Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned, the reigning winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G I), is set for a final pre-race tune-up on Monday at Churchill Downs.
He is scheduled for a Tuesday flight to California for his bid for a rare second consecutive victory in the Championships’ main event on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Trainer Ian Wilkes said the 5-year-old son of E Dubai, who has scored his pair of 2013 victories at Churchill Downs in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) and the inaugural Homecoming Classic in September, would work under regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. shortly after the track opens for training at 6 a.m. (all times EDT).
The work will be the third in nine days. He breezed a half-mile in :49 on Oct. 13 and followed that move with a very sharp five furlongs in 1:00.60 over a fast surface on Oct. 22. Fort Larned worked in company with his stablemate Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the 2012 Ack Ack (GIII) and Indiana Derby (GII), in a drill that was the fastest of 32 at the distance.
“It was a very good work,” Wilkes said. “It was everything you wanted to see. The thing about it is he’s taking me where I want to go. I’m not taking him to the Breeders’ Cup – he’s taking me there.”
Wilkes is operating on the same shipping schedule as the successful one laid out a year ago for Fort Larned. He will board a flight for California on Tuesday for the journey to the West Coast. Fort Larned also was scheduled to leave on that day a year ago, but weather issues delayed his scheduled flight by a day.
The travel forecast looks clear for Tuesday and Wilkes hopes for clear sailing, both in Fort Larned’s journey west and in the 1 ¼-mile Classic.
“I’ve got no worries in the world that my horse is going to show up,” Wilkes said. “He’s going to run his ‘A’ game. It’s just a matter of whether he’s good enough. It’s a good race and it’s a quality field. They don’t just give this race to you, but I’m going in there very happy with my horse.”
Fort Larned takes a career record of 10-2-1 in 24 races and earnings of $4,171,322 into his Classic defense. A victory on Saturday would make Fort Larned only the second horse to win the race twice. Tiznow won the Classic in back-to-back years in 2000 and 2001, with the former win coming at Churchill Downs in his 3-year-old season.
-Churchill Downs Publicity