09/30/2012 12:51PM

Belmont: Mott in position to sweep Breeders' Cup Classic, Ladies' Classic again

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Tom Keyser
Royal Delta earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106 for her victory in the Beldame.

ELMONT, N.Y. - At the beginning of 2012, trainer Bill Mott thought it was possible he could get back to the Breeders’ Cup and attempt to duplicate his 2011 feat of winning the $5 million Classic and the $3 million Ladies Classic in the same year.

That possibility became even more realistic with the results at Belmont Park of Saturday’s major stepping-stones towards the Breeders’ Cup which will be held Nov. 2-3 at Santa Anita.  

Royal Delta, who won last year’s Ladies’ Classic, cemented her status as the favorite for this year’s Ladies’ Classic with a devastatingly easy 9 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Beldame.

 Meanwhile, Flat Out earned his way back to the Breeders’ Cup Classic  - a race in which he finished fifth as the favorite last year - with a persevering head victory over Stay Thirsty in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup. Mott, who took over the training of Flat Out this year, won last year’s $5 million Classic with Drosselmeyer.

“It’s pretty tough to duplicate, but if everything goes well I guess it could happen,” Mott said of winning both the Ladies’ Classic and Classic, something only he had John Shirreffs (2009) have done in the 28-year history of the Breeders’ Cup. “But I understand the races don’t get easier.”

 Royal Delta sure made it look easy in the Beldame, moving past It’s Tricky on the middle of the far turn and cruising from there, winning by a large margin despite being geared down by jockey Mike Smith. She did earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 106 for the performance, which could leave some to wonder if she is susceptible to bounce, or regress in the Ladies Classic.

 “I suppose if you’re a sheets guy you always worry about it,” Mott said. “I understand the risk of a horse running that big sometimes they don’t fire back as well the next time.”

Flat Out, who became the 10th horse to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup in back-to-back years, earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure for this year’s victory. He was coming off a third in the Whitney at Saratoga in which he earned a 108. Last year, Flat Out strung together a four-race series in which he earned Beyers of 113, 106, 109, and 107.

 “He’s a pretty tough, stout sort of horse,” Mott said. “He’s done it before.”

 The biggest challenge regarding Flat Out is the condition of his feet, Mott said.

“His feet are sort of an ongoing challenge. I don’t think you ever have a comfort level where you say everything’s going to be okay,” Mott said. “It’s just a matter of you have to do a lot of work, special shoeing and a little luck.”

Mott also plans to run Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve in the Classic despite their lackluster performances on Saturday.

 Ron the Greek, who earlier in the year won the Santa Anita Handicap, finished sixth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Mott said jockey Jose Lezcano told him he didn’t handle the off track, which was labeled good.

 Mott said he is okay with drawing a line through Ron the Greek’s performance in the Gold Cup.

To Honor and Serve, who won the Woodward on Sept. 1, was a dull fourth in the Kelso, run at a mile. Mott said he felt he needed to run the horse in between the Woodward and Breeders’ Cup.

  “I’m not making apologies for running him,” Mott said. “I wish he would have won, but obviously he was a little dull. I don’t think it was a mistake if the goal is the Breeders’ Cup.”

 Owner Mike Repole said he has not made a decision whether to run Stay Thirsty in the Breeders’ Cup. Repole said if he opts not to run, then Stay Thirsty would most likely be retired. Repole is in negotiations to stand the horse as a stallion next year.

 Fort Larned, the Whitney winner who finished third in the Gold Cup, is still being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was to ship to Churchill Downs, where he will do the bulk of his training.