09/29/2012 5:07PM

Belmont Park: Flat Out repeats in Gold Cup, BC Classic is next up

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Tom Keyser
Flat Out (left) nails front-running Stay Thirsty in deep stretch of the Jockey Club Gold Cup as Ramon Dominguez's whip sails over the inner rail.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Flat Out returned to his favorite racetrack Saturday and returned to the winner’s circle in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Now he will return to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race where he was the beaten favorite a year ago.

Flat Out, winless in six starts since capturing last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, needed the length of the Belmont Park stretch to get past the pace-setting Stay Thirsty to win the Gold Cup by a head before a crowd of 8,639.

It was 5 1/2 lengths back to Whitney winner Fort Larned in third.

Flat Out is now 3 for 3 at Belmont, having also captured the Grade 2 Suburban a year ago.

Flat Out became the 10th horse to win the Jockey Gold Cup in back-to-back years. Others to do it include Mad Hatter (1921-22), Dark Secret (1933-34), Nashua (1956-67), Kelso (1960-64), Shuvee (1970-71), Slew o Gold (1983-84), Crème Fraiche (1986-87), Skip Away (1996-97), and Curlin (2007-08). Skip Away and Curlin won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

After beating Drosselmeyer by 2 1/4 lengths in last year’s Gold Cup, Flat Out finished fifth, beaten three lengths by Drosselmeyer in the Classic at Churchill Downs.

By virtue of his victory in this year’s Gold Cup, Flat Out earns an automatic berth in the Classic with his pre-entry fees paid and a $10,000 travel stipend.

After two poor performances to begin the year, Flat Out was transferred to trainer Bill Mott. In his first two starts for Mott, Flat Out was second in the Monmouth Cup and third in the Whitney, the latter with a wide trip.

Saturday, with Joel Rosario aboard for the first time, Flat Out settled into sixth position while Stay Thirsty, under Ramon Dominguez, ran a quarter in 23.49 seconds and a half-mile in 47.21.

Flat Out advanced into fifth position along the backside and was held in abeyance by Rosario until midway around the far turn. Meanwhile, Fort Larned, who was sitting behind Stay Thirsty, Ruler On Ice, and San Pablo, moved early into contention under Brian Hernandez.

Stay Thirsty, who ran a mile in 1:36.41, repelled Fort Larned turning for home. But Flat Out, under a persevering ride from Rosario, was able to get past Stay Thirsty in the final three strides.

Flat Out, a 6-year-old son of Flatter, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.44 and returned $9.30 as the third choice.

“It looked like he aws letting him pick off a couple of horses and he was doing it under a hold, he hadn’t asked him to run,” Mott said. “The horse was just striding out and picking up horses.”

Mott said Stay Thirsty, trained by Todd Pletcher, “fought on pretty well. Todd looked like he had him ready today. We just had ours a little more read today and it wasn’t by much.”

Stay Thirsty was trying to win his first race since taking last year’s Travers Stakes. He ran his best race since then, but had to settle for second best.

“We’re not big into consolation prizes, but you got to be proud of his effort,” Pletcher said. “He did all the work the whole way, laid down some really solid fractions for a mile and a quarter race and he was still fighting at the end. He showed us he’s back in his best form.”

The runner-up of the last two Gold Cups - Drosselmeyer last year and Blame in 2010 - came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Pletcher said he would leave the decision whether to run in the Classic up to owner Mike Repole, who in a text said he was “too disappointed to think about the Classic.”

Fort Larned, the Whitney winner finished third Saturday, but his trainer, Ian Wilkes, was not discouraged and will bring his horse to the Classic as well.

“My horse likes to stay in a rhythm and I was two months between races,” Wilkes said. “Probably not the best for my horse, but to get to the Breeders’ Cup that’s what I needed to do.”

Mott won the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year with Drosselmeyer and in 1995 with Cigar. He will likely take three to that race this year - Flat Out, Ron the Greek, and To Honor and Serve.

Ron the Greek finished sixth in the Jockey Club, beaten 12 lengths, but he did win the Santa Anita Handicap earlier in the year.

“Hopefully it was a case of he had an off day,” Mott said. “We know he likes Santa Anita. Maybe five weeks from now it’ll be his day. You can’t ever count him out.”