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Flat Out gallops out one more time.

Flat Out gallops out one more time.

Flat Out made a proud exit from the Cigar Mile (I) and his racing career

Flat Out made a proud exit from the Cigar Mile (I) and his racing career

Flat Out was flat-out the best in the Cigar Mile (I)

Flat Out was flat-out the best in the Cigar Mile (I)

Flat Out

Flat Out

Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #1: Flat Out

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Basics:

(Flatter x Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider)

  • Trainer: Bill Mott (Cigar, Drosselmeyer, Royal Delta)
  • Jockey: Junior Alvarado Joel Rosario
  • Owned by: Preston Stables LLC
  • Career Record: 27: 8-5-5
  • Earnings: $3,195,383

Vital Stats:

  • 2013 Record: 7:2-1-2
  • 2013 accomplishments: G2 winner, G1-placed
  • Santa Anita record: 1:0-0-1
  • TrueNicks rating: “A+” Variant 5.58
  • Dosage Index: 4.00
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 129 (up 8 from last year)
  • Lost last prep [3rd, Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), by 8 1/2 lengths]
  • 3rd in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (by 7 lengths)
  • Trainer excellent at prepping horses for G1s and championships (Royal Delta, Ron the Greek)
  • Jockey experiencing better than usual year
  • No horse older than 5 has ever won the Classic (Flat Out is 7)

Summary: In his second year under Bill Mott’s tutelage, Flat Out has been the picture of powerful consistency. While not winning every time out, the dapper-looking bay stallion has been showing up to every dance, earning him the title “the Baron of Belmont” after keeping a sharp record at Old Sandy, where until this year he had been undefeated. Alas, he has finished worse than 3rd only twice—both instances occurring earlier this year— and often fell victim to not getting the ideal distance or track conditions.

Prep Schedule: Hot off a 3rd in the Classic last year, Flat Out returned to Gulfstream in February to return a mild 4th in the Donn Handicap (I) won in a romp by Graydar, who also bested him in the New Orleans Handicap (II) next out where he finished 5th. Taking a class drop and a cutback in ground, Flat Out finally won in the Westchester (III) at Belmont as a prep for the Met Mile (I), where he finished a too-late 3rd as the favorite. Getting 9 furlongs again, Flat Out kept his form rolling with an easy win in a lightly-contested Suburban Handicap (II), then ran 2nd in the sloppy Woodward (I) next out at Saratoga, bested by just a head by Alpha. He fell victim to bad luck and a bad break next out in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), running a distant 3rd behind stablemate Ron the Greek.

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Physique: It comes as no surprise by looking at Flat Out that his horse is an accomplished runner from 8, 9, *and* 10 furlongs. He has a compact yet muscled bullet-shaped body indicative of sticking around when others start to get winded.

Pedigree: While there’s little that’s flashy on the surface, Flat Out is a descendant of the dominant A.P. Indy tribe through his sire Flatter (a full brother to Congrats) and looks to continue the Northern Dancer-Mr. Prospector legacy of winning in classic races.

Running Style: Mid-pack, often moves up late

Pros: Flat Out ran well in last year’s Classic despite track bias that did not favor him, and he arguably looks like a better horse than that this year.

Cons: How many Classic winners can you name that had strong track biases? Flat Out’s biggest issue is probably that he can only win if given the right conditions— the track can’t be too speed-favoring, and can’t be anywhere but in New York— which are the two things that Santa Anita is all about.

Final Word: Everything about Flat Out screams exotic horse. He’s consistent and looks great rolling into the Breeders’ Cup this year, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he comes out on top when he has had just too many issues running well outside of his comfort zone.

Flat Out Tries for His 3rd Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday

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Just how good is the Jockey Club Gold Cup this year? 7 out of 8 horses have at least one Group/Grade 1 win to their credit, there’s one Kentucky Derby winner, one Belmont winner, and the returning Jockey Club Gold Cup winner of two years’ past. With many horses looking poised to sit off the pace and spring big numbers when asked, this is more than likely going to be a big, defining race for the winner.

Much to my luck, Super Saturday looks like it’s going to be beautiful out for once! Read on to see my top 3 for the JCGC.

Continue reading…

Early Super Saturday Thoughts

As many of you already know, I’ll be at Belmont on Saturday— probably very very early and until the last race is run armed with a dreamy fast telephoto lens. It gon’ be good. And I’ll more than likely be attacking the pick 4. Here’s who I Iike the day before the official draw:

  • Beldame: Royal Delta is a cinch for me, but of course Princess of Sylmar is going to be tough coming from off the pace.
  • Kelso Handicap: Hymn Book has been looking real good lately, and Shug doesn’t enter horses unless they’re good to go. Graydar of course is going to be a huge threat as a very talented horse, and the mile distance is p-e-r-f-e-c-t for this gray blur.
  • Joe Hirsch: Big Blue Kitten is a horse I think highly of and I’m keen on him again here. King Kreesa is a worthwhile speed horse, but I’ll also have to look at Imagining, who is an up-and-comer.
  • Flower Bowl: A race with some damn near-guaranteed pace, I liked White Rose in her last start, and she ran super well there. Of course, I do have to include Dayatthespa in my thoughts as a “heart pick,” but she’ll have to battle Laughing again. I’ll have to look at this race again when entries are released.
  • Jockey Club Gold Cup: Orb should be ready to fire here, and I strongly still feel the Travers served as more of a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and this race as opposed to a race where he was really required to run. I also have to like Flat Out a lot and Palace Malice.
  • Vosburgh: The Lumber Guy returns to New York racing and looks rarin’ to go. I also like Justin Phillip from a setup perspective as a horse who likes this track. Again, I’ll have to see who actually draws in this race.

Paynter Ships In for Strong Woodward Renewal

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The G1 race won and lost by some of the greatest ever to race, the Woodward Stakes returns for another year with 7 horses lining up to take a shot. Five of them are from the Whitney (I), and hope for a decent shot now that Cross Traffic has been pulled somewhat last-minute from contention in favor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Not a whole lot of big surprises have resulted in past runnings, and I am proud to say I’ve picked the winners of the last two editions: To Honor and Serve and Havre de Grace.

A chance for storms clouds Saratoga on Saturday, but nothing more concrete than that. Nobody in the field is a true “mudder,” but Fort Larned has struggled on an off track at Belmont last year in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Mucho Macho Man flailed on it earlier in the year racing at Gulfstream. Again, not expecting slop…

$750,000 Woodward Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga. Post Time: Saturday, August 31 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Ron the Greek - Javier Castellano, Bill Mott - The Full Mandate stallion was a leader in these competitive dirt races last year, but hasn’t been winning much of them this year, last out finishing a decent 4th in the Whitney. Due to the injury of his usual jockey, he gets the leading meet rider Castellano and is apt to try to close in just as he did last time. Second twice in three past Saratoga starts, Ron will need pace to win, which with the defection of Cross Traffic, he is unlikely to get on a track that typically doesn’t favor closers anyway.

2) Successful Dan - Julien Leparoux, Charles LoPresti - The half to Wise Dan by Successful Appeal, the “other Dan” had an incident leading up to the post parade of the Whitney last out, but still managed to kick on again in the stretch to finish a humble 2nd in a race he probably could have won. Trainer LoPresti boasts this gelding’s last 3-panel workout time was probably better than shown because of fog, and I agree with him. Take Cross Traffic out of the race, and Successful Dan could finally get that successful trip he’s been searching for all season. Top 3 horse at worst.

3) Fort Larned - Brian Hernandez Jr, Ian Wilkes - The E Dubai son had a jumbled start which affected his positioning last out in the Whitney, where he had no real excuse to finish a disappointing 5th. His connections say he looks relaxed and ready. Fort Larned’s Whitney looked like the hodgepodge mess he got handed in his Stephen Foster burnout last year, where he was floated wide and got discouraged to finish out of the money. If he can eliminate a jumbled start, it’s in the bag. If not, well…

4) Flat Out - Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott - I have a peculiar habit of always liking whomever Junior Alvarado rides when I’m at the races, and the G1 winning son of Flatter shouldn’t be discounted. Never off the board in his 3 Saratoga starts— but no wins— Flat Out has beaten Cross Traffic earlier in the spring and won his last start in the Suburban (II). Flat Out looks to be in good form coming into this race, but he usually requires a weak pacesetter to peter out for him to make an appearance in the winners’ circle. Even if Fort Larned fails to spring to the front, I don’t see him making a winning move. This race might even be a prep for a repeat in the JCGC, which has always been his forte.

5) Paynter - Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert - The Awesome Again “miracle colt” returns to the east in his first appearance since running a heroic 2nd to Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. A conventional dirt beast, Paynter showed heart and talent in just missing to Kettle Corn last out at Del Mar, and he looks to be in good shape. I do not like shippers coming to Saratoga, but given the fact that this is Paynter and we had a runaway shipper win last weekend, I will make an exception. He will likely try to sit off of Fort Larned, or secure the lead again should that horse fail the break. He can win this.

6) Mucho Macho Man - Edgar Prado, Kathy Ritvo - The Macho Uno colt showed signs of improvement running 3rd last out in the Whitney, where he stayed steady to miss by 2 1/2 lengths to a persistent Cross Traffic and game Successful Dan. Many issues I have about this horse: I *did* like him for last year’s Classic, but it appears we have a different horse for 2013, where he is winless in 3 starts. Mucho is a fast breezer when he’s coming into his really good victories, and he’s just been loping lately. He did next to nothing in the Whitney when the stretch came into view, just as he did with a weaker field at Aqueduct after his pull-up in the Sunshine Millions where they played with blinkers. I love Prado, but I would be shocked if this horse came to life and won.

7) Alpha - John Velazquez, Kieran McLaughlin - The Bernardini colt was handed his first Saratoga loss last out in the Whitney following a similarly lousy performance in the Met Mile, both in which he was beaten by about 7 lengths and was simply outrun. Johnny V is a nice addition, and to his credit he breezed out 4 panels in :47 and change. He would have to be an improved creature and a true horse-for-the-course to win though.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) Fort Larned (Scratched due to injury)

2) Paynter

3) Successful Dan

[edit: with the defection of Fort Larned, I’ll move up Flat Out as the #3 choice]

I’m still not budging from the Fort Larned bandwagon. Yes he is the type of horse who needs to have things go his way, but we all saw what that type of horse did last weekend when Will Take Charge took the Travers, and this horse has got class. Paynter is a big threat on conventional dirt, and will likely be there should Fort Larned decide to miss darting to the front again. Successful Dan should have won the Whitney, and has the right kind of class to win.

Value Pick: If Fort Larned (4-1) sticks with his morning line odds, there you go. Paynter likely to be bet to the moon.

Weekend Stake Tip: Go Go Graydar

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I almost never agreed with his picks when I first came across his blog, but Reinier has improved to the point where I will actually read his considerations. It wasn’t so much that he’s been winning a good bit lately (though that certainly helped), but he hasn’t been driving me nuts like he used to sounding too much like the DRF. I hate the DRF experts’ methods of handicapping… it feels like all they use to handicap are speed figures and statistics in trying to beat the favorite.

For a while I thought I was giving the surface at Gulfstream too much credit in my handicapping, so when it came to the Donn (I), naturally I eased back and looked at it realistically. With that much speed, a speedball miler type like Graydar would get cooked and be caught late. Even more ridiculous, it was his first stakes attempt, but alas, he went wire-to-wire with my first choice Bourbon Courage coming in for second, overrated Take Charge Indy third. I’m not sure what or who to give credit to with this weird victory other than the weirdness of the whole day. Gulfstream has been so odd this season that a lot of really skilled handicappers have abandoned it. The track has been so unreadable, I don’t bother to play it much now, and I believe the Rainbow 10-cent Pick 6 has been carrying over since Nikki’s Sandcastle won the El Prado. Saturday’s stakes results just really bugged me except for maybe Fort Loudon's win in the Sprint, but really… the whole day… killed…

[Gulfstream being the typical, Floridian backwards mindset won’t let me embed to share, so head to YouTube to view the race]

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Big post-race question: how good is Graydar versus the field? As Reinier would like to point out, the field is scattered at the end, which means hell yes he’s good. As I mentioned back in my original handicapping post, while this was a pretty balanced field with no clear favorite, a lot of the G1 winners had some vices that would cause them to be vulnerable. I knew Flat Out would finish well, but was unlikely to win because this isn’t New York. Bourbon Courage had the most upside and pace setup and came running at Graydar at the end. Pool Play could not catch up, Csaba decided to be closer than I’d like early. Graydar the winner set speedy fractions and had the superior trip on the fast rail and looked like he was still full of run at the end. I think he’s a worthy horse of the big win, but now that’s 3-for-3 at Gulfstream I might venture that he just likes the track a lot. Sending him to a deeper surface that tires him out over a distance like this will work against him. Knowing Pletcher horses, I feel Graydar is a good horse (HEY, he WAS in my top 10 to watch this year post!) but one that could just be on a hot streak. On the plus side, Pletcher is strong in New York and places like Saratoga are kinder to horses that stay towards the front!

How this race could have been won in handicapping:

  • Favoring the speed horse, who just missed the mile record at Gulfstream which is known to be a fast track
  • Favoring the hot Pletcher connections
  • Noting the vulnerable class horses in this field
  • Picking the gray? Hahaha, no but really people do this
  • Listening to Emily, who favored Graydar in her post

I’ll be making my alternative handicapping post(s) later when I can!

Donn Handicap Shines Light on Otherwise Slow Weekend

Derby Handicappers, take a week off. The dumb points system doesn’t have any races for you this week anyway. /lame

BUT GOOD NEWS BECAUSE WE HAVE THE DONN HANDICAP (I)! I’ve done pretty well with this race since I began handicapping the ponies… I felt Giant Oak was sitting on a big one in his 2010 upset and I had Hymn Book to win last year. Here’s hoping I can do well again this year. A nice mix of graded winners, improvers, shippers, and dominant Florida runners compose the ten-horse field this year with no clear front-runner.

Weather looks promising enough to ensure a fast main.

$500,000 Donn Handicap (I) - 4-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Post Time: Saturday, February 9 at 5:32pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Bourbon Courage- Javier Castellano, 117 lbs, Kellyn Gorder - A consistently good runner, the Lion Heart colt ran very well to just miss the place last out in the Clark Handicap (I) while coming in wide down the lane. I find it *very* interesting that this improving closer gets Castellano, who is almost always on a Pletcher horse. Works look very good and he should be ready to go for a top effort and get a favorable setup. Not a fan of the rail of course, though.

2) Flat Out- Joel Rosario, 121 lbs, Bill Mott - A [surprisingly] good 3rd last out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the veteran Flatter son is the class of the race with two Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) wins and is one of the better dirt horses overall. Mott has him ready from breezing long at Payson, but I’m not a believer in this one if he’s away from New York. In last year’s Donn he flattened out in the stretch, which he often does when not in NY. He’s a strong off-the-pace runner who has a chance, but he’s never been that dominant.

3) Fast Falcon- Jose Lezcano, 114 lbs, Nick Zito - This Awesome Again colt kept catching my eye last year, and I think he could do better than what he has done last year in really mucky setups. The more ground he gets, the better he is, and as a feather-weighted closer I like him here. Lezcano takes the reins on this one again after a 2nd to Cigar Street in a 1 1/16 mile allowance here. He looks sharp, breezing out a 4-panel breezer in :46 1/5 at Palm Meadows. If he can climb out of his recent bad form and hang back until late, he could get this race.

4) Graydar- Edgar Prado, 114 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Unbridled’s Song colt needed no time to catch up off his long layoff, setting fire to the Gulfstream main last out to easily break the mile track record. He’s been working well and is 2-for-2 at Gulfstream already. Pletcher will likely send this speedball to the front early and run the field off their feet despite stretching him out another furlong here for the first time. He’s fast, but I think after his record smash no one’s going to leave him alone.

5) Ultimate Eagle- Martin Pedroza, 120 lbs, Michael Pender - The California shipper of the field and a G1 winner, the Mizzen Mast beast is good at the 9 furlong demands of the Donn and will be eager to go to the front early as it is his style. He was a stubborn second by a head last out to G1 winner Coil in the San Pasqual (II) and looks like he’s been well-maintained. Ultimate Eagle is a good horse by his own merits, but I think he is encountering more class here shipping out and will be vulnerable contesting that lead, which at this point looks like it’ll be fast enough to leave him drained.

6) Ducduc- Junior Alvarado, 115 lbs, Shivananda Parbhoo - With speed on top/distance-bottomed breeding, the Langfuhr colt looks to be yet another ambitious hook shot courtesy of the Parbhoo colors.To his credit, he is 2-for-2 at 9 furlongs but moves up in class after being a distant 4th to Csaba in the Harlan’s Holiday and dead-heating for first with Csaba in the Fred Hooper (III). He’s not fast enough to be perfectly honest.

7) Csaba- Luis Saez, 120 lbs, Philip Gleaves - A standout on the Florida circuit is this stately Kitten’s Joy who decided he likes dirt more than turf. He got a great warmup last month with a score in the Hal’s Hope (III) over a mile where he surged late to win over Pool Play and Pants on Fire. He seems to do well with a 3 or 4 week turnaround between races and looks to be an even better 4-year-old. He can adapt to go to the front or rate behind, so he’ll need the most strategic of rides to get there.

8) Take Charge Indy- John Velazquez, 117 lbs, Pat Byrne - The Florida Derby (I)-winning A.P. Indy colt is the most pedigreed of the field and should suffer no problems getting this 9 furlong feat again. He’s rightly fearsome from the improvement angle shortly after running second to Shackleford in the Clark (I) last out while switching to the highly capable Johnny V. He couldn’t be doing better in his breezes— 4 panels in :47 flat!— and while he should improve off that Clark showing he may be vulnerable as a front-runner who is breaking from the outside in a race full of speed already.

9) Pool Play- Miguel Mena, 119 lbs, Mark Casse - The 8-year-old veteran of 34 starts and son of Silver Deputy, Pool Play comes into this race fresh off a neck loss to Csaba in the Hal’s Hope (III) where he went 5 wide to close with a tremendous rush. He is 4 for 7 at this distance. He looked plenty tuned-up in his last start and looks to improve from there in a race that should favor a closer like him.

10) Citrus Kid- Joe Rocco Jr, 117 lbs, John Terranova II - A “shot in the dark” entry by Lemon Drop Kid, the 4-year-old conqueror of El Padrino is another speed horse who will be making just his 6th dirt start here (he has 3 wins in 5 total dirt starts). Works are long and he’s a rare one that has raced at beyond 10 furlongs. I do love a Lemon Drop Kid who has speed to burn, though this one is a bit of a gamble moving this far up in class without beating that much.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Bourbon Courage

2) Flat Out

3) Pool Play

Everything takes a back seat to pace and class in this particular race, but class can be a muddled question since I don’t personally believe in some of the G1 winners. Bourbon Courage has a big chance to steal this race if he can counter that rail post. I’m buckling with Flat Out because I like how Mott often brings his horses back, and there’s few that are in the same overall class category as Flat Out, even though this is Florida. I was about to use Csaba, but then disliked how he’s going a whole additional furlong from his last race so I’ll go with Pool Play who is still a top choice but will have to show he’s no fluke and close into this pace (I like Pool Play and Fast Falcon better at 10+ furlongs).

Value Pick: Csaba will probably get left alone in favor of all the G1 winners here, but does well here in Florida and has the type of recent speed figures to win

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