Flat Out is flat out brilliant at Belmont Park.
After going winless in six starts away from the track, Flat Out returned to the scene of his last victory and edged Stay Thirsty by a head Saturday to take the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup for the second year in a row.
He had one other race at Belmont, and won that, too, a 6 1/2-length victory in the Suburban Handicap last summer.
"He likes it a lot here, and I do, too, now," said winning owner Art Preston. "This is a very hard race ... he's tough-minded."
Bill Mott, who trains Flat Out, knows all about the 6-year-old horse. A year ago, Flat Out was trained by Scooter Dickey when he won the Suburban and the Gold Cup. He was moved to Mott's stable in February.
Flat Out ran a solid third in the Whitney Invitational in his second start for Mott, and the trainer was encouraged.
"He ran a huge race last time ... he was up for it today," Mott said.
It was a big day for Mott, too. He also won the $400,000 Beldame Invitational with Royal Delta, who beat rival It's Tricky by 9 1/2 lengths on a day that featured five Grade 1 races and the Grade 2 Kelso won by Jersey Town.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Flat Out challenged pacesetter Stay Thirsty when the 10-horse field turned for home, and closed the margin with every stride before pulling ahead in the final two strides.
"He was really game today," Rosario said after his first ride aboard Flat Out.
Fort Larned, the 5-2 favorite and Whitney winner, was third, followed by Atigun, Fast Falcon, Ron the Greek, Game Ball, Hymn Book, San Pablo and Ruler On Ice.
The winning time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:01.44.
"I could see Flat Out building up some momentum, I knew it was going to be close," Stay Thirsty trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I was hoping we had enough to hold on. It was a big effort."
In the other stakes races, The Lumber Guy won the Vosburgh, Nahrain took the Flower Bowl Invitational, and 4-5 favorite Point of Entry won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was aboard three of the Grade 1 winners — The Lumber Guy, Nahrain and Point of Entry.
The winning horses in each of the six stakes races earned automatic berths in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3.
Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Travers winner who was 0-5 since, shot right to the lead under Ramon Dominguez. The colt held off a challenge by Fort Larned with a quarter-mile to go, but was unable to handle the relentless run to the front by Flat Out.
A year ago, Mott's Drosselmeyer finished second in the Gold Cup and Royal Delta ran second to Havre de Grace in the Beldame.
Now, Mott looks like he'll have a chance to pull off a second straight Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic-BC Classic. A year ago, Royal Delta won the Ladies Classic and Drosselmeyer won the Classic.
"It kind of worries you a little bit when you win them," Mott said of races just before the Breeders' Cup. "When you when the prep race, I don't know if that's a good sign. But I guess Cigar was able to win this race and go on to win the Breeders' Cup."
Flat Out returned $9.30, $5.60 and $4. Stay Thirsty paid $10.80 and $6.70, and Fort Larned returned $4 to show.
The win was worth $600,000 and boosted Flat Out's career earnings to $2,042,383.
Royal Delta kicked off the day with a dazzling win in the Beldame. The 4-year-old star filly ridden by Mike Smith cruised past It's Tricky heading into the turn and easily pulled away in the stretch. It was the third win for Royal Delta over It's Tricky in five meetings.
Royal Delta ($3.70) already earned an automatic spot into the BC Ladies Classic with a win in the Delaware Handicap on July 21.
Winning time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:48.80.
"She ran a super race," Mott said, "broke well, took it to the horse on the lead and she was much the best today. Just a very impressive performance."
Jersey Town ($18) surprised even-money favorite To Honor and Serve and second choice Shackleford in the $400,000 Kelso. The win was trainer Barclay Tagg's first since June 16, ending an 0-for-48 streak.
Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, set a torrid pace for the first half mile, with To Honor and Serve the trailer in the six-horse field. But Jersey Town stormed into the lead in the stretch under Javier Castellano and beat Shackleford by 3 1/2 lengths, covering the mile in 1:35.24.
With the 6-year-old's first win in nearly two years, Tagg said Jersey Town would likely run next in the BC Dirt Mile on Nov. 3.
The Lumber Guy ($6.20) overtook leaders Little Drama and Poseidon's Warrior in the stretch and won the $400,000 Vosburgh by 1 1/4 lengths over Caixa Eletronica. Winning time for the six furlongs was 1:09.22. The win over older horses likely sends the 3-year-old colt to the Breeders' Cup, for either the Sprint or the Dirt Mile.
Nahrain ($12) won the $600,000 Flower Bowl by a half-length over Zagora. The 4-year-old filly's first win of the year earned her a spot in the BC Filly & Mare Turf on Nov. 2.
Nahrain covered the 1 1/4 miles on 2:05.56 over the yielding turf course. Dream Peace, the 2-1 favorite, was third.
Point of Entry ($3.50) pulled away for a 1 3/4-length win over Treasure Beach in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch, and will go into the BC Turf with a five-race winning streak.