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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

I was slow to believe in Fort Larned

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 around, right?


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.



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Older Comments about I was slow to believe in Fort Larned ...

He was very playful in the paddock before the Cornhusker, kept throwing his head around, trying to nip the guy holding his lead and trying to butt him with his hea, he really looked ready to run. I wasn't surprised when he went straight to the lead.
Thanks for the information; always good to learn something new.
Fort Larned sure is a nice horse. With the loss I took Successful Dan out of my Top 10. Fort Larned National Historic SIte is located in Kansas. The Fort was built to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

As Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of Directors of The Exceller Fund. Brian also consults for leading contest site Derby Wars, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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