Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned completed his serious preparation for this week’s bid for a second consecutive victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) at Santa Anita with a five-furlong workout under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. early Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
The 5-year-old homebred son of E Dubai was among Monday’s early workers as he went to the track at approximately 6:40 a.m. (all times Eastern) and cruised five furlongs over a fast track in 1:01.80.
Fractional splits for Fort Larned’s work were :12.60, :25.20 and 37.60. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80.
The move was the third by Fort Larned since Oct. 19 and trainer Ian Wilkes said the defending Classic champion was happy with both the work and the condition of his star heading into Saturday’s 2013 running of the Classic.
“Today was not to squeeze the lemon dry – it was to get the horse coming off the track wanting to do more,” Wilkes said. “Today he walked off like he was wanting to do more, so I was happy.”
“He worked great this morning,” Hernandez said. “He went just like Ian wanted him to. He cruised right around there to five-eighths and it looks like he’s going into the Classic like he did last year.”
Fort Larned led from the start and edged Mucho Macho Man by a half-length in last year’s Classic. He’s had an up-and-down 2013 season with two victories in five races and both of those were at Churchill Downs in the $536,300 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) and the new $191,275 Homecoming Classic, his most recent race during the September Meet at Churchill Downs.
He set the pace in both of his 2013 victories, which has led some to question if his running style fits in this year’s 1 ¼-mile Classic, a race populated by speedy horses like Horse of the Year frontrunner Game On Dude, who has not lost in six races since a disappointing run in the 2012 Classic, and Moreno, the 3-year-old runner-up in the Travers (GI) and Pennsylvania Derby (GI).
But Wilkes is confident that Fort Larned is where he needs to be and has the ability to adapt to any tactical scenario the Classic might present.
“He can do whatever you want with him,” Wilkes said. “He can lay off, he can sit behind or he can go to the lead. Last year he ran along (the half-mile) in :46. When you run along at that sort of pace – that’s racehorse time – and if someone wants to go with him, go with him. But he can sit behind, it doesn’t matter. I’m not concerned about that.”
With Monday’s breeze, the serious work for the Classic is completed. The next step is a Tuesday flight to Southern California and then light training over the Santa Anita course prior to Saturday’s bid by Fort Larned to equal the feat of Tiznow, who won the Classic in 2000 and 2001 and remains the only horse to win the race twice and in back-to-back years.
“I’m very excited,” Hernandez said. “This is what we get up in the morning for, to compete in big races like this and to go in there with the defending champion is very exciting.”
“I feel good,” Wilkes said. “The horse is right where you want him. He’s doing really well. I’m very pleased with him.”
Fort Larned’s career record heading into the Classic stands at 10-2-1 in 24 races with earnings of $4,171,322.
MORE BREEDERS’ CUP HORSES ON TUESDAY’S BREEDERS’ CUP FLIGHT – Mort Fink’s reigning Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Wise Dan will be among the seven horses that will accompany Fort Larned on the flight to California for Friday and Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races.
The Charles LoPresti-trained Wise Dan will bid for a second consecutive victory in the Mile.
The Sutton Forwarding Company flight will originate in New York with a stop scheduled in Louisville before it heads on to its final destination in Southern California.
Others scheduled to board the flight in Louisville (with Breeders’ Cup races) are: Dimension-GB (Turf Sprint), Havelock (Turf Sprint), Judy the Beauty (Filly & Mare Sprint), Medal Count (Juvenile), Starship Truffles (Filly & Mare Sprint), and Sum of the Parts (Sprint).