Brown 1-2 In the Just A Game

Chili Flag | Sarah Andrew

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY-Trainer Chad Brown was widely expected to win Friday's GI Just a Game S. However, the actual winner of the race proved to be a bit of question as the trainer was represented by five of seven of the runners in the one-mile turf event. After surviving a jockey's claim of foul, it was 4-1 chance Chili Flag (Fr) (Cityscape {GB}) who rose over the $1-million mark in earnings while annexing her first career Grade I-victory.

Breaking well but eased to the back, Chili Flag was unhurried as 26-1 chance Evvie Jets (Twirling Candy) and Whitebeam (GB) (Caravaggio), sent off at 7-2, strode to the front, carving out opening fractions of :23.91 and :48.64. Still at the back but within striking distance turning for home, the French-bred filly bore down on the late-leading Whitebeam  down the center of the course, popped to the front in deep stretch and was a half-length clear of her grey stablemate at the wire. Mission of Joy (Kitten's Joy) closed resolutely to nab third while Evvie Jets held on to fourth. Favored Coppice (GB) (Kingman {GB}) never threatened after getting pinched back at the start and had to settle for sixth. The victory represented the fourth victory on the day for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

“I had a beautiful trip,” said Ortiz Jr. “A perfect trip, to be honest. Broke, I let her settle, and she just came running late. She was rolling at the end.”

Brown added, “The pace wasn't really that fast. I have to look at the race again to see. We had that flash storm [earlier in the afternoon] and it seems like there was a ton of water on there. The turf was so hard and then it went to being–I don't want to say firm–and a couple of my other jockeys that didn't run as well said they were slipping and sliding out there on that turf. I don't think it was [detrimental] for every horse. Chili Flag has been very versatile. She's run on very firm turf early in the season and she can handle moisture in it.”

Of the runner-up, Brown added, “Whitebeam improved off a disappointing loss off the layoff last time. She stepped up into Grade 1 company today and almost got it done. She proves to be a horse that likes Saratoga.”

It was a record seventh win in the Just a Game for Brown, who previously won with Antonoe [2017], A Raving Beauty [2018], Rushing Fall [2019], Newspaperofrecord [2020], Regal Glory [2022] and In Italian [2023].

Chili Flag achieved minor success in her native France, winning a pair of minor regional races before making the move to the Chad Brown barn in advance of the 2023 season. On the board in her first two starts in early 2023, she broke through with her first stateside win in a Belmont allowance in July before finishing runner up in her next two on the New York circuit, including a Saratoga optional claimer in August.

Returning to the winner's circle following the Forever Together S. at the Big A in November, she got a freshener before picking up in 2024 with a sixth in the 1 1/16-mile GII Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Invitational at Gulfstream Jan. 27. Cut back to a mile for her next two, she won both, taking the GIII Honey Fox S. in Hallandale Mar. 2 before eking out a win in the GII Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

“She really improved this year so it's nice to see if you're patient with some of these horses and you let them develop into the program [they can succeed],” said Brown. “There was a point in time last year when I thought she wouldn't be a Grade I-winner, but I'm not surprised at all that she's having this type of season. During the winter she kept showing us she's really improving.”

 

Pedigree Notes:
Chili Flag, purchased by Mandore International Agency for €140,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale in 2022, is out of Flag Day, also responsible for Flers (Fr) (Dream Ahead), herself stakes placed in France. The unraced mare foaled her latest recorded foal–a filly by Olympic Glory (Ire)–in 2022. Second dam, European champion 2-year-old filly Blue Duster (Danzig), is out of European champion sophomore filly Blue Note (Fr) (Habitat), also responsible for Group 1 scorer Zieten (Danzig).

Chili Flag represents the sixth Grade I /Group 1 winner for Cityscape, but the first Northern Hemisphere-based Grade I horse for the sire as the rest are in the Southern.

Friday, Saratoga
JUST A GAME S.-GI, $500,000, Saratoga, 6-7, 4yo/up, f/m, 1mT, 1:35.01, fm.
1–CHILI FLAG (FR), 122, m, 5, by Cityscape (GB)
           1st Dam: Flag Day (GB), by Pivotal (GB)
           2nd Dam: Blue Duster, by Danzig
           3rd Dam: Blue Note (Fr), by Habitat
1ST GRADE I WIN. (€5,000 RNA Wlg '19 ARQDE; €140,000 3yo '22 ARARC). O-Madaket Stables LLC, Michael Dubb and Michael E. Kisber; B-Finanza Locale Consulting Srl (FR); T-Chad Brown; J-Irad Ortiz, Jr. $275,000. Lifetime Record: SP-Fr, 19-7-6-1, $1,003,377. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus* Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Whitebeam (GB), 124, m, 5, by Caravaggio
           1st Dam: Sleep Walk (GB), by Oasis Dream (GB)
           2nd Dam: Scuffle (GB), by Daylami (Ire)
           3rd Dam: Tantina, by Distant View
O/B-Juddmonte Farms Ltd. (GB); T-Chad C. Brown. $100,000.
3–Mission of Joy, 120, f, 4, by Kitten's Joy
           1st Dam: Smart Mission, by Smart Strike
           2nd Dam: Misty Mission, by Miswaki
           3rd Dam: Hangin On a Star, by Vice Regent
($32,000 Ylg '21 FTKOCT). O-RyZan Sun Racing, LLC and Madaket Stables LLC; B-Sam-Son Farm (ON); T-H. Graham Motion. $60,000.
Margins: HF, HD, NK. Odds: 4.20, 3.60, 13.10.
Also Ran: Evvie Jets, Gina Romantica, Coppice (GB), Beaute Cachee (Fr).
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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