California Flag is the senior citizen of racehorses this weekend at Santa Anita. The 8-year-old gelding will try to become the oldest horse to win a Breeders' Cup race.
"He's getting whiter and whiter," trainer Brian Koriner said Wednesday morning of the roan horse that has nearly $1.3 million in earnings.
California Flag is scheduled to run Saturday in the Breeders' Cup $1-million Turf Sprint at 61/2 furlongs. It will be his 27th and final start. California Flag won the same race in 2009 coming down Santa Anita's downhill turf course. He has been one of the West Coast's best and most durable sprinters.
"Win, lose or draw, he's going to be retired," Koriner said.
California Flag has raced only once this year, winning the San Simeon Handicap on April 21 on the same course. Koriner is not concerned about the lack of races in preparation for the Breeders' Cup.
"He's won multiple times off a layoff," he said. "He tries every time. I feel he's even sharper off a layoff. He's training real good. I think he's ready to run. He's never proven me wrong before."
Koriner, though, understands the ups and downs of racing.
"Anything can happen any day to ruin your chances," he said. "It's hard to get excited until you're leading the horse out of the paddock and onto the racetrack."
Trainer Aidan O'Brien's nine horses that arrived from Europe on Monday will make their first appearance on the track Thursday after completing a mandatory 42-hour quarantine period.
O'Brien's top two horses are St Nicholas Abbey in the $3-million Turf and Excelebration in the $2-million Mile.
Both horses will have to adjust to Santa Anita's firm turf course. Excelebration is coming off a victory Oct. 12 at Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II and has finished second twice this year to unbeaten Frankel.
"It was always the plan to come on to the Breeders' Cup after Ascot, and I suppose there is always the chance that two Group I races in two weeks is asking too much of the horse, but he seems in very good form," O'Brien said.
The plane has landed
The final contingent of horses from New York and Kentucky arrived via plane Wednesday, including Juvenile favorite Shanghai Bobby and Mile favorite Wise Dan. They were among 14 horses who missed their original flight Monday because of the super storm Sandy.
Nereid won't run
Trainer John Shirreffs said Nereid has been declared out of the Filly and Mare Turf after being "off in her right hind" leg.