Flat Out adds another Grade 1 win in Cigar Mile Handicap
By Jon Forbes | 11/30/2013 05:44 PM ET
Flat Out, still going strong at the conclusion of his 7-year-old season, launched an outside rally on the turn and took over in midstretch to win the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap by 1 ¼ lengths on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The oldest horse in the field of 10 3-year-olds and up, Flat Out bided his time in seventh through an opening half-mile in 45.39 seconds set by long shot Private Zone. Junior Alvarado pushed the button aboard Flat Out midway on the turn, and the veteran circled the field and entered the stretch with his sights set on the leader.
With less than a furlong to travel, Flat Out drew alongside Private Zone and promptly dispatched the pacesetter, who stayed on to finish second, two lengths ahead of Verrazano. Groupie Doll, the reigning Champion Female Sprinter who was second by a nose in the 2012 Cigar Mile, finished fourth, beaten 3 ½ lengths.
Flat Out, the 6-1 fifth choice, returned $15 for a $2 win wager and completed the distance in 1:34.68. The son of Flatter is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Preston Stables.
"I put him in the race and made sure he wasn't too far back," said Alvarado. "I had a perfect trip. I couldn't ask for anything better than that. For him, I think it was the dream trip - on the outside, clear, nothing bothering him, the speed was going very fast in front. When I asked him, he definitely gave me all he had. He's a very nice horse, and he made a very nice run."
The Cigar Mile was the third Grade 1 victory for Flat Out, who won the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational. He was a distant third in the 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup in September and entered the Cigar Mile off an eighth-place finish, beaten 9 ¾ lengths, in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic on November 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup were contested at 1 ¼ miles, but Flat Out had proven himself at one mile in the spring at Belmont Park when he won the Grade 3 Westchester by a head over Cross Traffic and was third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.
The Cigar Mile was the first graded stakes win away from Belmont for Flat Out, whose stakes wins also include the 2011 and 2013 renewals of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. Overall, Flat Out is 9-5-5 from 29 starts.
"This horse, I can't say enough about him," said Mott. "He's just been a real tough, durable horse, a horse that I've always felt may be as good at a flat mile as he is at 10 furlongs. Although he has won the Jockey Club Gold Cup twice at 10 furlongs, [he's] versatile enough to get up and get the job done at a mile."
It was the third Cigar Mile victory for Mott, who had last won the race in 2011 with To Honor and Serve. Mott also won the race, then the NYRA Mile, in 1994 with Hall of Fame inductee Cigar. The NYRA Mile was renamed in honor of Cigar in 1997.
The Cigar Mile victory was worth $450,000 to Flat Out, who was running for an enhanced gross purse of $750,000 as one of four Grade 1 winners in the field. He has earned $3,645,383 to date.
The base purse for the Cigar Mile was $500,000, with the two Breeders' Cup winners - two-time Filly & Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll and Dirt Mile victor Goldencents - eligible for a $1 million purse as part of special incentives offered by The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA).
The top three finishers - Flat Out, Private Zone, and Verrazano - all were running for $750,000.
"[Jockey] Rajiv [Maragh] had some problems on the backside going into the turn," said Groupie Doll's trainer, Buff Bradley. "You can't [alter course] like that on this track. We took a shot. [Owner] Mandy [Pope] did a great job bringing her up here [after purchasing the 5-year-old mare for $3.1 million at auction on November 6]. That's why they load them in the gate. You have a good horse, you have to run, you have to see."
Clearly Now was fifth, followed home by Forty Tales, favored Goldencents, Saratoga Snacks, Laugh Track, and Capo Bastone. Praetereo was scratched.