Wilkes: Fort Larned could go for a Classic defense next year

Trainer Ian Wilkes had a not-so-surprising revelation Sunday morning, a little more than 12 hours after Fort Larned's front-running victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

"I didn't sleep a lot last night," Wilkes said after his first Breeders' Cup victory. "It has not really sunk in yet."

Wilkes said that Fort Larned, owned by Janis Whitham, came out of the race well and was scheduled to leave Santa Anita at 11 a.m. (PST) Sunday morning to go to Ontario Airport for a flight back to Kentucky, where Wilkes is stabled at Churchill Downs.

Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., Fort Larned grabbed the lead out of the gate and had to fend off Mucho Macho Man through the stretch to prevail by a half-length. It was another 6 1/2 lengths back to Flat Out in third.

Wilkes was asked his thoughts when Fort Larned was challenged by Mucho Macho Man entering the stretch.

"Stop riding, Mike," Wilkes said of Mike Smith who was aboard Mucho Macho Man. "You've already won the Ladies' Classic. I was looking for the wire."

Saturday's victory capped a big two days for the Wilkes-Hernandez pairing as they teamed to win the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap with Neck 'n Neck on Friday at Churchill Downs that serves as a prep for the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on November 23.

Any chance of a Wilkes entry in the Clark?

"No," Wilkes said with a broad grin. "(Fort Larned) is going to get a little break and then go to Gulfstream for the winter. I will talk it over with the Whitham Family and plan backward to get back here (to Santa Anita for the 30th Breeders' Cup Classic on November 2, 2013).

"One race I would like to run in is the (Grade 1) Stephen Foster. I really want to do better than he did this year (finishing last of eight)."

In the 2011 Breeders' Cup, trainer Bill Mott saddled the winners of the both the Ladies' Classic and Classic. The Hall of Famer started 2012 in the same manner, sending out Royal Delta to defend her title in the Ladies' Classic, but was forced to watch as Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man drew off in the Classic from Flat Out, one of three entrants in the race.

"Everybody looks OK this morning," assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset said. "To Honor and Serve is retired and has left already. He is flying to Kentucky and going to Gainesway to begin his new career. The other three are flying to Payson Park in Florida on Monday afternoon.

"The three that are still here walked this morning and everybody ate good."

In addition to Flat Out's third in the Classic, Ron the Greek was just three parts of a length farther back in fourth while To Honor and Serve could do no better than 10th in the race.

Royal Delta is scheduled to remain in training for her five-year-old season in 2013. Mott has said that the plan is to run again in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March and to compete against males in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita.

My Miss Aurelia was unable to catch Royal Delta in the Ladies' Classic, but her second in the race helped trainer Steve Asmussen earn the top finishes of any of the trainers during the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

Asmussen's one win and three seconds outranked the rest of the field and made for smiles and easy conversation on Sunday morning. The conditioner sent out Tapizar to take the Dirt Mile, while Dust and Diamond and Unbridled's Note joined My Miss Aurelia by finishing second in their respective races, the Filly & Mare Sprint and Turf Sprint.

"I'm very proud of our team and the way the horses ran," he said. "I'm really happy Tapizar won. Four bridesmaids might have been a bit much.

"I don't really know how you describe heartbreak and pride in the same situation. But those were my feelings," he added about My Miss Aurelia's near-miss in Friday's Ladies' Classic.

Overall, all six of his horses earned a check. Great Mills was fourth in the Turf Sprint and Justin Phillip was fifth in the Sprint.

All of the Breeders' Cup runners were in good shape Sunday, Asmussen said. Dust and Diamonds was on an airplane on her way to Kentucky for Tuesday's Fasig-Tipton breeding stock sale.

Another major beneficiary of the Asmussen record was jockey Corey Nakatani, who was aboard Tapizar, My Miss Aurelia and Unbridled's Note.

"Ten Breeders' Cup wins -- not bad for an old hacker," Nakatani quipped about his victory on Tapizar.

The rider's win and two seconds moved him ever closer to the retired Gary Stevens for eighth-place on the Breeders' Cup money-won list. Nakatani now has earnings of $12,813,910 to Stevens' $13,723,910.

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