09/14/2013 11:45AM

Churchill Downs notes: Wilkes remains confident in inconsistent Fort Larned

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned, most recently fifth as the favorite in the Aug. 3 Whitney, is pointing to the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – They’re on, then they’re off. Then they’re on . . . and now a lot of people are off the Fort Larned bandwagon again.

Ian Wilkes pays little heed. The trainer of Fort Larned is well aware that the 5-year-old horse has been inconsistent for the last year, mixing in superlative victories in such major races as the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Stephen Foster Handicap with a handful of disappointments.

The most recent race for Fort Larned, the Aug. 3 Whitney at Saratoga, resulted in a fifth-place finish as the 6-5 favorite, and now Wilkes is back to defending the merits of a horse who has earned more than $4 million.

“None of it really bothers me,” Wilkes said Saturday from the Keeneland sales. “The horse has always done well as the underdog. All I can do is worry about taking care of the horse.”

Fort Larned, bred and owned by Jan Whitham, breezed a half-mile in 49.80 seconds Thursday at Churchill Downs. It was his first work since he was scratched from the Aug. 31 Woodward with a hind-end issue. He is scheduled to have another work this week before making his next start in the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

“We haven’t confirmed our travel plans yet,” Wilkes said. “He had a light work last week and came out of it real well. We’ll just see how he is after this one and go one step at a time.”

Last year, Fort Larned ran third as a lukewarm favorite in the Gold Cup before winning the BC Classic at 9-1.

Promising juveniles get first wins

A couple of promising 2-year-old colts posted easy maiden victories in six-furlong races within an hour of each other Friday at Churchill. Almost Famous, a first-time starter for Pat Byrne, finished in 1:10.90 and was followed by Kendall’s Boy, making his second start after running second to the highly regarded Havana at Saratoga in his debut, getting the same distance in 1:12.03.

Almost Famous earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure, while Kendall’s Boy got a 63 after being credited with a 94 at Saratoga.

Byrne said Almost Famous will be pointed to the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill in late November, with one start before then. Trainer Tom Amoss said Saturday he is still considering what to do next with Kendall’s Boy.

Rosario likely to focus on Belmont

Jockey Joel Rosario, who set a spring-meet record in his first full meet at Keeneland with 38 winners in April, probably will ride regularly at Belmont when he returns from a foot injury early next month, according to agent Ron Anderson.

“We’re not sure,” Anderson said. “Even if it’s Belmont most of the month, I’d hope we’d be able to ride some of the bigger days there at Keeneland.”

Pat Day holds the Keeneland record for a fall meet with 45 wins (19 days, 1991). The 17-day fall meet starts Oct. 4.

Hymn Book eyes Homecoming Classic

Hymn Book is among the older horses being considered for the $175,000 Homecoming Classic, the richest stakes on the September meet schedule at Churchill. The 1 1/8-mile Homecoming Classic will be run Sept. 28 on a Downs After Dark program. It anchors the final weekend (Sept. 27-29) of the 12-day meet.

Hymn Book, trained by Shug McGaughey for owner and breeder Stuart Janney III, has 8 wins and 8 seconds from 24 career starts, for earnings of $926,448. At this early juncture, the others considered possible for the race are Agent Di Nozzo, Big Town, Street Serenade, and Windswept.

The Homecoming Classic is the only new stakes race among eight at the meet. The $100,000 Jefferson Cup, the only turf stakes, also is set for Sept. 28.

Golden Soul at Kentucky Downs

Kentucky Downs will run 13-race cards on each of the next two Wednesdays when wrapping up a five-day meet at the turf-only track in south-central Kentucky. Post time both days is 12:30 p.m. Central.

The program for this coming Wednesday includes five allowances with a minimum purse of $94,000 (including Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund bonuses) and two $90,000 maiden races (also including KTDF bonuses) for 2-year-olds.

Among the entries Wednesday is Golden Soul, the 2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up. The colt is in the 11th race, a first-level allowance at 1 1/2 miles.