04/27/2013 5:18PM

Belmont Park: Flat Out by a head in Westchester

Courtney Heeney
Flat Out (left), with Junior Alvarado riding, gets up in the final strides to win the Westchester.

Trainer Bill Mott didn’t lose faith in his 7-year-old Flat Out despite two losses to begin the year.“The first two races would make you wonder, but if they’re sound and doing well, usually they’ll come back,” Mott said. “He was certainly doing well enough.”

Back at his favorite track - Belmont Park - Flat Out, under Junior Alvarado, chased pacesetting Cross Traffic the length of the stretch, catching him a few strides from the wire to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester Stakes by a head. It was 11 1/4 lengths back to Rattlesnake Bridge in third. He was followed by Big Screen and Norman Asbjornson.

Pants On Fire, Mordi’s Miracle, and Winslow Homer scratched.

The win was the fourth in as many starts at Belmont Park for Flat Out, a 7-year-old son of Flatter owned by Preston Stables. Flat Out has won the last two runnings of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Grade 2 Suburban in 2011.

He will most likely make his next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap here on May 27.

Flat Out usually does his best running from well off the pace. On Saturday, he was kept within 2 1/2 lengths of the early lead through a half-mile run by Cross Traffic in 45.33 seconds.

Leaving the half-mile pole, Alvarado moved Flat Out three wide and was within a length of Cross Traffic, the even-money favorite, turning for home.

Cross Traffic, 2 for 2 in his career going into the Westchester, appeared to spurt away under Javier Castellano, but may have been hampered by racing on his wrong lead until the sixteenth pole.

Flat Out kept charging and got up in the final strides. He returned $7.70 as the second choice. His final time of 1:32.99 was the third fastest of 52 Westchesters run at a mile. Only Najran (1:32.24 in 2003) and Divine Park (1:32.74) ran faster.

“I tried to keep him a little bit closer because I knew that [Cross Traffic] was the only real speed,” Alvarado said. “He broke well and I asked him a little bit. When I made the decision to go, at the three-eighths pole, he was still in hand. He kept cutting into the lead, little by little, but by the eighth pole I knew he had him.”

Mott, who watched the race from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., said he was glad that Alvarado had the horse closer than usual to the pace.

“I’m glad our horse was in a closer position early,” Mott said. “He broke well settled, and he kept him to the outside and he ran him down.”