"He ran hard; he's a little tired. But he's happy, although not as happy as I am," Wilkes said on the morning of Aug. 5. Fort Larned earned a career-high 110 Beyer speed figure in the Whitney, the second-best rating for older males at more than a mile on dirt this year.
"Really, I was expecting that kind of performance from him," Wilkes added. "I believe in him. He's a very good horse. He ran the same type of race in the Cornhusker. In that race, he beat Successful Dan; yesterday, there were more good horses."
With the Whitney victory, his first in a grade I, Fort Larned earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park.
"The 1 1/4 miles I don't think will be a problem," said Wilkes. "The only thing is, we have to go to California, which is (trainer Bob) Baffert territory."
The next order of business for Wilkes and owner/breeder Janis Whitham is to figure out what path to take to the Breeders' Cup with the 4-year-old son of E Dubai.
"The Woodward (gr. I on Sept. 1) is possible, but we have to think about how to get to the Classic and work backwards," he said. "The main thing is, he'll tell me. He's been going since early in the year. We'll see how he is, and he will tell us."