02/07/2013 1:38PM

Gulfstream Park: Flat Out tries to keep it going at age 7 in Donn Handicap

Tom Keyser
Flat Out makes his first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Classic over a track that many thought favored speed.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – To call Flat Out a late bloomer would be an understatement. After making just six starts and earning barely over $100,000 during the first three years of his career, Flat Out has blossomed with age, running 14 times and banking over $2.42 million over the past two seasons.

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Trainer Bill Mott is hopeful Flat Out will continue to improve with age when the 7-year-old kicks off his 2013 campaign as the starting highweight under 121 pounds in a very evenly matched field of 10 older horses in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

The 1 1/8-mile Donn is one of two Grade 1 races for older horses on the 12-race program, along with the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, which features three of the top older grass horses in the country: Animal Kingdom, Point of Entry, and Unbridled Command. The outstanding card also offers a pair of Grade 3 races, the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and the $150,000 Suwannee River for fillies and mares on the turf.

Flat Out won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Suburban and earned nearly $1.2 million while under the tutelage of Scooter Dickey in 2011. He went postward the 2-1 favorite that fall in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but finished fifth in a race won by the Mott-trained Drosselmeyer.

Flat Out made two starts for Dickey last winter at Gulfstream, finishing 12th in the Fort Lauderdale on the grass and a wide-running fifth in the Donn. He was transferred to Mott’s barn prior to leaving south Florida and reverted back to peak form during the second half of the year, successfully defending his title in the Gold Cup before finishing third behind Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man in the BC Classic.

“He was very good two years ago for Scooter Dickey, he was good for me last year, and I hope he can be as good again this year as he was the last two,” said Mott, who trains Flat Out for the Preston Stables. “I was very happy with his race in the Breeders’ Cup. I think there was some concern or discussion about the racetrack being very speed favoring that day, and when you looked at the charts for that day, everything on the lead was winning. For whatever reason, the track was a conveyor belt and might not have suited his style.”

Flat Out has trained forwardly at Payson Park for his return, with six works since early January, including six furlongs in 1:14.20 on Jan. 30.

Mott said he expects a strong race off the layoff from Flat Out, citing his second in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup off a five-month break last year.

“He’s doing well and I don’t see any reason for a prep,” said Mott. “He ran well at Monmouth for us last summer without a prep.”

Flat Out will concede one pound to the up-and-coming Csaba, who has already won a pair of stakes during the current session, including the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope on Jan. 13, in which he surged in the stretch to defeat the late-running Pool Play by a neck. The victory was the fourth in a row for Csaba, who is trained by Phil Gleaves for Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff.

“I’m very pleased with the way he came out of the Hal’s Hope and with the way he’s trained for the Donn,” said Gleaves. “This is obviously a quality field – the best he’s ever faced – but I feel very good about his chances.”

Pool Play will be in receipt of a two-pound weight shift for his rematch with Csaba. Pool Play could also benefit from the added distance after just running out of real estate in the one-mile Hal’s Hope, as well as what figures to be a very legitimate pace in the Donn.

Take Charge Indy returns to the scene of his finest hour, a wire-to-wire one-length victory over Reveron in the 2012 Florida Derby. That performance earned him a trip to the Kentucky Derby. But after beating only one horse in the Derby, Take Charge Indy went to the sidelines with a chip in his ankle and did not return until the fall, closing out his abbreviated 3-year-old campaign by finishing third in the Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland and second behind Shackleford in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Take Charge Indy, who will run for the newly formed partnership of WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford, has trained brilliantly for his 2013 debut at Payson Park and has the services of John Velazquez for the first time in the Donn.

Ultimate Eagle and Bourbon Courage have both shipped in for the Donn. The 5-year-old Ultimate Eagle has made all 12 previous starts in California, where he won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at 3 and Grade 2 Strub last winter at Santa Anita. Ultimate Eagle, who does his best running on the lead, earned a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure when second, beaten a head by Coil, last month in the Grade 2 San Pasqual at Santa Anita.

The Louisiana-based Bourbon Courage finished a head behind Take Charge Indy when the pair last met in the Clark. Bourbon Courage, well drawn on the rail on Saturday, registered his most important victory late last summer when dominating the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs by a widening five lengths.

Graydar could have a say in the early pace stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time off a fast one-mile allowance win earlier in the meet.

Fast Falcon, Ducduc, and Citrus Kid complete the field.