10/09/2013 1:20PM

Breeders' Cup Classic: Fort Larned readies for repeat bid

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Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at 9-1, will enter this year’s edition off a win in the Homecoming Classic.

Fort Larned is set to defend his title in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita following his recent victory in the inaugural Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs, and his trainer, Ian Wilkes, believes he can improve off that final prep.

Fort Larned had to miss the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga at the end of August with tightness in his hind end, causing him to lose training time. Wilkes said that while Fort Larned was good enough to win the Homecoming Classic, he was not at his best.

“We knew he wasn’t 100 percent because of the training time he had missed,” Wilkes said. “He missed about eight or nine days, so he had to need the race. But if he didn’t run in that race, he would not have been ready to go to the Breeders’ Cup.”

The original plan was to run in the Woodward, then either the Homecoming Classic or the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. But after scratching out of the Woodward, Fort Larned went to Churchill Downs, where Wilkes is based, and Wilkes figured it was prudent to remain home. He said the Woodward situation might have been a blessing in disguise since, had Fort Larned run, it would have been on a sloppy track.

“Things happen for a reason,” Wilkes said. “Maybe it was a good thing he missed that race. We just brought him home. I was able to watch him at Churchill, and it made it easier having him here, with the sales going on at Keeneland. We were able to keep a close eye on him. Fortunately, Churchill had that race. Otherwise, we would have had to ship.”

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: See DRF’s top contenders]

Now, Fort Larned will make just one trip this fall, back to Santa Anita for the Classic.

Wilkes is a disciple of Carl Nafzger, the Hall of Fame trainer for whom Wilkes was a longtime assistant. During that tenure, Wilkes saw Nafzger engineer top performances in major races from the likes of Kentucky Derby winners Unbridled and Street Sense, among others, after moderate preps. Wilkes showed that he had learned his lessons well a year ago, when Fort Larned was primed for his best in the Classic after finishing third as the favorite in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was 9-1 in the Classic.

In other Classic developments:

◗ Trainer Todd Pletcher said the Classic is his preferred spot for Grade 2 Kelso Invitational winner Graydar, with the Dirt Mile a backup plan. “I’d like to run him in the Classic,” Pletcher said Tuesday. Upcoming works, scheduled to begin Sunday, will determine which path is taken with Graydar.

◗ Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice also is scheduled to work Sunday, though Pletcher said he could adjust the work schedule of his Breeders’ Cup horses depending on the weather.

Glenn Canady More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned will win again. No stand out again. So he will show up and run his best race of the year and get the money and go home a champion.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Game on Dude can win 15 races leading to the Classic, he wont win this one though. A gelding winning the race just wouldn't be fitting. It was no mistake that Fort Larned won last year. He was the most powerful horse going in. BREEDERS Cup.
Kevin Smith More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't dare second guess Todd Pletcher but if Graydar works great... he will be in the classic and if the work sucks he will be in the mile????? Kinda confusing.....
Electrocutionst More than 1 year ago
Palace Malice might not win the Classic, but just the fact he's in it says alot about the toughness of this horse. A 3yr old running in most of the main races, being competitive right up on the pace in quick fractions in a majority of those races, not giving in and not getting injured. Can't ask for much more then that. Horse racing has a fan in me because of horses like him. Thanks Cot, for running him all year.
Sam B More than 1 year ago
1. GameOnDude 2. Fort Larned 3. Palace Malice 4. MuchoMachoMan 5. RonTheGreek
R. Carlos Nanez More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned is a step behind this year for what ever reason, last year he did come up to the BC in top form and the race folded to his advantage when GOD didn't break well. But he is not the same horse, he hasn't show up yet to the expectations. To be in a race like the BC Classic, a horse has to be in top form.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
What about his recent form isnt top?
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
By the way, I cashed on the W/P on Larned last year.
prose More than 1 year ago
I love the way the classic is shaping up. And what excites me even more is that the crowd will make GOD the favorite yet again. He hasn't a chance in hell of winning the race. Money here I come !!!!!
B More than 1 year ago
I don't like quality horses that skip important preps and take a super easy route to get to the big dance. I'm sure there are exceptions, but it seems to me that many fail when the big day comes. They are either not good enough for some reason, hence the easy route, or they fail just because they were not prepped hard enough to face the other big boys. More often it's the former rather than the latter scenario. I would definitely not bet a dime on this one.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Tell that to Sunday Silence. There are numerous other examples of BCC winners who did not face top company leading up to the race.
B More than 1 year ago
First off, I said there were exceptions. Second, I don't think of the then Grade 1 $1,000,000 Super Derby as a super soft easy route like whatever this thing was that Larned just ran in and if you have to go back 24 years to find an example, I think that's stretching your point a bit. And I also wasn't necessarily referring to the BC either. There are many other important races that horses have taken to low road to get to and failed, but again, some haven't. Unless I am in love with the horse, almost always the wrong reason to bet a horse in a questionable situation, I always avoid betting horses who take this route and I've been more right than wrong.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
The champ will be on my ticket I plan to take 5 horses in classic this year on pick 4. Less coverage elsewhere no singles. Pick 4 payout was great last year, 5600 for. 50
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
This years BC Classic is shaping up to be one heck of a race. Full field to be expected with a bonanza of a superfecta coming ..Good luck to all of ya"ll gamblers........You to Mark..
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Agree don't know why people complaining about it being in Santa Anita. Anybody that don't like that town needs to be in a insane asylum. ASAP. add Santa Barbara, San Diego, Costa Rica and Perth, Australia to that list. Classic will be great. Good luck as well. to early to handicap, but I will not be singling any one in pick 4s this year.