Reigning Belmont S. (G1) winner Sir Winston was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in Thursday’s $80,000 Flat Out S. at Belmont Park, but the lone speed of Moretti held sway throughout the 1 3/8-mile test. A half-brother to ill-fated 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Battle of Midway, the 4-1 second choice recorded his first stakes win in dominant style in the slop.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Moretti capitalized on his recency edge over the favorite in addition to the pace dynamic. Sir Winston had not raced since his last-to-first allowance tally at Aqueduct Jan. 31, his intended prep for the March 28 Dubai World Cup (G1). After making the trek to Meydan, however, the extravaganza was called off due to the pandemic, and Sir Winston had to come back empty-handed.
Moretti, meanwhile, had been steadily improving. The $900,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase suggested that stamina would be his forte when breaking his maiden going 9 furlongs as a juvenile. Moretti shaped as a long-term prospect for the 2019 Belmont, only to be sidelined following a sixth in the Withers (G3). Resurfacing nine months later at Gulfstream Park West, Moretti flopped behind Bodexpress. He then placed in a trio of allowances at Aqueduct, Laurel, and Gulfstream Park before finally scoring May 2 at Oaklawn Park.
Looming as the likeliest pacesetter here, Moretti took full advantage under a well-judged Javier Castellano ride. The Medaglia d’Oro colt controlled the race through fractions of :24.79, :48.97, 1:13.61, and 1:38.39, and powered 5 1/4 lengths clear to finish in 2:16.31.
“The way I handicapped the race,” Castellano told NYRA publicity, “it seemed to me like I was the only speed. The horse broke well and I let him dictate the pace. He’s a straightforward horse.”
Pletcher sounded the same theme.
“When Javier and I spoke in the paddock, we talked about how he might be the speed of the race,” Pletcher said. “I said just to let him run into the first turn and if he found himself comfortably on the lead, that’s great, and if someone else is ambitious, not to get into a pace duel. When he got into that rhythm, it looked like he was traveling really well.”
Sir Winston, fifth early, made a move into second rounding the far turn and briefly appeared ready to gain more ground swinging for home. But he flattened out as Moretti took off. Sir Winston nevertheless boxed on to save second by a head from Expert. Rocketry checked in another length back in fourth, followed by You’re to Blame, Adventist, Prompt, Legit, and Blugrascat’s Smile.
Moretti has compiled a record of 9-3-3-1, $161,150. The upwardly mobile 4-year-old could continue improving as half-brother Battle of Midway did. Unraced at two, Battle of Midway just missed in the 2017 Santa Anita Derby (G1), finished third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), captured the Affirmed (G3) and Shared Belief, and peaked to defeat older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Returned to training after proving subfertile at stud, he added more highlights to his resume, notably the 2018 Native Diver (G3) and 2019 San Pasqual (G2), where he outgamed McKinzie in what turned out to be his last race.
Pletcher was counting on the maturity factor coming into play for Moretti.
“He’s always been a steady galloper and he seems like he’s come around in his last couple of starts,” his trainer said. “He’s really found himself and seems like he’s improving, which is really what we expected all along. The older he got, the better he would get.”
Moretti will likely try to keep his momentum going in the July 4 Suburban (G2).
Bred by Erik and Pavla Nygaard’s Thor-Bred Stables in Kentucky, Moretti was produced by Grade 1 vixen Rigoletta, by Concerto. This is the family of Patternrecognition, hero of the 2018 Cigar Mile (G1), and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion Musical Romance.