09/24/2013 3:20PM

Belmont Park: Flat Out takes aim at rare feat in Jockey Club Gold Cup

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Barbara D. Livingston
Last year, Flat Out became just the 10th horse in history to win back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – It would have come as no surprise had the connections of Flat Out announced his retirement at the end of last year.

The horse had completed his 6-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. One race earlier, Flat Out became just the 10th horse in history to win back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. There were offers to stand Flat Out at stud, but owner Art Preston – who at one time ran a breeding operation with his brothers Jack and the late J.R. – declined.

“My interest is in racing. It’s so hard to get a horse like this,” Preston said Wednesday by phone from Texas. “You’d like to see them race as long as they want to race and they’re good at it.”

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Flat Out, a son of Flatter, has been very good at racing, and nowhere has he been better than at Belmont Park, where he has 5 wins from 6 starts, all in graded stakes. On Saturday, Flat Out will attempt to win his third consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cup, a feat accomplished only by the mighty Kelso, who actually won five in a row from 1960-64.

“I think that’d be very historical. It would mean a lot to us, it really would,” Preston said. “The possibility has got us excited. Just to be in that position is terrific.”

Not only does the Jockey Club Gold Cup offer a $1 million purse, it is a Win and You’re In race for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, meaning the winner gets his entry fees paid for the race.

Given the physical issues he has had, that Flat Out is still racing – and in peak form – at age 7 is somewhat remarkable. He has had problems with quarter cracks, something that began in 2009 as a 3-year-old. Those issues plus a stress fracture suffered in his shoulder following a sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby conspired to keep him away from the races for 20 months.

In the last three seasons, Flat Out has competed in 20 consecutive graded stakes, winning five and running second in five and third in four more. Most recently, he was beaten a head by Alpha in the Grade  1 Woodward at Saratoga, but still surpassed the $3 million mark in career earnings.

The Hall of Famer Bill Mott has trained Flat Out for the last year and a half, taking over from Scooter Dickey, who had him for his first 16 races. Mott said Flat Out’s durability has impressed him.

“He’s had his foot issues we’ve had to deal with but apart from that he’s just a real durable tough sort of horse,” Mott said.

Though he’s 7, Flat Out has run some of the best races of his career this year, at least from a speed figure standpoint. In April, when he rallied to beat Cross Traffic by a head in the Grade 3 Westchester, he ran a mile in 1:32.99, and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 116.

Though he suffered his first loss at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, Flat Out got shuffled back at the quarter pole, losing any chance. He rebounded with a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 Suburban, a race in which he stalked the pace from second, a change of style from the late-running tactics he employed in years past.

“The last few races we’ve had Junior [Alvarado] on him and we finally got him convinced he needs to be [closer], a length or two off the lead,” Preston said. “He showed that in the Westchester he can go a mile as fast as any of them can and have something left.”

Preston said that in some of his previous races, Flat Out would fall eight or 10 lengths off the pace and his late run would fall short.

“You can make up five or six lengths on these Grade 1 horses, you can’t make up eight or 10,” Preston said.

In the Woodward, a race in which Flat Out fell a head short to the front-running Alpha in the slop, Flat Out drifted out under Alvarado’s left-handed whip and though he came running once Alvarado straightened him away, he couldn’t catch Alpha.

On Tuesday, Flat Out worked four furlongs in 48.28 seconds over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga. He was scheduled to ship to Belmont on Wednesday.

How Flat Out fares on Saturday will determine his future. Preston would like to get Flat Out back to the Breeders’ Cup Classic – he finished fifth as the favorite in that race at Churchill Downs in 2011. After that, Preston will decide whether to retire him or run him again at 8, all depending on the condition of the horse and what potential stallion offers are made.

“Who knows if I’ll have another horse like this?” he said.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wont say it will never be on pay per view,because at some point the HRC will probaly give it a trial run .I will say thia though if you really enjoy watching the some of the worlds very best horses run against the best I would definitely pay,that if i didnt have tickets,and baby do i have tickets this year.So.Cal here i come
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Sorry people but I have to say this. WHO WOULD NOT Pay $40 to see Breeders Cup live. Some guy is complaining.about that. I would pay to see it on Pay per view. OH crap I just gave them a ideal you Guys are going to kill Me now.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
In Flat Outs latest, The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Flat Out ran as hard as he ever had IMO, hope it didn't take to much out of the Old man. Alpha , with blinkers on and the way he won his latest, The Woodward and at 8/1 ML. Is that right , 8/1 ? A gift........
Old timer More than 1 year ago
I agree that Flat Out should not be mentioned in the same breath as Kelso. I was on hand at Belmont for the 5th of Kelso's wins and at that time the race was 2 miles and he broke not only the track but the WORLD record for 2 miles. He was also HOY for 5 consecutive years. Kelso was in the top 5 of the century on everyone's list. Let's not take anything away from Flat Out however. These days that is super that he has been around that long and may make it three in a row. Good luck to an old warrior.
Albert More than 1 year ago
Look, I was Kelso's biggest fan....saw many, many of his races. He was a terrific horse, but what does that make Gun Bow, Iron Peg and Beau Purple????? They all beat him fair and square, no excuses. NONE of them are in the top 100 of the last century. Name one exceptional horse that Kelso beat? Carry Back? Please. And what horse won 2 consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cups after his 5? Shuvee: a filly. This race has become a prep for good reason (the Breeders Cup) and it's a very good prep this year. Old timers like me have to try to keep perspective. There were four horses who came on the scene after Kelso who would have dusted him: Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Affirmed and Seattle Slew. And that's not to mention Damascus and Buckpasser, who would have clocked him too. He was durable; he was fast; but he was not one of the top 5 of the century.
Joyce Johnson Groome More than 1 year ago
I wish we would stop comparing the stars of today to the greats of yesteryear! They are bred differently and don't race as often as they did back then, among other variables! It's like comparing apples with oranges! It's great to look back but I like to enjoy the wonderful horses of today and hope for greatness in the future!
Perl More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy your perspective. It is so refreshing and contrarian to hear an old timer's honest and measured perspective on Kelso. I'm not in position to agree or disagree with you because it was before my time but it sounds like you know what you are talking about. Kudos.
Joyce Johnson Groome More than 1 year ago
Well said! Old Timer!
Nicholas Briglia More than 1 year ago
Flat Out having a chance to win three in a row probably says more about the weakness of the division than anything else. He's a nice horse but not even close to a superstar. Even putting him in the same sentence with Kelso is ridiculous.
Joyce Johnson Groome More than 1 year ago
I really don't think he was being compared to Kelso! Kelso did it 5 times! He deserves being mentioned if he can do it 3x though! Don't you think!
Eighthhouse More than 1 year ago
Well as it may be they haven't mention in the DRF 9/24/2013 @ 4:20 pm Orb being in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race on Saturday so, Old Orb might be the horse to beat in that race today is just the 9/25/2013;
WILL More than 1 year ago
STOP DRINKING PAL
Guy John More than 1 year ago
Dropping BIG dime on Flat Out. The 3 yr olds aren't fast enough and CT will die in the final 1/4 mile. I think this is the easiest stakes race to bet on Sat. Hopefully, Flat Out will get me 3-1.
prose More than 1 year ago
You know what? I hate this horse. I bet him so heavy in the 2011 Classic only to see him not run a lick and get beat by .. by a ... a no-talent plodder like Drosselmeyer. That was it. I said to myself then, "I will never bet another cent on this horse and I hope he never wins again." And I mean it. There are some horses you just hate and this is one of them. I will never be burned by this horse again. If he beats my selections, fine, I can live with that, but I will never bet a single cent on him ever again.
Perl More than 1 year ago
I can sorta respect that but if you just bet on him at Belmont over the years you'd be rich. Hard to toss him at this track.
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Whoa! Hate is a strong word pal...I think you should blame yourself for not realizing 2 yrs ago that Flat Out isn't worth a $2 bet outside NY...the horse has nothing to do with it, he just really likes Belmont for some reason.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
It's your loss Dude and really, nobody but you cares about that. What you have missed is the story of a Horseman bringing a Racehorse back into form.
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
I hate the fact that you hate the horse. That word should be used sparingly & when it is truly justified.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
How can a person hate a horse Flat out did not tell you to bet on him. DID he shoot your Dog, still your boyfriend or girlfriend. Drosselmeyer did not run that bad in 2011 gold cup came in second was just to late. Also won Belmont Stakes. He was a decent animal that a lot of people look past and made a lot of know it alls UPSET. Would not call him no talented plodder.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Everyone needs to relax. I don't think prose actually "hates" flat out. He uses it as a figure of speech. You get +1 from me bro and that's worth like +7 in currency translation.
Brenda Benavidez More than 1 year ago
You put a bet on him on your own will. So its your fault not the horse. I hate people that hate horses & wishes them bad & start trashing them just beacuse they lost $ on them. When you put $ on a horse, you're putting it at your own cost. So dont blame the horse for something that was lost by no one's fault but yours.
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
I'm not necessarily a fan of Flat Out, but I do appreciate his connections for keeping him in training and not rushing him to the breeding shed...wish we had more like them. He's the horse to beat here for sure (I wouldn't bet a penny on him outside NY though)...I'll be rooting for Orb to get it done on Sat.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
They should just shortened the race to 5 furlongs since it's unusually long!! I think I have heard it alll. They hyping of these mediocre short distance sprinters bred today is the biggest reason this industry is on the decline. They couldn't run a mile whether it's the beginning of the year or end of year.
WILL More than 1 year ago
I CAN SEE YOUR A BIG FAN
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Try the buggies instead maybe quarter horse racing, they are breeding them right. How bout dogs. Miler thoroughbreds is not for you. It is me only when they stretch out or shorten up.
Brenda Benavidez More than 1 year ago
I really dont get you people. What do you want?. Let the races go to 1 1/2 miles + so that the horses can break down & then you type of people can have more complaints about the sport? First is ppl complaining bout we're racing horses to the graveyard & making them do something they dont want. Then races are made shorter so horses wont run that much & then you guys complain that they're too short & this horses are "lame". & you want the races longer -- which will probably actually hurt the horses. You people --so called fans-- always have something to complain about.