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Zipse At The Track

The Return of Fort Larned

Welcome back, champ! OK, technically Fort Larned is not a champion in the traditional sense, but anyone who saw his courageous front-running effort in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic knows that he was America’s most accomplished older dirt horse in 2012. That’s a distinction that usually garners at least one Eclipse Award, but alas, things did not break his way with the voters. No matter, Fort Larned is not only ready to make his return to the races in Saturday’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, but he also looks to embark on a new season as an even more formidable version than the one that won a pair of stakes in Florida this time last year.
All reports out of the Palm Meadows Training Center have been positive. After a brief freshening, Fort Larned has had a series of works designed to shake off any rust, and to also build a foundation of readiness for his first start of the season. His final work before Saturday’s feature, which will be run at one mile, came this morning with a five-furlong leg stretcher in 1:01.30. On a recent trip to Florida, I had the opportunity to spend some time observing the attractive bay, and I can happily report that he looked the absolute picture of health.
Often considered an underdog in some of America’s biggest races last year, things will be decidedly different for the 5-year-old son of E Dubai this year. No longer a dark horse, Fort Larned is now one of the big dogs. Fans will flock to see him run, connections will take extra pleasure in knocking him off with their charges, and racing secretaries will show him due respect. Initial evidence of this can be seen in the weight assignments for his first start since winning the Classic. Fort Larned was assigned 124 pounds Gulfstream Park Handicap, which means he will be spotting his opponents between 6 and 11 pounds when rider Brian Hernandez takes a leg up on Saturday.
In his typical nonchalant style, his trainer Ian Wilkes remarked, “He’s a big, strong horse, so I’m fine with it.”
The flat mile trip can sometimes be a tricky distance, especially for a horse that excels at longer distances, so despite the expected short field, it is no forgone conclusion that the big horse will be a winner on Saturday. His biggest threat ironically should come from a horse with a very similar name. Fort Loudon is a multiple stakes winner for trainer Nick Zito, who is well proven around one-turn. He also enters the meeting with Fort Larned coming off what was arguably the finest performance of his career, having taken the seven furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship in his last start. Loudon may have the sharpness edge, but of course it is Larned who wins this race if he is close to his best. He is also no stranger to the South Florida oval.
Gulfstream is a track that the Janis Whitham owned star has performed well at in the past. Back in 2011, this is where he broke his maiden, which coincidentally came at one mile. He also scored his very first graded stakes win at Gulfstream Park, easily accounting for the Grade 3 Skip Away just less than a year ago. That win was one of five for Fort Larned last year, as he also captured the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, as well as the Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. You already know how he closed out the year. Did I mention that he was the most accomplished older horse on dirt last year? Welcome back, champ!


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Older Comments about The Return of Fort Larned ...

Last minute race day picks- W- Fort Larned P= Fort Loudon S- decaf Again 4th Discreet Dancer
IF Ft Farned is ready, he TOWERS over this field
It will be interesting if Fort Larned tries to get the lead or if they let Discreet Dancer do the dirty work on the front end.
Discreet Dancer looks solid chance to upset to BC Classic Champ in here...mile is the ideal distance for him.
I only just noticed how SMALL Fort Larned it. It's really profound.
Welcome back is right! Fort Larned, Wise Dan, Dullahan -- I hope they all run big in their returns!
  • sgvoak · thats so funny. I was at this race and it was a sick stretch and nice win, but i just watched it from this view and seen for the first time the pinch on game on dude. the waved the 6, pushed the 7 into the 8 then veered back towards the rail. Just amazing no objections at all or stewers inquary · 1719 days ago
I thought he was the best horse in the country after his Prm race were he ran his last 3 furlongs in a smokin 35 1/5 seconds. Mucho Macho Man was my previous #1 after his Florida win way back in January with a 3rd and 4th quaters of 46.48 seconds.
welcome back Fort Larned! i hope you get even better this year.
This fellow might be even better this time around...Hope so.
Exactly welcome back. Cannot Wait!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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