Charles Dickey walked into the Breeders’ Cup office at 9:05 on Monday morning and entered his best horse in the race of a lifetime at Churchill Downs.
It was a remarkably simple process — one signature on a piece of paper — considering the hours of vigil, days of concern, months of uncertainty and years of effort that went into training Flat Out, who is among the likely favorites for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday.
Call Flat Out and his easygoing trainer a Seabiscuit story. Without Dickey, cheap jerseys from china Flat Out would have probably been retired by now. Without Flat Out, the 70-year-old Dickey (who earned his nickname, Scooter, as a child because he scooted and did not crawl) could certainly be finished with racing as well.
For the horse, there were quarter cracks — wide gashes that developed in his fragile hooves and threatened to derail his racetrack career — and a fractured shoulder in April 2009 that kept him out of the Kentucky Derby and on the sideline for eight months. When all was said and done, he had incurred 20 months of downtime and only 3 wins before 2011.
Dickey received his trainer’s license in 1963 after he grew too large to be a jockey. He moved to Louisville with his wife, Dana, in 1992 with a plan to settle in Kentucky year round. But declining purses in the state led him to transfer his string to Arkansas in the winter and Monmouth cheap nhl jerseys Park in the summer, while continuing to race in Kentucky in the spring and fall.
There were dry spells, most recently 2006 through 2008, when he had trouble finding good horses and let his stable dwindle to near oblivion. He even tried to leave the racetrack once or twice, but could never quite walk away.
“Racing is in his blood,” Dana said.
When the owner Art Preston approached Dickey with the idea miami heat jerseys of taking a bunch of 2-year-olds up to Saratoga Race Course in the summer of 2008, the trainer figured he did not have anything to lose.
Three years later, it has proved a fortunate arrangement. Flat Out was in that bunch, and this fall, now age 5, he stamped himself as one of the top older horses in North America with a victory in the Grade 1 $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 1, earning an automatic berth in the Classic.
“He’s done a great job with this horse,” Flat Out’s regular jockey, nfl jerseys cheapAlex Solis, said. “He’s old-school and he knows what to do. The horse is showing it; every race, he runs better and better.”
Flat Out started the season with a relatively modest runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap this May. He ran sixth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at 18-1 at Churchill in June, and was dismissed at 13-1 when Dickey wheeled him around to the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park just 22 days later.
But in that race, something clicked. Rolling to a six-and-a half-length win, Flat Out began a stakes campaign that, before the Gold Cup, resulted in two seconds to two of the nation’s best horses in Grade 1 races: the now-retired Tizway in the Whitney Invitational Handicap and the 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
“It’s a beautiful story,” Preston said. “It’s fantastic for this horse to have come through all these ordeals and to have him in the best condition he’s ever been in, peaking at exactly the right time. A large part of that is thanks to Scooter. He has tremendous experience and the kegogo time to give to this particular horse, who needs a lot of T.L.C.”
For Flat Out’s current physical condition, “the best he’s ever been,” Dickey also credits a farrier, Tom Wildy, who corrected the horse’s fragile hooves, along with his assistant trainer Walter Aguilar and his groom Mario Quinteros.
“They stuck with me, that was the main part,” Dickey said. “Everybody’s been real patient; there’s been a lot of people taking care of this horse to keep him going.”
Breeders’ Cup week has been slightly surreal for Dickey, a native of Anthony, Kan. (population 2,200), whose biggest victory before Flat Out came along was a $100,000 state-bred event at Louisiana Downs. Dickey finished sixth to Gate Dancer in the 1984 Preakness Stakes with a horse named Wind Flyer, but he never had one like Flat Out. Unusual in an era of megastables, his string of runners rarely swells beyond 8 to 10. Although he is enjoying the big leagues, he is not sleeping as well as he usually does.
“He’s really focused on what is best for the horse,” said Dana, who is 65 and on a transplant list because she has an incurable liver disease called primary biliary cirrhosis. “We’ve been married for 48 years, and it’s been a lot of ups and downs throughout, but we always persevered and we’re really happy. This horse is like family to us.”
And Flat Out? He just loves to run. He showed that Oct. 30 in his final preparations for the mile-and-a-quarter Classic, skimming along the rail through an effortless four furlongs in 46 3/5 seconds to turn in the fastest time at the distance on the day. It was a powerhouse move that left his connections full of confidence heading into Saturday’s big start.
Although Havre de Grace is an impressive filly, and 10 other runners will come forward to take on Flat Out, something about the timing of this challenge just feels right to the horse’s connections.
“We always knew it was there,” Dickey said of the horse’s talent. “We didn’t know we’d be up this high, but we were hoping.”