Not many people get to celebrate their birthday with a $270,000 payday, but
that's exactly what Brian Hernandez Jr. did when he guided Fort Larned to
victory in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on his 27th
"It was one heck of a birthday," said Hernandez, who took a red-eye flight
back from California and arrived in Louisville, Kentucky, at 7:30 a.m. (EST)
Sunday. "It's just starting to sink in now. It's pretty special."
Hernandez, who rode Neck 'n Neck to victory in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap
at Churchill Downs the day prior to the Classic, said he felt like he was riding
the winner with a quarter of a mile remaining.
"When we got to the quarter-pole, he threw his ears back at me and I knew I
still had a ton of horse. When I called on him and hit him left-handed, he
switched leads. That's when I thought I had a huge chance of winning. When he
heard Mucho Macho Man coming at him, he dug in and really held him off on his
"When we crossed the line, I said 'Oh wow! That really just happened!"
Hernandez, who has had little time to sleep, let alone celebrate, since his
Classic victory, said he will do some celebrating over the next couple of days,
when Churchill Downs is dark on Monday and Tuesday.
Joining Hernandez in the celebrations will surely be his agent, Frank Bernis.
"I really liked his position," Bernis said. "I think the difference was when
Fort Larned broke good and took Game On Dude's spot (on the lead).
"It's the biggest win of my career, that's for sure. It would be the biggest
win of a lot of people's careers. Other than the (Kentucky) Derby, this is the
biggest race of the year."