Preston Stables' Flat Out successfully defended his title in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his first win in the prestigious 1 1/4-mile race since saddling Cigar to victory in 1995.
Flat Out joins an illustrious group of repeat winners of the Gold Cup that includes Mad Hatter (1921-22), Dark Secret (1933-34), Nashua (1955-56). Shuvee (1970-71), Slew o' Gold (1983-84), Creme Fraiche (1986-87), Skip Away (1996-97) and Curlin (2007-08). The legendary Kelso won the race five consecutive years from 1960 through 1964.Flat Out's task wasn't easy as Stay Thirsty turned in his most tenacious effort since capturing last year's Grade 1 Travers. The Todd Pletcher trainee set fractions of :23 2/5, :47 1/5, 1:11 4/5 and 1:36 2/5, successfully turned back an upper stretch challenge from 5-2 favorite Fort Larned, and grudgingly gave way to the winner in the final strides.
Flat Out, who rated off the rail in mid-pack down the backside, swung out for a clear path around the far turn, was two lengths behind Stay Thirsty in third at the quarter pole, and wore down the leader while under strong encouragement from first-time pilot Joel Rosario. The long-striding six-year-old prevailed by a head in a time of 2:01 2/5 over the good main track.
"It looked like (Rosario) let him pick off a couple of horses on the backside, and he was doing it under a hold," Mott said. "That was a good thing. He hadn't asked him to run. The horse was just striding out and picking up horses. That other horse (Stay Thirsty) fought on pretty well. Both horses ran huge races and you have to give a lot of credit to the horse who ran second. He ran his butt off."
Flat Out paid $9.30, $5.60 and $4 as the 7-2 third choice. Fort Larned, who tracked one position ahead of Flat Out most of the way finished a clear third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Stay Thirsty and two lengths in front of the three-year-old Atigun, who had a nose up on Fast Falcon.
Farther back was Mott's multiple Grade 1 winner and 3-1 second choice Ron the Greek, Game Ball, Hymn Book and San Pablo. Ruler on Ice was eased in the stretch when hopelessly beaten.
In a career interrupted several times by infirmities, Flat Out has saved his best for Belmont Park. He is three-for-three over the famed New York oval, also having won the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap last year. His only other stakes win was the 2009 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, which he captured by 3 1/2 lengths in just his third career start.
In addition to his Suburban and Gold Cup wins last season, Flat Out placed in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap, Grade 1 Woodward, Grade 1 Clark Handicap and Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap. He ran fifth as the mild 7-2 favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Flat Out made two final starts for trainer Scooter Dickey earlier this year, finishing last of 12 in the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale on the turf at Gulfstream and fifth in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Later transferred to the Mott barn, Flat Out preceded this victory with a second in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup and a third in the Whitney behind Fort Larned and Ron the Greek. His record now stands at 19-6-4-2, $2,042,383.
By Flatter, Flat Out was bred by Nikolaus Bock in Florida and brought $11,800 as an OBS October weanling before selling for $85,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. He is out of multiple stakes heroine Cresta Lil, who has also foaled multiple stakes winner Our Best Man. This is the same family as Grade 1 vixens Got Koko and Tarlow as well as Grade 3 scorers J. T.'s Pet and Miss Otis.