A riderless Fort Larned leads the way in the 2013 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
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A riderless Fort Larned leads the way in the 2013 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
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Coglianese Photos/Eleanor Gustafson

Fort Larned 'Walking Good' After Gate Stumble

Trainer Wilkes reports that last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner grabbed quarter.

Fort Larned  came out of his bad stumble at the start of the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) March 9 with a grabbed quarter, but otherwise escaped further injury, trainer Ian Wilkes reported the following morning (VIDEO).

"He's walking good this morning. We'll keep a close eye on him a couple more days to make sure nothing else comes up. Otherwise, he looked good this morning," Wilkes said March 10. "He grabbed a quarter. It wasn't too bad. It could have been a lot worse."

The injury was to Fort Larned's left front foot near the middle of the heel, Wilkes said.

Two jumps out of the starting gate, the 5-year-old star, who was sent to post as the 4-5 favorite, lost his footing and went to his knees, unseating jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who escaped injury.

Hernandez told Wilkes that Fort Larned overextended his stride coming away from the starting stall and lost his footing. Fort Larned recovered immediately and the riderless horse quickly passed the remainder of the field, crossing the finish line in the one-turn mile event far ahead of race winner Discreet Dancer.

"You don't like to get started like that," Wilkes said. "Hopefully, we got all the bad luck out of the way and we just moving ahead. You had this race mapped out for four months and you know your horse is on the top of his game and ready to run. It was just a bad step. He was too sharp out of the box. It's just one of those things in racing."

As disheartening as he found the incident to be, Wilkes was able to count his blessings Sunday morning for last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) and Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner.

"How lucky do we get? The horse fell on his head; he's lucky he didn't really hurt himself. He could have ripped his whole heel off or he could have broken his leg. The way he fell, his whole head hit the ground," Wilkes said.

Churchill Downs spring meeting would be a likely spot for Fort Larned's return to action, but his trainer is concentrating on the immediate future for Janis Whitham's homebred son of E Dubai.

"I just want to make sure he's OK. The next few days we'll keep a close eye on him and we'll evaluate where we're at," Wilkes said. "You just want to be sure he's 110 percent before you start making plans."