing fan long before attending the 2002 Breeders’ Cup at Arlington International Racecourse, but it was that event that introduced me to a new dimension of what it meant to be a racing fan: cheering for a horse who just ripped your heart out.
The Breeders’ Cup was all one day back then, and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff—now the headliner of Breeders’ Cup Friday—kicked off the eight-race Breeders’ Cup slate. Somehow Azeri was 8-to-5 and galloped. I tried to beat her with Summer Colony, but she displayed a tour de force: :46.20, 1:09.70, and widened her advantage under a hand ride from Mike Smith. It was five lengths back to Kentucky Oaks-Alabama winner and eventual three-year-old filly champion Farda Amiga, and my pick finished last.
But that didn’t rip my heart out. Azeri was a deserving favorite, and while she made 8-to-5 look silly after the fact, I was fine taking my shot against her before the fact—especially when the only horse to beat her was in the field, and ducking the Classic was interpreted as a lack of confidence.
And besides, an even bigger underlay awaited in the very next race—the Long John Silver’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Somehow Storm Flag Flying odds indicated that she was 2.5 times more likely to win than West Coast shipper Composure. I didn’t think Composure should be 4-to-5 as Storm Flag Flying was but nor did I think she should be 7-to-2.
This was my first major assignment for Thoroughbred Times, and I was keen to make an impression not only as on scene writer/reporter but also a handicapper on a grand stage, and Composure was one of my top opinions of the day.
And, well, I’d be lying if said I didn’t feel like King Shit of Turd Island when Composure “moved past Storm Flag Flying to gain a brief lead in midstretch.” I’ve watched a lot more races since that race than before, and even with all that extra experience I still can’t remember seeing such a comeback.
Sure, horses like Tiznow and Zenyatta have surprised us by getting there, and Afleet Alex dazzled us with his overcoming adversity, but a horse coming back like that in a Grade 1 race? Well, as you can hear in the race call even announcer Tom Durkin was incredulous, and if anyone had a license to have seen it all, it was him (even 12 years ahead of his retirement).
I was bitterly disappointed to lose that bet, but it was at that moment that I realized how privileged I am to observe this sport for a living, and while that lesson cost me some cash, I’d like to think the investment has paid for itself many times over the past 14 years.
And I have Storm Flag Flying to thank for it. RIP, champ.