ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 12, 2015)–Course specialist Forest Chatter notched his first stakes win and remained unbeaten over Santa Anita’s unique 6 ½ furlong downhill turf by taking Monday’s $100,000 California Flag Handicap by a game head under Mike Smith. Trained by Richard Mandella and owned by Pam and Martin Wygod, Forrest Chatter stopped the clock in 1:11.94.
Aggressively ridden by Smith, who has been aboard for all five of his hillside wins, Forest Chatter pressed the pace outside of longshot K Thirty Eight and proved ultra game late in holding off Somethings Unusual for the victory. Off as the 6-5 favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds and up bred or sired in California, Forest Chatter paid $4.60, $3.60 and $2.80.
“He had some race today, he really did,” said Smith. “We had to fight for all we were worth to pull it off and we were on the wining end. It worked out well…When you get one that really likes that hill, they’re hard to beat on it…He’s so agile that he can turn just as well to the right as he does turning to the left, he’s so easy. He doesn’t mind crossing the dirt. As a matter of fact, he accelerates.”
Although bred in Kentucky, Forest Chatter is by the California-based stallion Dixie Chatter and was therefore “California Flag eligible.” With the winner’s share of $60,000, “Forest” increased his earnings to $230,510 and improved his overall mark to 10-5-1-1.
When asked what he was thinking in deep stretch, Mandella responded, “I was worried. At the eighth pole I was scared to death. That horse (Somethings Unusual) looked like he had dead aim on him, but Mike nursed him along and did a good job.”
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke and trained by Mike McCarthy, Somethings Unusual sat a close third coming to the quarter pole, rallied three-deep straightening for home and appeared to have the winner measured a sixteenth out, but had to settle for second, finishing 1 ½ lengths clear of K Thirty Eight.
Off at 10-1, Somethings Unusual paid $5.80 and $3.20.
“The horse did everything but win,” said McCarthy. “He was coming off a tough beat over the summer at Del Mar, but the winner (today) has an affinity going down the hill and he was very good today. His record speaks for itself, but I’m very pleased with how my horse ran.”
Ridden by Alex Solis, K Thirty Eight showed the way for the first quarter mile and was then head and head with the winner until they approached the eighth pole. Off at 9-1, K Thirty Eight finished 4 ½ lengths clear of Bold Fantasy and paid $4.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 21.90, 43.29 and 1:05.90.