The $150,000, one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, named in honor of Westchester County, N.Y., is the ninth race on the spring meet's first Saturday card with an approximate post time of 4:58 p.m. EDT.
Preston Stables' Flat Out will attempt to keep his Belmont record perfect in the Westchester. He is the only grade I winner in the eight-horse field, having scored a head victory over Stay Thirsty in the 2012 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park after registering a clear win in the 2011 edition of that race. Trained by Bill Mott, who won last year's Westchester with To Honor and Serve, the 7-year-old son of Flatter has been off the board in both his starts this year—the Feb. 9 Donn Handicap (gr. I) and March 30 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II).
MOST WINS BY A HORSE: Thorson 2, R. Thomas 2, Rubiano 2, Gygistar 2.
MOST WINS BY A JOCKEY: Angel Cordero, Jr. 5. Active – Alan Garcia 2, Cornelio Velasquez 2.
MOST WINS BY A TRAINER: Allen Jerkens 6.
FASTEST TIME: Najran (2003), 1:32.24.
FACTOIDS: Gygistar is the last horse to win the Westchester in back-to-back years (2004-2005) for trainer Mark Hennig.
Compiled by Gary Dougherty
But it's clear Flat Out relishes the Belmont surface, over which he notched an additional score in the 2011 Suburban Handicap (gr. II). In all, the bay horse, who was bred in Florida by Nikolaus Bock, has compiled a career record of 6-4-3 from 22 starts, for earnings of more than $2.57 million.
Installed at morning line odds of 7-2, Flat Out was produced by the Summer Squall mare Summer Raven. Junior Alvarado, who rode the horse in the New Orleans, will have the mount again in the Westchester and the pair will break from post 3.
Pants on Fire, 10-1 on the morning line, was a contender on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail in 2011, having won the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) under jockey Rosie Napravnik. The son of Jump Start —Cabo de Noche, by Cape Town went on to finish ninth under Napravnik in the Derby, the highest finish for a woman jockey in the history of the race.
Trained by Kelly Breen for George and Lori Hall, Pants on Fire will make his first start at Belmont in the Westchester. He will enter the race off a third in the March 30 Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Paco Lopez, who has been aboard for his last five starts, has the riding assignment from the outside post.
Dogwood Stable's Big Screen, second in the 2012 Calder Derby at Calder Casino & Race Course, has won two of three starts in 2013.
"We gave him some time off over the summer to take care of some minor issues, and he came back a lot stronger and more mature," said trainer Tom Albertrani in a release. "Hopefully that will be the key to him this year. He was very impressive (in an allowance optional claiming contest in January at Gulfstream), and that was a one-turn mile. I think he can be effectively at one turn or two. We feel like he's on top of his game coming into the weekend."
Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Big Screen, the 3-1 morning-line second choice, from post 7.
Mill House's Rattlesnake Bridge took a Gulfstream optional claimer by a head March 30, his first start since finishing ninth in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Prior to the Breeders' Cup Rattlesnake Bridge won the Long Branch at Monmouth Park and placed second in the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course and third in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) at Parx Racing.
"The crazy thing is he never had any surgery," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "That says a lot about Mill House. We tried to give him time off, he bruised a cannon bone, we brought him back, he bruised a cannon bone, we brought him back. It's nice that they were patient, and he's doing great."
Rattlesnake Bridge, 5-1 on the morning line, will depart from post 5 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Cross Traffic, a 4-year-old, is the least experienced runner in the Westchester, having made two starts to date, both triumphs at Gulfstream. The son of Unbridled's Song most recently took an optional claimer by 7 1/2 lengths on March 10 despite racing greenly.
"He's an exciting kind of a horse," said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "He had a great work the other day (five furlongs in 1:00.45) on the training track. Last year, he couldn't seem to get over the hump, had a couple of little things, and it was decided to regroup. The time he was here he touted himself as a pretty nice sort of horse."
Javier Castellano has the call aboard Cross Traffic, the 5-2 morning-line favorite who drew post 2.
Rounding out the field are Norman Asbjornson, winner of the March 16 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes at Laurel Park; Mordi's Miracle, who was third in the March 23 Excelsior (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack; and 2010 Holy Bull (gr. III) winner Winslow Homer .
$150,000 Westchester (gr. III, Race 9, 4:58 p.m.), 3YOs and up, one mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Mordi's Miracle, C P DeCarlo, 117, T A Pletcher, 10-1
2. Cross Traffic (KY), J Castellano, 117, T A Pletcher, 5-2
3. Flat Out (FL), J Alvarado, 119, W I Mott, 7-2
4. Winslow Homer (KY), R Maragh, 117, C C Brown, 10-1
5. Rattlesnake Bridge (KY), J Lezcano, 117, K P McLaughlin, 5-1
6. Norman Asbjornson (PA), J Rose, 119, C A Mancilla, 15-1
7. Big Screen (KY), I Ortiz, Jr., 117, T Albertrani, 3-1
8. Pants On Fire (KY), P Lopez, 119, K J Breen, 10-1