Haskin's Classic Report: Billy's 'Ol Boys Back Again

Bill Mott has been trying to keep Flat Out and Ron the Greek as far apart from each other for the past two years, but when those big races roll around, that is simply not feasible, with both horses owned by different people.

The 6-year-old Ron the Greek, owned by Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable, and Jack  T. Hammer, and the 7-year-old Flat Out, owned by Prrston Stables, have combined for almost $6 million in earnings and each have an impressive resume of grade I victories that include three Jockey Club Gold Cups, a Santa Anita Handicap, a Stephen Foster Handicap, and two Suburban Handicaps, not to mention a slew of grade I placings.

Flat Out and Ron the Greek were at Santa Anita for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, but were victimized by a severe speed biased track and ran well to finish third and fourth, respectively.

Now they are back, and Mott couldn’t ask for them to be coming into the Classic any better. Both look spectacular on the racetrack, their coats gleaming, and have been galloping strongly.

“If the track is playing fair I think both have good chances,” Mott said. “It’s the same as last year; I wouldn’t know which one I like more than the other. They’ve been first and third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, second and third in the Whitney, and, of course, third and fourth here last year. It just depends on which horse is having a better day.

“I will say this about Ron the Greek; since the Jockey Club Gold Cup (which he won by 6 ¾ lengths), he’s been working uncharacteristically for him. He’s worked on his own and he’s been really sharp, breezing a half in :47 1/5, out in :59 4/5 and I’ve seen him work in :49, out in 1:04. I loved his gallop out the other day, which is an indication how much they want to keep going.”

Flat Out, unlike last year, when he trained for the Breeders’ Cup at Belmont, where the sand can be more abrasive, remained at Saratoga this year, where he’s been training over the kinder Oklahoma training track, which is better on his feet that have plagued him throughout his career.

“The weather has been cool and crisp up there and he still has his summer coat,” Mott said. “A lot of times their hair coat gives you a pretty good indication of how they’re doing. You like to see a horse with a good shiny coat and good quality hair, and he looks the part right now.”

It is appropriate that Ron the Greek and Flat Out drew right next to each other, with Ron the Greek in post 11 and Flat Out on the far outside in post 13. They will be ridden by Jose Lezcano and Joel Rosario, respectively.

On a side note, if Flat Out should win, it would mean that Rosario will have won the three of the greatest races in the world – the Dubai World Cup, Kentucky Derby, and Breeders’ Cup – in the same year, on different horses (Animal Kingdom, Orb, and Flat Out).

Ron the Greek already is the only horse other than Hall of Famers John Henry and Affirmed to win the Santa Anita Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and a victory in the Classic would earn him his own place in the record books.

In other Classic news, Irish invader Declaration of War will go to the track for the first time Thursday, along with the other Aidan O’Brien-trained horses.

Tomorrow, we will have our longshot/overlay picks for Friday and some last-minute observations, as well as several more photographs taken over the course of the week.

Ron the Greek looks bright and healhy heading into the Classic.

This photo of Ron the Greek was taken at Belmont, but shows his habit of eating leaves off the trees, which he attempted to do upon his arrival at Santa Anita.

Flat Out paints a handsome picture as he waits to go out for his gallop.

Flat Out has been galloping strongly the past two days.

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