Click above to watch Fort Larned winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1)
(Image : CBC - Footage : BC World Championships)
BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC (Grade 1)
Santa Anita Park, Dirt, 2000m
3 November 2012
For Janis Whitham, Fort Larned (E Dubai)’s thrilling victory over Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno) in Saturday’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic was all in the family. The 4-year-old is a grandson of Bayakoa (Arg) (Consultant’s Bid), who carried the Whitham silks to scores in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 1989 and 1990. “When you have a horse that’s getting better and better every time you take him over there, it makes my job easier,” said trainer Ian Wilkes, the former assistant to Carl Nafzger, who was saddling his first Breeders’ Cup winner. “Every time this horse went in the gate, he brought his ‘A’ game.”
A three-time winner of less than $80,000 during his 3-year-old season, no one would have expected Fort Larned to become a major player in the older male division when he ran fourth in an overnight handicap at Tampa Bay Downs February 4. He atoned for that defeat with a win in the Challenger Stakes in Oldsmar March 3, then caught the attention of the racing public with a 12-1 upset in the GIII Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream Park March 31. He returned to his Churchill base and ran a cracker when runner-up to Successful Dan (Successful Appeal) while some six lengths clear of Mucho Macho Man in the GII Alysheba Stakes May 4, but the wheels came off in the June 16 GI Stephen Foster Handicap and he finished eighth to Ron The Greek and Wise Dan.
Wilkes wisely went in search of a recovery mission for Fort Larned in the GIII Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows just two weeks later, and the colt exorcized whatever demons existed on Foster day, as he romped to a front-running three-length victory over the Charlie Lopresti-trained Successful Dan. From there it was back to the deeper waters of the GI Whitney Handicap and a rematch with Ron the Greek, Flat Out (Flatter) and company. Dismissed at 7-1 that afternoon, Fort Larned was always prominent, blew the doors off his rivals in the stretch and held off the GI Big ‘Cap and Foster winner by 1 1/4 lengths. Then came a crossroads.
“From the Whitney, I had to make a decision how to get him to the Breeders’ Cup,” Wilkes explained. “I had to make a decision whether to run him in the GI Woodward Stakes or wait eight weeks and freshen him, then go to the GI Jockey Club (Gold Cup September 29) and bring him to the Breeders’ Cup.”
In the end, it was plan ‘B’, but Fort Larned caught a wet Belmont main track that was holding speed and he could do no better than third to Flat Out, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. But, cut from the same patient cloth as his mentor Nafzger, Wilkes didn’t panic, knowing that his colt would have gotten plenty out of the effort on Long Island without squeezing the lemon dry. It was a plan that would ultimately lead to Classic perfection.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News