If you were to look up “horses for courses” in a dictionary of horse racing terminology you would definitely find Flat Out. Flat Out remained unbeaten in four races at Belmont Park today, when he won an exciting stretch battle against the even money favorite Cross Traffic. The Westchester (G3), which is run as a one-turn mile, is the fourth graded stakes victory for Flat Out at Big Sandy. He adds this win to his back-to-back Jockey Club Gold Cups (G1) in 2011 and 2012 and the 2011 Suburban Handicap (G2).
Down the backstretch jockey Junior Alvarado was content to sit in fourth place just behind Cross Traffic who was setting a blistering pace of :22.77 and :45.33. Entering the clubhouse turn Flat Out began to make his move outside of horses. At the top of the stretch the battle began, the unbeaten Cross Traffic dug in after six furlongs in 1:08.87 and fought all the way to the wire. The fast fractions took their toll on the early leader, as seven-year-old Flat Out was able to get up by a head.
Alvarado rode Flat Out with great confidence and talked about it after the race, “I tried to keep him a little bit closer because I knew that Javier’s horse [Cross Traffic] was the only real speed. He broke well and I asked him a little bit. When I made the decision to go, at the three-eighths pole, he was still in hand. He kept cutting into the lead, little by little, but by the eighth pole I knew he had him. He’s a really good horse.”
After the race, NYRA track handicapper, Andy Serling, said that the final time of 1:32.99, third fastest in the 85 year history of the Westchester, was extremely impressive in that the track was not playing that fast. After comparing this race to the times of the other one-mile races on the card, he projected that the Beyer Speed Figure for this race might come close to 120.
The Westchester is Belmont Park’s main prep race for the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), which is to be run exactly a month from today on May 27th. Bribon (2009), Divine Park (2008), and Yankee Victor (2000) most recently completed that one turn mile double. In 2012 To Honor and Serve took the Westchester, but failed to win the Met Mile when Shackleford took the race on Memorial Day.
How much does Flat Out love Belmont Park? Four of his seven career wins have been at Belmont and more than half of his $2.6 million dollars in earnings have come on Big Sandy. Bill Mott’s assistant trainer, Leana Willaford, who today saddled the son of Flatter, understated her horse’s love of New York, “He does have an affinity for this racetrack, and he showed it today.”