Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned, the reigning winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I), is set for a final pre-race tune-up on Monday at Churchill Downs before he boards a Tuesday flight to California for his bid for a rare second consecutive victory in the Championships’ main event on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Trainer Ian Wilkes said the 5-year-old son of E Dubai, who has scored his pair of 2013 victories at Churchill Downs in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) and the inaugural Homecoming Classic in September, would work under regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. would work shortly after the track opens for training at 6 a.m. (all times EDT).
The work will be the third in nine days. He breezed a half-mile in :49 on Oct. 19 and followed that move with a very sharp five furlongs in 1:00.60 over a fast surface on Oct. 22. Fort Larned worked in company with his stablemate Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the 2012 Ack Ack (GIII) and Indiana Derby (GII), in a drill that was the fastest of 32 at the distance.
“It was a very good work,” Wilkes said. “It was everything you wanted to see. The thing about it is he’s taking me where I want to go. I’m not taking him to the Breeders’ Cup – he’s taking me there.”
Wilkes is operating on the same shipping schedule as the successful one laid out a year ago for Fort Larned. He will board a flight for California on Tuesday for the journey to the West Coast. Fort Larned also was scheduled to leave on that day a year ago, but weather issues delayed his scheduled flight by a day.
The travel forecast looks clear for Tuesday and Wilkes hopes for clear sailing, both in Fort Larned’s journey west and in the 1 ¼-mile Classic.
“I’ve got no worries in the world that my horse is going to show up,” Wilkes said. “He’s going to run his ‘A’ game. It’s just a matter of whether he’s good enough. It’s a good race and it’s a quality field. They don’t just give this race to you, but I’m going in there very happy with my horse.”
Fort Larned takes a career record of 10-2-1 in 24 races and earnings of $4,171,322 into his Classic defense. A victory on Saturday would make Fort Larned only the second horse to win the race twice. Tiznow won the Classic in back-to-back years in 2000 and 2001, with the former win coming at Churchill Downs in his 3-year-old season.
CHURCHILL DOWNS MOURNS PASSING OF TWO-DECADE TEAM MEMBER TRICIA AMBURGEY – The Churchill Downs family is mourning the loss Tricia Amburgey, a Louisville native and member of the racetrack team in several posts over two decades who died Saturday night.
Amburgey, 42, had endured a years-long battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends in hospice care at Louisville’s Norton Health Pavilion when she passed Saturday evening.
She held the post of Vice President, Ticketing for the home of the Kentucky Derby at the time of her death. In recent years she had led the track’s efforts to integrate new technologies and reshape the ticketing process for the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and other major races and events. The result is an online ticketing process through which the public sale of Kentucky Derby and Oaks seating is conducted online and a system that provides all fans with an equal opportunity to purchase Derby and Oaks seating during an annual online sale. She also was closely involved the creation of new venues at the track, including The Mansion, The Paddock Plaza, the Section 110 seating offered on the track’s first turn for this year’s Derby and the Grandstand Terrace and Rooftop Garden development that is currently construction. That venue that will be completed prior to the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
The graduate of Bellarmine University and Mercy Academy served in several departments at Churchill Downs since her arrival two days after the running of the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Championships as an intern in its Publicity Department. She was still enrolled at Bellarmine when she started her long service at Churchill Downs and, after working in publicity and serving on the communications team for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, Amburgey moved on to other opportunities at the world-famous track and rose through its ranks to the senior management post she held at the time of her death.
Amburgey was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago and her brave battle against the disease was an inspiration for Churchill Downs’ focus on women’s health care issues on Kentucky Oaks Day, which in recent years has included an on-track parade of cancer survivors prior to the Kentucky Oaks and a “Pink Out” fashion theme to focus on breast cancer outreach, research and prevention.
Prior to her passing, Amburgey requested a “Pink Out” theme for her funeral services, asking that all who attend incorporate the color pink into their attire. Her funeral mass is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. at St. Bernadette Catholic Church, 6500 St. Bernadette Avenue, Prospect, Ky. 40059.
Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Evergreen Funeral Home at 4623 Preston Highway in Louisville. Additional visitation is scheduled on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by a procession to the church in Prospect.
Tricia Amburgey is survived by her husband, Don, and three children: Abby, Trevor and Luke.
GENTLEMEN’S BET SETTLED IN CALIFORNIA AFTER BUSY SATURDAY – After a hectic Saturday that started in Kentucky, ended in California and squeezed a final work for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) in between, Harry Rosenblum’s Gentlemen’s Bet is reported to be doing well as he awaits Saturday’s $1.5 million race.
The 4-year-old son of Half Ours, a close fourth as the favorite behind Sum of the Parts over synthetic Polytrack in the Keeneland’s Phoenix (GIII) in his most recent start, worked an easy half-mile in :50.80 at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Then trainer Ron Moquett loaded him on a flight to Southern California for his Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita.
“He came out of the work really good,” Moquett said. “I like him at this track. It’s his home track and I wanted to give him his last breeze here and then ship him out there.
“He loaded up, took off and landed there fine and the stall-to-stall trip was less than 4 ½ hours, so it was an easy trip.”
The easy work went according to plan for Gentlemen’s Bet, and Moquett heaped considerable praise on jockey Greta Kuntzweiler, who was in the saddle for the work and has been aboard for most of colt’s major training in the weeks leading up to the his bid for the Sprint.
"I’ve never seen anybody with a clock like she’s got,” Moquett said. “You can tell her :50-and-two and she does it exactly 50-and-two and if you tell her :47, it’s :47. I’ve never seen a rider with that a clock that good.
“She’s as good as it comes with that stuff. If we win this thing, she will have been instrumental in it.”
Gentlemen’s Bet will be Moquett’s only starter in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Championships. He had considered sending Livi McKenzie west for the Filly & Mare Sprint (GI), but decided to keep her at Churchill Downs for Saturday’s Chilukki (GII). He takes a career record of 5-0-2 in eight races and earnings of $266,700 into Saturday’s race.
Rosenblum’s colt will be Moquett’s second starter in a Breeders’ Cup race. He saddled Peppertree Farm’s Asher for a sixth-place finish in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Gulfstream Park won by Cash Run.
Moquett is looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint run by Gentlemen’s Bet, but was saddened by Saturday’s news of the fatal injury to Donnie Crevier and Charles Martin’s top Sprint contender Points Offthebench. The 4-year-old California-bred colt would have been trainer Tim Yakteen’s first Breeders’ Cup starter.
“That’s horrible,” Moquett said. “If you’re a fan of this sport you don’t want to see anything like that ever. I feel so sorry for those people to have a classy, good horse like that and to have something like that happen.”