09/27/2012 2:13PM

Belmont: Flat Out tries to end losing streak in Jockey Club Gold Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Flat Out training earlier this month. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year and is coming off a sharp performance when third in the Whitney.

ELMONT, N.Y. – There have been seven different winners of the eight Grade 1 races run at a mile or over this year on the main track for 3-year-olds and up.

Though three of those horses – Ron the Greek, Fort Larned, and Hymn Book – are in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, a horse who has not won a race this year could very well be the one to beat.

Flat Out, who won last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, returns to his favorite surface when he faces five other Grade 1 winners and nine opponents overall in the 94th running of the Gold Cup, one of six graded stakes on a spectacular 11-race card at Belmont Park that includes a $500,000-guaranteed pick four and a $96,841 pick-six carryover.

The Jockey Club, run at 1 1/4 miles, is one of five Grade 1 races on the card, which also includes the Grade 2 Kelso. The winners of all six races earn automatic berths into their respective Breeders’ Cup races as part of the Win and You’re In program that pays entry fees and a $10,000 travel stipend.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a stepping-stone to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic run at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. Only three of the last 17 Gold Cup winners have gone on to take the Classic. However the Gold Cup runners-up in 2010 (Blame) and 2011 (Drosselmeyer) did come back to win the Classic.

[SUPER SATURDAY: PPs and race previews for Belmont Park]

Flat Out, who finished fifth as the favorite in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, is winless in four starts this year and his last six overall. But he ran his best race when third in last month’s Grade 1 Whitney Invitational in which he was six wide in the stretch. He was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Fort Larned and a head for second by his stablemate Ron the Greek.

“That horse ran as good as a horse can run last time,” said Bill Mott, who trains both Flat Out and Ron the Greek. “He was getting to the winner; both our horses were getting to the winner. He was head and head with Ron the Greek. Can he move up off of that? I don’t know. I hope he runs that same race back. If he puts in that same kind of effort, he’s got a heck of a good chance to win.”

Flat Out, then trained by Scooter Dickey, won last year’s Gold Cup over a sealed muddy surface, defeating Drosselmeyer. Flat Out was transferred to Mott following his fifth-place finish in the Donn Handicap in February.

Joel Rosario will ride Flat Out from post 9.

Ron the Greek is the only dual Grade 1 winner in the older horse division. He won the Santa Anita and Stephen Foster handicaps earlier this year and comes off a second in the Whitney last out when he got carried out by Flat Out in the stretch.

“Everybody loves Ron,” Mott said. “He’s a trier, he keeps digging. They better not falter up front, or he’s going to come and get you, He’s that kind of horse.

“He’s run some very good races, he’s probably at the top of his division right now,” Mott added. “He’s done well since the Whitney. He’s fresh, ready to go, and I think we’re looking forward to the next two races.”

Like Flat Out, Hymn Book has an affinity for Belmont, earning two wins and two seconds from four starts here. He is 4 for 5 over wet surfaces, and he could get a wet track on Saturday.

“Any type of moisture in it, he moves way up,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He’s better with a little bit of pace when he can lay back a little farther.”

John Velazquez pilots Hymn Book from post 4.

Fort Larned was visually impressive winning the Whitney, opening up a five-length lead turning for home before settling for a 1 1/4-length score. He has won at four different tracks this year and has trained very well since shipping to Belmont three weeks ago.

Fort Larned, who will break from post 5 under Brian Hernandez, figures to get first run on Hymn Book, Ron the Greek, and Flat Out.

“We do not have to lead, and that’s the good thing about it,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “We can do a lot of things. This hose has gotten more mature that way. We’re not one dimensional.”

San Pablo and Ruler On Ice could be part of the pace. San Pablo, trained by Todd Pletcher, was on the pace when he won the Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 2. He did come from off the pace to win the Grade 3 Philip Iselin 16 days later at Monmouth.

Javier Castellano rides San Pablo from post 8.

Ruler On Ice has not won since upsetting the Belmont Stakes over a sloppy track in June 2011. He attended a moderate pace that day.

Stay Thirsty, who was second to Ruler On Ice in the Belmont, also has the ability to lay close to the pace, which he did winning the Travers, his last victory. He has lost all five of his starts since then but gets a switch to jockey Ramon Dominguez.

Game Ball, whose success on dirt came at Fort Erie last year, looks to be well overmatched in this spot.

Fast Falcon and Atigun finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Travers, both having to alter course behind an injured Street Life around the far turn. Both horses are closers who would benefit from a strong early pace, and both should appreciate the 1 1/4-mile distance.