Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster Handicap.
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Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster Handicap.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Whitney Next for Foster Winner Fort Larned

Defense of last year's Saratoga victory over Ron the Greek a good possibility.

Dominating Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (gr. I) winner Fort Larned  will be pointed to the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, trainer Ian Wilkes said on the morning of June 16.

"The Whitney will be next and we'll just take it one race at a time," Wilkes said. "The ultimate goal is getting back to the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I)."

Fort Larned won the 2012 Whitney, then finished third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) before springing a 9-1 upset in the Breeders' Cup Classic. This year's Whitney is Aug. 3.

Janice Whitham's homebred turned in one of the top performances of the year in the Stephen Foster on the night of June 15 at Churchill Downs, leading at every call and leaving his rivals behind in the stretch for a 6 1/4-length triumph.

"He looks good this morning," Wilkes said. "I'm very proud of him. It was what we were hoping to see."

Connections for the other five runners in the 1 1/8-mile Foster reported they came out of the race in good order as well.

In a salty field, Fort Larned was followed in order by Golden Ticket , Ron the Greek, Successful Dan, Pool Play, and Take Charge Indy.

"We're thrilled with how Golden Ticket ran," said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. "There's no shame in running behind the Breeders' Cup Classic winner. Golden Ticket gives you everything he has every time and he proved he's a classy horse. We don't have any plans for his next race yet."

Speaking by telephone from his barn at Belmont Park Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the all-time leader in wins (672) and stakes victories (87) at Churchill, said Ron the Greek was "fine" after finishing third in the Stephen Foster.

"Everything's fine," Mott said. "The Whitney is a possibility for Ron the Greek."

Ron the Greek ran second to Fort Larned in last year's Whitney as the favorite, beaten 1 1/4 lengths. He will remain at Churchill Downs for another couple of days before vanning to New York June 18.

Successful Dan returned to trainer Charlie LoPresti's barn at Keeneland soon after running fourth.

"He looks to be fine," LoPresti said. "Julien said he was bobbling the whole way and couldn't get ahold of the racetrack. Hats off to Fort Larned, though. I don't think there's a horse in the country that could have beaten him last night.

"I'm just going to see how (Successful Dan) comes out of it and give him a few days before we decide what to do."

Trainer Pat Byrne says there are no plans set for Take Charge Indy, the 9-5 favorite who faded to last.