Owner/breeder Janis Whitham's Fort Larned , winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), prepped for another shot at the race with a wire-to-wire score in the inaugural $191,275 Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs Sept. 28 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. for trainer Ian Wilkes, Fort Larned won for the second time in five starts this year; he took the grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill in June.
Fort Larned, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by E Dubai out of the Broad Brush mare Arlucea, led his five overmatched challengers through fractions of :23.50, :47.15, and 1:10.40 while under no pressure from Hernandez. Prayer for Relief sat second and Worldly third, with Windswept about seven lengths back in fourth.
Worldly, ridden by David Flores, was the first to make a move past the one-mile mark in 1:35.46 as Prayer for Relief dropped back, but there was no catching Fort Larned. Windswept and jockey Corey Lanerie were gaining at the end but could only finish second.
Fort Larned completed the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.58. Wilkes, who is based at Churchill, opted for the Homecoming Classic over the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) earlier in the day at Belmont Park.
Fort Larned won by a diminishing 1 1/2 lengths over Windswept, who impressively won an allowance race at Saratoga Race Course in August in his last start. Windswept had 2 1/4 lengths on Worldly in third.
Fort Larned, the heavy favorite, paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10 across the board. Windswept paid $4.40 and $3.60 and completed a $10.60 exacta, while Worldly paid $6 to show and rounded out an $89.40 trifecta.
Fort Larned, who now has 10 wins in 24 starts, has earned $4,171,322 in his career.