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Ron the Greek and Jose Lezcano strike a pose after winning the 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup (I).

Ron the Greek and Jose Lezcano strike a pose after winning the 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup (I).

Ron the Greek

Ron the Greek

Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #6: Flat Out

Flat Out (FL)

Basics:

(Flatter x Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider)

  • Trainer: Bill Mott (Cigar, Drosselmeyer, Royal Delta)
  • Jockey: Joel Rosario
  • Owned by: Preston Stables LLC
  • Career Record: 19: 6-4-2
  • Earnings: $2,042,383

Vital Stats:

  • 2012 Record: 5: 1-1-1
  • TrueNicks rating: “A+” Variant 5.58
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2012: 121
  • Won last prep [1st, Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), by a head]
  • 5th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (by some 3-3 1/2 lengths)
  • Trainer won last year’s Classic-Ladies Classic double
  • Jockey was consistently leading rider at Santa Anita before moving east this year
  • Aims to be the first Florida-bred to win the Classic since Skip Away
  • No horse older than 5 has ever won the Classic (Flat Out is 6)

Summary: After trading barns to Bill Mott’s as one of last year’s best dirt routers, Flat Out has reached back into his top form recently winning his second consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cup (I).

Prep Schedule: He got off to an odd start trying grass at the start of the year, finishing 12th and last in the turf-bound Ft Lauderdale Stakes (III) at Gulfstream. Returning to dirt, he was wide and responseless running 5th in the Donn (I) and was subsequently transferred to Bill Mott. Taking a 5-month layoff, he was primed in the mile-long Monmouth Cup (II), getting trapped on the inside to run a good 2nd behind Rule and just missed the place in the 9-furlong Whitney (I). He reached his old form once again running on the wet Belmont going to repeat his victory in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) by a head over Stay Thirsty.

Running Style: Mid-pack

Pros: Flat Out ran well in last year’s Classic and is arguably in better form right now than he was back then, peaking just perfectly to run an impressive race in the JCGC.

Cons: If there ever was a track-biased horse, Flat Out is a subscriber to that status. Despite never finishing off the board on a New York track, he doesn’t look like the same threatening horse on other tracks.

Final Word: Despite having a lot of clout in winning his last prep and being at peak, Flat Out is the weakest link in Bill Mott’s 3-horse offensive in this race. I just don’t believe he can beat some of these others on a track he probably won’t like.

Good ol’ Buckpasser (Photo by Claiborne Farm)

Good ol’ Buckpasser (Photo by Claiborne Farm)

Team Mott Looks Strong in Jockey Club Gold Cup

Often the predecessor to a knockout win in other big route races, the Jockey Club Gold Cup isn’t what it used to be (a 2-mile race on dirt somehow turned into a 10-furlong practice run for Breeders’ Cup Marathoners), but it’s still a million-dollar G1 test for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) in November. A “Win and You’re In” for the Classic, this year’s JCGC drew a full field of ten including last year’s champ, a total of 6 G1 winners, and 2 three-year-olds that will be among the first of their class to face older horses in a graded event.

The fast dirt at Old Sandy appears to favor off-the-pace winners in the recent past, with winners in the past twenty years going on to win 4 Breeders’ Cup Classics and be runner-up in another running. The weather in Long Island unfortunately looks to damper things for the second year in a row with a 40-50% chance of rain for both Friday and Saturday. Be sure to factor track conditions and remember, when the track is off, the longshots come out to play.

$1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/4 miles on dirt at Belmont Park. Post Time: Saturday, September 29 at 5:46pm EST

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

1) Ron the Greek - Jose Lezcano, 126 lbs, Bill Mott - The Full Mandate horse has been having a great year with two G1 wins and a close second in the Whitney (I) after shipping all over the country to run. He has been looking good and should be fresh for the race. Lezcano is a good rail rider, but it’s still a troubling spot to have a favored closer. His record on an off track is surprisingly good with all hitting the board if not winning, and I think Mott was wise in skipping the Woodward to keep this horse fresh. Given a promising pace scenario, he could turn out another winning effort here.

2) Stay Thirsty - Ramon Dominguez, 126 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Bernardini colt has been the little-engine-that-could since his humble win streak last year as a Travers-winning three-year-old, but has been missing that extra gear for some time. An empty third in last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, Thirsty has not won since his Travers turn and while he was 4 lengths back in 5th last out in the Woodward (I), he went wide for much of it and lost the whip at the 1/8 pole. To his slop credit, he has two seconds and a third out of 3 tries. Despite the whip drop, he improved from a 101 Equibase fig in the Suburban to a 112 while carrying 9 additional pounds. He’ll like the distance and the track, but can he get any closer than 2 lengths from the win this year?

3) Ruler On Ice - Alan Garcia, 126 lbs, Kelly Breen - The Belmont-winning son of Roman Ruler hasn’t had the best year running second-fiddle in allowance company, but props are needed for his last start where he ran second to Win Willy by 2 lengths, staying stubborn in his usual stalking position to register a much-improved, career best 119 Equibase figure. We already all know how he does on an off Belmont surface. If it rains, you might want to work Ruler On Ice in there as a well-known and successful stalker. He should draw good odds either way.

4) Hymn Book - John Velazquez, 126 lbs, Claude McGaughey - The Arch gelding has not won since his Donn (I) upset earlier in the year with his next best being a decent second to Mucho Macho Man in the Suburban (II). However, he has endured some rocky and some pretty wide trips as a closer, and the extra furlong should help him. He’s good in the slop, winning on an off track 5 of 9 times, 2 of those wins being at Belmont. A horse who needs a good pace to do well, Hymn Book has little actually riding on this race with no intention right now to ship to the Breeders’ Cup.

5) Fort Larned - Brian Joseph Hernandez, 126 lbs, Ian Wilkes - The speedy E Dubai winner of the Whitney (I) is back for more and another (hopefully) successful stalking trip. His Whitney was won easy and late under a hand ride, suggesting Fort Larned’s got more where that came from and has won in the slop. Some may be too wary of Fort Larned to challenge him on or near the lead, suggesting he might be able to wrap up this race all on his own.

6) Atigun - Mike Smith, 122 lbs, Ken McPeek - The Istan colt was a blocked, late-charging third in the Travers last out, the benefit of the doubt being given to him by trainer McPeek that the colt would prefer the full 10-furlong distance over the easier field he would have faced in the Pennsylvania Derby (II)— which is probably true. Atigun’s best of late has been consistent, but really has to be much better to compete with this crowd. Another horse who should like the distance and need a pace and a personal best.

7) Fast Falcon - Corey Nakatani, 122 lbs, Nick Zito - The Awesome Again colt was a fierce late third in the Travers, and arguably had the best finishing touch out of any other horse in that race. He’s right at home at Belmont with two runner-up efforts against Teeth of the Dog here before. His career best was a low figure and a second placing, and given the possible weather conditions, he is a toss out due to class hike, speed figures, AND a surface he’s shown to not like. Would not be surprised if he scratches.

8) San Pablo - Javier Castellano, 126 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Jump Start colt hopes to add a third race to his winning streak, both recent races were at 1 1/8 miles won in easy fashion. Likely to be stalking the pace, San Pablo has the stats to get an upset here with 3 wins and 2 seconds in 6 starts this year. Class is a question as is the off-track angle, but the added bonus of Castellano looks good.

9) Flat Out - Joel Rosario, 126 lbs, Bill Mott - The defending champion son of Flatter returns with a new trainer and jockey this year while being a little rough on his old form. He improved sharply in his Whitney performance where he was third by just a head to Ron the Greek, beaten less than 2 lengths by Fort Larned while sitting mid-pace with a wide trip. Flat Out is Mott’s Drosselmeyer this year, and due to his recovered form and distance clout, he’s secretly going to be one of the top horses to beat here and likely good value.


10) Game Ball - Jose Espinoza, 126 lbs, Naipaul Chatterpaul - A recent ex-claimer by Sky Mesa owned and trained by Chatterpaul, Game Ball has been everywhere this year and doesn’t appear to have a niche unless it’s “that horse that probably shouldn’t be here.” I’m wondering even further why he’s here because he didn’t make the stakes nomination list? A career closer, is off track record is fairly good but he lacks the class to make anything happen here, finishing a well-beaten 8th last out in the Sword Dancer (I).

Picks in Order:

1) Ron the Greek

2) Flat Out

3) Fort Larned

The track is likely going to be less than fast, so that makes handicapping this race that much harder to do. Fort Larned looks to be the lone speed here with most of the horses preferring a stalker or closer position behind him. I think he will try to slow down the pace to kill the horses behind him and try to win wire-to-wire. However, Ron the Greek was way too far back in the Whitney and looked awesome for second there. With freshening and an extra furlong, even if he errs again he’s super tough. Ruler On Ice and Flat Out… possibly San Pablo… I wish I could use both. Ruler may still be a bit short though, and I think Mott will have Flat Out tuned up and ready to go here for a much better effort, and he’s got tremendous upside all around. A big psychology factor to consider: who needs this race, and who will want to not go “all out?” Fort Larned and Ron the Greek already have guaranteed berths.

Value Pick: Flat Out

Leave me to brood!

A forlorn self-portrait of me hiding out after a terrible, no good, very bad weekend of horse racing. I will complain more in the Weekend Stake Tip.

HALLLOOOOOOO!

Generally speaking, school and being away from home for it is going good enough, and the public state college environment has been relatively easy to adapt to and I bounced back well into independence. Still no real friends though, so the ponies have been keeping me company. Precalc has been murder, stealing away my life-force and the Saturdays I normally like to spend being a degenerate. Some days I get a little afraid I will run out of time/energy to do everything, though, including maintain this blog’s highish standards, but alas! Earwax! I’m still going!

With Super Saturday looming, I will try to nail down as many races as I can and share my insights on the blog. I will definitely do the Jockey Club Gold Cup, at the very very least, but the goal is to do a few big races and cash in my biggest weekend ever. I hope so, anyways.

Just 5 more weeks until Breeders’ Cup time! I will be participating in XpressBet’s “Beat the Host” contests during the month of October seeing as they’re free to join. That will be one additional notation I’ll make in the Weekend Stake Tip, which if you’ve been following long enough, has gradually shifted from just covering stakes races to covering my own unique interaction with weekend racing. Swear to God, I started doing Weekend Stake Tip BEFORE programs like “After the Wire” came out… I think that’s why it has changed so much.

And speaking of Breeders’ Cup, the handicapping contest is still on as of now. The format will likely look like the current official Breeders’ Cup Fantasy Handicapping tournament, with a choice of $20 win/place/show or $10 exacta box per race. I have the web form all set up when the time gets closer. Boring stuff, meh!

High hoof,

Dawna

Early JCGC jitters on my behalf, all of them for Atigun! He’s been so close a number of times, but hasn’t won anything substantial yet so I’m kind of hoping one of my last Triple Crown trail faves can finally break through with a little more running room. He’s come a long way since he was my longshot pick of the litter in the Rebel Stakes!
Dollars to donuts, when he DOES win big I’ll get more unftastic pictures of his pretty colty head. (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

Early JCGC jitters on my behalf, all of them for Atigun! He’s been so close a number of times, but hasn’t won anything substantial yet so I’m kind of hoping one of my last Triple Crown trail faves can finally break through with a little more running room. He’s come a long way since he was my longshot pick of the litter in the Rebel Stakes!

Dollars to donuts, when he DOES win big I’ll get more unftastic pictures of his pretty colty head. (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

Funny Cide, winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, paid a visit to Churchill Downs for the first time since his Run for the Roses in 2003. (Also, he is my favorite Derby winner)

Funny Cide, winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, paid a visit to Churchill Downs for the first time since his Run for the Roses in 2003. (Also, he is my favorite Derby winner)

Flat Out Stalks His Way Home First in JCGC

With dual grade I-winner Tizway scratched out of the cards, the muddy Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) felt all the more like an open casting call for the next Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) starter with an automatic berth on the line. Could lone three-year-old Stay Thirsty be the first three-year-old to win two Grade I races all year? Or would be five-year-old Flat Out [pictured] or maybe the quick-footed miler Rodman?

It was a surprising race to watch, nonetheless.

It was Rodman who got the lead straight out of the gate, followed in pursuit by Stay Thirsty, Birdrun in third and Flat Out fourth. 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer galloped along in fifth far in front of A.U. Miner, who was way in front of trailer Ice Box. Rodman set up early fractions of :24 flat for the opening quarter uncontested.

At the half point, Birdrun threaded his way up slightly to make it in :48 2/5 with Rodman still holding that lead. Stay Thirsty made a shocking step backward, running slow to reverse his position back several lengths, but then came on again with 3 furlongs remaining.

Turning for home, it was still front runner Rodman, but Flat Out made his move to challenge him for the lead. It was obvious Stay Thirsty was done, as he made little effort to improve his position with horses gaining on him from all directions. Flat Out managed to pass the tiring Rodman with about a furlong left to run to win his first grade I win easily by 3 lengths.

Drosselmeyer bounced forward to nab second place with Stay Thirsty barely hanging in there for third.

The biggest question of all: what happened to Stay Thirsty? A horse who should have favored the distance, the track and the track conditions while not appearing to give much of an effort, faded to third. It reminded me a bit of Uncle Mo’s disappointing Wood Memorial effort, or lack thereof. Let’s hope Thirsty’s okay. But for now, Flat Out is set to challenge the likes of Havre de Grace and others once again in the Classic.

Super Saturday is Here!

Sorry all, the video’s going to be a no-show thanks to time restraints and technology (I wish I had a better computer, but don’t we all), so I will try to do something wrap-upish this weekend. For now, here’s a brief summary of the races I missed before they kick off:

Late Scratches to Know: Big Drama is out of the Vosburgh with a fever, Sangaree scratched from the Kelso with a cough, Teaks North out of the Joe Hirsch. 

  • Jockey Club Gold Cup - I hate this field without Tizway; it feels really underwhelming for such an important race, and it is actually serving as a prep race for BC Marathoners Birdrun, [likely] Drosselmeyer, and A.U. Miner. Stay Thirsty is second-favorite to older horse Flat Out, who is trying for his first grade I win. It all boils down to this: Is Stay Thirsty good enough at this point, after beating most of a rather paltry three-year-old class, to beat older horses? And is Flat Out a good enough closer to catch Thirsty before he pulls away? Stay Thirsty has the streak going, but Flat Out has been really reaching with his past races and against much better competition. Tough call, but I’m trusting Stay Thirsty with the win here.
  • Beldame Invitational - A small field that should be conquered with ease by Havre de Grace. The only real worry here is going to be the fully-peaked Royal Delta, who has shown a lot of kick closing in her last races. But, I don’t pit Royal Delta in the same group as Blind Luck, so I feel pretty good about Grace logging one last win before the Classic.
  • Indiana Derby - Shackleford is the big attraction here, but he won’t be alone. Caleb’s Posse, conqueror of Uncle Mo and a real threat as a closer, has the edge and I think he’ll win if Shackleford wavers in the slightest. 
  • Lady’s Secret Stakes - Blind Luck will be facing off against some good fillies here including dual-G1 winner Ask the Moon, who will try to run off with the lead as she has done so in the past. Another closer I think is a serious threat, nearly beating older mare Ultra Blend who is also in this field, is Zazu, who has proven to be a powerful closer with final eighths in under 11 seconds. Watch your tail, Blind Luck!
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