07/07/2012 7:43PM

Monmouth Park: Rule returns with Monmouth Cup victory

David Owens/Equi-Photo
Rule, with Joe Bravo riding, wins the Monmouth Cup.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - The leading story line heading into the Grade 2, $195,000 Monmouth Cup on Saturday was the return of Flat Out after a lengthy layoff.

Turns out, that was the right angle, but the wrong horse.

Rule, back in action for the first time since the Hawthorne Gold Cup in October, pulled a mild upset at 5-2 in the race formerly known as the Meadowlands Cup.

One of two Todd Pletcher-trained horses in the race, Rule stuck like glue to Sloane Ranger as that rival set a very slow pace on an extremely hot afternoon. They crawled along through fractions of 25.43 seconds, 49.72 and 1:14.18.

Joe Bravo gave Rule his cue midway on the final turn, and the 5-year-old took a narrow lead.
Sloane Ranger, a sprinter stretching out to this one-mile distance, hung in gamely into the lane until Rule pulled clear in the final stages.

"I don't care how long the layoff, this horse was ready to go the minute the gates opened," Bravo said. "He was doing it easy all the way down the backstretch. Todd had him ready to run, and I just steered him around the track."

Flat Out, making his first start since the Donn Handicap in February and a barn change to Hall of Famer Bill Mott, bobbled at the break. He recovered to enjoy a close up trip along the rail.  Rosie Napravnik angled him off the fence in the stretch and Flat Out closed strongly to get second, 1 1/2 lengths behind Rule.

The race was a productive building block for both Rule and Flat Out, one of the last year's major handicap stars with victories in the Suburban Handicap and the Jockey Club Gold Cup while trained by Scooter Dickey.

The owners, Preston Stables, made the trainer switch with the goal of campaigning Flat Out in the New York area.

The time was 1:37.71 for the mile.

Sloan Ranger got third, followed by San Pablo, the other uncoupled Pletcher runner who was bumped at the break, and Cactus Charlie
Rule was third here last summer in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, a race not being run this year. The Monmouth Cup was shortened one furlong as the replacement on the stakes calendar.
A homebred by WinStar Farm, Rule got his sixth win in 16 starts.

Ponzi Scheme was scratched, reducing the field to five.