Yesterday, I wrote about my pick for the Swaps
Stakes, Called to Serve, who has completely turned around his career since
being gelded. The major equipment change was plenty enough for me to toss his
early races and only look at his last two. Unfortunately, I am not always so
fast to come around and accept what is plain to see. Sometimes you get an idea
about a horse in your head, and it is hard to change your mind. For me, Fort Larned is just such a horse.
In winning Saturday night’s $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows, Fort Larned ran his fifth excellent race in his past seven, and in the process, earned his third Beyer speed rating of 108 in his last four races. Clearly the days of running 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th against weaker competition, although less than a year removed, are long gone for the horse trained by Ian Wilkes and owned by Janis R. Whitham. In voting for the Top 10 horses in America on this week’s NTRA poll, I once again left the four-year-old son of E Dubai off the list. Perhaps it is time for me to wake up and realize that Fort Larned is one of the best things going right now.
In the Cornhusker, rider Brian Hernandez Jr and
Fort Larned took full advantage of a tactical advantage and led the Grade 3
field on a merry chase, before decisively turning away a bid from heavily
favored Successful Dan to win the nine-furlong race by three lengths in the
sparkling time of 1:47.42. Never a horse to grab too much spotlight, as good as
Fort Larned was, he was still overshadowed on the race card. The race before,
the great white hope, Hansen, absolutely destroyed an overmatched Iowa Derby
field. While the three-year-old was flashier, it was Fort Larned who ran the faster
and better race on Saturday night.
While the richest race in Iowa may be not be
considered among the biggest races of the year for older males, in Successful
Dan, I believe Fort Larned soundly beat one of the best horses in the nation.
For full disclosure, and despite the result, Successful Dan is still a member
of my Top 10 on the aforementioned poll. I mentioned that I was slow to come
You would think that I would have learned back in May when I was in attendance for the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. On that day I was lucky enough to bet
the winner, Successful Dan. Good call. Unfortunately, I totally dismissed the
sharp shipper from the South, who would finish second and disintegrate any
hopes I had for cashing exotic bets in the race. Of course the horse that was
coming off two nice stakes wins in the Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs, and the
Skip Away at Gulfstream Park, was none other than Fort Larned. I did not believe
he was classy enough to run well against the quality horses of the Alysheba,
but his excellent runner-up performance proved me wrong. I should have known then
and there that he is a legitimate horse in 2012.
Maybe I let an 8th place finish in the
Grade 1 Foster that came after the Alysheba, cloud my judgment on him once
again. In that race, Fort Larned was carried out and bothered and never could get to the lead while running in probably the deepest field assembled so far in
2012. Now I realize that race seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Fort Larned is a serious race horse. I’m just sorry that it took me so long to
wake up to the fact.