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Wilkes Says Slow Start Cost Fort Larned in Whitney

Fort Larned BC 615 X 400
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.


Jockey 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.


"We 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 to regroup."


Wilkes said if Fort Larned trains well, he will point him toward the Grade 1 Woodward at 1 1/8 miles on August 31.


"This 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."



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