Being a multiple-stakes winning Florida-bred, Fort Loudon was
certainly expected to be a prominent participant in Saturday’s $1.3
million Florida Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park. What wasn’t
expected was trainer Nick Zito’s decision to bypass the $150,000 Sprint
in favor of the $400,000 Classic.
Fort Loudon was a three-time stakes winner at sprint distances and
finished a close second in the King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga in 2012,
but his Hall of Fame trainer went ahead and entered the Fred Brei’s
homebred 4-year-old in the Classic at 1-1/8 miles against Mucho Macho
Man and Ron the Greek, the 1-2 finishers last year.
“I’ve always wanted to stretch him out. I talked to Mr. Brei about
stretching him out again, and we’ll give it a whirl. It’s interesting
that those two horses are Florida-breds,” Zito said of Mucho Macho Man
and Ron the Greek. “You usually don’t see those kind of horses in a race
like this. One just gets beat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Mucho Macho
Man) and Ron the Greek won the Santa Anita Handicap. When do you see
that? It’s a credit to the Florida-bred program.”
Stretching out from sprint distances, Fort Loudon is expected to be forwardly placed in the Classic.
“He should be on the lead or close to it. He definitely should be
right on the pace,” Zito said. “Ron the Greek is tough; the other horse
is tough, Mucho Macho Man, but Loudon fits right in there after that. So
if they have a bad day, and we have a good day, who knows?”
Zito, who saddled Jackson Bend, a Brei homebred for two Grade 1
victories the last two years, is impressed with Brei’s knack for
breeding tough and talented Florida-breds.
“Loudon’s a typical Fred Brei horse that’s durable. Fred, for some
reason, breeds a durable horse. He’s a throwback horse,” Zito said. “I
enjoy the friendship I have with Fred. We have a very good relationship.
He likes our work; we like his work.