Multiple graded stakes winner Rocketry will look for more long-distance success when headlining a field of seven for the sixth running of the $100,000 Flat Out Stakes going 1 3/8 miles over the main track at Belmont Park on Friday, April 30.
Owned by Centennial Farms and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Rocketry ended a nine-race slump with a winning effort last out in the 1 5/8-mile Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Marathon on November 6 at Keeneland Race Course.
||Hector Diaz, Jr.
|John Toscano, Jr.
The 7-year-old bay son of Hard Spun was placed at the rear of the field, ten lengths off the pace, and began picking off runners rounding the far turn to get the victory in the final strides.
The redeeming victory was his first trip to the winner's circle since capturing the 2018 Grade 2 Marathon when the event was held at Churchill Downs going 1 ¾ miles.
Through a consistent record of 26-6-5-5, Rocketry boasts the most accomplished resume in the field and brags lifetime earnings of $789,710.
Prior to his two victories in the Marathon, he broke a century-old track record once held by Man o' War when taking the Temperance Hill Invitational in September 2018 at Belmont Park, completing the 13 furlongs in 2:40.18.
After spending some downtime on the farm in Middleburg, Virginia, Rocketry returned to Jerkens' stable and has worked five times heading into his 2021 debut. His last breeze was a five-furlong drill in one minute flat on April 22 over the Belmont main track.
Although his first two career victories were going the Flat Out distance over the turf, Jerkens said that 1 3/8 miles could be too short for Rocketry, who relishes the longer distances.
"A mile and three-eighths might be a little short for him, which is hard to believe," Jerkens said. "He looked nice the other day in company with Rift Valley, a New York-bred, on the main track. They worked really well together.
"Initially, he wasn't coming along fast enough I didn't think, but he's good enough to get started," added Jerkens. "First out of the box isn't always his best, but he has to get going sometime."
Jerkens said Rocketry will engage in light training leading up to the Flat Out as opposed to giving him a brief blowout work leading up to the race, as he does with some of his horses.
"There's not a whole lot to him. He's big, long and slender," Jerkens said. "He's traveled a zillion miles in his life. With the work he had the other day I wouldn't do too much with him between now and the race."
Jockey Manny Franco picks up the mount aboard Rocketry, who will break from post 5.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has developed a knack for developing long distance runners in recent years with Marconi and Moretti, the winners of the last two editions of the Flat Out. Pletcher sends out Shadwell Stable's Ajaaweed, who graduated in September 2019 at Belmont traveling a one-turn mile.
The son of Curlin was a last out third beaten 15 ¾ lengths on March 14 going nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack. He makes his first start over Big Sandy since his maiden score, where he defeated eventual graded stakes-winner Forza Di Oro en route to graded stakes placings in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct and the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.
"He hasn't stepped up much in his last couple of starts, so we're trying to get him back to form. He has been breezing pretty well since his last race," said Pletcher's Belmont-based assistant Byron Hughes. "We're hoping that the big stretch out is what he wants to do. With the way he's training, we're hoping for a big effort."
Leaving from post 2, Ajaaweed will be ridden by Aqueduct winter meet leading rider Eric Cancel.
Trainer Jonathan Thomas will stretch Burning Bright out in distance following a runner-up effort going one mile in a second level allowance on March 2 at Turfway Park. Owned by Augustin Stable, Burning Bright broke his maiden at third asking over the main track at Tampa Bay Downs on May 30. He fired off the bench in style with an allowance victory on February 6 over the all weather surface at Turfway Park.
A Kentucky homebred, the 4-year-old son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker is out of 2008 Champion Grass Mare Forever Together, who won that year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf as well as back-to-back editions of the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga in 2008-09.
Burning Bright will break from post 1 under Jose Lezcano.
Michael Dubb's Musical Heart arrives at the Flat Out off four straight placings against stakes company.
Trained by Rob Atras, the son of Maclean's Music picked up stakes black type when finishing second in the Queens County on December 20 and followed up with third-place finishes to Mr. Buff in the Jazil on January 23 and the Stymie on February 27 at the Big A. His most recent effort came when second to fellow Flat Out aspirant Air Attack [post 7, Hector Diaz, Jr.] in the Stud Muffin on New York Claiming Championship Day on March 27 at the Big A.
Musical Heart will leave from post 4 under Trevor McCarthy.
Completing the field are Irish Three Racing's Irish Cork [post 3, Jaime Rodriguez], who has never finished off the board in 15 starts for trainer John Servis, and Hibiscus Stables' Zoomer [post 6, Joe Bravo], a last-out 6 ½-length winner going a flat mile at Aqueduct, producing a 104 Beyer.
The Flat Out is listed as Race 3 on Friday's nine-race card. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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