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Wilkes Says Fort Larned "Feeling Good"

Defending Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) winner Fort Larned has been installed as the odds-on 3-5 favorite for Saturday’s first running of the $175,000-added Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs, but his post-time odds could drop even lower following the defection of one of three Grade I stakes winners from the field. 
 
The number of rivals that will face Janis R. Whitham’s homebred son of E Dubai in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile “Downs After Dark” centerpiece dropped to five when Magic City ThoroughbredsGolden Ticket boarded a plane for Southern California early Thursday morning. The Kenny McPeek-trained dead-heat winner of the 2012 Travers (GI) at Saratoga was the 4-1 second choice in Churchill Downs’ oddsmaker Mike Battaglia’s morning line for the race, but Golden Ticket will run instead in the $250,000 Awesome Again (GI) at Santa Anita rather than face Fort Larned over his home track.
 
Golden Ticket finished second to Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) in June, but was never a threat to the front-running winner, who won by 6 ¼ lengths in a dazzling performance. 
 
McPeek was lured to the Santa Antia race because of the Awesome Again is both a Grade I recent and a “Breeders’ Cup Win and Your In” Challenge Series race. A victory in the Awesome Again would earn Golden Ticket a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2.
 
McPeek also shipped Locust Grove winner Flashy American to Santa Anita to run in the $250,000 Zenyatta (GI), a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI).
 
Trainer Ian Wilkes said Fort Larned was doing well on the eve of his final prep for his defense of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic victory. The 5-year-old son of E Dubai galloped strongly at Churchill Downs on Friday.
 
“The horse is feeling good,” Wilkes said. “He had a good day (Friday). So everything’s done. I’m not sure what I’ll do with him (Saturday morning) yet. I’ll do something with him, but he’s in good shape.”
 
With the defection of Golden Ticket, it appeared that Zayat Stables LLC’s multiple stakes winner Prayer for Relief and Windswept, who is seeking his first stakes victory for the Louisville-based Klein Family partnership, would vie for the role of second choice in Homecoming Classic betting. The former comes into the race off back-to-back stakes wins for trainer Steve Asmussen, while Windswept brings a two-race win streak and a good record at Churchill Downs into the race for trainer Charlie LoPresti.
 
Agent Di Nozzo, a two-time stakes winner, is listed at 15-1; Pool Play, winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster, is a 20-1 risk and stakes winner Worldly rounds out the field as its longest shot at 30-1.
 
 

 

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