By David Grening
ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher said he felt the rail post position might have compromised Cross Traffic when he finished a game second to Flat Out in the Grade 3 Westchester last month at Belmont Park.
Hours before post positions were to be drawn for Monday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, where Cross Traffic will again meet Flat Out, Pletcher said, “we’d prefer to draw an outside post where we have some options.”
Unfortunately, for Pletcher, Cross Traffic got saddled with the rail again and his stablemate, Discreet Dancer, drew post 2 in the field of nine entered Friday for Monday’s Met Mile.
The Met is the highlight of an 11-race card that includes the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap, Grade 1 Acorn, and Grade 2 Sands Point.
While Cross Traffic drew the rail, Flat Out drew nicely in post 6. Flat Out had post 2 in the Westchester but was able to get up in the final strides to beat Cross Traffic by a head. That made Flat Out 4 for 4 at Belmont, including victories in consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
The 4-year-old Cross Traffic didn’t debut until January, when he won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race by 1 3/4 lengths. He came back on March 10 and won a first-level allowance race by 7 1/2 lengths, breaking from post 5 in a six-horse field.
Regardless of where Cross Traffic drew, one concern is whether he will regress, or bounce, off such a hard race, one in which he earned a 115 Beyer Speed Figure.
“You’re always concerned about that,” said Pletcher, who won the 2010 Met Mile with Quality Road. “In his case, physically he seems like he’s doing really well. I think he’s actually put on some weight. He’s had a really good four or five weeks since the Westchester but you’re always concerned when you run that fast if they’re able to come back and duplicate that effort.”
Bill Mott, who has never won the Met Mile, has the same concern regarding Flat Out, whose status for the race wasn’t confirmed until he worked at Saratoga on Tuesday.
“His works have been good. He couldn’t act any better,” Mott said. “I know horses act that way and are dull come race day but he really is doing well.”
In addition to the one-two finishers from the Westchester, the Met drew the one-two finishers from the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct as well in Swagger Jack, who drew post 5, and Sahara Sky, who landed in post 7.
The remainder of the field includes Mark Valeski, last year’s Peter Pan winner; Fed Biz, this year’s Grade 2 San Fernando winner; Fort Loudon, this year’s Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship winner; and Handsome Mike, last year’s Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby winner.
The Met Mile will go as the 10th race at 5:49 p.m. Eastern.
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