Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Fort Larned had his penultimate tune-up July 20 for his title defense in the Aug. 3 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I), breezing five furlongs in 1:03.81 over the main track at Saratoga Race Course.
"It was a little slower than what I wanted, but the track was a little dead this morning, and it was a work to set up a work," said Ian Wilkes, who trains Fort Larned for owner Janis Whitham. "We'll come back (next week) and get a major work with him off this."
Fort Larned, who earned his first grade I in last year's 1 1/8-mile Whitney, enters this year's edition off an eye-catching 6 1/4-length victory in the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
It was the first win for the 5-year-old son of E Dubai since the 2012 Classic. He lost his rider two strides out of the gate in the March 9 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) when making his first start of 2013, then finished a non-threatening fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) a month later.
"The first one, the stumble, that was a thing which took more out of him than you think," said Wilkes. "If I'd stuck with my original plan (and not run at Oaklawn) that would be fine, but I could second-guess myself all day long.
"He got a lot out of his last race," he added. "He ran fast (1:47.45) and the track wasn't a fast track that night."
Wilkes is also supervising July 27 Jim Dandy (gr. II) hopeful Looking Cool, trained by his former boss, the semi-retired Hall of Famer Carl Nafzger, who won the 2007 Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes (gr. I) with Street Sense.
"He worked yesterday (four furlongs in :49.77) and will work again either July 22 or 23," Wilkes said of the Candy Ride colt, winner of the Iowa Derby (gr. III) last time out. "Carl is enjoying this one. It's always fun to have a 3-year-old."
Whitney hopeful Mucho Macho Man also worked July 20, credited with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.61 under exercise rider Nick Petro.
"He had a great work this morning, and we're looking forward to the Whitney," trainer Kathy Ritvo said of the Reeves Thoroughbred Racing color-bearer. "He'll have one more work; the day will be dependent on the weather."
The 5-year-old son of Macho Uno was second in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic. He has made two starts this year, finishing seventh in the Sunshine Millions Classic Jan, 9 at Gulfstream Park and third in the Criminal Type overnight stakes June 14 at Belmont Park.
"His last race was a good comeback race for him," said Ritvo. "It reminded us of the Alysheba last year, when he finished third and then came up and won the Suburban Handicap (gr. II)."