07/04/2013 11:12AM

Belmont Park: Flat Out aims to bounce back in Suburban Handicap

Chelsea Durand/NYRA
Flat Out will make his third stakes start of the Belmont Park meet in the Suburban Handicap.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Even though he suffered his first defeat at Belmont Park in his last start, it would be incorrect to label Flat Out’s third-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap a bad race.

Attempting to move into contention leaving the five-sixteenths pole, Flat Out had to check behind a tiring Handsome Mike, losing his momentum. While it may not have cost him the win – Sahara Sky and Cross Traffic ran terrific finishing noses apart – Flat Out may have made it more interesting. Instead, Flat Out was beaten 3 1/2 lengths.

Saturday, Flat Out will look to rebound when he heads a field of five entered in the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap – being run for the 127th time – at 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park. Flat Out, a 7-year-old son of Flatter owned by Preston Stables and trained by Bill Mott, has won four graded stakes at Belmont, including the 2011 Suburban, then trained by Scooter Dickey.

His affinity for Belmont is why Flat Out is making his third graded stakes appearance of the meet in this spot and also why he is the even-money morning-line favorite. Flat Out, who has won the last two runnings of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, won the Grade 3 Westchester here April 27, running down a stubborn pacesetter, Cross Traffic, who set very fast fractions that day.

Saturday, there does not appear to be much early speed, a possible hindrance to Flat Out, the 119-pound highweight who breaks from post 4 under Junior Alvarado.

“I’m happy with the two mile races in him,” Mott said. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to lay a little bit closer Saturday and he’ll still have a little bit of a kick.”

Last Gunfighter looms the major threat to Flat Out. A 4-year-old son of First Samurai owned by John Gunther, Last Gunfighter has won six consecutive races, a streak that began Oct. 12 in a one-turn, one-mile maiden race at Belmont. He has won three consecutive stakes going two turns, including the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 17.

“It was a good race, a good spot, the horse ran super,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He’s had some time to recover, seems to be training well. It’s a tall task facing a horse like Flat Out. It might not be a large field, but it’s a solid field. This is his biggest test to date.”

Percussion also is a threat as the potential primary speed under John Velazquez. Percussion has three wins and a second in the Grade 2 Brooklyn from five starts since being purchased privately by Gary Barber and transferred to trainer Todd Pletcher. Two starts back, Percussion won the Albert the Great Stakes – like the Suburban a one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race – by a nose over Fast Falcon, who was a late addition to this field.

“Looks like he could be the speed of the race,” said Pletcher, who has never won the Suburban. “We’ll put him on the lead and see how far he can go. He ran great in the Brooklyn. Who knows? Cutting back from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth could be a good thing.”

Alpha, who dead-heated for the win in last year’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga, makes his first start in New York since that race. He wintered in Dubai, where his best race was a credible fifth in the Grade 2 Godolphin Mile over Meydan’s synthetic surface.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he has been very pleased with how Alpha looks and has trained since his return to the United States, but admits to this being a tall task running against the likes of Flat Out.

Fast Falcon, who finished a neck behind Alpha and Golden Ticket in the Travers, attempts to end an 11-race losing streak in the Suburban. He comes out of a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Brooklyn. Cornelio Velasquez rides from post 5.

The Suburban, which shares billing with the Grade 2, $200,000 Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds, will go as race 8 on the 11-race card and begin the late pick-four wager that has a guaranteed pool of $300,000.