One of the gems on Churchill Downs' new September meet schedule will serve as a well-timed prep for Fort Larned as he prepares for a defense of his 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) victory.
Janis Whitham's homebred Fort Larned is one of seven 3-year-olds and older entered in the first edition of the $175,000 Homecoming Classic Stakes Saturday, Sept. 28 at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile race will be contested as the seventh on the card with a scheduled post time of 9:05 p.m.
At 125 pounds Fort Larned has been assigned high weight despite a season that has seen more downs than ups since his victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Fort Larned enters off a fifth-place finish in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 3 at Saratoga Race Course, the third off-the-board finish in four starts this season 5-year-old E Dubai horse.
Trainer Ian Wilkes said the opportunity for Fort Larned to race at his home track rather than ship to New York for the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park on the same day made the Homecoming an attractive option.
"Our goal is to try and win the Breeders' Cup Classic again," Wilkes said. "We want to do what we feel is right for the horse. We keep him here and run him a mile and an eighth. He's on his track with a one-race ship. Otherwise I'm going to ship to Belmont and ship back again.
"It just fit into our plans to run him here. If we didn't have the September Meet and didn't have this race, we would have gone to the Jockey Club."
The Homecoming is on the track Fort Larned registered his lone victory this season, a 6 1/4-length waltz in the Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (gr. I) June 15 at the Homecoming distance of 1 1/8 miles.
The runner-up from the Stephen Foster, last year's dead-heat Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Golden Ticket, also will give the Homecoming a try as he prepares for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Trainer Ken McPeek opted for the Homecoming over a possible start in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 28 at Santa Anita Park.
The field also has attracted 2011 Stephen Foster winner Pool Play, who enters off a third-place finish in the Greenwood Cup Stakes (gr. III) Sept. 2 at Parx Racing.
$175,000 Homecoming Classic Stakes (race 7, approximate post time 9:05 p.m.) 3YO&Up, 1 1/8 miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Pool Play (ON), M. Mena, 121, M. Casse
2. Windswept (KY), C. Lanerie, 121, C. LoPresti
3. Golden Ticket (KY), R. Albarado, 121, K. McPeek
4. Prayer for Relief (KY), R. Santana Jr., 123, S. Asmussen
5. Fort Larned, B. Hernandez Jr., 125, I. Wilkes
6. Worldly (KY), D. Flores, 121, B. Walsh
7. Agent Di Nozzo (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 121, S. Margolis