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Fort Larned Fires Whitney Bullet

Trying to become only the second horse to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap Invitational in back-to-back years, Fort Larned indicated his readiness for Saturday's 86th edition with a bullet five-furlong breeze Monday morning.


NYRA clockers caught the 5-year-old bay son of E Dubai going five-eighths in 1:00.71 on the main track under regular rider Brian Hernandez, Jr., the fastest of 31 works at the distance.


"Everything went good; we're very happy," said Ian Wilkes, who trains Fort Larned for owner Janis Whitham. "It was just how he did it. It was a little crisp work, just the right way. I put a horse out there in front for him. I didn't want to hurt the other horse ... but I wanted something for him to look at."


Discovery, who won three consecutive Whitneys from 1934-36 when it was contested at 1 ¼ miles, is the only horse to win the race in successive years. Hall of Famer Kelso (1961, 1963, 1965) and New York-bred Commentator (2005, 2008) are the only other horses to win the Whitney more than once.


Fort Larned won the 2012 Whitney, run at 1 1/8 miles since 1955, in 1:47.76, beating Ron the Greek by 1 ¼ lengths.


"It would be special," Wilkes said. "I'm fortunate enough to train a few horses for Marylou Whitney, which would make it even more special."


This year, Fort Larned stumbled and lost his rider in his debut, the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in March, then was fifth, beaten 10 ½ lengths, in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 13.


Given a freshening, Fort Larned came back to wire the field in Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15 at Churchill Downs, his most recent race.


"I feel good," Wilkes said. "I think he's a more mature horse right now; he's more battle-tested. He's run some huge races against some of the best competition."


The post-position draw for the Whitney will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the Saratoga paddock. Also expected to be entered are Alpha, Cross Traffic, Csaba, Fast Falcon, Mucho Macho Man and Successful Dan.




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