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The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.

The victory of Flat Out in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday is one further rung in the ladder of increasing success for the A.P. Indy stallion Flatter. For the past year, he has been the “full brother to Congrats” as that young stallion established himself as the leading freshman sire in 2010 and moved from Florida to stand at Vinery in Kentucky.

Demand for the services of Congrats was such that the farm probably could have sold 500 seasons, and some of the breeders’ enthusiasm for the new star spilled over to his year-older brother Flatter, who has been in the shadow of his very handsome brother but who also had as full a book as possible this breeding season at Claiborne Farm, which bred and raced both stallions.
A horse very similar in appearance to his maternal grandsire Mr. Prospector, Flatter has sired talented stock, including 15 stakes winners to date, but has been looking for the breakthrough horse to push him over the top as a sire attracting ever-better broodmares.

Perhaps Flat Out is that horse. Certainly the lightly raced bay seemed to be ascending to another level in the historic Fourth of July weekend race, winning by six and a half lengths in 1:46.64 for the nine furlongs. As an improving horse, Flat Out’s potential to help fill out the division of older horses depleted by the retirements of Blame, Zenyatta, Quality Road, and Lookin at Lucky is a cause to celebrate.

And another reason to celebrate the holiday weekend result is the history of the winner’s dam, the Cresta Rider mare Cresta Lil.

Bred in Kentucky by the well-known horseman Stanley Petter, Cresta Lil won a pair of stakes at 2 and placed in three more.

The mare’s breeder is known by many in racing, sales, and breeding as the “weanling man” because he made a business of selling weanlings when hardly anybody did that. A foal of 1986, Cresta Lil was one of the weanlings he bred and sold that went on to racing success for her new owners.

Petter recalled that “Cresta Lil was out of the most beautiful mare I ever owned, the Double Jay mare Rugosa. She was drop-dead gorgeous.”

Rugosa’s daughter by French G1 winner Cresta Rider (a son of Northern Dancer) must have shared some of her dam’s good looks because she was the top-selling weanling by her sire in 1986 at $12,000.

In addition to Cresta Lil, Rugosa produced stakes winner Worrisome Thing (Cyane), and the two stakes winners had a half-sister named Rose Above (Hagley) who produced J.T.’s Pet (Magesterial), the winner of the 1987 Jim Beam Stakes and Louisiana Derby.

So, in addition to looks, this family also showed athletic ability. The combination was irresistible to Petter, who recalled that he acquired Rugosa at a bloodstock dispersal of some friends in racing.

He said, “At the time, we always took a house at Saratoga, and for some of those years, we shared the house with Duffy and Sheila Rathbun, who were mad about racing and had a lovely collection of paintings related to the sport.”

One of the horses in the Rathbuns’ broodmare band was Rugosa, and she was included in their dispersal of breeding stock. Petter recalled, “I had Rugosa on the farm, had bred her for them, and I knew the family. I am a sucker for a good-looking horse, and I’m sure I didn’t pay much for her.”

The mare never produced another live foal after Cresta Lil, foaled when her dam was 19, but the memories generated by Rugosa, Cresta Lil, and their owners resonate through the years.

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