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Fort Larned Returns to Track at Churchill

Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned, reigning winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) and a dominant winner of the Churchill Downs’ Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), returned to the track at Churchill Downs on Saturday to resume his preparations for bid for a second consecutive victory in the Classic at Santa Anita.
 
The gallop by the 6-year-old son of E Dubai was Fort Larned’s first journey to the track since trainer Ian Wilkes announced on Aug. 29 that a muscle strain would knock his star out of a planned run in the Woodward Stakes (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 31. 
 
"He got back [to Churchill Downs] on Wednesday and I rode him in the shed, but I tracked him today,” Wilkes said. “He looked good.”
 
The Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic remains the ultimate goal for Fort Larned, but Wilkes has the $750,000-added Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28 penciled in as a near-term objective. Whether he makes that race will depend on his progress over his home track at Churchill Downs during the next few days.

His 6 ½-length victory in the Stephen Foster remains the only victory in four 2013 starts for Fort Larned, but Wilkes continues to express strong confidence in his horse. He finished fifth to Cross Traffic as the favorite in Saratoga’s Whitney (GI), a race he won in 2012, and finished fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) after stumbling at the start and tossing jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. in his season debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII) on March 13. 
 
Fort Larned ran nine times in 2012 and posted a 5-1-1 record and earnings of $3,598,455.
 
“I really believe that he’s as good as last year,” Wilkes said. “It’s just been one of those years. If we could start over again – you know, get a “re-do,” we’d be fine. Boy, it’s been a bumpy road.”
 
The career record for Fort Larned stands at 9-2-1 in 23 starts with earnings of $4,053,917.

 

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