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Fort Loudon Victorious in Gulfstream Sprint Championship

Jacks or Better Farm’s homebred Fort Loudon notched a hard-fought victory in the Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G3) on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Fort Loudon

Fort Loudon

Fort Loudon broke alertly under jockey Jose Lezcano, and was in a duel with one rival or another all the way to the wire in the seven-furlong test as he registered a game half-length decision over Silverton Hill Farm’s 5-year-old Swagger Jack.

Trained by Nick Zito, Fort Loudon was turning back from a distant third-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic at 1 1/8 miles after competing in sprint stakes most of last season following a sixth-place finish in the Florida Derby (G1) for trainer Stanley Gold, who developed the son of Awesome of Course as the leading 2-year-old at Calder in 2011.

Following a victory in the six-furlong Carry Back Stakes (G3) at Calder in early July, Jacks or Better owner Fred Brei sent Fort Loudon to New York with Zito as he had done with previous stable star Jackson Bend. Fort Loudon ran a big race to finish second in the Kings Bishop Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, but Saturday’s victory was his first since the Carry Back.

“We want to thank Fred (Brei) for sending us nice horses,” said Zito. “Stan (Gold) deserves a lot of credit for developing him. I told Jose (Lezcano) to do whatever he had to do to keep him out of trouble even if it meant going to the lead, and he did.

“It was a game performance and great to win a race like this on Donn Day. I think it helped that he was coming off a distance race, but I think we’ll probably keep him at seven-eighths to a mile for now. He’ll come back in the mile race now, the Gulfstream Park Handicap (Mar. 9).”

Lezcano said, “He broke very well and I know he runs the way he did. l used him the whole way and got lucky.”

Fort Loudon paid $9.60 for $2 to win and was timed in 1:21:84 over the ‘fast track. Donald Dizney’s 4-year-old Bahamian Squall was sent off the 2-to-1 favorite in the field of eight and rallied for third, just a nose behind the runner-up in a good effort.

Fort Loudon/Courtney Heeney photo