Jacks or Better Farm's Fort Loudon earned his first victory since last July with a determined rail bid in the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 9 at Gulfstream Park, holding off Swagger Jack by half a length to get the win (VIDEO) .
It was all systems go for the 4-year-old son of Awesome of Course from the start of the seven furlong sprint, as he engaged with 2-1 favorite Bahamian Squall and Big Grandpa in a three-way tussle for the early lead.
Big Grandpa soon backed out of the three-wide speed duel after a quarter in :22.35, and Bahamian Squall put a head in front between horses through a half in :44.71. Fort Loudon continued his determined run along the inside, however, and gained a slim lead in deep stretch.
The bay colt was all-out to hold off the late run of Swagger Jack , who was gaining slowly while just up for the place. Bahamian Squall held for third.
"He broke very well and I know he runs the way he did," jockey Jose Lezcano said. "l used him the whole way and got lucky."
Off at odds of 7-2, Fort Loudon paid $9.60, $4.80, and $3.40 while Swagger Jack brought $8 and $4.40 and Bahamian Squall returned $2.80. Close It Out, Good Morning Diva, Travelin Man, Fair Whit, and Big Grandpa completed the order of finish.
Fort Loudon's most recent victory for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito was in the Carry Back Stakes (gr. II) at Calder Race Course & Slots last July 7. Bred in Florida by Jacks or Better out of the Talc mare Lottsa Talc, he improved his career total to 8-3-3 from 21 starts, with earnings of $848,123.
"We want to thank Fred (Brei of Jacks or Better Farm) for sending us nice horses," Zito said. "Stan (Gold) deserves a lot of credit for developing him. I told Jose to do whatever he had to do to keep him out of trouble even if it meant going to the lead, and he did. It was a game performance and great to win a race like this on Donn Day."
"I think it helped that he was coming off a distance race, but I think we'll probably keep him at seven-eighths to a mile for now," Zito said. "He'll come back in the mile race now, the Gulfstream Park Handicap (Mar. 9)."
Jockey Javier Castellano also had praise for the late-running Swagger Jack.
"I spoke with (trainer) Marty Wolfson before the race and he told me to hold him off the pace," Castellano remarked. "He's doing so well and was ready for the race. He's a big horse and gets better and better each time."