05/25/2013 2:36PM

Belmont Park: Flat Out perfect on the surface for Met Mile

Courtney Heeney
Flat Out (left) is 4 for 4 over Belmont’s main track, including this victory over Cross Traffic in the Grade 3 Westchester last month.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Two longstanding handicapping methods will be tested Monday at Belmont Park when Flat Out runs in the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, one of the most prestigious races on the New York Racing Association calendar.

Those who subscribe to the horses-for-courses angle will put their money on Flat Out, who is 4 for 4 over Belmont’s main track – 3 for 19 everywhere else – including two wins in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup as well as victories in last year’s Grade 2 Suburban and last month’s Grade 3 Westchester.

Those who subscribe to the bounce theory, which suggests that a horse will regress after putting out a lifetime-best performance, will look to beat Flat Out with one of the other eight runners in the field. When Flat Out defeated Cross Traffic by a head in the April 27 Westchester, he ran a mile in 1:32.99 – the third-fastest of 51 Westchesters run at the distance – and earned a lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figure of 115.

For his part, trainer Bill Mott said he has seen all positive signs from Flat Out since the Westchester. The 7-year-old has put in two bullet workouts over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga in between the Westchester and the Met, one of the few races missing from Mott’s Hall of Fame r é sum é .

“You wouldn’t think he could be doing any better,” said Mott, who has Junior Alvarado to ride Flat Out from post 6.

If he wins, Flat Out would join Stymie (1948) and Forego (1977) as the only 7-year-olds to win the Met Mile, which is being run for the 120th time.

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The 4-year-old Cross Traffic ran a remarkably gritty race for the third start of his career when he finished second in the Westchester. Breaking from the rail, Cross Traffic set a fast early pace and didn’t switch leads until very late while giving way grudgingly. Still, he finished 11 1/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Cross Traffic was saddled again with the rail for the Met Mile, much to the disdain of his trainer, Todd Pletcher, who would have liked rider John Velazquez to have had some options at the break. “You got to do enough to secure your position,” said Pletcher, who also wasn’t thrilled with Discreet Dancer’s post 2 draw. “I think Fort Loudon would be the other pace factor in the race. We’ll get some position and let Johnny figure it out.”

The key to the Met Mile may be how much pressure Cross Traffic gets early from Fort Loudon, who has been a pace factor in his last three starts, and/or Fed Biz. Fort Loudon pressed the pace in winning the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. He also pressed the pace in the Grade 1 Carter before finishing fourth behind Met Mile contenders Swagger Jack, Sahara Sky, and Discreet Dancer.

Though he had been in good form in south Florida this winter, Swagger Jack was let go at 15-1 in the Carter. He came with a four-wide move in the stretch to win the Carter by three-quarters of a length.

Trainer Marty Wolfson believes a mile is a better distance for Swagger Jack and is expecting another top effort from his 5-year-old son of Smart Strike on Monday.

“The mile has been his best distance,” Wolfson said. “The mile gives him a little more to get him going. I think he can wait a little longer. I like the post, with all the speed on the inside.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Swagger Jack from post 5. The last horse to win the Carter and Met Mile in the same year was Pico Central in 2004.

Though the pace was swift in the Carter, Sahara Sky may have been left with too much to do in attempting to rally from last under Joel Rosario.

Trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer is hopeful that Rosario learned something about the horse whom he had previously ridden two years ago. “Joel had ridden him before, but a long time ago,” Hollendorfer said. “Maybe the horse was back a little too far. Most of the good riders, when you put them on for the second time, they usually ride a better race.”

Sahara Sky will break from post 7.

Mark Valeski returns to Belmont Park, where last year he won the Grade 2 Peter Pan after skipping the Kentucky Derby. A knee chip discovered in subsequent training ended his 3-year-old season, but Mark Valeski has come back with a win and two seconds from three starts this year. He is being reunited with Rosie Napravnik, who was not aboard when Mark Valeski was beaten by Graydar in the New Orleans Handicap.

“I thought we did everything well; it’s just that Graydar just kind of ran by him the last part,” said Larry Jones, the trainer of Mark Valeski. “He’s been working lights-out, and he sure galloped nice this morning.”

Handsome Mike has only three wins to his credit, but one came in the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby last fall, and the other in the Grade 3 Commonwealth at seven furlongs at Keeneland last month. Mario Gutierrez rides.

Fed Biz has made his last two starts on turf for trainer Bob Baffert but returns to dirt, a surface on which he won the Grade 2 San Fernando at Santa Anita in January.

The Met Mile goes as race 10 on an 11-race Memorial Day card that begins at 1:05 p.m. The Met is the anchor leg of an all-stakes pick four – along with the Sands Point, Ogden Phipps and Acorn – that will have a guaranteed pool of $500,000.

There also is a Belmont cooler bag giveaway Monday with paid admission.

Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Very good race...extremely form full...I have new respect for CROSS TRAFIC..but this race had sahara sky written all over it due to how the pace was going to play out.the main danger was FLAT OUT got stoped in traffic in the stretch and would have made it interesting...check out may pre race analysis below.Very good race...extremely form full...I have new respect for CROSS TRAFIC..but this race had sahara sky written all over it due to how the pace was going to play out.the main danger was FLAT OUT got stoped in traffic in the stretch and would have made it interesting...check out may pre race analysis below.two days ago.............. Nice race...seems like pace will be a major factor in determining who wins this..CROSS TRAFFIC and DISCREET DANCER will have too gun from the inside and will have FORT LAUDON and FED BIZ breathing down their neck from the outside.HANDSOM MIKE is the first to get cooked in the hot pace and retreats MARK VALESKI struggles to keep up and fades. This leaves FLAT OUT,SHARA SKY and SWAGGER JACK as the closers..i will eliminate SWAGGER JACK for two reasons first the fact that he usually regresses a little after a big effort and his last was his biggest effort yet so im expecting a regress even though he got some time off. the other reason is that he got a perfect set up last time and was all out to hold off SAHARA SKY who in my opinion should have won...I'm going to pick SAHARA SKY over FLAT OUT who loves Belmont (4 for 4) and will be very tough...for third i will use DISCREET CAT who could threaten for the win if the pace turn out not to be as contested as anticipated. for the superfecta throw in fort laudon and cross traffic.
Kevin Ryan More than 1 year ago
That was very odd. The finish can always be deceptive. But I swear it did not look like Sahara ever put a nose in front. And as they were galloping out, and I mean immediately, Cross Traffic was still in front. The camera does not lie, But I thought for sure Cross Traffic had won. Guess not. :(
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
SAHARA SKY did get his nose up on the wire. And you're right CROSS TRAFFIC was in front again after the wire and galloped out in front..in my opinion had he seen sahara sky out in the middle of the track he would have probably never let him by but he did not see him and only re rallied after the finish...tough beat .
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
The met mile , what did theyd drop CIGAR, oh yeah thats run in the fall, OK, wasn'tit the at&t, ford, espn, staples met mile ?
Kevin Ryan More than 1 year ago
Yes. I believe the Cigar Mile ( formally the NYRA mile ) is the race run at Aqueduct In late November ?
Kevin Ryan More than 1 year ago
It is hard to go against Flat Out. In the last race, Cross Traffic had things to himself, but it was a sharp pace -- which was no doubt to the former's benefit. And it should be sharper today, so if he is fit to run the same; he will be tough. But considering the fact that Cross Traffic is only making his fourth start, he is rather volatile -- might run like a monster, might not show up at all. Given the fact you won't get a price on either, who would you take as the upset special? I say Swagger Jack or Fed Biz. I'll probably go with the Smith/Baffert team but only if they go off at or near the morning line, and I think they will be shorter than that. I don't think Swagger Jack will draw any attention at all, so I'd but a small bet on him in the event the marquee runners don't fire the way they did last time.
prlyr4lyf More than 1 year ago
Flat Out scorez again!!!!!!
Dick More than 1 year ago
Lock of the year is the race before, When Kaulia Katie will be favored and gets beat by midnight lucky......
Robert Rickel More than 1 year ago
wolves More than 1 year ago
Me heart says jonjo, me head says A.P.
Advance Plumbing More than 1 year ago
cant single this race, wll go with, MV, FO,CT, SW J.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Handsome Mike...read 'em and weep...
Kevin Ryan More than 1 year ago
I don't know. I think he is in pretty tough. But given the chance that the top two may well not run back to the former -- he would certainly be worth the price ( should be the biggest price on the board )