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Updated on October 16th: Flat Out Works 4f in 48.8 seconds at Belmont Park.
Mott had a blacksmith put on what are known as Z-bar shoes, because they are shaped like a Z to help alleviate pressure on the bottom of a horse’s foot.
File this away in the "not the news you want to read three weeks before a big race" category: the Daily Racing Form is reporting that Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out missed a scheduled workout on Sunday morning due to sore feet, an issue that has hounded the horse throughout his career.
Trainer Bill Mott speaking to the DRF:
"He’s been a day-to-day project as they all are," said Mott, who took over the training of Flat Out earlier this year. "It’s no secret his feet have been an issue. I just want to offer him a little protection before he works."
Workouts are one of those handicapping angles that can be greatly over or understated, depending on how we view form and training moves. While the shiny bullet works jump off the page, I think consistency is a much more important issue from a training perspective, rather than speed or time. I tend to apply that philosophy more towards first time starters than experienced horses, but when a horse like Flat Out is training towards the biggest race of the year, any hiccups in schedule are negatives, even if only minor.
I never really paid serious attention to workout spacing until I was the member of a group of people that co-owned a horse out at Emerald Downs several years ago. A bunch of us went in together and bought a yearling at the Washington September sale and then spent the next couple of years following his progress towards the first start of his career. The horse, Eligius, was a big yearling and took some time to get into racing shape due to a variety of issues that plague a lot of young horses.
During the summer of his three-year-old year, he started to get close to ready for his debut, putting together a string of very nice works at Emerald. At one point, however, the trainer had to back off for about three weeks due to a minor issue with one of his rear legs. After some R&R, he was back at the track and ripped off several nice works in lieu of his first start, including a nice bullet just before the first race.
Reading the Form (and the Seattle paper) that morning, a lot of the handicappers were picking our gelding as the top choice in the race... all expect for one handicapper that made a very astute observation. In his analysis he noted that the horse had been working well and looked like a strong win candidate but that he was leery due to the gap in works the month prior and thought it was a sign of a physical issue. He was right.
When the race arrived, our horse broke slowly from the gate (and the dreaded 1-hole for a first time starter) and finished in the middle of the pack in the six furlong Maiden Special Weight. Following the race he displayed a problem with his back leg again, apparently injuring it at the break.
On pure talent, Eligius was a pretty nice gelding with the ability to run quick splits when in top shape. His problem, like the athlete that can't keep his knee or ankle or shoulder at 100%, is that he struggled with injuries to his legs. The Daily Racing Form handicapper that picked up on the issue by looking at the work pattern was right on the money. Of course, some horses are able to miss works and come back and win, even at a high level. But it's simply not a pattern I like to see before any race, let alone the biggest race of the year.