Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
To trainer Ian Wilkes, the defeat of favorite Fort Larned
in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap began at the
start, when he broke a step slow and winner Cross Traffic got away
quickly and set a comfortable opening quarter-mile in 24.17 seconds.
Brian Hernandez alertly moved Fort Larned into an outside stalking
position around the first turn, but, in Wilkes' mind, the damage was
done. He believes it cost Fort Larned, who finished fifth in his
attempt to win his second straight Whitney.
didn't get away good yesterday; we broke a little slow," Wilkes said.
"That wasn't from any tactics or anything. The horse just broke a little
slow, and if we break better, it changes the complexion of the race.
[Cross Traffic's jockey, Hall of Famer] Johnny [Velazquez] rode a great
race. He got away with a 24 first quarter. Let's pay all tribute to what
Johnny, [trainer] Todd [Pletcher] and Cross Traffic did. We will have
Wilkes said if Fort Larned trains well, he will point him toward the Grade 1 Woodward at 1 1/8 miles on August 31.
Grade 1 handicap division is a tough division," Wilkes said. "We could
run this race again in three or four weeks and have a different winner.
It's a testament to how strong a division it is. It's not easy; if you
make mistakes, you're going to get beat."