The sharp end of a very open older horse division was added a new major player the first weekend in August when Fort Larned powered clear to defeat Ron the Greek and Flat Out in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course.
Fort Larned has ascended rather rapidly to the upper reaches of handicap racing, as the 4-year-old bay did not record his first stakes win until March this year. Fort Larned’s rise to prominence might have been delayed somewhat by a detour to the turf the colt took for a significant part of his 3-year-old season.
After failing to place at Churchill Downs in his sole attempt at 2, then winning a maiden over a mile on dirt at Gulfstream Park on his sophomore inauguration, Fort Larned was a distant fifth behind Shackleford in an allowance at the Florida venue. That prompted a surface switch, and on his next two starts Fort Larned took second in a turf allowance a Gulfstream Park and finished off the board in an allowance on the all-weather at Keeneland. Only eighth in the Arlington Classic Stakes, Fort Larned did win a mile allowance over the Kentucky Downs “European-style” turf course. But a ninth and a 10th in his next two starts on the grass—at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, respectively—ended the experiment with sward.
Fort Larned showed his appreciation for the reversion to dirt by ending his 3-year-old old campaign with a six-length romp in the slop in an 8 1/2-furlong allowance over the Churchill Downs oval. He kicked off 2012 with a fourth in a handicap at Tampa Bay Downs, then gained his first black-type score in the Challenger Stakes at the same track. Fort Larned maintained his upward momentum in the Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, where he triumphed by 2 1/2 lengths while setting a track record for 9 1/2 furlongs. The Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in May was Fort Larned’s first try against some of the leaders of the division, and he acquitted himself extremely well, going down by a length to Successful Dan with Mucho Macho Man in third. A rough trip in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) temporarily interrupted Fort Larned’s progress, but the colt rebounded to prep for the Whitney with a front-running victory over Successful Dan and Awesome Gem in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III).
Fort Larned is by the Mr. Prospector stallion E Dubai , who began his career at Darley in Kentucky but now stands at Northview PA in Peach Bottom, Pa. E Dubai is out of the Lord At War mare Words of War, a multiple stakes winner of more than $680,000 and also dam of the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) victress No Matter What (herself dam of European champion 2-year-old filly Rainbow View). E Dubai retired to stud with a race record that matched his pedigree; in fact, he was a spectacular runner. He broke his maiden on first asking at 2 over five furlongs, setting fractions of :21.8 and :44.9, and at 3 he took the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) in a track record time of 1:40.38 after leading through fractions of :22.2, :44.1, 1:07.9, and 1:33.54. Second that year in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and the Super Derby (gr. I), E Dubai proved that he could carry his front-running speed 10 furlongs with a win over Lido Palace, Macho Uno, Evening Attire, and Pure Prize in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at 4.
E Dubai started his breeding career with a stutter-step, unfortunately. Initial hesitance in the stallion’s transition from racehorse to stud had only 47 named foals in that first Northern Hemisphere crop. That limited first crop produced grade II winners High Heels and Buy the Barrel, grade III winners Desert Code and Dubious Miss, and stakes winners Barilko and Spark of Dubai. Although his career never quite regained commercial momentum, E Dubai has gone on to sire 28 stakes winners (13 graded) in his first six U.S. crops, the best also including this year’s Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) victress My Gi Gi; Italian highweighted 3-year-old Once More Dubai; Skysurfers, successful in the Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Etisalat (UAE-II) on the Dubai World Cup undercard; and other U.S. graded winners Aggie Engineer, Mr. Fantasy, and Accredit.
Fort Larned’s dam Arlucea, a winner once at 3, is also dam of Izarra (by Mr. Prospector’s grandson Distorted Humor ), a juvenile winner who also took second in the Oak Leaf Stakes and third in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (both gr. I), and of Moonport (by Mr. Prospector’s son Cape Canaveral), a six-time winner who also took second in the Cliff Guilliams Handicap at Ellis Park.
A daughter of Broad Brush, Arlucea is the last of the four foals produced by her dam, the marvelous Argentine-bred mare Bayakoa. Winner of the Premio Palmero (Arg-I) in her native country, Bayakoa developed into a formidable performer in the U.S. Successful in 18 of 31 U.S. starts, she earned titles as Champion Older Mare in both 1989 and 1990, and her dozen U.S. grade I triumphs included back-to-back renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Bayakoa’s stud career proved both briefer, unfortunately, and—in the short-term, at least—far less spectacular than her racing career. Arlucea proved to be her sole winner, and her only other starter was the Seattle Slew colt De Sarmiento, who finished unplaced in one start. Of Bayakoa’s other two foals, the Kris S. daughter Morocha, never ran or reproduced, but her first foal, the unraced Strawberry Road daughter Trinity Place, produced one worthy of her dam in Affluent (by Affirmed), whose triumphs included the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT), John C. Mabee/Ramona Handicap (gr. IT), La Brea Stakes (gr. I) and Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I). Thus, both of Bayakoa’s daughters to go to stud are now grade I producers.
Although Bayakoa was foaled in Argentina, much of her pedigree has a North American flavor: Her sire Consultant’s Bid is a son of champion handicapper Bold Bidder, and her dam (an Argentine stakes winner also named Arlucea) is by Nashua’s stakes-winning son Good Manners. On the other hand, Bayakoa’s direct female line has been in Argentina since the importation of her ancestress Ante Diem, foaled in England in 1878.
Fort Larned (TrueNicks-rated A++) is one of two stakes winners—Italian champion Once More Dubai is the other—from only five foals sired by E Dubai out of daughters of Broad Brush. Other good runners by Mr. Prospector-line stallions from Broad Brush-line mares include champion Blind Luck and graded winners Richard's Kid , Justenuffhumor , One Caroline, Interactif, and Brushed by a Star. It’s also worth noting that Mr. Prospector’s dam Gold Digger provides some useful support for the pedigree of Bayakoa. She is by Nashua (by Nasrullah) out of a mare by Count Fleet, with a second dam by Bull Dog. Fleet Nasrullah (who appears as broodmare sire of Bayakoa’s own sire Contested Bid), is by Nasrullah, out of a mare bred on the direct Count Fleet/Bull Dog cross, and Bayakoa’s broodmare sire Good Manners is by Nashua, out of a mare by a son of Bull Dog, with a second dam by Count Fleet.