Fort Larned battles to Classic victory
Date Posted: 11/3/2012 11:26:08 PM
Last Updated: 11/6/2012 3:28:04 PM
Fort Larned rewarded his connections' faith with a scintillating victory in
Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, holding off a game Mucho Macho Man to
score by a half-length on the wire.
The Janis R. Whitham homebred gave trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian
Hernandez Jr. their first Breeders' Cup wins, as well as helped Hernandez
celebrate his 27th birthday in style.
"It's the greatest birthday ever," Hernandez beamed. "I always had a lot of
confidence in him. Ian and I talked about the race and he told me don't take him
out of his game and let him do whatever he wants to do. He has a good cruising
speed and I just let him go."
"We had to be there near the front and he was ready today," Wilkes said. "He
had galloped great over the track. I knew we were good when he broke sharp.
That's where Brian won the race. We broke sharp and Game on Dude broke bad. I
trust Brian because the horse trusts Brian.
"Buff (Bradley) won (the Filly & Mare Sprint with Groupie Doll) and Charlie (Lopresti)
won (the Mile with Wise Dan), and now I won. There was some pressure there after
they won. I'm glad we all three did it, because we're such great friends. We hit
the trifecta," Wilkes laughed.
The success of Fort Larned is especially poignant for Whitham, for she had
campaigned his granddam, Bayakoa, with her late husband, Frank.
"Larned is a town," Whitham explained her Classic winner's name. "We live in
Kansas and it's east and a little north of us and it has been rebuilt, and it's
a tourist attraction, and Fort Larned is still there and he is named after that
fort. And he has a half-brother named after an old fort north of us, Fort
"It's great, couldn't compare any better. It's great," she added when asked
to compare Fort Larned's Breeders' Cup win to Bayakoa's back-to-back scores in
the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Fort Larned slipped under the radar this week, with much of the pre-race
focus centered on local 6-5 favorite Game on Dude.
"It's always nice to fly under the radar and not be with the bull's eye on
your back, so that helps," Wilkes said about being overlooked. "No one, I don't
think, was too worried about us coming off our last race. We could do what we
wanted to do and -- without having that bull's eye."
"Riding for these guys has been great because they don't put any pressure on
me," Hernandez added. "And going into a race like this we didn't have the bull's
eye on our back, so we were able to let our horse do what he wanted to do, and
that's what we did today."
Fort Larned quickly proved a force to be reckoned with when taking command of
the Classic before the field had reached the first turn. Tracked throughout by
Mucho Macho Man, the bay colt posted fractions of :23 1/5, :46 2/5, 1:10 and
Mucho Macho Man lost touch for a moment, but then spurted up to challenge
Fort Larned entering the stretch. The duo easily drew away from the rest of the
field, but Fort Larned would not let his rival past, pulling out the half-length
win in a final time of 2:00.
"In the post parade he showed how fired up he was. He was on his game today.
We kept him away from the pony and warmed him up good," Hernandez explained his
"When he left the gate, he knew it was business time and he left there as
well as he did. And you can't take anything away from him. He's going to be
naturally fast and that's what we let him do. Going into the second turn he was
able to sprint away from that other horse and he held off the horses down the
Fort Larned was the 9-1 fifth choice in the 12-horse field and rewarded his
backers with payouts of $20.80, $9.80 and $6.80. Paired with Royal Delta's win
in the Ladies' Classic on Friday, the 6-4 Classic double was worth $31.
It was another 6 1/2 lengths behind Mucho Macho Man to Flat Out, with Ron the
Greek completing the top four under the line. Richard's Kid came next, with
Nonios, Game on Dude, Pool Play, Handsome Mike, To Honor and Serve, Brilliant
Speed and Alpha rounding out the order of finish.
"What can you do? He ran a winning race," said Kathy Ritvo, who was
attempting to become the first female Classic-winning trainer with Mucho Macho
Man. "The other horse (Fort Larned) was a great horse today. He ran a great
race. Congratulations to Mr. (Ian) Wilkes and his whole team. I'm so proud of my
horse. He gave 100 percent today."
"I really, really wanted to win this race for Kathy (Ritvo). Not for me, but
for Kathy," jockey Mike Smith sighed. "He was different today. He just ran big.
The other horse (Fort Larned) snuck away from me and I wasn't able to keep up
with him at that point.
"Brian (Hernandez) has always been a great rider," Smith went on to praise
his fellow rider. "He has great hands, I've known him since he started, and I
knew he was going to win a race like this some time. I just wish it hadn't been
Fort Larned had the credentials for a Classic win entering the race, taking
the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga to earn an automatic berth in the
Breeders' Cup race prior to a third-place run in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold
Cup at Belmont Park in late September. The E Dubai four-year-old earned his
first black-type score when capturing the Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs in his
second start of the year and quickly followed that with a first graded win in
the Grade 3 Skip Away.
Fort Larned kept right on plugging throughout the season, registering a
second in the Grade 2 Alysheba before suffering his worse loss of the year when
eighth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster after being carried out and bothered in
that nine-furlong contest. He got back on the wining track with a three-length
wire job in the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, and boasts a 5-1-1
mark from nine 2012 starts that saw him crisscross the country while running at
seven different tracks in five different states.
"When you got a horse, you know, that keeps getting better and better every
time you take him over there, it makes my job easier," Wilkes said. "The thing
about it every time this horse went in the gate, he's always brought his 'A'
race for us.
"From the Whitney, I had to make a decision how to get him to the Breeders'
Cup. I had to make a decision whether I run back in the (Grade 1) Woodward or
wait eight weeks to freshen him, then go to the Jockey Club and bring him to the
Breeders' Cup. Mrs. Whitham and the family decided to go the second route and
the horse came back to his Whitney form today and that's what we were looking
Fort Larned's career mark now stands at 19-8-2-1 and the winner's share from
the Classic skyrocketed his lifetime bankroll to $3,681,236. While some might
have seen this as the perfect swan song for the colt, his connections have
"Well, we will let Ian decide that, but we would like to run him and try to
do this again," Whitham said when asked about future plans for Fort Larned.
The Kentucky-bred colt comes from a prestigious female family as his granddam
is dual champion Bayakoa, who just saw her record as the only two-time winner of
the Distaff tied on Friday when Royal Delta defended her title in the Ladies'
Bayakoa captured 13 total Grade/Group 1s while racking up more than $2.7
million during her time on track. The mare was inducted into the National Museum
of Racing Hall of Fame in 1998 and is also the granddam of multiple Grade
1-winning millionaire Affluent.
Another of Bayakoa's daughters is Fort Larned's dam, the Broad Brush mare
Arlucea, who strangely enough has the same exact name as Bayakoa's dam, the Good
Manners mare Arlucea.
Fort Larned is half-brother to Izarra, placed in the 2007 editions of the
Grade 1 Oak Leaf and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, as well as last year's Cliff
Guilliams Handicap second Moonport.
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