Easy Morning for Late Arrivals for Classic

Fort Larned and Palace Malice were last Classic contenders to arrive.

Janis Whitham's defending Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Fort Larned  had an easy first morning Oct. 30 at Santa Anita Park, walking outside of Barn 99 with exercise rider Katie Merritt up.

"He worked Monday at Churchill Downs and then had a long flight yesterday," trainer Ian Wilkes said. "Actually this is what he did last year only he did it at Churchill Downs because we came in a day later."

The plane bringing Fort Larned to Santa Anita left Louisville, Ky., shortly after 2 p.m. (EDT) Tuesday afternoon, made a one-hour stop in Oklahoma City, and arrived at Ontario International Airport shortly before 5 p.m. (PDT).

Wilkes said Fort Larned would gallop the next two mornings, going out at 6:30 each day in his quest to become the second two-time winner of the Classic, joining Tiznow (2000-01).

Dogwood Stable's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Palace Malice , who was also on board the plane with Fort Larned and other World Championships entrants, galloped Wednesday morning as he prepped for his 10th start of the year in the Classic. The 3-year-old son of Curlin , who has raced at six different track this year, hasn't missed a beat since launching his 2013 campaign at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19.

"It says a lot about him, physically and mentally, that he's been able to do that," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He seems to thrive on it, actually. He's gained weight through the process and has gotten bigger and stronger as he's gone along."

Not that everything has gone smoothly, particularly early in the season when he encountered traffic and rough trips in prep races for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and the Derby, itself.

"It was frustrating but it made winning the Belmont that much more satisfying," Pletcher said.

Pletcher said the Classic is shaping up as an extremely competitive race.

"It's a really deep field. It's one of those things where you wouldn't be surprised if a number of different horses win it. Fort Larned to win it again it wouldn't surprise you. If Mucho Macho Man , judging by the way he ran in the Awesome Again, won it, it wouldn't surprise you. Game On Dude certainly wouldn't surprise you," Pletcher said. "And you're not even talking about Ron the Greek, Flat Out , Palace Malice, or Will Take Charge . It's a nasty race."