Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
If you think that Fort Larned is going to dominate the brand new Homecoming Classic all the way from the opening bell to the winner’s circle celebration at Churchill Downs, well, you may be right. But maybe, just maybe, you’re not. Sorry, if that seems a little wishy-washy, but there are two reasons why I am less than decisive on giving this one to Fort Larned before they run the race, and their names are Golden Ticket and Windswept.
Of the two, Golden Ticket is the one with the established name. Already a grade 1 winner, albeit in a tie, the Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ runner shocked the world when he dead-heated for the win with Alpha in last year’s Travers. Trained by Kenny McPeek, he has not duplicated that result since, but on the other hand, has also steadily moved towards proving that he is more than a one-hit wonder.
Golden Ticket has won half of his six starts this season, and shows a sharp win at Churchill Downs, a second place finish to none other than Fort Larned in this year’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and a romping win in the Prairie Meadows Handicap in his last three starts. For the four-year-old son of Speightstown, the Homecoming Classic is simply a means to an end, with that end being the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Truth to be told, this is the colt that I have been calling my BC Classic dark horse all summer, so you better believe I give him a shot here. Nothing like a little extra pressure heaped on before Saturday night’s race. The winner of just a shade under $900,000 will have Robby Albarado in the irons and break from post three in the field of seven.
Windswept, on the other hand has no big wins to fall back on. This is, for all intents and purposes, new territory to the Charles LoPresti charge. In his only career stakes try to date, he finished fourth behind the talented trio of Wilburn, Shackleford, and Caleb’s Posse in the Indiana Derby as a lightly-raced late bloomer. That effort came two years ago.
Off for a year-and-a-half due to injury, Windswept returned to the races this spring at Keeneland. He showed nothing that day, but has improved dramatically since. Now five, the homebred son of Arch ran well in two solid allowance races at Churchill Downs, before exploding to a 9 ¼-length allowance romp at Saratoga. The mile and and an eighth, run in 1:48, earned a 103 Beyer. Not quite Fort Larned at his best territory, but demonstration that Windswept is getting good.
“He’s awful good right now,” said LoPresti “I don’t know if he’s good enough to beat Fort Larned, but we’re going to find out.”
Windswept will break from post two under Corey Lanerie, the co-leading rider of the September meet with 13 wins through Sunday. Like Golden Ticket, he will carry 121 pounds, four pounds less than Fort Larned, in the Homecoming Classic.
Saturday night’s feature remains Fort Larned’s race to lose, but at odds of 3-5 or so, Golden Ticket and Windswept provide a couple of attractive alternatives.