It wasn’t long ago that I wrote an article on Fort Larned titled I was slow to believe in Fort Larned. Yesterday, I believed in him, along with a few others, and watched with little surprise as the four-year-old son of E Dubai made a decisive burst as the field turned for home and effectively ended any suspense in the most important race run so far at Saratoga this year.
Trained by Ian Wilkes and perfectly ridden by Brian Hernandez, Fort Larned cruised home over the late running, Bill Mott duo of Ron the Greek and Flat Out to win by an impressive length-and-a-quarter in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap. What did surprise me was that he went off at a meaty 7-1 on the toteboard yesterday, but I guess not everyone believed in him before the big race at Saratoga. Just over a minute and forty seven seconds after the start, I imagine he earned a few more believers.
I don’t care that he was far from a world beater last year, or that this was his first win in New York, and he has never run in California. I don’t even care that yesterday was his first grade 1 victory of his career. What I am interested in is that this horse has become one of the best horses in American racing.
He has already won four stakes this year, and after the Whitney, now has four Beyer speed figures of 108 or more in his last five races. If the pace is fast, the Janis Whitham owned colt can sit off the early lead and pounce, as he did yesterday, and if it is not, he can take to the front and lead the field on a merry chase as he did the start before in his win in the Cornhusker Handicap. And if you still don’t believe, take one more look at yesterday’s race …