Never question any move Bill Mott makes, no matter how unorthodox it may appear. There's a reason why he's the youngest trainer, at 45 in 1998, to make the Hall of Fame.
On the surface, putting Flat Out in Saturday's Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct looked like a bit of a stretch. He finished eighth Nov. 2 in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita after a distant third trying for a Jockey Club Gold Cup three-peat at his favorite track, Belmont Park. He'll turn 8 on Jan. 1, so maybe his glory days were over.
No, because he saved an 'A' race for the Big A. Flat Out rallied four-wide for Junior Alvarado to overtake pacesetter Private Zone inside the sixteenth pole and beat him by 1¼ lengths in 1:34.68. Verrazano was third, two lengths farther back.
"I can't say enough about him," Mott said. "Flat Out has just been a real tough, durable horse, and I've always thought he may be as good at a flat mile as he is at 10 furlongs. Even though he won the Gold Cup twice, he's versatile enough to keep up with a fast pace and get the job done at a mile.''
So was Cigar, whom Mott trained to dominate the 1994 NYRA Mile before it was renamed to honor his best horse ever.
Behind Flat Out were two 2013 Breeders' Cup champions, the mare Groupie Doll (fourth) and 3-1 favorite Goldencents (seventh). If either had won, the payoff would have been $600,000. Because Flat Out was a Grade I winner, the total purse jumped from $500,000 to $750,000, making his reward $450,000, raising his bankroll to $3,645,383.
Flat Out paid $15 for his ninth win in 29 starts, but only his fourth in his past 15. Was this the old guy's final victory cigar?
"We don't have a plan yet,'' owner Art Preston said. "We were thinking about retiring him because he's 7 years old, but when you see him do something like this, it makes you stop and think. It's amazing the speed he has to go with his stamina."
He travels well, too. Even after going from New York to California to Florida, where he boarded a van Tuesday, Flat Out had enough juice to overpower a field with six multiple-stakes winners. "He bounced back from the Classic really well," Mott said, "and we thought he'd be well suited to this race."
As usual, he was right.
Castellano rules undercard. Jockey Javier Castellano capped a five-victory day with the Shug McGaughey-trained Honor Code ($3.60), who looked beaten before he came back to nose out Cairo Prince in the Grade II Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds . . . Castellano also took the Grade III, 11/8-mile Comely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Wedding Toast ($3.40), trained by Kiaran McLaughlin . . . Castellano, owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher won the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with Stopchargingmaria ($3.90). It was Repole's second consecutive Demoiselle trophy, and Pletcher's third straight.